Thursday, April 30, 2009

1922 Game Warden mystery

This is a fascinating story being unearthed by Amy Erickson of Maine's WABI TV-5 in a two part broadcast beginning with tonight's installment during the 6:00 news. Read on! And watch it unfold tonight, if you are near their broadcast area! There is also a small videoclip on the site to whet your appetite.
Drowning...or Murder? Part One of Amy Erickson's Special Report
by Amy Erickson
Apr 29th 2009

It's a story that's captured the attention of Game Wardens and other law enforcement personnel throughout Maine for close to a hundred years.

Back in 1922, two wardens went missing in the North Country.

Their bodies were discovered five months later.

It was thought that they drowned...but as the years passed, speculation has grown as to what may have really happened.

"There are a tremendous amount of questions that probably will never be answered."

When Game Warden Jared Herrick goes into the woods, his mind can't help but wander back to a story he first heard years ago...of two Wardens who went missing more than 80 years ago in the Saint John Valley.

Chief Warden David Brown of Greenville...and Warden Mertley Johnson of Patten headed up to Big Bog to investigate illegal activity.

"They were looking into canadian poaching of beaver...illegal beaver trapping."

The men left home on November 11th, telling their families they'd be home by Thanksgiving...but they were never seen again.

A massive search ensued...but turned up nothing...until the spring...when their bodies were discovered in the water near Big Bog Dam.

"The autopsies...apparently, they didn't find anything at that time, but then again, you're talking a couple of bodies that had been underwater all winter and probably not in the best of condition."

In 1923, it would still be more than 40 years before the Medical Examiner's office came into two doctors out of Skowhegan performed the autopsies.

They believed the men drowned.

But to this day, there are plenty who aren't convinced that's what *really* happened to Brown and Johnson.

"It doesn't look like a place where two game wardens would drown. that seemed to be the consensus of opinion."

Maxim Squires is a former Chief of Police in Greenville.

He remembers how the case puzzled the lead investigator for years.

"They felt it was suspicious. i mean, how do two game wardens drown?"

If you ask most modern-day wardens, they'll tell you there are several problems with the drowning theory.

First, there wasn't any water found in either man's lungs.

Add to that the fact that the water where they were found was fairly shallow at the time they went missing.

"It's unlikely that the water would've been over their head. it's most likely that the water level would've been maybe waist deep maximum."

Some guessed that the wardens had tried to cross thin ice with fatal results.

But retired Game Warden Bill Allen, who's studied the case...says there's no way.

"It would be pretty unusual for an experienced game warden supervisor like david brown or an experienced warden like mertley johnson to just wander out onto a flowage in northern maine on thin ice in the middle of november. Woodsmen of their caliber don't do that, period. And I don't think they did."

Bill Allen says he has a pretty good idea of what really happened to Wardens Brown and Johnson...and his theory is shared by many others.

The problem?

How to prove it.

We'll look at that part of the story Thursday night at 6 on TV5 News.

In 2008, Noah Zarck, a Mainer and Unity College student, wrote a book about the case, called Two Wardens Found.

Joe from Maine loved in post-WWII France

Mainers seem to find their way into the most interesting places. Here's a great story about a WWII era connection between an Augusta, Maine, native and a French town.
After 43 Years, a French Town’s Nostalgia for Harry and Joe Lingers
Châteauroux Journal - Agence France-Presse
Published: April 26, 2009

CHÂTEAUROUX, France — More than 40 years ago the American military left this town in central France, but Harry and Joe stayed on.

The two Americans had been here because France was a member of NATO and Châteauroux housed the largest American base in Europe, a huge supply center and aircraft repair unit with about 8,000 Americans and 3,000 French civilian employees — cooks, chauffeurs, barbers, accountants, carpenters.

But in 1966 de Gaulle decided that France, which had survived two world wars with the help of soldiers from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, could stand on its own militarily, so he withdrew France from the military side of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and told the Americans to leave.

For many here in Châteauroux of the older generation, the years at the NATO base were the good old days, with well-paying jobs plentiful at the base and splotches of color — as off-duty Americans sported Hawaiian shirts and tooled around in their brightly colored Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles — in the dreary grayness of postwar France. About 450 weddings were celebrated between American servicemen and Frenchwomen in City Hall.
Even today, however, the Americans are not entirely gone. In January, 1952, Joseph Gagne, a native of Augusta, Me., who had landed on the Normandy beaches, got wind of the plans to build a base here. So together with his French wife, Jeanine, he opened a hamburger restaurant, Joe from Maine, in narrow Rue Ledru Rollin. Joe died this month at the age of 86 in a local hospital, but his daughter Annette still serves up hamburgers, hot dogs and Tex-Mex dishes six days a week.

