Post by Graveyardbride on Nov 18, 2016 10:56:32 GMT -5
Maine Murders, Gallows and Ghosts
Maine is old and there’s history everywhere – mostly good, but the wicked and terrifying is so much more interesting. Here we tell of spectral ships, of cursed rivers and soaring cliffs, gruesome murders and spirits that wander from their graves.
Early Executions. Back in 1831 when William Willis published his 900-page history of Portland, three men had been executed in the city. The first was a man named Goodwin who was accused of throwing a man overboard in Casco Bay. Willis wrote, “There existed some doubt of his guilt and he was reprieved three times, but was afterward executed on the 12th of November, 1772. A great concourse of people, excited by the novelty of the scene, was collected on the occasion, said to have been the largest ever assembled in town.” Mainers loved a good hanging.
The next hanging took place after a pirate sailed into the harbor. Thomas Bird went to Africa and killed a captain of a sloop there and then sailed to Cape Elizabeth. Because it was an international crime, the case was tried in district court. According to Willis, “the unhappy man was executed on the 25th of June following; having been the first execution under the laws of the United States.” Bird was hanged on Bramhall’s Hill at where Back Cove and Stroudwater roads intersect.
The third man executed in Portland was perhaps the most wicked. In 1808, Portland’s deputy sheriff, Ebenezer Parker, was searching for a debtor named Quinby, who was hiding in his friend Joseph Drew’s blacksmith shop. When the sheriff went into the shop looking for the debtor, the blacksmith bashed the peace officer over the head with a club and he died later that week. Drew was hanged on Munjoy Hill. Willis claimed this and the other two hangings were the first in the newly-formed United States of America.
A Cursed River. In the summer of 1675, a ship docked at Factory Island in Saco and three sailors rowed up the Saco River. They saw a young Indian squaw and her infant in a canoe, and according to Thomas Verde in Maine Ghosts and Legends, one of the men said, “I have heard that these Indian brats can swim at birth, like a very duck or dog or beaver.” One of the other sailors suggested they find out, so the men blocked the Indian woman’s way and ripped the screaming infant from her arms. While one held her back, another threw the hapless child overboard, where it immediately sank. Once they saw the baby sink, they let the woman go and she jumped into the water and was able to save her child, but a few days later, the infant became ill and died. The men didn’t know the babe was the son of Chief Squando. Enraged over what had happened, according to Verde, “He commanded the spirits of the river to take the lives of three white men every year. … Squando’s curse was fulfilled each year until the mid 1940s when a year passed with no drownings and the Maine Sunday Telegram headline happily proclaimed ‘Saco River Outlives Curse of Indian Chief.’”
Murder on Halloween. “Rockland, Maine History” is a Facebook page and those who maintain it came across an article from 1940 detailing the murder of Pauline Young. Pauline was 16-years-old when she disappeared from her home at 28 Crescent Street on Halloween night. The police searched the house and neighborhood, but there was no sign of the missing girl. A week later, John Phelps, her step-father, was discovered stumbling and bleeding profusely near the police station around 2 a.m. and admitted he had taken poison in an attempt to kill himself. The poison didn’t work, so he slashed his wrist with a jack-knife. When questioned, he confessed to having killed his step-daughter on Halloween night.
Like all teenagers, Pauline had wanted to go out on Halloween, but Phelps objected and locked all the doors to keep her inside. According to a contemporary newspaper account, Phelps said: “She cursed and came at me with a butcher knife. I threw a hammer at her and it struck her on the forehead. I turned her over and she was not breathing and I knew she was dead. I didn’t know what to do with the body, but finally removed the head with an axe and a knife. The body I dragged down the cellar stairs, and wrapping it in burlap bags, put it out through a cellar window under the piazza.” When police investigated, they found the young woman’s shoulder in one bag, her legs in another, an arm and her chest in a third bag, a thigh and torso in another and the final bag contained a single thigh. But where was the head? They dug in the chicken coop, but found nothing. Then they checked Witham’s Wharf, “where it was understood the head had been thrown,” the newspaper reported. Dragging the harbor produced nothing. Pauline Young’s head was never found.
