Sunday, October 26, 2014



Scary Halloween Stories

Scary Halloween stories. Who doesn’t like a scary Halloween story?
In today’s world there is no end to visual horror stories whether you find them on T.V., the big screen, or any number of digital options. There is a wide source of Maine mystery and horror stories to be found in Maine. We’ll explore one such story called the Purrington Murders. We’ll also explore how we got our scary story fix in the South End in the 40s and 50s?
We also have a master storyteller of scary stories in the person of our own Steven King. We’ll talk a little about his contribution to the genre.
The Purrington Murders
One Captain James Purrington, lived with his family in Augusta in 1805 after moving from Bowdoinham, which is in Sagadahoc County on the west side of Merrymeeting Bay. The reason for the move is unknown.
The family became friends with the Ballard family who had a large role to play later on in this story.
In July of 1806, Capt. Purrington killed his wife and six children, and then committed suicide. One daughter, Martha, lingered from her injuries for three weeks before she died. One son, James, escaped and survived with minor injuries. What must his life have been like after such a traumatic event in his life?
Martha Ballard was a midwife in the area and her well-known diary, A Midwife’s Tale, makes for fascinating reading. I have mentioned her before. Here is one entry pertaining to the Purrington murders that appeared in her diary in July 1806, the date of the horrific murder. The grammar and spelling of the day was a lot different than what we are used to today and is challenging to read, but I found it fun to try to figure it all out. See how well you can do with it.
Cloudy, raind aftern. my husband and I attended at the Sollom funeral of James Purington & his famely which he murdered. there was a Prayer made by Revd mr Stone, a Discoarse Delivd by A mr Taylor from Prov 25 C 28 V, he that hath no rule over his own Spirit is like a city broken down and with walls. there were a vast number of people attended, the performance was on a Stage which was Erected before the meeting hs. the houses near were Crouded, the Streat Crouded & ye tops of Buildings Covered with people. Said Puringtons remains were Lodged in the Porch with the ax & raisor which he made use of to Deprive his famely & him Silf of life were on his Coffin. his Dear wife & 6 Childns remains laid in the ally before the Boddy Pews. a Sollam specttacle to behold. may we all learn a profitable lesson from this Dreadful Scein and may it pleas the God that rules Sanctify this affliction to the Surviving retalives and to us all. the funeral proseeded from the meeting hous, went over kenebeck Bridg then turnd and went up the hill South and Down Second Street, turnd at the Jail & went to ye grave yard. he was intered without the [walls].”
Pretty gruesome story, right? Do you take the last phrase “he was intered without the walls” to mean that his body was not allowed to be interred within the graveyard itself with the rest of the family because it was sacred ground and he had killed himself in the process and therefore could not be buried within the confines of the cemetery but must be buried outside the cemetery itself? Plus the fact that it was such a gruesome murder that perhaps the citizens of that area buried him elsewhere out of respect for his wife and six dead children.
True Detective
The boys in my South End neighborhood of the 40s and 50s were all true believers of True Detective magazine and its derivatives. They all enjoyed the stories they heard on the radio like “The Shadow,” “The Creaking Door,” and “Inner Sanctum,” and the horror movies they saw at the Strand or Park Street Theaters; but there was something exciting about getting the latest edition of “True Detective.”
It was a step up from comic books; and as they entered their teen years they especially enjoyed the usual pictures of sexy women on the cover, similar to this one. True Detective was a precursor to Playboy for them.
If they dug into their penny candy fund they could get a new magazine for around .25 cents, like the one pictured here.
It was a magazine he and his friends all gathered around and read together and they were often hidden away from the prying eyes of their mothers. My brothers were included in the mix.
The pull of this magazine included the fact that all the stories were true. Right? Maybe the ones you find online today are real, but we seriously had our doubts about those my brothers read even though they would swear up and down that they were indeed true. However, there did seem to be a formula for these stories. I suspect that some of the stories were about as true as some of the stories you find in The Enquirer today.
The true crime genre began with Bernarr Macfadden in 1924. Originally it was called True Detective Mysteries and was renamed True Detective in 1939. There were many imitations of this magazine over the years. It ceased publication in 1995. In 1950, editions of True Detectives and Master Detective began publication in Britain and Ireland. With the advent of television the genre eventually petered out in the U.S.
You can subscribe to a number of such magazines such as True Crime, Master Detective, True Detective, and Murder Most Foul from a London site:
You can read an excerpt of a story in the October edition of True Detective on their Facebook page of the same name. Tell me if you think the murder of 13-year-old Kaylene Harris is a true story or not.
Steven King, Master Storyteller
This book by Brighton David Gardner and reviewed by Sandra Scholes at explores the literary influences on King’s writing, namely H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, Robert Bloch and Ray Bradbury; and the influence King himself has had on the horror, sci-fi, and fantasy genres.
Gardner has spent years researching the world of Stephen King. He is a frequent contributor to  
I went to the blog site and found it very entertaining. If you are a King fan, you might want to check it out. Did you know that the car “Christine” is for sale?
No one can deny the influence Steven King has had on the scary stories we love to read and see on T.V. and in the movie theater. I particularly loved the latest treatment of his book, Under the Dome that ran on T.V. recently.
He has even influenced T.V. advertising. One ad turned IKEA into the set of “The Shining.” This video gave me a chuckle or two:
I hope you had fun exploring murder and mayhem with me in the State of Maine past and present. May your Halloween be uneventful in this respect. Don’t eat too much of your kids’ candy!
Thanks for listening.
(See the separate blog of things to do in Maine to celebrate the holiday)