“The customers are now French, though G.I.’s who served on the base back then continue to come back, or their children,” said Annette, entertaining a visitor between meals under a faux-Tiffany lamp that read, “Schlitz on Tap.” “When Dad opened in January of 1952 the French didn’t know what a hamburger was,” said Annette. “We made our own ketchup; we got spices on the base.”

Beneath the restaurant is a vaulted stone cellar, about 900 square feet (30' x 30'), now used for storage, where American airmen once quaffed endless amounts of beer, chain smoked and danced with French girlfriends. The vaulting is covered with their carved names. “Benny. Tom. Fagan.”
A version of this article appeared in print on April 27, 2009, on page A7 of the New York edition.

To read full article: [Source]
The restaurant was well-known for being a good place to get hamburgers and Tex-Mex style food. If you're curious about what the inside of Joe's of Maine looks like today, you can go to the reunion photo page of the Chateauroux American High School here. Joe Gagne's obituary (in French) can be found on

Strange Maine store interview

The Portland Press Herald did a great little interview with not-often-seen Strange Maine store assistant Scott Spear. Photo by Jack Milton, Portland Press Herald Staff Photographer.
Not so strange, mainly
April 23, 2009
By John Rolfe

Scott Spear is a clerk, Web designer and show booker at Strange Maine, a shop and performance space on Congress Street in Portland. The store buys and sells used music, movies, books and art, and also new CDs by local and underground artists and pop culture items.


WHAT: Strange Maine

WHERE: 578 Congress St., Portland

PHONE: (207)771-9997


E-MAIL: strangemaine[at]

AGE: 29

ABOUT SHOPTALK -- Shoptalk allows people to describe in their own words the rewards and challenges of their jobs. In doing so, they reflect the energy, imagination and hard work that characterize the workplace in Maine.

Q: What's your job title?

A: There's no one title, really. I'm a clerk, but I also do the Web design and the show booking.

Q: What's the significance of the Web site name?

A: The "kraag" was my URL before Strange Maine came into existence, and I agreed to host for Strange Maine. (The name) is hard to explain. It just pertains to me and my end, and doesn't relate to Strange Maine, other than the fact that I work on both. I was using it to designate a certain type of music I was working on back in the day. It's the Dutch word for collar. I didn't know that; I thought I made up the word, until someone told me what it meant!

Q: What would you be doing in another life?

A: Oh, I don't know. Tempering swords, or something. I don't really know. I do several things; I have several lives as it is. ... I'm a musician, primarily a solo guy, under the nom de plume Id M Theft Able. But that's way too long a story to explain.

Q: Who named the store?

A: I believe that the owner/manager decided. He's the boss, Brendan Evans.

Q: When did you open?

A: April 1, 2003.

Q: Is Congress Street a good location for a store called Strange Maine?

A: Absolutely. Yeah we, when everybody first talked about opening the store, it wasn't one of the original plans. I don't want to speak as an authority, but we figured we would get some spot maybe on the outskirts. We even thought about running the store out of the back of a big van for a while. But then we realized it was actually possible to get a storefront on Congress Street, and it's been fantastic. All the foot traffic, and a lot of tourists during the summer. I believe it's been a pretty big success so far.

Certainly there are times when folks see the name and think, 'Well, I'm strange,' and come in off the street. Come in and be like, 'Strange Maine, huh, I'll tell you something strange,' and give me whatever he feels like talking about today. (The store) can be a strange magnet, we'll say.


Q: Ever get any celebs?

A: Yeah, it's kind of funny, Brendan started having famous people who come in sign the counter. Probably the most famous we have is Pee Wee Herman. Weird Al signed the counter. Loren Coleman, the cryptozoologist from Portland. Nels Cline from Wilco. And we had Thurston Moore come in and do some shopping, but he didn't sign. We'd put a postcard up asking anybody from Sonic Youth to sign the counter while they were in town, but I guess he didn't see it.

Q: Who's your best customer?

A: Oh man, there are so many, a lot of regulars. Not to cop out, but no way could I name just one. Pretty diverse customers, not just the record geeks and hippies and whatever, but all kinds of folks who live in the area. They'll walk in and say they've never seen a record store quite like it. We don't have any of that sort of air, 'We know a lot and you don't.' That garbage turns us all off, for sure.

Q: Did you think Strange Maine would last six years?