The Ghost Ship of Casco Bay. The year 1813 was a dangerous time for sailing in Maine for the United States was again at war with England and schooners were being overtaken and plundered. Even fishermen were extra-vigilant when they sailed into deep water. Few vessels were under construction, except Dash. She was intended to be a merchant ship, but when war broke out, her Freeport builders added guns (some of which were fake) and turned her into what was called a hermaphrodite brig: powerful and fast. “Dash was now the speediest vessel afloat in the Province of Maine. No British vessel could catch her,” Miriam Thomas wrote in Come Hell of High Water. Dash won awards for her speed and John Porter, her captain, was one of the best. One day when Porter came in from a trip in which Dash had overtaken three British ships, he saw Lois Cushing perched on a wooden keg on Union Wharf in Portland and fell head-over-heels in love. The two married and soon after John boarded Dash on another trip. “John, John,” Lois called, “Don’t go. Wait, wait,” Thomas wrote. But it was too late. Her husband did not hear her and Dash was soon well out into the harbor. Apparently, it was considered unlucky for a wife to watch a vessel leave the harbor, but Lois watched until Dash was out of sight. According to Thomas, “She put her hand under her heart. She has not told John that she was carrying his child. ... Weeks dragged on end and Dash did not come back. Had she been captured by an English man-of-war or privateer? Of course not, Dash was unbeatable. She could outsail any craft. Maybe her bottom had become fouled and thus slowed her speed, but no, John was too good a captain for that.”
Months passed. Then, one day Lois walked to Union Wharf and saw Dash coming in – silently. Without a sound, the ship left the harbor again, leaving Mrs. Porter screaming for John to come back. A captain living off Bailey’s Island who had just lost his son said he also saw the ship come in, then turn and leave silently. So the legend goes, “In Casco Bay in the state of Maine, a crewless, phantom hermaphrodite brig winds her way from island to island. Have you seen her? If you have, you had an ancestor lost on Dash.” No traces of Dash nor her crew of 60 men have ever been found.
Maiden’s Cliff. A huge cross (above) rises from Mount Megunticook in Lincolnville, part of Camden Hills State Park. Below the cross, a plaque reads:
On May 7, 1864 this 12 year old
farmer's daughter fell to her
death from this cliff.
According to legend she was
here as a member of a Maying
party and fell trying to catch
her wind blown hat. This cross
erected in her memory.
According to the Lincolnville Historical Society’s records and local historian Diane O’Brien, Elenora French was the daughter of Zaddock and Deborah French of Lincolnville Beach. She went “Maying” (gathering Mayflowers) with her older sister and a young man who was a schoolteacher. No one knew for certain, but perhaps her hat blew off and she chased after it, tumbling from the cliff. She didn’t die instantly and was carried by wagon to the farm at Youngtown Corner where she died that night. The first cross was erected by a summer resident, the man who built Norembega (the “castle”) in Camden. The cliff was named Maiden’s Cliff in keeping with the idea that a maiden had leapt to her death there, by a real estate developer of the 1920s who was promoting Lake City, the stretch of Lake Megunticook which has a view of the cliff. A larger cross was erected to replace the original. Several books and articles indicate Elenora haunts the cliff and that people have both seen her spirit and heard her screams.
There is an equally disturbing story of much more recent vintage about Maiden’s Cliff. Charles Black and his wife, Lisa Zahn, retired schoolteachers from Kansas, had moved to the coastal community of Camden, but often argued over an affair Black had with an Arizona woman and how he spent the $4 million Zahn inherited from her father. On April 7, 2011, Black, 71, came up behind Zahn, 55, bashed her three times on the back of her head with a rock and pushed her off the 800-foot cliff. Both tumbled down the mountainside, but the fall didn’t kill them and the pair were hospitalized for more than a week. Zahn believed Black was pursuing her down the mountain, while Black claimed he had no memory of hitting Zahn or pushing her off the cliff. He told police he had collected two rocks while they were on the mountaintop with the idea of tossing them over the cliff in a symbolic gesture of getting rid of baggage and hoping for a fresh start. In 2014, Black was tried and convicted of attempting to kill his wife and sentenced to 25 years, though all but 10 years were suspended.
The Body under the Floorboards. Newfield’s Old Straw House at 205 Elm Street is named for Gideon Straw and haunted by his daughter. Hannah Straw, age 30, died in March 1826 and because the ground was still frozen and a grave couldn’t be dug in the cemetery, some of the kitchen floorboards were removed and a hole was dug in the pliable earth. People who have inhabited the house over the years claim to have encountered Hannah’s apparition and for an extended period of time in the 1960s, her image appeared regularly at a window. Phantom footsteps and lights turning on and off of their own accord have also been reported.
The Biddo Watcher. Visitors to Biddeford’s historic City Theater usually concentrate on what’s happening on stage, not knowing they, themselves, are being watched. Rumors of a “seeing eye” peering down from the ceiling, lights flashing and phantom voices abound. One persistent story involves singer Eva Gray, who collapsed following her third encore of the song “Goodbye, Little Girl, Goodbye” on the night before Halloween. According to the theater’s website, “The beautiful 33-year-old died backstage from heart failure with her 3-year-old daughter present. Many since have referred to Eva as the theater’s resident ‘ghost.’” Taking into consideration its 116 years of opera and plays, many of which included tragedy, it is no wonder the old theater houses a ghost.
