Haunted Islands in the Gulf of Maine|
Down East Books, 2017, 160 pp, PB $14.95
With over 3000 islands off of Maine, it is not surprising that some are full of folklore, including ghosts, treasure and tragedy. Marcus LiBrizzi, a cultural studies and English professor at the University of Maine at Machias delivers eighteen spooky island stories.
LiBrizzi begins with Boon Island, perhaps one of Maine's most famous islands, and then moves up the coast. The most famous Boon Island tale was written about by Kenneth Roberts, wherein a winter time shipwreck lead to unthinkable survival tactics, including cannibalism. LiBrizzi describes this and other lesser known tales of the island in which ghosts still roam.
As LiBrizzi describes other islands and their stories of specters, he also includes an historical perspective. Malaga Island is a story of horrible racism. After the civil war Malaga Island became a haven for interracial couples and families much to the dismay of the more conservative community on the mainland. As property values went up due to tourism, the island was seized by Governor Frederic Plaisted. All residents were expelled. The islanders were considered "feeble minded" because of their interracial relationships, some were committed to Pinelands Hospital, and others were even sterilized. In 2010 Governor John Baldacci formally apologized to the Malaga Island decedents.
Outer Heron Island homes two caves, one of which has mysterious carvings. Curious treasure hunters believe the cave may have Aztec gold. Of course there are sightings of apparitions here. On First Island a woman encounters a tamtamsis, "also known as the wonakomehis or little spirit among the rocks", she was so frightened she moved from the island and it took her two decades before she spoke of the experience.
Some stories in Haunted Islands are anecdotal, some based in historical fact, and all are entertaining. Not being a believer in ghosts myself, I still enjoy ghost stories. At times it seems that it is hard not to believe these island fables. With so many eye witnesses, who is to deny that perhaps something paranormal is happening? LiBrizzi writes with a confidence that is hard to dismiss. I found myself looking forward to each chapter about a different island and its secrets.
Although a life long Mainer, I was completely unaware of our eerie island histories, and intrigued enough to want to visit. As spring approaches it would be a treat to travel up the coast, not just to visit the beautiful sights of Maine and the normal tourist attractions, but to also investigate some of these islands and hopefully run into a ghost or two.