A: I had no idea. When we started it was just, let's see what happens. It just sort of happened, and is happening, very naturally. I, personally, didn't foresee how successful it would be, not that I thought it would fail. Yes, I think the store can go another six years, or longer. It feels necessary, in some weird way.

Read the full interview here: [Source]
The Strange Maine store is affiliated in spirit with the Strange Maine Gazette and blog. Both are named in honor of the book, Strange Maine, edited by Charles G. Waugh, Martin H. Greenberg & Frank D. McSherry, Jr., and illustrated by Peter Farrow, which was published in 1986 by L. Tapley (Augusta, ME). Brendan Evans, the owner, is my friend. The store is one of the best spots in the city for wandering in on interesting conversations.

Way back at the beginning of this blog, I discussed the Strange Maine triple identity.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

EVENT: Aroostook, Maine Frontier

Aroostook County was a foreign land to me until I paired myself up with someone who came from there. Over the last 12 years I've come to know the area in bits and pieces. It's a place well worth knowing. This event is a great chance to learn more about its history in photos (personally, I'm very sad I have to miss it due to other obligations). If you want to see my Aroostook of the present day in photos, take a peek at my Flickr set of Northern Maine photos.

The Maine Historical Society invites you to...
WHAT: Aroostook: Maine's Last Frontier as Seen By the Eastern Illustrating, Co., presented by Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., Maine State Historian and Director, Maine Historic Preservation Commission
WHEN: Thursday, April 30, 2009, 7:00 - 9:00pm
WHERE: Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress Street, Portland, Maine
COST: This event is free and open to the public.
FMI: For more information call (207)774-1822 or e-mail info[at]

Join us for a remarkable glimpse into life in Aroostook County in the early 1900s. Shettleworth will explore the arrival of modern life and technology in Maine's last frontier through images taken by the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company - a prominent Maine postcard company whose vast photographic archive of Maine and New England is only now becoming accessible to researchers and the public. These wonderful images capture downtown life, local landmarks, agriculture, and much more.

The collection is now owned and curated by the Penobscot Marine Museum which has undertaken the Herculean task of stabilizing, organizing, cataloging, and providing access to this important collection. A number of these images can be viewed at the current MHS Museum exhibit: Main Street, Maine: Downtown Views from the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company.

A boy and his robe

The Bangor Daily News reported on this odd tidbit:
Boy in robe walking on I-295 reunited with parent
By The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine — Police in Freeport say a young boy who was found walking along Interstate 295 in a bathrobe, windpants and sneakers has been reunited with a parent.

Police did not release the boy’s name and age but said he was from another community in Maine. Officers were continuing to investigate how he came to be walking along the highway Monday.

The Portland Press Herald said officers quoted the boy as saying that his name was Nick and he was 13 and in seventh grade. He said he couldn’t remember his last name or the name of his school, but that he was up from Boston.

Police Chief Gerry Schofield said callers reported spotting the boy in Falmouth and Yarmouth. Police said the boy appeared to be uninjured.

More details about the original finding are here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

EVENT: Lafayette in America

The Maine Historical Society invites you to...
WHAT: Lafayette in America book event with Alan R. Hoffman, Translator and Author
WHEN: Tuesday, April 28, 2009, from 12:00pm - 1:00pm
WHERE: Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress Street, Portland, Maine
COST: This event is free and open to the public.
FMI: For more information call (207)774-1822 or e-mail info[at]

Join us to explore General Lafayette's 1824-1825 Farewell Tour of the United States, including his visits to Kennebunk, Saco, and Portland.

Translated from the journal kept by Auguste Levasseur, Private Secretary to General Lafayette, this rich new book describes the adoring welcome the 67-year-old hero of the American Revolution and apostle of liberty received from the American people.

With its panoramic view of the young country - its burgeoning cities and towns, its technological innovations like the Erie Canal, and its industrious people - Levasseur captures America on the cusp of its jubilee year. Hoffman will share this story and chronicle Lafayette's affectionate visits with his old friends John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams.

Blackhawk no mystery

Those of you in the area of Gorham may notice some Blackhawk helicopter activity today between 9:00 and 11:00 am. The chopper is part of a series of pre-planned ROTC exercises taking place near the University of Southern Maine campus.

Sorry, no Men in Black this time!

Image from

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dead cow poses puzzler

Thanks to Cranky Yankee of the New England Anomaly for bringing this stinker to our attention! The photo, by Terry Karkos of the Lewiston Sun Journal, states, "The bloated body of what looks like a Hereford cow, bottom center, lies atop a pile of rocks and driftwood along the Androscoggin River on Monday morning opposite Rumford paper mill NewPage Corp."
River washes dead cow ashore
By Terry Karkos , Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 21, 2009 05:00 am

RUMFORD - High water along the Androscoggin River in early April apparently washed a dead Hereford cow over Pennacook Falls and left its bloated body atop rocks 100 feet below the Rumford Avenue snow dump, police said.