Ghosts and Ghouls Galore

If you are looking for a scary Halloween experience in Maine look into these sites:

Here you will find a good list of activities to enjoy during the Halloween season. If you are interested in contacting a ghost hunters or paranormal group, you can find links to these organizations here in Maine:

You will also find other ghostly events and suggested books like this one:
Visit for your source of information for haunted history walking tours in Camden, Damariscotta, Wiscasset, Boothbay Harbor, Bath, Hallowell and Rockland.
As reported in the Courier-Gazette, Rockland and Hallowell are the new sites added this year.  The tours are led by a mysterious Lady in the Red Cloak who carries a lantern. Sally Lobkowicz, director of the tours, based in Damariscotta, dons the red cloak to play this role. The tour explores ghosts, history, spirits and mystery.
The subject matter on the tours, which last about 90 minutes with generally easy walking, is geared not to scare younger walkers on the tour. In fact, some schools take their kids on the walk as a history lesson.
In Rockland there are tales of a haunted “speakeasy,” which I expect was on Sea Street, now Tillson Avenue, where all the sailors from the ships in port hung out. That area has a very rough past. You might also see the ghost ship Red Jacket. There have also been UFO sightings and many legends.
Sometimes the residents of the town involved have haunted stories or historical stories to share with the group as they walk.
There are also daytime cemetery tours which emphasize the history of the markers and ornaments. All respect is given to those loved ones interred there.
Tours are on a reservation basis only and group size is limited to be sure everyone has a good experience. For more information, call 207-380-3806 or check them out on the link above.
Happy ghostly walking.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall Quotes

Photo by Sara Tavares

Sister Sara Tavares posted these quotes from BookBud Bulletin recently. Enjoy. Also see a special tip to preserving your fall leaves below.


Delicious autumn!

My soul is wedded to it,

And if I were a bird I’d fly.

About the earth

Seeking the successive autumns.

George Eliot


Every leaf speaks

Bliss to me.


From the Autumn tree.

Emily Bronte, “Fall Leaves, Fall”


Everyone must take

Time to sit still


Watch the leaves turn.

Elizabeth Lawrence


Autumn is the

 mellower season,

& what we lose in flowers

We more than

 Gain In fruits.

