Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bludgeoned by truck!

I popped onto the Mount Desert Islander newspaper website to check their police blotter (thanks to Nicole, who gave me the link and recommended the site back in October). And what rewards!!! Right off the bat, I was greeted by this bizarre headline:
Island Police: Driver bludgeons building with truck
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

BAR HARBOR — Police across Hancock County are on the lookout for a GMC pickup that allegedly struck the building housing the closed Nakorn Thai restaurant on Cottage Street Saturday evening. A witness to the events described seeing a maroon pickup stop at a stop sign on Federal Street, at the intersection with Cottage Street across from the restaurant. The driver of the truck then reportedly squealed the truck’s tires on the ground, flew across Cottage Street, went up and over the sidewalk, across the Nakorn Thai parking lot, and slammed into the building. The vehicle then backed up and drove up Kennebec Street, according to the report.
A woman reported seeing a broken window with a curtain blowing in and out of it on an upstairs floor of the Ledgelawn Inn Feb. 13. Police notified a contact person for the inn.
A blue “snowflake” flag was reported stolen from in front of a Main Street business Feb. 13. A number of similar flags, which announce that a business is open during the winter, have been reported stolen from downtown locations within the past weeks.

Mount Desert

A 15-horsepower Mercury outboard motor was reported stolen Feb. 13 from a boat at the Bartlett’s Island Landing.

That same day, a Seal Harbor woman complained about two men who came to her door wanting to talk about religion. She told police the men were aggressive and that she became frightened. The men left when the woman asked them to leave. The incident is under investigation.


View the complete blotter report here: [Source]
In Maine, it's easy to remember the adage that "Truth is stranger than fiction"!

EVENT: Ghost hunter meetup SUN.!

Maine Ghost Hunters have announced the latest in their new series of meetups, which were started to generate a space for casual and lively conversation between those of us who are interested by paranormal investigation of all sorts.

What: Maine Ghost Hunters MeetUp
When: Sunday, March 1, 2009 10:00 AM
Where: Click the link here to find out the Brunswick location of this get together!
RSVP: Space is limited at this location so please RSVP, either thru the MGH Meetup site, or by emailing Kat at KatM[at]

KatM says: Come join a few of the Maine Ghost Hunters team members for some casual paranormal conversation at a local bookstore. We'll chill out and relax in the coffee shop while we share stories, experiences, and perspectives. If you have photo evidence to share, or that you'd like to seek an outside opinion on, feel free to bring it along.

We've received confirmation from DavidH, our Maine Ghost Hunters team sensitive, that he'll be joining us, so if you're more interested in the spiritual/sensitive side of paranormal, you won't be left out.

We look forward to meeting up for a relaxing, low key, chill-session with paranormal enthusiasts such as yourselves, so keep your Sunday morning open and we hope to see you there!

This meeting will run from 10:00 am to 11:30 am.

Learn more here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

REVIEW: Shadows Over New England

Shadows Over New England
By David Goudsward & Scott T. Goudsward, Foreword by Christopher Golden

The announcement of this book’s publication was a dream come true for your humble narrator. Finally, here is a hefty tome addressing a significant element of what drives my fascination with Maine and my need to create the Strange Maine Gazette and blog in the first place!

Within the pages of Shadows Over New England are places both real and fictitious which have been written into weird tales and horror movies over the last three centuries and more, with a few burial places of choice personalities sprinkled here and there for good measure. They are listed state after state, town after town, street after street, so that if you happen to be going to, say, Portland, and you want to take a little tour of places you fondly remember from reading the stories of Rick Hautala or Stephen King – look no further, this book will suggest a path for you (if you dare let it).

So, dear readers, on the one hand, this is a descriptive book of lists – placenames, haunted corners of the New England landscape, and so on. On the other hand, it is so much more. As Christopher Golden mentions in his foreword, “New England has always cast long shadows of inspiration over the hearts and imaginations of storytellers.” This phenomena is something that fascinates me. WHY, for heaven’s sake, am I so enamored of Maine? Why does New England breed such a peculiar taste in its literati for things that creep and spook and lay curses left and right across the blasted earth? Why is it so hard to pin down exactly what creates the creative juices that make us tick at such a different rhythm?

These are large questions, looming and wringing their hands, looking for answers that cannot be given unless by that quirk of autumn air that tickles your nose for the first time each year, or by the insistent rustling of leaves that strikes your ear in just such a way that you must turn to see who (or what) is following you, or by the way that the bare branches grab your eye as their silhouettes sway against the twilight sky. The answers lie under the mossy flagstones we find before an abandoned cellar hole, twisted in weeds and smelling of old earth. The solution is to give oneself up to the air, to the land, to the tales we spin about them, as writers have done throughout the history of New England.

Enter the brothers Goudsward and their marvelous book! What better way to wander through the real back roads of make-believe Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont? What better way to find out about a story you have yet to read, than to stumble across it fortuitously in this book, your finger falling onto the page as the book opens randomly, pinpointing your next destination? Or perhaps you are the type who really relishes a book of lists and the tidy thrill of checking items off, one by one. Either way, as a wanderer or an orderly traveler with itinerary in hand, this book is a terrific guide for the lover of weird fiction and New England’s own uncanny heritage. Both fictitious destinations and the real world inspirations for them are listed, which should please history buffs such as myself to no end.

