Friday, May 14, 2010

Library Book Holds Clue to Murder

The new book on Mattie Hackett is now available on Amazon by clicking the above cover. Most have never heard of the Murder of Mattie, for its day, it was as well known as Sarah Ware.

This is the article that started the research into one of Maine's biggest Unsolved Murder Mysteries:

Weird Story Believed to Have Inspired
Killing of Mattie Hackett.
Special to the Washington Post.
Augusta, Me. March 31--Belief that a weird story of murder related in a novel at the Readfield public library gave inspiration to the slayer of Mattie Hackett, 18 years old, on August 17, 1905, is strong in the minds of the State Officials who have reopened the inquiry into the girl's death. They have removed the book from the shelves, and obtained the names of all who took out the book for some weeks proceeding Miss Hackett's death.
It is declared they have evidence that it was a long time in the possession of a woman whose actions at the time of the murder will be related to a grand jury on Tuesday.
The book contained an Australian story which dealt with murder by strangulation. Miss Hackett was called from her home and strangled with a thin cord, which is now in possession of the authorities.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Smuttynose Island Murder Anniversary

The anniversary of the murders is upon us. Return to Smuttynose Island and other Maine Axe Murders has been out for almost a year. The intent with that book was to rally Maine around the memory of the murders and how it involved towns across Southern Maine, as well as Thomaston, Augusta, and others.
Sunday, May 2, 1976

Quaint Isle Famed For Ax Murder

Smuttynose Island. Maine ---Tourists know this quaintly named member of the Isles of Shoals as a scenic gem. Crime fans know it as the site of one of the most gruesome murders in New England history.

The Maine-New Hampshire boundary dispute over lobster fishing rights in the waters between Portsmouth Harbor and the Isles has lingered for centuries and is about to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court. The late Aristotle Onassis tried in vain two years ago to use the Isles as an oil tank farm.

But two axe murders committed more than a century ago remain in the minds of murder buffs as the most memorable event in the island's past.

On a windy late winter/early spring night in 1873, Louis Wagner, 28, traveled to Smuttynose, about 10 miles off the coast of Portsmouth N.H., searching for $600 he had heard was being saved by residents to buy a schooner. He found only $20 and apparently because of his disappointment, murdered two of the island's six residents.

The day before the murders Matthew Hontvet, John Hontvet and Ivan Christensen left their home on Smuttynose to haul in their fishing nets. They planned to return to pick up Karen Christensen, Ivan's sister. But turbulent seas forced them to go to Portsmouth to sell their catch and buy bait.

Karen joined Anethe Christensen and Maren Hontvet in preparing a meal for the men, anticipating their return that night. But the men did not return and the woman faced their first night alone on Smuttynose.

The women went to bed "so confident of their isolated security they neither drew the shades nor tried to fasten the door." Lyman Rutledge wrote in "Moonlight Murder at Smuttnose." One of several books describing the slayings.

Named for a nose-like appendage on the island "smutted with dark seaweed," Smuttynose joined the eight other Shoals Islands in "going to sleep with no premonition of the role it was to play in the gruesome train of events now beginning," Rutledge wrote.

Wagner, who once lived on one of the other islands and knew the fishermen, saw them in Portsmouth that afternoon. He heard them discussing the $600 they had saved for a new boat. So the penniless Prussian stole a rowboat and made his way to Smuttynose, arriving around 11 p.m.

When the fishermen returned home the next morning, they found Karen and Anethe dead, beaten and bludgeoned by an ax. Maren managed to escape and hid under a boulder on the other side of the island for six hours before summoning up the courage to go for help.

Maren said she was awakened by Karen's screams in time to witness Wagner butcher Anethe. Before leaving, Wagner even had time for a midnight snack, prepared by the women he killed for the men he had come to rob.

Arrested the next night by Boston police on a description provided by Portsmouth authorities, Wagner was publicly derided and even stoned when he returned to Portsmouth the next morning.

"No one knows how many thousands of people greeted the returning murderer, but their demonstrations of anger seemed at the time to have no parallel in American history," Rutledge said.