Police were notified on Sunday about the reddish-brown beast with white markings, but don't know who to call to try and get rid of it before the stench increases to affect nearby Cumberland Street residents.

Due to the seemingly unreachable location, Sgt. David Bean said Monday that Rumford's Public Works crew probably can't retrieve it and dispose of it properly.

But if the cow was higher up, where they could access it, Bean said a crew could probably dump a load of gravel on it.

"It's a decaying body, so maybe they could put something on it if they could reach it. Police aren't equipped to do anything like that, but it needs to be covered until it rots away. It's right in the middle of a big pile of rocks under a 100-foot drop. Nature has to take its course, I guess," Bean said.

Police first learned of the bovine on April 4 when an Information Booth worker called about seeing the dead animal floating in the Reflection Pool below Pennacook Falls.

Bean and Officer Lawrence Winson responded, only to watch high water sweep the animal over the falls and downriver opposite Morse Bridge.

He said police are unsure how the cow ended up in the river or where it came from.

"There are no dairy farms along the river that have that breed. The only ones that I'm aware of have black Holsteins. This one looks like a Hereford," Bean said.

He said he doesn't know if someone put the dead cow on the ice this winter to be swept away come spring or if the animal wandered onto the ice somewhere upriver, fell through and drowned. No cattle farmers have reported a missing Hereford to Bean's knowledge.

Disoriented moose occasionally wander through this Western Maine town, but bovines in the Androscoggin are an oddity.

Although, last spring, Bean said a dead cow was seen floating in high water at about the same time as the current one, "but it disappeared before we got a chance to see it."


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Caddychuck at Fort Knox

"Is this where I go to try out for Caddy Shack?"

Leon (of Friends of Fort Knox) shot this photo at the Fort this morning and sent it on to us -- gotta be a sure sign of spring!

EVENT: Eastern Cemetery workday

WHAT: Eastern Cemetery Workday
WHEN: Saturday, May 2, 2009 from 9am - 12pm
WHERE: Eastern Cemetery, corner of Congress St and Mountfort St (get directions here)
FMI: go to the Spirits Alive website or email sa[AT]

Join Spirits Alive at the Eastern Cemetery on Munjoy Hill in Portland for the first workday of the season! Spend Saturday morning trimming, pruning, cleaning and tidying this beautiful green space overlooking Portland harbor.

Landscape architect Barry Hosmer will join us as we prune winter damage on the trees and shrubs, remove invasive vines, weed around the stones, mulch, and plant. Bring work gloves, a hat, appropriate footwear, and any tools you may have such as rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows and hand saws. We train volunteers on how to perform gardening tasks while carefully working around the historic stones.

There's always time for laughs, a little history, and sometimes we even break a sweat! If you can't join us this time, the next workday is June 13.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Best Blog in 2009!

THANK YOU EVERYONE! Wow, thanks so much! This makes two years running that the Strange Maine Blog has won in this Best of Portland category. Huzzah!!!

You can read the Portland Phoenix's write-up of the blog here.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the award ceremony for my moment of triumph, because I was on a week's trip to Amsterdam (photos here on my Flickr site). But I hope a few of you made it to the party all the same!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

mystery photo : it's academic, part 4

...another mystery school for all you sharp StrangeMaine observers!
Can you name this school ???

Two hints: This one is in Portland, and people live in it now!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

EVENT: Peyton Place lecture

WHAT: The Novel Truth: Peyton Place and the Undocumented Past
WHEN: Thursday, April 30, 4:30-6:00 p.m.
WHERE: University Events Room, 7th floor, Glickman Family Library, USM Portland Campus (at the corner of Forest Ave & Bedford St)
FMI: (207)780-4485

Join American and New England Studies Professor Ardis Cameron when she delivers the 8th Trustee Professor lecture, "The Novel Truth: Peyton Place and the Undocumented Past," on Thursday, April 30, 4:30-6:00 p.m., University Events Room, 7th floor, Glickman Family Library, Portland Campus, University of Southern Maine.

All are welcome. There is no need to RSVP. Light refreshments will be available. If you need accommodations in order to participate, please call (207)780-4485 by April 17. This event is sponsored by the University of Maine System Board of Trustees and the Office of the Provost.