The seventy-plus page chapter on Maine is by no means as exhaustive as it could be, which is probably a good thing – it would make a big fat book all by itself. The Goudswards have laid a feasting table out for us, crafted carefully to tantalize us into further exploration. The Stephen King end of the table is understandably impressive, a buffet in its own right. The Rick Hautala selections lead us on a merry chase (and gave me a list of stories and books to look for as I start to investigate his version of Maine).

Other tales that make up the crème de la crème of Maine weird fiction and film are here as well. For example, the first entry for our fair state is Altonville, where the eerie 1934 book The Cadaver of Gideon Wyck is set (a volume which I highly recommend). What transpires on the campus of the fictitious Maine State College of Surgery must be read to be believed. The ubiquitous seaside Collinsport, of television’s Dark Shadows fame, rears its head stylishly, as well as Schooner Bay, scene of the classic 1947 film The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. The list goes on and on, filled with names familiar and not so familiar. Even hardcore Maineacs such as myself will find plenty of unplundered material here.

Since Shadows Over New England emerged from its den in spring 2008 it has garnered substantial attention. It was nominated for a prestigious Stoker Award in the category of Superior Achievement in Nonfiction, and is on the short list for the upcoming Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards in the category of Best Book.

Voting for the Rondo Awards is open to the public, and can be done by visiting to participate. Online voting will continue through Saturday, March 22, 2009, with winners being announced Sunday evening, March 23. Voting is done via email, and you can vote for as many categories as you have opinions in.

To purchase this excellent book should be quite easy, provided they haven't sold out the first edition, as it is available from the publisher, or through, Powells Books, Barnes & Noble and other fine bookstores near you!

Cat spat erupts on coast!

Okay, once again we return to the fertile ground of police blotterdom, with a lively entry on an otherwise quiet week, as printed by the Ellsworth American earlier this month:
Police Called to Mediate Cat Spat
Written by Jennifer Osborn
Tuesday, February 03, 2009

ELLSWORTH — Maine State Police Trooper Greg Burns responded to a dispute between an East Machias couple who had been arguing over having too many cats.

Burns said the man became upset because it was his birthday and he felt that his wife cared more about the cats than him. At one point during the argument, the man chased one of the cats out of the room with a hammer.

The trooper referred the couple to family support agencies.

Read full blotter report here: [Source]
A week later, the suspicious disappearance of a can of tuna was reported to authorities. What do you think, gentle reader? Did the dread cats do it???
Woman Reports Can of Tuna Stolen
Written by Cyndi Wood
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

BUCKSPORT — A Main Street resident reported someone had been in her apartment Jan. 29.

Reported missing was one can of tuna valued at $1. There was no sign of forced entry.
Suspicious Person

A man reportedly yelled and kicked at passing vehicles on Route 1 Jan. 27 when the drivers would not give him a ride. An officer gave the man a ride to the town line.

Read full blotter report here: [Source]
Yep. Dig it!

Direction of graffiti

Corey Templeton is currently running a very enjoyable Portland, Maine Daily Photo blog. February 25th's photo is a great one! I love altered signs.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A criminal who cleans up?

The Lakes Region Weekly reported on yet another bizarre Maine violent crime occurrence. (My italics.)
Brutal home invasion shocks town
By Julia Davis
Reporter - Lakes Region Weekly

STANDISH (Feb 12, 2009):
On Sunday morning at around 8:15 a.m. [Rick] Carlson, 55, of 44 Shore Road, showed up at his friend and neighbor Chris Danie’s house bloody and banged up.
According to Danie, Carlson was sleeping in the living room with the television on, which is normal for him. He told Danie he awoke at 2 a.m. to a gun pressed to his head and a man demanding money. He grabbed the gun, realized it was plastic and the two men fought. The intruder pulled out a carving knife and stabbed Carlson in the arm and the back, Danie said, also cutting Carlson’s hand in the process. The intruder stayed in his house for six hours, taking the time to wash his bloody clothing in Carlson’s washing machine and dryer and tying Carlson up with duct tape before he left, Danie said.

Later that day, police arrested Ephriam Bennett, 46, about a quarter mile from the crime scene and charged him with elevated aggravated assault, robbery and burglary. Bennett, who prefers to be addressed as “E,” has a criminal record in Texas, North Carolina and Maine. He lived previously in Searsmont, though his most recent address was in Raleigh, N.C, according to Cumberland County Sheriff Mark Dion.
In interviews with other media outlets since his arrest, Bennett has disputed the charges against him and police's version of events.

Carlson was taken to Maine Medical Center, where he was treated for two stab wounds, numerous cuts to his face and head and multiple broken ribs. He also lost a number of teeth from the incident, according to Dion. By Wednesday morning, he had been discharged from the hospital.
Danie, his girlfriend and other friends spent Monday morning cleaning Carlson’s house, including bringing Carlson’s bloody couch to the dump and buying him a new one.

“It was a bloody mess, not something you would want to come home to,” Danie said.

Danie said Carlson was calm enough Sunday morning to tell him what had happened. According to Danie, after Carlson was stabbed, he gave up fighting and curled up into a ball on the couch. The intruder stayed in his house, disabling Carlson’s phone, going through his change and washing his bloody clothing. He was wandering around the house demanding $3,000, Danie said, adding that Carlson told him the intruder also asked him to write a permission slip for use of his car.