During his trial in Alfred, Maine, the most damning piece of evidence was a white button belonging to Karen that was in Wagner's possession when he was arrested. Combined with Maren's identification, the jury took only 55 minutes and returned a verdict of guilty for first degree murder.

A series of reprieves followed, but Wagner joined another convicted murderer on the gallows at Thomaston State Prison June 25, 1875. He professed his innocence up to the moment he died, and many had come to believe him.

No positive evidence has been uncovered to support Wagner's contention. But, as the defense said at the trial, if three experienced fishermen couldn't make it back to Smuttynose that night in a schooner, how could Wagner got out and return in a rowboat?

Monday, December 7, 2009


Well really not that absurd!

Weird, Wicked Weird: What a year.
By Kathryn Skelton and Lindsay Tice, Staff Writers
Published: Dec 05, 2009 12:04 am

Some things can nag when left unanswered too long.

Like, whatever happened to that mom with the maybe-haunted kitchen closet? Or the couple who turned their wedding into a super hero theatrical extravaganza? Joy? Regrets?

We wondered, too. So we updated five stories that kept us guessing.

Kick back, uncork a little marinating king cobra and enjoy. May 2010 be half as wicked weird.

Author back with more Maine lore, more mayhem

After tackling tales about ax murders and an unsolved decapitation, Bucksport librarian Emeric Spooner has written a new book.

This one features some very old Maine urban legends.

Oh, and a couple of murders.

"Because that's what I do," he said.

Author of the self-published and Weird, Wicked Weird-profiled "In Search of Sara Ware" and "A Return to Smuttynose Island: And Other Maine Axe Murders," Spooner has now written "In Search of Maine Urban Legends." Also self-published, the book is on sale at

His latest book features among other stories, the supposed curse of Bucksport's founder by a witch, a white whale found swimming in the Penobscot River and a pair of nuns who were attacked by a creature with glowing red eyes, as well as two stories about female serial killers from the 1800s.

All were tales that had caught Spooner's attention over the past 20 years as he researched other works.

"These are the stories that are passed down from generation to generation," he said. "At the heart of them is a truth that needs to be searched out."

Some of the tales — such as the woman who killed her four children, first and second husbands and one stepson — are gruesome enough to seed the plot of a modern horror movie. Others — such as the elephant that got away from a circus train and spent four days roaming Bucksport and swimming in the local lake — are almost too absurd to be believed.

Spooner doesn't believe in the curse of Bucksport's founder or the evidence so often pointed to: the image of a leg dancing on Buck's gravestone.

"It's just a flaw in the stone," he said.

Still, with that story and others, Spooner tries to stay neutral. Maybe it's a curse. Maybe not. He lets the reader decide.

(Not to leave my friends from Strange Maine out, or Uncle Loren for that matter, I also include the next part, that was of course printed first in the original article. )

Bigfoot at home on Congress Street

A few people have been halfway through the tour when Loren Coleman says they've looked up and realized, "Oh, you're the guy on ‘MonsterQuest.'"

In November, Coleman opened the International Cryptozoology Museum and most days, he's the one running the show.

The museum is laid out in a single 500-square-foot room at 661 Congress St. in Portland, reached through The Green Hand Bookshop. With decades' worth of Bigfoot, Loch Ness and other strange paraphernalia, the cryptozoologist says he plans to rotate part of the exhibit four times a year. It all used to be kept, by appointment only, in his home.

Museum-goers are already bringing in their own finds, like a Yeti's Best produce box from Whole Foods and Vietnamese wine with a king cobra inside. For the latter, Coleman said he Googled and found that it's the Asian equivalent of tequila with a worm at the bottom. Into his collection it went.

He has a three-year lease on the property, with an option for three more, and plans to expand to the building's second floor.

Museum hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday noon-5 p.m., closed Monday. Admission is $5 per person.

