Jan 29, 2024
New England has a rich history of oral traditions dating back to the Cretaceous Extinction. Most of the traditions are bogus and told by old people who have led extremely dull lives and are now suffering from fungal toenail infections. At least that’s what I’m led to believe by late night TV commercials and waiting in line at the Post Office.
The senior’s stories are told very ssllooooowwlllyyy and don’t make any sense because they are told with anachronistic terms the average person doesn’t understand. Like anachronistic.
Boothbay Region’s folklore isn’t as good as the rest of New England’s. Boston has Paul Revere, Sleepy Hollow has OSHA violations, and Dexy’s Midnight Runners has Belchertown Mass.
The Maine complaint (BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! GET IT?!?!?!?!) is that the Boothbay Region doesn’t have nearly enough patriots, decapitated folks running around on horses, or dinosaurs hanging out with hot chicks. Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to condense all this Boothbay Region Folklore and present it to your primarily waffle-fired brain and pray to Dog you can understand it.
Let’s start this out with a limerick:
There once was a woman in Edgecomb
She lost her license for being dumb
She drank too much
Liquor and stuff
And now has an airborne bum.
Stacy wasn’t right. She was From Away. Not only was she from away, but she was from Florida, the land where everything is suspect. But Stacy thought outside the box. Perhaps she was outside the box and thought inside it. That’s a much better way to describe it. Regardless, she had a DWI from that suspect place Florida, and it limited her options inconveniently.
One fall, Stacy was living in Edgecomb, getting ready to go back to the humid, reptile-choked, insect and black bile-overrun swamp of Florida when a year-round business owner in Boothbay Harbor offered her a decent-paying job for the winter. She wouldn’t get rich, no. But she would save over $1,000 by not moving.
This raised a problem. Her DWI. In the summer, it was easy to get a ride to and from “Tha Haba” no matter the time of day. She knew lots of people and she had lots of friends. In the summer there was also the occasional Uber and gypsy taxi.
In the winter, it was bleak. Her friends were all back in Florida. She couldn’t walk or ride a bike – it was too cold, too far, too dangerous, and got dark too early. Under no circumstances could she ask her new workmates for rides. There was no public transport other than Eben’s Taxi. And you had to kiss Eben on the lips going into and out of his taxi if you were a single lady.
Of course Stacy could put the fake herpes sore on her lip for the entire winter like so many women had before her, but why should she have to? And the thought of giving money to that creep made her sick. The problem tumbled over and over in her mind…
Then one day when she thought she was doomed to her Florida incarceration, she saw an episode of M*A*S*H. It was the episode with 5 o’Clock Charlie – the North Korean pilot who showed up every day at 5 o’clock in a crappy biplane to throw a bomb out of his cockpit at the drunken, fornicating American doctors and nurses.
That was it! That was the solution!!! You didn’t need a license to operate an ultralight airplane anywhere in the US! Not even the backwater of Maine! Sure, you couldn’t fly over airports or military bases and the like. But you could get loaded, hop into your ultralight, and fly to another bar so long as you landed on private land. No law enforcement agency had jurisdiction to pull you over. It was genius! That’s when she sent away for an ultralight kit on eBay. She named it “Saudade.”
She put it together and learned how to operate it from Youtube videos. She got her neighbor’s permission to take off and land in his freshly mowed field, as well as the Tugboat’s parking lot.
When she was ready, she set aloft from her neighbor’s field at twilight on a perfectly calm night with a Russian hat, goggles, snowpants, and her never-diminishing determination. It was cold going into the Harbor, but positively frigid flying back out later in the evening. She stayed well above the treeline of Route 27 and the power lines. The whole trip took her only 10 minutes.
Drivers called authorities about a UFO. Homeowners panicked and thought they were under attack. The police chased after her and questioned her, but there was nothing they could do. She took off on private land and landed on private land. The police could do nothing about what happened in the skies. They had no authority there.
As the dark days of the Maine winter wore on, kids waited for her and fired BB’s and pellets at her. She responded by getting a loud 20-gauge that sent them scuttling inside to watch her though the windows. She’d dump coffee grinds and other garbage from work on the hard cases. She felt like that unemployed guy in the Mad Max movies with the ultra light gyrocopter.
Stacy was never late for her job that winter, and she even covered for others’ shifts. She might have loved her job and life for the first time. She was empowered. Perhaps she would make manager for the summer.