Before he left, the man tied Carlson up in the bedroom, wedged a chair in front of the door to hold it closed and left him there, bleeding, Danie said. Carlson then forced the door open and freed himself from the duct tape tying his hands and feet. He drove to Danie’s house for help and they called the police.
In her 23 years living in Standish, Liz Keeley said she has seen the town change.

"Standish isn't the little town it used to be," Keeley said, adding that there are a lot more people living in the town and the crimes seem to be getting more and more bizarre.

Other residents were less affected by the incident.

Read full article here, and see photo: [Source]

Kent's circular cemetery recognized

Photo by Joe Phelan, Kennebeck Journal.

The Kennebec Journal reported earlier this week on notable Maine additions to the National Register of Historic Places:
Places in central Maine make history
Staff Writer

A cemetery and old barn are the newest central Maine entries in the National Register of Historic Places.

Earle Shettleworth Jr., director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, said the listing means the properties have been evaluated and considered worthy of preservation and protection as part of the nation's cultural heritage.

The Kent Cemetery in Fayette and the Kromberg barn in Smithfield were entered, along with seven other properties in Maine.
Christi Mitchell [architectural historian and the commission's National Register coordinator] said the Kent Cemetery was established shortly after 1880 by Elias H. Kent, a successful farmer. The burying ground has a most unusual configuration.

Occupying just 0.35 acres, she said the raised burial ground is notable for its design in which concentric rings of burial plots are organized around a central monument.

The configuration is accompanied by a boundary fence, gate, mature maple trees along its border, raised earthen berms and granite retaining walls. She said it reflects to some extent the "garden or rural cemetery" design aesthetic that became popular in larger cities in the mid-19th century.

"The Kent Cemetery is really unusual for being a circular cemetery," she said. "It's laid out in concentric rings and it's one of only two cemeteries in the state designed in that manner."

To read the full article: [Source]
There is a complete list of the nine new Maine locations added to the register posted over at the Lewiston Sun Journal's site, with descriptions of their significance -- click here to view.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

EVENT: Maine Monsters in Ellsworth!

WHAT: The Twisted Tales of Maine movieshow tour starts up!
WHEN: Friday, February 20 at 7:00pm
WHERE: Ellsworth Grand Theatre, 165 Main Street, Ellsworth, Maine
COST: $10 each double feature ticket (original release states $12 each, but the Grand's website states $10, please consult with them if you have any questions)
FMI: Ellsworth Grand website, or call (207)667-9500, or email emptyhousefilm[at]

On Friday February 20th, the Ellsworth Grand Theatre will host the first stop on the "Twisted Tales from Maine" tour of 2009.

Get ready to cover your eyes… To find out what goes bump in the night… To be scared silly! Maine film companies Motion Media Entertainment, Emptyhouse Film and John Lane Films have teamed up to bring you the "Twisted Tales From Maine Tour." The tour consists of an old fashioned "Creature Double Feature" made up of two full-length horror films that were filmed here in the state of Maine, a prop show featuring bloody props from the films, free giveaways, prizes, and just maybe Bigfoot himself!

The first film, "Monster in the Woods" is a horror/comedy featuring one of the cryptid world's greatest mysteries- BIGFOOT! The film stars Maine actors, features Maine musicians and was filmed in Maine in the Summer of 2007.

The 2nd film of the evening is the zombie epic "2", a film that has been getting rave reviews from the horror world. Over 200 zombies were featured in the making of this film. "2" was also filmed in Maine, and stars Maine actors.

On hand for the evening will be the filmmakers to talk about filmmaking in Maine and to answer any audience questions. Prizes will be given throughout the night, and there will be an opportunity to have your picture taken with BIGFOOT! The big guy will be roaming the streets of Ellsworth on the afternoon of the 20th!

It all starts at the Ellsworth Grand on February 20th, starting at 7:00pm. Tickets are $10 for both films and can be purchased at the Grand Theatre lobby or by calling: (207) 667-5911. Tickets and prizes will also be given away by listening to WKIT 100.3.

Trailers for both films can be viewed online and can be found by clicking here:


  • "2"

  • To read Strange Maine's recent review of the DVD set which features these films among others, just click here.

    Millinocket Lake UFO report

    Thanks to Amos Quito of New England Anomaly, I was alerted to a fresh Maine UFO account as recorded by MUFON and reported on the UFO Examiner site (see original posting for more MUFON database photos of the event):
    Two brothers followed and 'surrounded' by UFOs as vehicle engine dies
    February 15, 8:11 PM
    by Roger Marsh, UFO Examiner

    FEB. 9, 2009 - Two brothers hauling firewood across a frozen Maine lake encountered a low-flying yellow light - 50 feet above the tree line - shining a light to the ground. The light soon turned to three red lights forming a triangle. The brothers moved to their camp, returning a few minutes later - only to encounter a single red light which appeared to follow them - while two more lights joined the first in the sky and seemed, at one point, to be surrounding them. When the brothers decided it was time to get out of there, their vehicle's engine shut down.