To read previous Strange Maine musings on Peyton Place's connection to Camden, Maine, (where it was filmed in 1957), please click here.

Ardis Cameron's research “explores ‘Peyton Place’ as a major social and cultural artifact of America in the last half of the twentieth century.” [Source] She has been sifting through the book and its history since the 1990s, and is compiling her findings in Tales of "Peyton Place": The Biography of a Big Book, a volume which will build on Cameron’s longstanding fascination with the novel and its author, New Hampshire’s Grace Metalious.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

mystery photo : it's academic, part 3

While we still don't have a winning guess for part 2, here's yet another mystery photo:
Can you guess where (in Maine) this is ???

...yes, it's another school- but this one is a college.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Deering Oaks smash-up!

Those of you who were wondering what the upside-down car in Deering Oaks on that foggy night the other week was all about, here's the scoop!
Driver Flips Car into Deering Oaks Park After Reckless Ride
Tuesday, March 31, 3009

Portland police arrested Ahmed Ibrahim, 24, a Parkside resident, at around midnight on March 27th, after they say he hit four parked cars and a house - on different streets - while driving around his home turf. Police say Ibrahim also ran a red light, and he has no driver’s license.

After hitting each car, police say, Ibrahim kept going and didn’t stop until taking a turn that was too wide at the intersection of State Street and Park Avenue, which caused his car to flip and then catch on fire on the grass at the front of Deering Oaks Park. Ibrahim was transported to Maine Medical Center, but had no serious injuries.

Parkside residents reported hearing a very loud acceleration of a car motor, followed by the sound of impact, almost immediately followed by sirens, which led them to speculate that it was a high-speed car pursuit that ended quickly.

Charges are pending, since the case is still under investigation.

-Marge Niblock and Michelle Souliere contributed to this report.

I found mention of it on the WCSH-TV6 site as well (click here to read), once we had a name for the fellow.

Also on the WCSH site, Kellyanne2 posted about her run-in with the perpetrator: "I almost got hit by this guy! I was seconds away from parking right where he ran into, taking a street sign along with him. I had to push on my gas pedal and burn out, with him coming up behind me, until I, myself had to run a red light to get away from him as I went straight into the ice arena parking lot when he turned right and seconds later he found himself upside down on Park Ave! It was the craziest thing I've ever seen!! I was shaking for a long time afterwards."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bobcat attack in Standish, 1813

A big "THANK YOU!" to Dana Edgecomb, who sent this and another story along! Imagine -- a sentence no parent ever wants to hear: "Oh father come quick, some creature is biting me!" There's some great writing in this article, too, such as the imagery called up by lines such as "the cat turned and with eyes like balls of fire sprang at the settler..." Read on!
Standish Sketches of Early Times

The early settlers of Standish were much annoyed by wild animals particularly wildcats, and there are some citizens yet living in the town who can recall that when children they would be kept awake in the night listening to the savage screeching or snarls of the ferocious beasts.

A variety of these animals that seemed to be indigenous to the lake region was known as "bobcat" from having only a stump of a tail about an inch in length. This breed was a much larger and more ferocious animal than the common wildcat, and it was with such a cat made doubly dangerous from being mad, that Eleazer Parker had a desperate battle, in his own house, that cost him his life after about a year of the greatest suffering.

Parker lived on "Standish Neck" and was a poor but worthy farmer with a large family. One dark, cold night, in the last days of February, 1813, after the family had all retired, a crash was heard against one of the windows of his little home, and in a moment one of Parker's daughters cried out from her bed, "Oh father come quick, some creature is biting me."

The settler sprang from his bed and without stopping to dress seized a torch of pitch-wood, (which he ignited in the open fireplace) in one hand and a stout stick in the other and rushed into the room, where his children were now awake and crying out in terror. When the father entered the room and flashed the light of his flambeau upon his daughter's bed he was terrified to see an enormous bobcat upon the bed snarling and biting the child, who was vainly struggling to defend her self with her little arms against the teeth and claws of the maddened cat.

As soon as Parker entered the room the cat turned and with eyes like balls of fire sprang at the settler and then ensued a desperate conflict, the recital of which about firesides of the early settlers for a long time caused many a child to seek its bed in terror and drove sleep from their eyes more effectually than the cries of wild beasts without. Parker was an agile and determined man, and struck desperately at the cat, as it attacked his unprotected feet and legs, and made furious springs at his face.

It is to be regretted that the meager records and traditions of the event give us no fuller details of the struggle, but it appears that the cat finally abandoned the assault and disappeared by leaping through the window, which it broke out, to get into the house, though not until the settler had been badly scratched and bitten.