A Haunted Church. Bath’s Winter Street Center used to be the Congregational church. In 1918 when the hospital was overflowing with patients suffering from Spanish influenza, the sanctuary was turned into a temporary infirmary, where many died. People have reported unexplained encounters in the church and one individual purportedly saw the apparition of a child standing in the balcony. Ghost-hunters have recorded strange noises in the old place of worship, some of which sound like footsteps and cries for help.
Severed Foot in the Dining Room Wall. One spring night in a second-floor bedroom in a creaky old house at 2 Falls Road in Benton, 18-year-old Alan Linnell lay terrified as he felt a presence sit down on his bed. Then something cold touched his arm. This experience was one of dozens of strange incidents Linnell, his seven siblings, his parents and visiting relatives said they witnessed over a 13-year period beginning in 1964, a year after the family purchased the home. The children’s stories would have likely gone unnoticed were it not for a grisly discovery on August 15, 1970. While doing repairs and renovations, the Linnells found a shriveled mummified human foot – along with some bones and a few corncobs – in the wall. Other children in the house heard footsteps that sounded as though they were made by a person limping, or dragging a foot as he (or she) walked.
When the foot was found between two beams in the dining room wall, Maine State Pathologist Irving Goodoff of Waterville, sent it to a Boston lab for analysis. According to contemporary newspaper accounts, the appendage had been amputated from a 5-month-old child in a surgical procedure around 1900. The tiny bones in the wall with the foot belonged to some sort of animal, according to the report. The newspaper also revealed that a doctor lived in the house around the time the foot was removed.
The Witch’s Grave. Mary Nasson is buried in a beautiful old cemetery with a gorgeous, ornate headstone marking her final resting spot at the Old York Burying Ground. She died in 1774 and has been dogged for decades by rumors she was a witch. According to legend, a long stone covering the length of her body was placed atop her grave to prevent her rising in the night and it is claimed her final resting place is haunted. The people at the Old York Historical Society have gone to great lengths to dispel these rumors, nevertheless, they offer tours of haunted places on Halloween that include the “much-maligned” grave of Mary Nasson.
Drink with a Dead Patriot. Located on Pascal Avenue near picturesque Rockport Harbor, the Goose River Bridge is rumored to be haunted by William Richardson, a town resident who lived around the time of the Revolutionary War. There are at least two different stories concerning his death. The first is that British sympathizers murdered him in 1783 because they were enraged by his drunken celebration of the American victory. The second is that he got so drunk celebrating the American victory that he fell from the bridge to his death. Either way, Richardson’s ghost still haunts the area, offering pitchers of ale to those hanging around the location after dark.
Phantom Dog of Loon Pond. Legend has it that a spectral three-legged dog roams the shore of this pond in Acton. The ghost dog, a husky, typically appears around midnight.
Murder-Suicide on Wood Island. In 1896, a murder-suicide occurred at the Wood Island Lighthouse just off the Biddeford coast. Local sheriff Fred Milliken was shot by Howard Hobbs, a “drunken drifter” who had rented an old island chicken coop from Milliken in which to sleep. Hobbs shot the sheriff following an argument and afterwards, shot himself at the keeper’s house. Dark shadows are seen, disembodied voices and moans are sometimes heard and locked doors mysteriously open. Most believe it is Hobbs, not the sheriff, haunting Wood Island. One assistant keeper became so disturbed by the supernatural activity that he rowed to the mainland, checked into a boarding house and jumped from the third floor to his death.
Sources: Heather Steeves, MaineToday, October 2, 2014; The Associated Press, July 21, 2014; Stephen Betts, The Bangor Daily News, August 31, 2015; The Coastal Journal; Prominent American Ghosts by Suzy Smith; New England's Ghostly Haunts by Robert Ellis Cahill; and The Lincolnville Historical Society.
See also “The Ghost of Benton, Maine, Resurrected”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/467/ghost-benton-falls-resurrected
“Haunts of Maine’s Haynesville Road”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/2622/haunts-maines-haynesville-road
“The Ice-Shrouded Ghosts of Maine”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/3235/ice-shrouded-ghosts-maine
“Lydia Carver: Ghost Bride of Cape Elizabeth”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/4127/lydia-carver-ghost-bride-elizabeth
“Maine’s Ship from the Fleet of the Dead”: whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/2296/maines-ship-fleet-dead