    To read full article: [Source]

    Ghost hunters haunt out of state

    The Daily Item reports on a Maine ghost hunting group that stepped into Massachusetts recently to check out a haunting.
    Haunted happenings: Ghost team arrives to examine Lynn home
    By Robin Kaminski / The Daily Item

    LYNN - In a seemingly normal looking home on Averill Street, spirits from another time are said to haunt its halls.

    Unexplained noises, visions of a young boy dressed all in white and the sound of breaking glass have become an almost daily and eerie occurrence for the mother and two daughters who live in the home.
    Those ghostly premonitions prompted Bonnie to contact the Bangor Maine Ghost Hunters Association on a referral from her daughter in Maine, to finally get some answers and peace of mind.

    A motley crew consisting of a former magician and three amateur ghost hunters - the Friday the 13th team was made up of Director Harold "Bubba" Murray, William Ammells, Cristal Murray and Michael Murray.

    Established in 2000, Murray, a burly man originally from Lynn, said the investigations have taken the crew to numerous locations in Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire, as well as Lynn and Haverhill.

    Aside from the Maine chapter, there are also Lynn and Haverhill offices.

    "They contacted me to see what was going on in their home, so we're here to see what we're dealing with," Murray said. "I don't usually come this far from Maine to investigate, but she really pushed for us to come. So, we're going to do a short term investigation (from Thursday night until Saturday) and then I'll analyze what we find."

    To read the full article:[Source]

    Old ship news now new!

    In their January 2009 issue (page 28), Maine Coastal News has compiled an interesting rundown of maritime history in the form of various articles on ship affairs from newspapers around the turn of the century. I found out about the article when a member of the Maritime Maine group on Yahoo was kind enough to post them.

    Those interested in maritime matters in general will likely enjoy Maine Coastal News, which is presented in an appealing online format that is very easy to use. Check it out!

    To tantalize you, here are some tidbits from the article, including delightful and mysterious boat names (Little Buttercup! Annie Gus!) and place names like Gingerbread Shoal, which sounds like it is a lot less friendly in reality than its name implies. There are tales of derring-do, dynamite, and wild seas, one narrated by "the King of Seal Island," as well as small moments in which boats are christened with flowers. Please also notice in this sample, and in the article at large (which is very extensive), wonderful names for things which few remember today, such as donkey engines, catboats, and sneak boxes.
    The following was compiled from the Bangor Daily Commercial.

    9 April – The steamer MARJORIE was launched at Hunnewell’s dock in Brewer just before noon. She was then taken to Rollin’s wharf where the remaining work will be completed. She is owned by Captain Benjamin Arey and Captain George Arey and will be used on the route between Bangor and Penobscot. She will be replacing the LITTLE BUTTERCUP, which ran this route for years.

    7 December – The Harrington three-masted schooner E. I. WHITE, Captain Mitchell, wrecked on Gingerbread Shoal and became a total loss. Two crew members were drowned. The E. I. WHITE had departed Philadelphia on 26 November. The 410-ton E. I. WHITE was built at Harrington in 1895 and was owned by E. I. White.

    7 January – It was thought that the schooner ANNIE GUS, Captain French, had foundered with all hands. She departed Boston for Portland in ballast and is thought to have gone down in the gale last week. Several vessels left Boston and sailed to Portland since and have not seen the schooner. It was also reported that she had not gone into any coastal port. The only hope was that she was blown out to sea. The 94-ton ANNIE GUS was built in 1871. She carried a crew of two, who were believed to be from Perry.

    10 January – The four tugs breaking ice on the Penobscot River, RALPH ROSS, BISMARCK, ADELIA and SEGUIN, have retired to Bucksport. They will return the following day to try and open up a channel above Hampden. Cyrus N. Stackpole tried to clear some of the ice using dynamite. Without the assistance of the tugs, he felt that the dynamite did not have the effected results.

    21 June – There was a report this day that the mosquito fleet was a growing past-time along the Penobscot River, with most yachts belonging to the Conduskeag Canoe Club. A new type of boat for the river was the Swampscott Dory, which was light, fast and shoal draft. They can either be sailed or rowed and are very easy to handle. Other boats on the river include the 21-foot sloop JEWEL, owned by H. O.
    Miller. He also owns a 30-footer on the waterline. The Admiral of the river was Alpheus C. Lyon, who owned two sloops, a catboat, a rowboat and a flatiron. The GOLD ROD is the biggest vessel and she was owned by Freeland Jones. She was worked on all last winter by Captain Charles W. Veazie and is in the best shape ever.

    Another major yachtsman of the river was W. C. Bryant, who owned the NORSEMAN. He also owns a 21-footer built by Thatcher. There was a Barnegat sneak box, which was owned by Harry B. Wyman. She is similar to a flatiron and leave all competitors in her shadow. There are several catboats. One is the NICOLETTE, owned by the son of Captain Edwin G. Hutchinson. The Barbour yard was said to be building a cruising yawl for a Bangor customer. She will be 45 feet length overall. They hope to have her completed in August. Another boat under construction is a power boat for the president of the Eastern Manufacturing Company, Fred W. Ayer, where she is being built.

    2 July – The first iron bark ever to call at the port of Bangor, the Italian TERESITA, was lying at High Head. She was loading shooks for T. J. Stewart Company for the Mediterranean.