For the tragical consequences of this singular and perhaps unparalleled affair we are indebted to the diary of Daniel Shaw, son of the poet, Thomas Shaw.

Under date of March 13, 1813, the diary notes: "Went to Eleazer Parker's funeral. Mr. Parker and a daughter of his was bit by a mad wildcat a year ago, which came into his house in the night. The daughter made an outcry that the cat was biting her; he got up and drove the cat out of the house and in the scrape the cat bit him. Elder Leach preached his funeral sermon, and a great many people attended and it was a very solemn time."

"The bobcat" with its savage snarl has disappeared from Standish plains and the Lake region, as well as the wolves and bears, that were numerous in the earlier days.

William McGill (son of James McGill the famous hunter who lived in the old fort), shot the last wolf killed in Standish, and Isaac Whitney captured the last boar ever seen in town in the spring of 1839, but the bobcat has been occasionally seen or heard up to quite recent times.

[Source: Portland Evening Express, 1904]

Thursday, April 09, 2009

You're Invited! Best of Portland BIG THANKS!!!

Thanks to everyone who helped out by weighing in their nominations and subsequently their votes in the Portland Phoenix's "Best of Portland 2009" contest. We're in the running for "Best Blog" for the second year in a row!

The Phoenix is holding a party to celebrate the announcement of the results. You're all invited!

WHAT: The Portland Phoenix's Best of Portland 2009 party! (21+ only, please)
WHEN: Wednesday, April 15th, 2009. Doors open at 7:00pm
WHERE: Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St, Portland, Maine
WHY: Free admission, free food, free live music all night long!

Spencer & The School Spirit Mafia, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, and Jacob Augustine will be playing, and they'll be slingin' awards around all night. Fun!!! ...Not to mention that it's a good chance to check out Portland's newest music venue.

mystery photo : it's academic, part 2

Yes, it's another mystery photo from the Archives!
Can you guess what and where this is ??

Hint: This is a school.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Baby Rattler keeps library lively

Sennebec, who blogs about "Strange but true tales from Libraryland" over at, has a great April Fool's story to share:
Strange, but true tales from Libraryland
02 April 2009 @ 10:06 pm


Next comes the tale of an April Fool's joke which became too successful. Most years when I've been working in a public library and wrote a weekly library column, I pulled an April Fools joke via the column. Some have grabbed a lot of people.

Last year I wrote my first one for the Hartland Library. It was a dandy, all about my old college buddy Lirpa Loof who was from some place in the South Pacific who called me out of the blue to tell me his dad, the king of Bali had died and now that he was king, he wanted to repay me for all the times I got him out of jams or wrote research papers for him back at Arizona State. He was going to move Beth and I all expenses paid to Bali where I could create the library of the future with no limit on funding.

An hour after the paper hit the street, people were dashing into the library to cuss me out for deserting them or to congratulate me on such a wonderful opportunity.

Well, I didn't think I could top that very easily this year, but read on. Here's an excerpt from my column which appeared last Thursday:
I didn’t have room in my L.A. trip article to talk about my unusual buy. Just down the road from the strawberry stand was a curiosity shop. We couldn’t resist checking it out. Beth got some great jewelry, but I came away with the real prize, a fresh rattlesnake egg.

When I bought it, I asked the guy what they tasted like and he gave me a very odd look. “Not, eat, hatch Amigo,” he said in a very thick accent. After I questioned him further and we got through the language and hand gesture barriers, I realized he was telling me if I kept it reasonably warm, it might well hatch.

What the heck, I thought. I was a bit nervous about getting it through airport security, but they were far more interested in my shoes and extra camera lens (go figure). Once we got home, I put a heating pad in a cardboard box, set the egg on it and waited. Well darned if it didn’t hatch yesterday.

If you come by the library starting next Tuesday, I’ll have the baby rattler on display.
I borrowed a baby rattle from Melissa, the young woman who helps out on Tuesday and Wednesday. When I opened on Tuesday, the rattle was in a cardboard box with a towel over the top and holes cut in the side.

I caught my share of the unwary on Tuesday and Wednesday, and since my column in today's Sebasticook Valley Weekly not only explained the prank, but had a photo of the baby rattler, I thought that was the end of the fun. Wrong, very wrong.

I was rearranging books in the basement when Angela, who helps out on Thursdays, called me upstairs.

There were two game wardens who were looking for the rattlesnake I had hatched. I had one heck of a time staying semi-serious, explaining the whole thing and telling them in no uncertain terms I never said I'd be bringing a rattlesnake into the library. I clearly said I'd have a "baby rattler." They were pretty good about it and one dad who was over in the corner, reading to his kids thought it was a real hoot.