Then one day in early April, the winds shifted. They were warm and from the East. The gusts were unpredictable and severe. They smelled of thawed earth and coming spring. Stacy thought of calling in sick, but that wasn’t who she was anymore. She was a manager-in-training. Besides, this weather didn’t scare her. She had flown in it before.
Coming into Boothbay Harbor she had to fly below the treeline and as close to the road as she could to avoid the warm, erratic, violent gusts of wind above. Thankfully, there was hardly any traffic.
Going home, she thought it would be easier because vehicles coming the other way cast their headlights on the trees and power lines. Drivers hardly ever saw her at night. She needed no running lights and she had made this journey many times before in the same, exact conditions. She wasn’t afraid.
She came to where River Road intersected Rt 27. She saw nothing.
Certainly not the large delivery truck’s headlights.
It came around the corner by River Road and Stacy couldn’t see the truck’s headlights because of the powerful streetlight on the corner. She pulled up on the lever of the ultralight only to get entangled in the power lines crossing the street.
For the briefest of seconds, her ultralight hung motionless on the power lines. Her propeller got tangled and spun around in them, “bap, bap, bap…” The delivery truck screeched to a halt right under her. Then the whole mess dropped to the asphalt with a “THUNK!” The power lines sizzled evilly in the noisy, windy dusk. The truck burst into flames. When the fire had burned itself out, hardly a meatball-sized bit of Stacy remained. And there was no trace of the truck driver.
Stacy’s was a closed casket affair.
And before you feel sorry for Stacy, remember that she knew freedom. True freedom. Not the freedom to choose between 150 candy bars, but real, soaring freedom. She flew when and where she wanted. With only her wits, she circumvented and stuck it to the whole system designed to keep people like her down. Her death was painless, her life was priceless.
Perhaps that is why the Gods saw fit to take her away that night.
Some days when I’m driving down Route 27 in the twilight of winter, I am overcome with a feeling of Saudade. I swear I can hear what sounds like a lawnmower engine behind me. I’ll look quickly in the rear-view mirror to see a fleeting glimpse of Stacy and Icarus laughing hysterically at me with enormous, evil grins.
And I’m not the only one.
The coast was on fire.
Plumes of black smoke lazily curled into a pristine bluebell spring sky all along the coast of Maine. Settlers abandoned their houses and towns. They crammed themselves into any boat they could and headed for the outlying islands where the murderous and blood-crazed French and Indians couldn’t follow. Only on the islands like Damariscove and Fisherman’s were they safe. They waited for larger boats to take them south to the safe ports of Portsmouth or Boston where the coast wasn’t on fire.
Henry and Prudence stood at the rocky, muddy shore with a few other families they knew slightly. They clutched the few possessions they could bring away from their burned farms.
The French had grabbed Henry and Prudence’s children. Most likely they would be sold as slaves in Quebec. The Indians killed adults outright, but children fetched a good price from the French because they would adjust quickly to their new lives and not be able to run away and get back home.
The daughter’s cornhusk doll, their son’s tin soldiers, Henry’s musket, and the family Bible were the only things Henry and Prudence were able to save. The Bible held all their important papers – their deed, marriage certificate, and what little money they were able to scratch from Maine’s hard, rocky coast.
That was all they could take away. By the time their barn was on fire, their children were well on their way up the Kennebec River towards Quebec and a very new life indeed.
The Indians were reclaiming their lands.
Henry and Prudence were tired and shocked. Their numb, dejected faces and clothes were covered in soot. They waited for the next boat to Damariscove Island. From there, a larger boat back to Massachusetts and civilization. Even the French and Indians together couldn’t attack Boston. Not yet, at least.
The small group of Colonists waiting for the boat were getting anxious. It had been a while since they had last seen Jacob row out with the last group of twenty. And now the group on the shore could smell the fresh, tangy odor of new smoke on the wind.
A few ragged survivors ran down to them.
“Everyone’s dead!! Nobody left alive! Not child or beast or Christian Soul!!”
“We only got out with our lives!” cried a red-haired man dressed in his breeches and suspenders. He gripped an empty musket with white fists.
The boat would only take twenty people back to Damariscove Island. There were now over thirty people at the shore, including the Catholic Finnish family.
The group on the shore looked around furtively. They were looking for anything. Boats, Indians, French, a place to hide… anything. They were moments away from sheer panic or worse.