    19 August – The schooner ALICE M. DAVENPORT, which was wrecked off Seal Island ledges a week ago, was raised using pontoons. However the pontoons failed and she immediately sank again in 120 feet of water.

    The ‘King of Seal Island’ Captain W. F. Hill said, “Monday night about 6:15, we were snug in my camp on Seal Island. There were seven of my men, my wife and myself. It was so thick outside that one could not see five yards ahead. Suddenly my four watch dogs began to bark and we knew that there was trouble near the ledges. We all ran out and going to what we call Myrrh Cove, could just discern the bowsprit of a vessel sticking up over the ledges. We could hear excited cries aboard and jumped into our dories and pulled out. We found a three-masted schooner fast on the ledges, her stern awash and with a bad list to port.

    "It was so dark that we couldn’t see, but could hear the crew shouting on deck. We cried out to them and we could hear a woman’s voice asking that she be taken off. There was a heavy sea on and we had difficulty in keeping the dories by the vessel. I boarded the schooner, which proved to be the ALICE M. DAVENPORT, and found the crew the most excited set of men I have ever seen in my life. The woman proved to be Miss McKown, the daughter of the captain, and I consented to take her ashore. The vessel was not over 100 yards from the island. Miss McKown was lowered into the dory and was rowed ashore. They didn’t know where they were and reckoned that it must be Isle au Haut.

    “The first inquiry of the young lady was: ‘Is there a woman on this island?’ and I assured her by introducing her to my wife. Such an affecting scene between two women I’ve never seen in my whole existence and her joy of finding one of her own sex on such a barren island in the Atlantic knew no bounds. Then we set about rescuing the belongings of the captain and crew and brought everything ashore that wasn’t screwed down. We got ashore all of the provisions and furniture. Then came such a deluge of rain as if the heaven had opened its flood gates upon us.

    “The DAVENPORT began to pound on the rocks and almost turned turtle. We ran a line ashore and made her fast and the crew and Captain McKown came to my camp. I don’t exactly own a hotel, but we had 21 people in our camp that night and I stowed them away as best I could.

    “Poor old Captain McKown broke down and cried like a child when he met his daughter in the camp. He had $5,000 in the DAVENPORT, with $2,000 insurance. He had set his whole heart on this vessel and loved her as a father would his child. He could not account for the accident except that the schooner had gotten away from him. She was new and he was unused to her. He had sailed side by side for miles that day with a son on another schooner, and had lost track of him.

    “The next day Captain McKown set out in his launch for Vinalhaven, to notify the owners of the disaster and I was put in charge. Going away he gave me his revolver and I was placed in charge of the DAVENPORT. It was not long before a fleet of five or six sloops were seen coming up from Long Island with an unusual number of men on them. They drew up alongside the DAVENPORT and the men began to clamber up the sides to the deck, in order to loot the vessel I suppose.

    “Get back there,’ I shouted. Don’t put a foot on the deck of this vessel.’ Save for the first mate, who was below, I was alone. They didn’t heed my warning and one of them had his hands on the rail ready to spring over, when I drew my revolver and pointing it at him said, ‘if you put your foot over that rail you are a dead man.’ and I’d shoot too.’ The revolver did the business and they went back into their boats, and finally seeing that I meant business sailed for home.”

    [Source, see page 28]
    Interested parties can contact the Maine Coastal News in a number of ways:
    Jon B. Johansen, Publisher
    Maine Coastal News
    P.O. Box 710
    Winterport, Maine 04496
    (207) 223-8846

    For those who are curious about the fate of the Annie Gus, I found a New York Times article reporting on the incident:
    SCHOONER ON A ROCK.; Captain and Crew of the Annie Gus Escape to Great Wass Island.
    April 3, 1905, Monday -- Page 1, 372 words

    JONESPORT, Me., April 2. -- The little coasting schooner Annie Gus, commanded by Capt. Charles Berry of Machiasport, which left Calais on Friday with a cargo of lumber for Providence, met a heavy northwesterly gale off Moose Peak Light to-day and in running into Mud Hole Channel for a harbor struck on Freeman's Rock and will probably prove a total loss.

    It is reported that her captain and crew of three men, who were also from Machiasport, reached Great Wass Island in safety in their own boat after a hard row of two miles against the wind.

    I suppose that sort of thing is bound to happen in Mud Hole Channel!

    So far as Gingerbread Shoal goes, the wreck of the E.I. White was not the first for this crunchy crag. An 1880 New York Times article describes its location as part of an account of another wreck, that of the steamship Edmonton: "This dangerous shoal lies about 35 miles to the southward of Great Bahama Island." [Source]

    Curious about what exactly a Barnegat sneak box is? Look no further! There is an extensive and well-illustrated webpage about the boat type here, run by a man who admits that "this page is not an authoritative reference for the sneak box boat. This web page author has never even seen one. He has no plans to build one--although he has heard of plans, he has never seen plans either. There is no point in sending e-mail with any technical requests. This page simply lists some online resources you may find of further interest." Honesty is the best policy. The site includes a link to the remarkable Four Months in a Sneak-box: A boat voyage of 2600 miles down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and along the Gulf of Mexico, by N. H. Bishop, 1879, presented in HTML with scans of the book's original illustrations.