Never a dull moment in Libraryland.

For the full article, please visit Sennebec's blog: [Source]
See the baby rattler for yourself here!

Interested in the topic of rattlesnakes in Maine? We'll catch up with that in a future post.

[Image Source]

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Maine Sports Trivia Answers!

Well, the results of the first ever Strange Maine trivia contest were surprisingly sparse! I'm not sure if everyone was hibernating, or what, but we only had ONE ENTRY. Luckily, it was a pretty stellar entry, by Krister Rollins, in which he answered 4 out of the 5 questions correctly. I awarded him two prizes, since he obviously deserved them for: (1) being the only person to even bother entering, and (2) for answering almost everything right on the first try.

Next time, maybe some of the rest of you can join in, hmmm?

Here are the questions and their correct answers.
QUESTION: In 2008, how many girls were playing baseball on boys' high school teams in Maine as reported to the National Federation of State High School Associations?

" many states, the high school diamond was a lonely place for girls. Maine, Kentucky and New Hampshire each had two female players. Connecticut reported one." [Source: New York Times, "Challenges for Girls Playing High School Baseball," by Mark Hyman, February 28, 2009]

QUESTION:What sport did famous poet Edna St. Vincent Millay play during her time at Camden High School?
ANSWER: Basketball!

The Maine Memory Network has a great photo of the poet in uniform with the rest of her team, shown here. I have circled Millay for easy spotting.

QUESTION:In December 1897, the U.S.S. Maine Baseball Team won the Navy baseball championship. What member of the team was the only one left alive after February 15, 1898, when the ship was sunk in Havana Harbor?
ANSWER: John Bloomer.

"On February 15, 1898, the Maine exploded and sank in Havana harbor helping spark the Spanish-American War. The explosion killed 260 of the ship's crew and all of the members of the baseball team except for John Bloomer." [Source] There's a great photo of the team in their uniforms at, with Bloomer himself picked out clearly.

QUESTION: What weird socket-powered sport began holding organized competitions in Maine in 1991?
ANSWER: Belt Sander Racing.

This is the one that even Krister didn't get! Check out the Central Maine Power Tool Racing Association's website, or take a peek at all the photos of the races on their site.

QUESTION:What unlikely, overgrown orange fruits have been made into makeshift water racing crafts in Maine each October for the last 4 years?
ANSWER: Giant pumpkins!

We've posted on the blog about this before(read article here). What better way to get crazy in October, than to attend the Giant Pumpkin Regatta?! Photo from Maine Pumpkin Growers' website
All of the answers were available on-line, so I was surprised there weren't more entries -- I assumed more of you were going to do some virtual digging for the info!

Monday, April 06, 2009

New Maine horror movie & SFX group!

On Friday, April 10, GothicMaine is hosting a zombie themed evening at the Asylum (Plague night) which is being thrown to raise money for a locally produced zombie film called "Heaven Shall Burn," which is planning on shooting sometime this summer. Visit for more info.

At the event they'll be selling copies of "Amore Morgue", a 19-month Zombie Lady themed calendar shot locally. They'll also have a signup sheet for people to be contacted when the movie need zombie extras. The crew is also scouting locations in the area for filming, according to a recent Craigslist posting.

Eric Anderson, who emailed me about the event and the upcoming film, also wanted to give a heads-up to anyone interested in joining Maine's new Shoggoth Assembly. He explains, "I have actually started getting together a local group of people interested in the SFX field (and all of the many things that encompasses) for the Southern Maine area." Read on for further explanation!
A Shoggoth is a creation of the horror master H.P. Lovecraft. It is a creature with a constantly shifting form that could shape itself into as many eyes, mouths and hands (...tendrils would be more appropriate) as it needed to do its dark will. This ever-shifting creature helps to represent the concept I have for our little organization (without quite as much devouring and eldritch horror...).

The Shoggoth Assembly is a group of friends and like-minded individuals in the Southern Maine area interested in the myriad of skills involved in the art of Special Effects. The "SA" is not a union or employment agency, but is instead a meeting place where artists, filmmakers, actors/models and anyone else interested in learning and sharing their knowledge of the craft can come together. As projects arise, we can call on our various members with many different areas of expertise to put as many eyes, hands and minds on a project as we need.

Among the services the SA intends on providing:

-We will provide a web-based forum (click here) for the members to be able to keep in touch, ask questions, develop networks and announce projects or other opportunities that fellow members may want to take advantage of.

