By: Asha Tompkins, Community Editor
As October comes to an end, we await the day of costumes, candy and terror—in that order. Trick-or-treaters may be collecting goodies, but little do they know their feet may be treading on haunted ground. At least, that’s what legend would say.
In 1831, a man named William Willis published a 900-page history of Portland. In it, he wrote that three men had been executed. Willis wrote that the first man, Goodwin, threw someone into Casco Bay. The public doubted his guilt, and he was eventually executed on Nov. 12, 1772. Willis mentioned that it was the largest crowd ever assembled at an execution.
The second man was a pirate named Thomas Bird who docked in Cape Elizabeth after killing a captain. His international crime was brought to district court, then he was hanged on Bramhall’s Hill, where Back Cove and Stroudwater roads cross.
In 1808, Ebenezer Parker, Portland’s deputy sheriff, was in search of a man named Quinby, who was in debt. In order to escape, Quinby hid in his friend Joseph Drew’s blacksmith shop. The sheriff entered the shop in hopes of finding Quinby, but the blacksmith bashed the sheriff overhead with a club. Drew was hanged on Munjoy Hill after the cop passed away later that same week due to the injury.
The next story took place in 1813.
The U.S. was at war with the United Kingdom and most of the country’s ships were being taken over. Not many boats were built, except for one named Dash. Originally built as a merchant’s ship, but quickly turned into a hermaphrodite ship (a ship where they place an abundance of real and fake guns guns on board in the enemy’s view) after a war began.
‘“Dash was now the speediest vessel afloat in the Province of Maine. No British vessel could catch her,” Miriam Thomas wrote in “Come Hell or High Water,’” according to MaineToday.com.
The ship had one of the best captains aboard, John Porter. One day, Porter docked after capturing three British ships and saw a woman sitting on a wooden keg on Union Wharf in Portland. He fell in love with her, and they were married. The woman, Lois Cushing, loved him too.
“John, John,” Lois called, “Don’t go. Wait, wait,” Thomas wrote.
Porter didn’t wait. It’s superstition that it’s bad luck for a wife to watch a ship leave harbor, but Cushing watched anyway. They clearly loved each other.
“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,” Thomas wrote.
After months and months went by, Cushing happened to walk to Union Wharf and saw a silent Dash floating into harbor. But, just as quickly and silently as it came in, it made its way back out of the harbor. She shrieked, screamed and cried for her husband to come back.
“A captain living off Bailey Island who’d just lost his son said he saw the ship come in, then turn and leave silently too,” wrote Heather Steeves from MaineToday. “So the legend goes, ‘In Casco Bay in the State of Maine, a crew less, phantom hermaphrodite brig winds her way from island to island. Have you seen her? If you have, you had an ancestor lost on Dash.”’
The 60 men aboard the Dash and the ship itself were never found.
There are many stories that involve hauntings. For example,the “haunting husky” of Acton, Maine, who wanders the shores of Loon Pond and is missing a fourth leg.
Then there’s Newfield’s Old Straw House is named after Gideon Straw. It’s said to be haunted by his daughter, Hannah.
According to legend, her father buried her underneath the kitchen floorboards after she died at the age of 30. People who inhabited the house over the years claim they’ve come across Hannah’s ghost. It was said that in the 1960s, her image appeared regularly in a window, there were footsteps in the halls and lights turned on and off when the house was empty.
Another story from Manchester, Maine, still troubles the locals.
The legend does not mention a year, but a road was being built in Manchester because the town was expanding. Apparently, a large rock was hindering the workers from continuing construction. One of the workers attempted tirelessly to remove the rock, he thought of countless methods to do so. But it wouldn’t budge. Eventually, he gave up and announced that it would be impossible.
“He swore that he would sell his soul to the devil if the rock could be moved,” onlyinyourstate.com wrote.
The following day, the worker had vanished and the rock was moved out of the way. Construction could continue. Perhaps he went on permanent vacation after using so much brain power to move the rock. This might have been the case, if it weren’t for the two distinct markings left on the rock.
One marking was in the clear shape of a cloven hoof, the other was the shape of two human feet merged together. The locals say that the impressions were made by the devil himself, which gives the rock it’s infamous name, “the Devil’s footprint,” proof that the construction worker had really sold his soul in order to move the rock.
To this day, the rock can be found embedded in the wall of a cemetery in North Manchester.
For some students, this last story might literally hit close to home. It’s about the entities in the Robie-Andrews dormitory on the Gorham campus, comprising of two key events.
The first sad event was when a pregnant girl who’s rumored name is Sarah. She hanged herself in the attic of Robie-Andrews after her boyfriend left her. This took place in the early 1900s, when the building was a part of the all-women’s Gorham Normal school.
In her article written for the Free Press about Robie-Andrews, Laura Fellows explained that a man named Peter Davis wrote an article in 1978 in which he combined many versions of the story into one tale: a female student in the early 1900s was seen as a loner who was extremely homesick. She would climb the Robie-Andrews belfry tower and gaze in the direction of her home, calling to her parents. One night, after suffering from a long bout of depression and illness, she used her scarf and hung herself from a ceiling beam.
“I’ve heard several accounts from students, mostly second-hand, about odd but harmless incidents,” wrote Fellows. “Things falling off the wall, doors closing and opening on their own, sounds of tapping where it shouldn’t be and cold spots in the building.”
No one knows if these strange occurrences are true, as they can only be proven by word of mouth, but the rumors say that it’s because of Robie-Andrews is haunted by the girl named Sarah.
So be sure to keep these stories in mind while consuming that candy this Halloween. It may be easy to remember the tales, but it’s just as hard to decide whether or not they’re myths.