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    not THE Crystal Lake

    Happy Friday the 13th! With the release of the new Jason Voorhees movie this week, I wanted to celebrate the day with a little research (because I am just that weird). In this vein, I discovered that Maine not only has its own Crystal Lake, it in fact has TWO of them, one in Gray, and one in Harrison. One of them was formerly named "Anonymous Pond." Why does this make me laugh? I don't know, but there it is.

    According to Maine's Lakes Environmental Organization, one Crystal Lake "is the only lake completely within the borders of Harrison. Mill Stream, which is the outlet of the lake, provided early village settlers with power to run both a grist and saw mill." [Source] The second Crystal Lake is has its own Crystal Lake Association, formed in 1970, whose website has some beautiful photos.

    Back in 1963, the New Yorker, of all sources, reported on how Anonymous Pond (now Crystal Lake in Harrison) was about to lose its anonymity: "Incidental Intelligence: In Cumberland County, Maine, there is a body of water that has the arresting name of Anonymous Pond. Now some spoilsports are trying to have it officially called Crystal Lake, and it may become anonymous." [Source: John McCarten, Incidental Intelligence, The New Yorker, March 2, 1963, p. 24, read abstract here]

    Anonymous Pond, though quiet in recent years, has a lively history, including one of Maine's first alligator captures. Yes, I said alligator! To quote Chris Dunham, over at All Things Maine, "The first [recorded alligator in Maine] was probably the one shot in Owlsley Cove, Anonymous Pond (Crystal Lake) in Harrison in November of 1895." You can read a full account here, but I will tantalize you with this tidbit: "The alligator was first seen by W. M. Shaw of South Paris. In company with other members of the Owlsley club he was returning from Harrison with a load of provisions when he noticed a large black object floating on the sunlit waters of the quiet little cove, near which the camp of the Owlsley club is situated. ... During Friday and Saturday the mysterious creature was occasionally seen by various persons, and shot at several times without apparent effect."

    Osprey on campus?

    USM's Portland campus is playing host this afternoon to a very dapper raptor! Photos courtesy of Stacy Stewart, snapped on the scene. This large fellow perched himself in a tall pine between Payson-Smith Hall and the Science Building, and surveyed the scene haughtily. All the robins who had been littering the campus with their happy spring chirpings seem to have disappeared, as a result.

    The guest raptor is quite sizeable, at least 2 1/2 feet tall and waving a mighty wingspan when the mood takes him. Local crows have attempted divebombing the osprey, to no avail. "He didn't even flinch!" reported an eyewitness. The guest has created a controversy over identification. Osprey? Hawk? Any guesses? Back view provided for avian sleuths among our readers. Please click on the images below for larger versions of them.

    Monday, February 09, 2009

    Best of Portland?

    Time for everyone to weigh in on what they think makes up the best of Portland, in a wide range of categories. The Portland Phoenix has a lot of fun running this friendly competition every year. Throw your two cents into the mix here! It's all write-in entries, so you can judge as many or as few items as you are interested in.

    I would be remiss to avoid mention of the fact that there is a "Blog" category under the umbrella of the CITY LIFE range of "Best of" awards. If you dig this blog (or another, whatever you like!), please do enter it in the Blog category! :)

    Thanks everyone!

    Sunday, February 08, 2009

    A Wildcat Goose Chase

    On the same page of the Daily Kennebec Journal that contained the story of the last wolf in Maine (see yesterday's post), I found the following short but curious entry:
    One of the wildcats at E.D. Brann & Co’s shop in Ellsworth escaped from its cage last Wednesday night. In the morning the cat had possession of the store for a while, until Mr. Brann arrived, and effected a speedy capture.

    It was the first arrest by the new city marshal, and probably the first time in the history of Ellsworth that the city marshal has been called upon to capture and lock up a wildcat, although they have had some subjects almost as bad.

    The cat during its freedom stalked a stuffed heron and chewed it up. It did no further hunting, and the body of the wild swan which had been left at the shop that day, and which would have made a dainty morsel for the cat, was not touched.

    Source: Daily Kennebec Journal, Friday, April 10, 1908
    This made me wonder! What was E.D. Brann doing with caged wildcats in his shop? Who was he? What kind of shop was this, that had such remarkable goods in it? …So I started digging.

    The first thing I found was a blurb in the “100 Years Ago” section of the Ellsworth American’s website, which mentioned that “City Marshal Brann […] posted notices forbidding sliding on streets and sidewalks within one-half a mile of the Main street bridge.” Did that mean that E. D. Brann was himself the very City Marshal whose first arrest was a wildcat … in his own store?!

    I looked further. I found numerous mentions of Eugene D. Brann as a deputy of the state (Report of the Enforcement Commission, Dec. 1910), and as a Licensed State Detective (Maine Register, July 1914).

    Then I found another piece of the puzzle, which revealed to me what type of shop Brann owned…

    This appeared, in (of all places) a 1910 issue of The Auk, as published by the American Ornithologists’ Union:
    Another Swan for Maine

    In the Ellsworth ‘American’ for April 1, 1908, appeared the following item: “A handsome bird, rare for this section, was brought to E. D. Brann, taxidermist at Ellsworth today. It is a wild swan, which was shot at Webb’s Pond by Hamlin Kingman of Waltham, Monday. It is a young bird, pure white, except for its black feet and bill and grayish shade on head and neck. . . .”