For the entire article please check out:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jonathan Buck Witch's Curse in New Book


November 25, 2009
The assistant librarian at the Buck Memorial Library, Emeric Spooner, has published another book, this one entitled "In Search of Maine Urban Legends."
Spooner, long fascinated by things historical, supernatural and other things sometimes hard to explain, has a go in this book with some of the odd occurrences in Bucksport's past - and then moves on to explore a few incidents that occurred down the road a piece - but still in Maine.
In the process, he also seeks to debunk many of the misconceptions about Col. Jonathan Buck and the alleged witch's curse that still keep the tourists coming to the memorial in downtown Bucksport erected to honor the founder of the town.
Spooner admits he's never cared much for the legend, but in the interest of history and science he decided to pursue it anyway.
His book also makes random inquiries into such diverse topics of the elephant that once rampaged through Bucksport, the woman who may have been a serial murderer before (a) any woman generally had earned that title and (b) who apparently did so before the term "serial killer" became so common-place. And, oh yes, there's the doctor-mortician who couldn't keep his lamp lit while trying to shoot a lynx in the basement.
Spooner is self-marketing his book, his sixth, as well as offering it at area outlets.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ghostly Night Frolic

In researching articles, I came across this not from Maine, thank the gods, but from a New England State. 1911 would have been beyond belief, this day and age, would have seen the militia called out. A misspent youth.



Lanterns Are Hung From Monuments While Orchestra is
Perched on Tombstones.

Hagerstown, Md., Sept. 8. Dancing over the graves of their ancestors to the faint glimmer of lanterns hung from monuments and to the music of an orchestra seated on tombstones, the social elite of Big Pool a town near here, gave an amazing ball in a cemetery there at night. So shocked are the more staid inhabitants of Big Pool that they sent a delegation to Justice E. B. Hartle of Hagerstown to ascertain if the participants in the gruesome function could into be arrested and put into jail. Several prominent citizens arranged this ghostly frolic. All the belles and beaux of the village were present.

The orchestra was seated upon mounds under which reposed the bones of the community's venerated dead. Lanterns hung from the tops of the taller monuments, casting feeble gleams upon the moss grown stones. The dance started at nine o'clock when most of the Big Pool had gone to bed. Round dances held sway until about 11 o'clock when the hilarity reached its height and the guests began to execute all the old time figures. The leader of the orchestra perched himself on the highest mound to be found and until one o'clock when the party broke up awakened the hills with his screeching violin and "calls."

The joy eventually became so unconfined that several residents were roused from their beds. Dressing hastily they crept to points of vantage behind tombstones in the rear of the cemetery and watched the proceedings to the end. These folks, it developed later, prepared the list of names which was exhibited before Judge Hartle.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Thorndike Slayer

When you research a book, for instance lets say
Return to Smuttynose Island, a standalone tale
of 2 Norwegian Women that got butchered with
an axe, one dark night in 1873; you are bound
to come across side stories along the way. This
is exactly what happened with my soon to be
released book on Axe murders of Maine. I found
out that when they hung Wagner on the Gallows,
he did not walk the road alone. He was
accompanied there and into eternity, with
a man from the small town of Thorndike.
Who 3 months after the fateful night on
Smuttynose, took an axe to his own brother,
sister-in-law and baby girl. This next article
is a teaser to the standalone chapter included
in the book which details the first articles,
the trial, and finally the execution alongside
Maine's biggest villain, Louis Wagner.



June 19, 1873

More About the Thorndike Slaughter.

The farm of the Gordon's lies on the road between Nelson Harmon's Corner and Thorndike Station distant less than half mile from each. It is pleasantly located with two-story house, a nice barn and convenient out buildings connecting the two. In this once happy home desolation reigns, and three lie cold in death, their mutilated bodies to be consigned to one common grave today at 10 o'clock. Crowds of people continue to visit the scene of the murder, and the funeral will be largely attended from adjoining towns, and the people of Thorndike will turn out en masse.