Samuel Butler


“Aprils have never

 meant much to me,

Autumns seem that

Season of beginning,


Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffanys


Fall colors are funny.

They’re so bright and intense and

Beautiful. It’s like nature is trying to

Fill you up with color, to saturate you

So you can stockpile it before winter

Turns everything muted and dirty.

Siobhan Vivian, “Same Difference”



 the year’s last loveliest smile.

William Cullen Bryant


I would rather sit on a pumpkin,

And have it all to myself,

Than be crowded on a velvet cushion.

Henry David Thoreau


Preserving your leaves

My mother had a trick she used to preserve the color in fall foliage leaves, and I have since seen this technique suggested in old folk formula books. It really works, and the leaves stay on the branches and keep their color for weeks. I’m happy to share this tip, and use it myself. Here is her secret:

All you need is a little bit of vegetable glycerin, water, and newly cut branches with colorful leaves. Just put about 1/2 a teaspoon into a vase full of water, stir, and then add the branches. With this, the leaves stay on the branches and keep their color for weeks. Refresh the water and glycerin every week. Pure vegetable glycerin is available in health food stores.

A Time of Gathering

Fall is the time of year that we gather things to see us through the winter. Last month we “gathered in the hay” and gathered boughs to bank our farmhouses with. Many of us will seek out our favorite apple picking grove to gather our favorite apples—can’t beat those Macintoshes! We might also visit our favorite apple cider stand like the one I used to visit in Connecticut every year.

Children will beg to visit a farm or roadside stand to pick out their favorite pumpkin to carve into a jack-o-lantern for Halloween. On some farms you may find gourds to pick out and varnish to put into a homemade cornucopia for the Thanksgiving table decoration. They are like snowflakes—no two are alike it seems.

Great-great niece, Alyson, gathering her pumpkin for Halloween.

Some people really get into the season and add a scarecrow or a witch on a broom to their outside lawn or porch decorations for the season. They will gather hay to make their stick-like figures. They may also add pumpkins with scary faces. (See some ideas below).
People also gather. Now that the outside fairs are over, like the Union Fair, folks gather at their local churches for their annual Church fairs. I always loved going to them. I see that the Federated Church in Thomaston had a fair lately where they raffled off a homemade quilt. Raffles are popular up home, along with auctions and family-type suppers at churches and other organizations like the VFW.
Apple Butter
Here in the south some country women will make you a batch of “apple butter” if you ask them real nice like. I had a neighbor next door to me once who advised me that she would make me some if I gathered some apples off the tree that sat on my rental property and brought them over to her. I had no idea what apple butter was, but I did as she asked and what she gave me in return has become one of my very favorite spreads.
As you will see by the recipe below, it really isn’t butter at all, but rather more of a thick jelly spread. You can find it in most southern-style restaurants here. I always ask for it at the Waffle House if I’m having toast. Here’s a recipe I found for you.
Homemade Apple Butter
(Courtesy of Food Network Kitchen)
  • 4 pounds assorted apples, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of ground cloves
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Combine the apples, apple cider, brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, partially cover and cook until the apples are soft, about 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla and cloves. Puree the mixture in a blender in batches until smooth (or use an immersion blender).
Return the mixture to the pot and bake, uncovered, stirring every 30 minutes, until thickened and deep amber, 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 hours (the timing will depend on the kind of apples you use). Remove from the oven and let cool completely, then transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 5 days.
Try it on:
Pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, grilled cheese, PB&J, toast, biscuits, cornbread, pork chops.
Carving a pumpkin with your favorite kid
Check out the downloadable pumpkin-carving stencils on this readers digest site. This is one example at:
Other seasonal decorations
There is a great video on the Martha Stewart site about making your own scarecrow:
“How to Make a Decorative Scarecrow for Halloween” at:
Have a wonderful fall season and thanks for listening.