    As the writer had occasion to be in Ellsworth immediately afterward he visited the taxidermist shop of Mr. Brann but found the proprietor was out. The bird could be seen through the store window but was too far away to permit of its specific identification. On other occasions when in Ellsworth I was likewise unable to see the bird at closer quarters.

    Recently I asked Miss Cordelia J. Stanwood of Ellsworth if she would not get careful measurements and a description of the bird for me, knowing she was a careful observer and bird student. She very kindly obtained and sent me the following des
    following description: “Bill and feet of specimen black; a yellow spot before the eye or on the lores; distance from nostril to the eye much greater than distance from nostril to tip of bill; head somewhat tinged with warm gray or pearl gray; the rest of the bird white. The specimen is in pretty good condition aside from dirt.”

    In connection with Miss Stanwood’s description and my own distant view of the bird I have no hesitation in pronouncing it a Whistling Swan, a bird new to Maine. The only other identified species of swan known from Maine is the Whooping Swan, being the specimen formerly in the collection of Clarence H. Clark of Lubec, and now, I have been told, in the Bowdoin College collection.
    — Ora Willis Knight, Bangor, Me.
    Ora Willis Knight was the author of The Birds of Maine (1908), and must have felt like he was being taunted by the alleged Whistling Swan, which had been eluding his attempts at discovery for years, if one is to go by its entry on the “Hypothetical List” in his book, and the note he made about it: “A specimen is said to have been taken near the mouth of the Kennebec River at Brick Island, November, 1881, by William Williams. This specimen was not preserved and there seems considerable doubt as to the identity, though probably it is as above, but still lack of certainty makes it seem desirable to treat the species as a possibility.” One can imagine Knight inventing excuses to find his way back into downtown Ellsworth to peer hopefully yet again through the dim windows of Brann’s shop at the pale, feathery mystery bird.

    But enough about the frustrated Ora Willis Knight! Could this taunting swan specimen have been the very same that Brann had been about to stuff, which barely escaped the predations of the rampaging wildcat? The timing seems close enough to invite this speculation in a highly welcoming manner.

    Business must have been lively at E.D. Brann’s, with more that one wildcat prowling caged in the shadows, if we are to believe the phrasing of the article (“One of the wildcats…”).

    It is likely that they were bobcats, although controversy raged during this era in Maine about what precisely was meant by the term “wildcat,” especially when it was used in legislative measures. The Daily Kennebec Journal from Saturday, July 8, 1889, reported in its State House column on a debate over the subject in the House, as the question “What is a wildcat?” was raised in connection with the bounties offered for them ($2 was awarded for each skin at this point in time).

    Trade in wildcat furs was common, and traffic in live wildcats was not unheard of, as is evident from the nonchalant account of Brann’s penned guests. Only ten years earlier, the Bangor Daily Whig and Courier printed a lively tale which decidedly labels the cat in question...
    On the Friday evening train from Princeton arriving here at 5 o’clock there was a live wildcat (bobcat) which was enroute to Warwick. R. I., consigned to Jerry T. Merrill.

    The animal was shipped from Grand Lake Stream by W. H. Gollen. The details of his capture have not yet been learned. He was a very savage brute and growled more like a dog than an animal of the feline persuasion. He was about four times the size of a good big house cat.

    He was confined in a box with slats across the top, and this legend printed in large letters on a card tacked thereon:


    Source: Bangor Daily Whig and Courier, December 30, 1899
    You wouldn’t have to tell me twice!

    The ferocity of these compact carnivores gave them a serious reputation amongst hunters. On page 1 of the Daily Kennebec Journal, on March 23rd, 1912, the public was informed of a “swarm” of wildcats in the vicinity of Dallas, described as “a wild section of Northern Franklin county.”

    This news was brought to people in the Phillips area by William True, a veteran hunter, who had visited the region in question. He barely made it out alive, and bore with him the tale of “a narrow escape from being killed by a giant wildcat which [was] believed to be the leader of the band that infests that section.”

    We can imagine that Brann was an adventuresome sort, if he didn’t mind having live examples of these furry hellions rather insecurely caged in his shop space. He also spent much of his time (at least between 1910 and 1911) ranging across several Maine counties as a deputy, as shown in his expense reports to the state. However, he was an exacting man as well (remember the “no sledding” notice?). One wonders what other traces of this man remain in the annals of historical societies and other repositories of Ellsworth ephemera. I’ll keep digging!

    Saturday, February 07, 2009

    The Last Wolf in Maine

    The Daily Kennebec Journal of Friday, April 10, 1908, ran this story:
    Bangor News --
    According to a report published in the Bangor Whig and Courier three-score and five years ago, the last wolf seen alive in Maine was observed near the upper waters of Union river near the present village of Ellsworth Falls, as it paused to gorge itself upon the body of a dead horse in a clearing by the roadside.

    The beast was very old and shaky on its feet, and from the slow and clumsy manner in which it bit off pieces from the frozen flesh, its teeth were evidently badly worn and dulled from years of constant use. From the carrion the beast was tracked to the shores of Union river by footprints in the slush and wet mud.

    When these tracks had reached a hole in the ice about the middle of the river they stopped, and the presumption was that the wolf, gorged and stupid with much food, had walked to a place where the ice was thin and had broken through and was swept under the frozen coating and drowned.