Almon Gordon was 26 years old, his wife 23. and the child killed outright was 17 months old, a fair-haired, curly-headed incarnate could strike--especially with such a bludgeon as an axe. The oldest a boy 5 years old lay in a crib in the same bedroom with its parents--the other child being in bed with them, and this received a blow from the edge of the axe, across the forehead cutting a deep gash clear across the forehead cutting a deep gash clear above the eyes mid way to roots of the hair, and from this cut, fractures of the skull extend transversely. Doubtless the murderer struck a glancing blow at this innocent as he lay in the sweet sleep of childhood, and seeing the bloody gash made supposed he had accomplished its destruction. The child was alive yesterday.

Almon Gordon has a bruise made by poll of the axe on his forehead near the hair, and a deep cut in top of the head made by the blade, where in his horrid earnestness for destruction, the wretch turned the instrument after stunning his victim and drove the blade into the brain, several minor bruises are also found upon his head, which shows the determination of the fiend who operated here.

Mrs. Gordon received a blow from the poll of the axe in the center of the forehead, which crashed in upon the brain, the whole poll of the heavy axe tearing through the skull.

The little child which was in the same bed had several bruises upon it, and is the most disfigured by fire of any of the bodies, being the last one rescued from the burning beds. It appears that the beds and bodies were sprinkled with kerosene oil previous to setting on fire.

The young man who worked on the farm, and who slept above, was by name, Ward, not Hunt as stated in my letter yesterday. There was also sleeping above a girl, a connection of the family, of some 8 or 10 years of age. The other child of the family aged 3 was sleeping with her. Ward, hearing strange noises below went down, and went to the bed-room door where the groaning issued, and where the bodies lay murdered. The axe lay partly over the threshold, but in dim light of the night he could make out nothing definitely; he saw nothing of John, who has since been arrested, and being aware of something dreadful, hardly knowing what, he took from the house like a frightened deer. When he had got some twenty rods John called to him to come back; luckily, perhaps, for him he kept on, and perhaps thus escaped being another victim. Seeing that alarm was about to be given, John called up the two girls, and sent them to the neighbors in haste to arouse them, as the house was on fire, he said.

It is supposed he was after kerosene or something else when Ward made the discovery of something wrong. The theory would seem to be good, that seeing alarm was raising he would send the girls, carry out furniture, and appear to be doing all possible to save things, thereby to avert suspicion. That if Ward had not awakened, the whole household would have been victims of one grand butchery.

Almon has lived at home some six years carrying on the farm with his father's help, and having no interest in it beyond a percentage of the crops. This spring he became dissatisfied and went down to Brigadier's Island to work, remaining there but a short time, leaving his family with his parents on the farm. The father then made a trade with John, when Almon left, to carry on the farm. John was expecting to be married soon. When Almon came back, a few weeks after going away, the father made a trade with him, giving him a deed of half the farm, upon conditions to be fulfilled by Almon. John, who is considered a dangerous fellow by the neighbors, was informed of the new order of things, and that he had better get a chance to work out the remainder of the season. He brooded over this, and his disappointment and desire for revenge, it is supposes has culminated in this unheard of crime. John is 28 years old. He had been stopping about home since Almon came back, not doing much, but loafing his time away down at the R. R. Station, and about the vicinity. He is now safely lodged in Belfast Jail. There is no shadow of doubt in the minds of the neighbors but that John committed the horrid deed.

A text book example of a monster. I believe in monsters. Anyone who can butcher women and children with an axe is a monster.
The Thorndike Slayer John T. Gordon is slipping into
the past, along with Maine's Most Famous Villian
Louis Wagner. My attempts to get their stories out there,
so that the victims might be remembered by the towns
and people that walk those historical streets, met with
little interest or acknowledgment. If you listen closely
you might hear the swing of an axe, or the muffled
cry of an innocent and then no more.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fire, Fire on the Mountain

A good chance to express my photographic chops, driving home tonight in the dark, I spotted a pagan-like bonfire on the Sarah Ware Property.

Never one to miss an opportunity I dashed for the video camera and digital. The conditions were perfect, the flames high and the fire light casting an eerie glow over the landscape.

Did I mention on or about the very spot, where Sarah's beheaded body lay, until it began to smell and Bill Treworgy had to move it up the Lane, where it would be found 2 weeks later?

Kind of puts things into perspective.