Prudence looked at her soot-covered hands holding her children’s toys. She began to breathe shallowly and rapidly. Her eyes bulged. She couldn’t even remember her children’s names. Did Henry remember? WHAT WERE THEY?!?! WHAT WERE THEIR NAMES?!?!
Her hands shook violently and she dropped the cornhusk doll and tin soldiers onto the thick, blue mud. She screamed and tried to grab them. But as anyone who has been clam digging or in quicksand will tell you, movement sinks you farther, faster.
Prudence sank and Henry tried to lift her out, but he was fighting his own battle with “quickmud.”
“Why did I even bring the toys?” she thought. Her children were gone. They wouldn’t need their toys now.
She had her husband. And they would soon be in Boston. What could they do? They would most likely get a hot meal or two, and then they would be two more Protestants at the mercy of exacting Puritans. She wished she were dead. She wished everyone were dead, Englishman, Colonist, French, Native, Puritan, Protestant….
That’s when Jacob and two men armed with muskets came around the point in the dory. There was a loud, sustained “Hurrah!” from the Colonists on shore…
It was cut short by an unexpected roar from the French and Indian’s muskets. Jacob fell face first into the dory. The two men with muskets in the dory fired. Then those on shore fired at the attackers. It was enough to send the French and Indians back into the woods licking their wounds.
The colonists started loading the dory and reloading their muskets with dry shot.
Ezra took the helm of the dory from the fallen Jacob. They threw Jacob’s body out even though he was blatantly still living. It was all they could do. They couldn’t save Jacob, he had a musket ball in the chest. But mayhap they could save another Colonist.
Prudence and Henry dug frantically in the mud. They didn’t even notice the dory loading.
The Indians reappeared with reloaded muskets and fervor.
The last boat to Damariscove Island cast off. Henry, Prudence, the Finns and Ezra’s sputtering, floating body were all that were left to fight the Indians on the shore.
When the axe came, it didn’t even hurt. Her bloody hands hurt from digging in the mud. The weight of the axe blow caused her to sit down heavily and clumsily with a “smack”in the mud. She stared incomprehensibly at her attacker as her life flowed from her and joined Henry’s, who was already dead.
Legend has it that no living creature could live on the spot where Prudence died. No clam or bloodworm would ever grow on that spot again. The restless spirit of Prudence held sway over her children’s toys for over 375 years
If you go to Robinson’s Wharf in the early spring, when the mornings are damp and warm, and before the yearly invaders arrive, perhaps you will run across the ghost of Prudence. Locals say the spot where she lost her life is now where the unisex bathrooms are.
They say she walks up and down the hallway, knocking on the bathroom doors looking for her children’s toys. They say Henry takes all the hand soap and paper towels in spite. They shout their children’s names late at night.
A horror forevermore.
Ethel Muldoon of Levittown, Pennsylvania eased her enormous car to the stop sign on Oak Street where it crossed Townsend Ave in Boothbay Harbor.
She made it. She finally made it. The air smelled fresher and more free than any air she remembered breathing in her 78 years of life.
A huge “BEEEEP!” sounded off behind her. She grimaced and looked in the rear-view mirror. It was a huge SUV with a grim-looking family. The gesticulating father-driver BEEEEPed again longer, and she swore, louder.
Ethel was free. Her husband had passed, and most of her friends had either moved into senior homes where they essentially ceased to exist, or had kicked the bucket. And Ethel’s three children were scattered all over the country. They rarely called or visited.
She was all she had left. Not even a goldfish or Sea Monkey remained her dependent.
Her husband was a good man. He met his end choking to death on a chicken bone one dinner. He was sucking the marrow out it and he sucked too hard and it lodged in his throat.
He loved her. He was a kind man who worked for his family unremittingly. He was a man of routine and saw little reason to leave their Levittown enclave. Eating out cost money. Vacations cost even more money. They never bought a new car. He would buy old cars and repair them. Her husband’s car repair skills were pretty incredible, although secretly she wished they had a newer-model convertible with electric windows and air conditioning that worked.
He sucked the marrow out of all the bones she cooked for the same reason. Why would he throw away the tastiest and most nutritional part of the meal? Meals were expensive.
So she watched him writhe and die at her dinner table. There was nothing she could do but call 911 after he ceased making those horrific noises.
Ethel longed for wide open spaces- the kind she remembered from vacations her family took to The Jersey Shore when she was but a small girl. She could remember the tang and the smell of the ocean. The cool, yielding way the sand felt between her toes. Overhead: the sun and the wind. Below: the sand and the waves. It was so unlike the expectations, asphalt, and conformity of Levittown.