    This suspicion was verified the next day when the body of a very emaciated and very aged wolf was fished out of Union river near Ellsworth. A citizen of Bangor who is alive in good health today was present when the dripping body was rescued from the water and this gentleman believes that the wolf drowned in Union river thirty-five years ago this month, was the last member of its species which has been seen in Maine.
    Today, the wolf in Maine is a phantom presence. There are sightings on record, and an occasional body. There is no known large wolf population in the state, but currently there is a full-scale effort to make Maine one of the restoration territories for the now-protected species.


    Friday, February 06, 2009

    Review: Twisted Tales from Maine

    Those of you who have read my blog for the last few years must be familiar with the name of Emptyhouse Film by now. From zombies to monsters, Olin Smith and Andy Davis have done it all, and produced a stack of feature films in the process, setting them apart from all of us wannabe media mavens. What drives them? The love of what they do plays a huge part in the process.

    Their hard work has paid off finally with the limited release of Twisted Tales from Maine, a DVD 4-pack that collects their heaviest hitters thus far, and delivers a promise of things to come.

    The films are well-packaged, and production levels are high. The casting is consistently excellent, and in films like Monster in the Woods and MUD it reaches a high point which a lot of Hollywood productions only wish they could attain.

    The cinematography is likewise of a very high caliber – the selective eye of the camerawork is without fail interesting, arresting, and frequently quite beautiful. The Maine locations are all carefully chosen and utilized. It makes you wonder why Hollywood movies set in Maine are so rarely filmed here.

    Here is a rundown of the 4 movies included in the 4-pack:
    2 – This Maine zombie film has received more press and response than any other Emptyhouse film yet. From mass zombie casting calls, to marching undead descending on Portland’s Monument Square, this movie and its fans made themselves known all over the world, from Fangoria to the Riofan Film Festival in Brazil.
    It’s hard for me to view this film as a spectator. I worked on it doing makeup support, and I spent a lot of time on the sets and with the people who made it happen. I know all the hard work that went into its making. I listened to the eerie but ear-catching soundtrack as it was being written in my house. The talent and enthusiasm in it are evident to me. So are the bleak streets of a winter-blasted Biddeford and its stark storm-cleared skyline. But even for someone who has seen the footage from all angles, there are genuinely terrifying moments, horribly saddening moments, and wicked gross-outs at the end.

    I’m Sorry — I finally got a chance to see this film with the 4-pack DVD release. The trailer hadn’t excited me much, but in watching the movie, I found myself drawn in. Its atmosphere draws heavily from supernatural classics such as 1963’s The Haunting. While the hysterics that appear throughout the middle of the film aren’t really my style, they are offset by the tremendous restraint shown in some truly disturbing, quiet moments, and by the time the main character reaches full-fledged freakout towards the end, it has become real for the viewer.

    Monster in the Woods — As serious as I’m Sorry was, Monster in the Woods is off the cuff. Out in the woods, wigged out by wild things, the main characters try to navigate through increasing suspense and human drama, while the mockumentary elements threaded through the film remind us that truth is stranger than fiction. Hello Maine, hello Monster, hello MADNESS! Bring it on. Rumors of a sequel in the works have fans ready for more.

    Mud – Before there was a Monster in the Woods, there was the Zamphini Monster. Of all the Emptyhouse productions, this film is the most delicate, even made as it is of harsh elements. Filmed mostly in Porter, Maine, this film captures those tenuous moments when youth meets reality, leaving childhood behind. Will the boys find the remains of magic in the muck of the Ossipee River? Or will the sordid facts of life in a small town take them down? What lurks in the shadows of the woods, and is it worse that what lurks in man?

    The cliché of the process of adolescent discovery takes a beating in this film, and manages to turn into something strong and real. Easily my favorite – how this escaped the notice of film festivals and distributors everywhere is beyond me.
    If your interest is piqued, you can pick up one of the 250 numbered copies online at:

    The price tag of $49.95 may sound steep, but it’s all going straight to local filmmakers, and you get 4 feature-length DVDs out of it, plus an autographed 16-page booklet! Think of it as an investment for yourself in Maine horror entertainment.

    Wednesday, February 04, 2009

    mystery photo

    Contrary to popular belief, spring is on the way.
    Along with the milder season, more ghost streets will appear, too!
    But for now, here is a mysterious Maine building for you to identify. This was built in 1830 and still stands.

    What is this, and where is it??

    The new Gazette is out!

    I'll be dropping the new Winter 2009 issue of the Strange Maine Gazette at various points around Portland (see my list in the sidebar to the right) over the course of the week, so keep your eyes peeled! Copies are being mailed out today to the out-of-town spots and current subscribers, so all you outlying folks will get a chance to put your hands on one too. Huzzah!

    This issue has some fun stuff, covering the last wolf in Maine, whistling swans, wildcats, and a mysterious taxidermist/city marshal. Plus, we review Emptyhouse Film's Twisted Tales from Maine DVD 4-pack, and have a great letter-to-the-editor follow-up to our Bigfoot in Maine series.

    Image from Project Gutenberg's post of Cape Cod and All the Pilgrim Land (June 1922, Volume 6, Number 4) which can be viewed in full here: [Source]