Double Trouble: Strange New Englands?
Strange New England:
A Compendium of History, Folklore, and Evidence of the Unexplained
Strange New England:
A Field Guide to New England’s Legends, Curious History, and Wired Destinations
Before we get any farther let me address the elephant in the room. Yes, this article has two titles both named Strange New England but with different subheads. The reason for this is while researching for an article about a podcast called “Strange New England” I accidentally visited the wrong website of the same name. Surprisingly it covered a similar theme and also had a podcast. At first, I didn’t realize my error, though I did find it odd I couldn’t find links to the podcast episodes I was familiar with. None the less I continued ahead and continued to gather research for my article. It wasn’t until I was finished and adding hyperlinks to my notes that I noticed my faux pas. One site used hyphens between each word in their URL and the other was one word with no spaces. The one I intended to cover was A Compendium of History, Folklore, and Evidence of the Unexplained. Instead of trashing my research I thought I would combine the two into one article. Thus making my Strange New England article a little stranger.
Strange New England: A Compendium of History, Folklore, and Evidence of the Unexplained
Hosted by author Thomas Burby
The Strange New England Podcast and supporting blog, hosted by Thomas Burly is a historical look at unusual stories, places, and people within the New England spanning all eras. Episodes come out quite infrequently and run fairly short, around 10 to 20 minutes each. Each episode is captivating and enriches the listener with some of the strangest stories to come out of New England. The Strange New England website is the best place to find all of the podcast episodes. Itunes currently is only displaying the last 10 episodes. Navigating the Strange New England website is rather cumbersome. To locate all the episodes one must scroll through the supporting posts on the main page. Below I’ve highlighted some of my favorite episodes and each is hyperlinked for quicker reference. Each of these stories is fascinating and strange indeed.
SNE Podcast S01E01: Malsumis – Werewolf of the North?
This retelling of the folklore of Gluskabe and his brother Malsumis of the Wabanaki Confederacy, Native American confederation of five nations situated in the New England Area was written down and altered by western scholars to fit their own Christian ideas. Malsumis is “wolf” in Micmac or Passamaquoddy and might be New England’s original werewolf.
SNE Podcast S01E02: The Deadly Boston Molasses Flood of 1919
A historical retelling of the deadly Boston Molasses Flood of 1919.
The Luckiest Man in Old New England – Timothy Dexter
A look at the most interesting and luckiest person ever to exist. No, it’s not the “Most Interesting Man” for the Dos Equis commercials. Lord Timothy Dexter is hands down the luckiest person to ever lived.
High Strangeness in Old New England – The Spectre Leaguers of Cape Ann
A Cape Ann witnesses, Cotton Mather, wrote in his book, Magnalia Christi Americana about a strange visitors that terrorized Ebenezer Babson and the townsfolk of Cape Ann. In the tale, a menacing force antagonized Babson and the colonists of Cape Ann. These visitors were suggested to be ghosts, time travelers, or Frenchmen.
The Earliest-Born Human Ever Photographed – Waldoboro’s Conrad Heyer
A look at Waldoboro’s Conrad Heyer the earliest-born human ever to be photographed.
Lithobolia – The Stone-Throwing Demons of Great Island
In early New England, the town of New Castle on Great Island experienced poltergeist-like activity. It started with a plague of stones raining down on a tavern owned by George and Alice Walton by invisible spirits in early June 1682. Stones came from all directions but no one could be seen throwing them. The invisible spirits likely target was George for when away from the tavern he still would be hit. The stone-throwing lasted all summer.
I highly recommend giving the above podcast a listen. Thomas Burly has many other great stories of strange New England that you might like or use as your inspiration for your roleplaying games. Just remember his site is without the hyphens.
Strange New England: A Field Guide to New England’s Legends, Curious History, and Wired Destinations
Hosted by Michael Girard
Hidden in the foothills, forests, and library archive of New England lies forgotten stories of strange places, folklore, and events. Michael Girard resurrects those lost treasures on his blog, Strange New England. What started for him as a fun thing to do, getting out of the house and exploring on the weekend, turned into a fulltime career and project for him. When he is not out exploring, Michael holds lectures on New England’s strange history. On his Strange New England website, you’ll find an array of stories relating to hauntings, legends & Folklore, mysterious landmarks, monsters, weird destinations, and so much more. The Strange New England website is crude but hosts some get resource material. I found some several inspiring and spooky stories which I’ve summarised below.