-We will organize "Tech Swaps" to give member artists and friends more face time together to talk shop and to make connections and go over new ideas

-Members will be able to teach workshops to provide their knowledge of SFX techniques to other members and help people explore their interests

-The website will allow members to post photographs or short movies in personal galleries so they can share their accomplishments with the other members as well as provide a portfolio space that potential clients can reference.

-The SA will be a resource for area producers and directors to be able to seek individual talent for their projects or to ask the SA group leaders to organize teams for them. The SA will not interject itself in compensation negotiations between employers and the artists, and should not be seen as an "employer" of any of the members.

-Eventually, when there is enough interest, members can take part to secure a co-op styled work space where the members will have all hours access to work on larger scale projects, work with materials that are more messy or toxic that you wouldn't feel comfortable working with in the home, or just to be able to work in a neutral environment..

The Shoggoth Assembly will strive to help its members grow their skills, network with other artists, discover opportunities to flex their artistic muscle, and be a resource for area productions to go to when they need quality SFX services in the Southern Maine / New England area.

Welcome to our group and please don't be shy. If you have any questions please feel free to post questions here or to send inquiries to Eric Anderson.

Sounds good to me!

Molotov madness in Waterville

The Kennebec Journal succinctly covered this outrageous story of teens run amuck in Waterville:
Police arrest 5 in arson fire
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE -- Five people were arrested Tuesday and charged with arson and burglary in connection with an incident at the former Boys & Girls Club building at 6 Main Place.

Police Chief Joseph Massey said the two adults and three youths made Molotov cocktails by filling liquor bottles with gasoline and rags and throwing them inside an empty swimming pool in the vacant facility on March 19. The explosions caused flames to shoot up to 20 feet in the air, Massey said.

Those involved in the March 19 incident videotaped the activity and placed it on YouTube, accompanied by heavy metal music and a list of credits -- the names of those who made the video.

Four more people -- three male adults and a 16-year-old male juvenile -- are expected to be arrested in the case, he said.

Those arrested Tuesday included Jesse Ferran, 19, of Waterville and Nicholas Laws, 19, of Winslow. Massey said he could not name the other three arrested Tuesday because they are juveniles. They are a male and female, both 17 and from Waterville, and a 14-year-old boy from Winslow, he said.


The Portland Press Herald reported further on April 3:
Joseph Church, 20, of Fairfield and the 16-year-old, who lives in Waterville, turned themselves in to police Wednesday, said Detective David Caron. The arrests brought the number of people charged in the case to seven. Caron said two more adults – one of whom lives in another state – are expected to be charged.
The parent of one of the suspects saw the video, got alarmed and took her son to the police station to report the incident, Massey said.

In the wake of last spring's car firebombs in Portland, it seems unlikely that behavior of this type will be overlooked by authorities as a mere destructive prank. According to the website of WCSH6-TV, this is not the first explosive-related offense for some of the suspects.

Image from Waterville Police Department, taken from the seized video.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

How do you recycle a snake?

Hint: Not like this!!!

Portland's brand new newspaper, The Portland Daily Sun (which is doing a great job so far), printed this great story yesterday, much to my delight.
Goodness snakes!
Portland Daily Sun, page 1
Saturday, April 4, 2009

People try to recycle the darndest things.

“Evidently someone thought a dead 7-foot python could be recycled, because we got one a couple of weeks ago," said ecomaine General Manager Kevin Roche. "I guess I could understand if it had been thrown out with the trash, but in recycling? No.”

The single-sort recycling facility operates with state-of-the-art technology and equipment that rapidly sorts all combined materials into separate categories. Roche explained that “Newspapers, cardboard, No. 1 plastics, aluminum cans, steel cans, glass bottles and other types of material are each identified automatically, pulled out from the rest, and, then, baled.” There was no identification equipment for snakes.

Recycling Manager John Morin said, “The snake was found as the pre-sort conveyor belt was moving it along to the newspaper separator. Luckily it was grabbed just before it would have wrapped around the spinning shafts of the separator.”

Morin said another recycling blunder this year was a 125-pound anchor with a ten-foot chain. “The anchor was metal, but nothing bigger than a breadbox is going to fit through this equipment,” said Morin. He clarified that people with larger recyclable items may bring them to ecomaine to place items in a designated holding area, at no charge, or take to their local transfer station. “It’s also important,” he added, “that people not put trash or food in with recyclable items.” Or snakes.


mystery photo : it's academic !

All right, esteemed Strange Maine browsers- can you name the building?
This original photo is a 19th-century cyanotype.

(Hint: this one has a haunted history !)