Everything legal being settled, she left Pennsylvania with a series of rather large bank accounts. She traded in their Tan 1985 Plymouth Reliant K car for a pristine 1972 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale Convertible. Then she put the house up for sale. The neighbors thought she had gone crazy. Others surmised she had poisoned her husband to lead a life of foppery.
She gave all her other possessions to charity or the garbage.
Ethel chose to settle in Boothbay Harbor after reading an article in a Reader’s Digest, “The Great Mackerel Scare of ’82.” The article set her imagination on fire, and made her long for a place where people weren’t frantically scurrying around like conformity-crazed rats in an endless maze of cookie-cutter houses.
She was positively giddy about beginning her new life in a quiet seaside corner of Maine where people and mackerel meant something.
These days, Maine is such a peaceful, welcoming place. But it was not always so. Since the dawn of human history, evil forces have soared over the Maine coast, as documented in the stories of the native tribes like the Etchemin, the Mi’kmaq, the Wabanaki, and the Passamaquoddy tribes and later, colonial folklore.
The tribes spoke of a spirit (Loks or Ki’kwaju) who demonstrated inappropriate social behaviors like rudeness, gluttony, impatience, and bad temper. He was also known as a deadly monster and the thief of people’s souls.
Unfortunately, this kind of information was never disclosed in Reader’s Digest articles. Reader’s Digest only ever looks out for Reader’s Digest.
The man in the car behind her was clearly possessed by Ki’kwaju or another malevolent spirit. It could also be explained by typical I-95 road rage. His disembodied foot released the brake and smashed it down on the accelerator. Witnesses said his family didn’t even react.
As the man’s car slammed into her, she reacted by stomping both her feet on the brake. It was no match. Her car was enormous, but heading downhill. The man pushed Ethel’s car through the intersection as cars honked and people screamed. Ethel’s car lurched in fits and starts. She tried to turn out of his way, but Ki’kwaju gleefully corrected and kept her heading straight ahead. She threw her car in reverse and her transmission screamed and tires smoked so that even the mid-day drunks at Pier 1 were afraid. The two gigantic engines screamed and eight stout tires squealed. Thick, choking, black and blue smoke set a screen everywhere.
The brake pedal felt a long way down to Ethel. She was standing straight up on it with both feet and pushing down with all her might. She couldn’t see over the dashboard. She kept sliding towards the wharf. She was tired from the drive.
It was difficult for bystanders to tell what was happening with all the smoke and noise. But one thing everyone agreed on; the possessed man and his family ‘s huge SUV pushed Ethel’s Oldsmobile with gusto across Pier 1, through McSeagull’s outside seating, and off the deck into high tide.
Her beloved Delta 88 convertible landed in the water and began to sink slowly. She unfastened her seat belt and grabbed the door handle to get out. The SUV landed squarely on top of her. Ethel didn’t stand a chance.
Ironically, Ethel’s car was credited in saving the man and his family. They exited the SUV barely getting their pants wet. The man blamed the incident on vehicle malfunction and sued the rental company. Since the huge amount of tire smoke blocked anyone seeing anything specific, the man and his family walked free. They were changed people and could never explain what had come over them at that moment. Psychiatrists had lots of names for their condition that day. And that was very soothing.
Despite a rigorous and extensive search in the confined body of water that was Boothbay Harbor, Ethel’s body was never found.
Ki’kwaju had claimed her as his own.
Unlike most vindictive spirits, Ethel appears in plain sight during the middle of the day.
Usually it’s when you’ve been on the road for a long time and are impatient to get home. Or maybe it’s when you need to poop really bad. Other times it’s when you need to be somewhere at a specific time. Like a wedding, court appearance, Meatloaf Night, or Happy Hour at Ports Pizzeria.
That’s when you’ll see Ethel.
She’s in her gigantic Oldsmobile Delta 88 Royale on Route 27 going 20mph under the speed limit. Without exception, she speeds up on the flat stretches where you can pass her, and slaps on the brakes where you can’t. And always the dark, flying presence of Ki’kwaju above her.
Beware impatient Flatlanders and Saltys alike!
Beware the Wreck of the 88!
That’s it. That’s all the creepiness I can come up with in a month where I’ve got to shovel out after all these damn storms.
Don (Not a Dog)