The Legend of the Colebrook Cave
A good amount of the stories on the site deal with caves. The story of “The Legend of the Colebrook Cave” is one of them. The legendary cave was first discovered in 1841 in Colebrook, CT by three boys while playing on a boulder at Witches Retreat. The boys keep the discovery to themselves for a while before reporting it to an adult. A group of men would later return to investigate it. The opening had to be increased for a man to fit through. When the men went in to explore they found the cave interior to be about 83 feet wide. The ground consisted of a smooth gravel floor. It exhumed a strange odor, though there were no signs of wildlife taking refuge within. The ceiling shifted in height and at one point, so low one could not stand upright. The walls widen and smoothed as if it was chiseled the deeper the passage went. Several pits were found along the quarter-mile passages. One was measured to be 9 fathoms deep with water at its bottom. There were several passages that branched off the main shaft all left unexplored. Some of the passages ways were tall and wide enough to fit a horse and carriage while other could barely fit a man. After the initial delve, the cave became lost to history, lived as a legend until it was rediscovered in 1926.
Accompanying the story is a link to the Colebrook Historical Society with another account of the mysterious cave. The tale outlined above comes from the book American adventure by land and sea: being remarkable instances of enterprise and fortitude among Americans; shipwrecks, adventures, at home and abroad, Indian captivities, etc. published in 1900. The book is accessible to read through archive.org. The tale of the cave’s discovery is the last entry in the book.
The Connecticut River Serpent
Perhaps a straight monster story like “The Connecticut River Serpent” would be more to your liking. Hiding along the long and winding Connecticut river lies a serpent that has terrified residence since colonial times. In 1886 The Connecticut River Serpent was first spotted in Middletown, CT and reported in the New York Times. Its strange tale was told not unlike the stories sailors would weave of giant sea creatures. Two men crossing the Connecticut River in a skiff were struck from underneath by a large creature. When the men look over the side they saw a terrifying sight. The water began to froth and out peered a big black head and stood 10 feet above the water line with eyes as big as small plates. Its body appeared to be over 100 feet in length. The two frighten men quickly rowed to shore and reported their encounter. In the days to follow others took to the river to see this titan. They did not have to wait long as the creature appeared once again. This time raising itself 15 feet from the water. Hunting parties were sent out to kill the beast but it was not to be seen again until years later in 1894. From the eyewitness account, its description matches the same serpent seen eight years earlier. There have been other sightings since but no encounter as close as 1886.
Following the initial encounter, there was a lot of speculation of what this serpent actual was. Some say it was a large snake while others speculated that it could have been a large Sturgeon. The creature has been thus named Connie by enthusiasts. Today the creature is speculated to dwell in the Hog River Tunnel, a river that runs under Hartford, Connecticut.
Have you ever been hiking through the woods and discover something out of place? How about a boulder with something inscribed in it? Buried in the forests of East Bridgewater, Massachusetts there is such a landmark known as Ministers Rock. Alone on a hillside in the middle of nowhere is a rock with a poem inscribed. It reads:
This rock I visited so oft.
I wish may here remain.
When yon brick shaft, on leafy Sprague,
Overlooks no more the plain.
And let the trees around it grow
to stripe its sides with shade,
As on the quiet August days
When I these letters made
The inscription was carved by Reverend Timothy Otis Paine in 1862. Rev. Paine lived in Winslow Maine original before moving to East Bridgewater. The reverend was a poet, sculptor, student of oriental languages, and the most educated Egyptologist in America at the time. While living in East Bridgewater the Reverend carved some of his poetry into the surrounding rocks. Of his inscriptions, two are known to exist: Ministers Rock and Solitude Rock.
The discovery of Solitude Rock is told in a journal entry by an Edgar P. Howard in 1900. It is said that a couple to be wed were fleeing from the bride’s father, who did not approve, discovered the inscribed rock which was part of an ancient stone bridge called “Comfort Bridge” when they stop to ponder their predicament. The poem on Solitude Rock reads:
All ye, who in future days
Walk by Nunckatessett stream
Love not him who hummed his lay
Cheerful to the parting beam,
But the Beauty that he wooed
In this quiet solitude
Jy. xxii, lxii.
A modern bridge has since replaced the ancient one and Solitude Rock was moved to a small plot of land along the river. Michael Girard the reteller of these tales went in search of the two inscribed rock which he found. Pictures of the inscribed rocks can be found along with his story on Strange New England.
Anyone in the New England area or those who wish to visit can search for these mysterious wonders retold by Michael Girard. In most of his post in Strange New England, Michael has created digital markers on MapMarkers.com so anyone can view these wonders if they don’t mind a hike. Along with his collection of stories he has a podcast called Stange History. There are only four episodes which run no longer than 10 minutes. Each can be found on his website or on Soundcloud under the name Strange New England.
Well, what turned out to be a mistake by me, has turned into a happy accident. New England is surely a strange place, both in the stories that it holds and in searching for it on the interwebs. If I hadn’t turned down the wrong road along the internet superhighway I might have missed discovering how strange New England could be.