Strange trips

Seeking the Pine Tree State’s weirder side
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  June 16, 2010

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If you want this summer’s eerie subject matter to hit a bit closer to home, or a bit closer to reality, check out Strange Maine: True Tales from the Pine Tree State, by Michelle Souliere (The History Press; $17.99). It’s an expansion of her Strange Maine Gazette zine and Phoenix reader-fave blog strangemaine.blogspot.com, both of which explore the mysteries, legends, and folklore of our great state.

In chapters about Maine’s graves and monuments, forts and woods, crimes and collections, Souliere tells stories from the present and past that illustrate the state’s odder, eerier side. She drags friends along on road trips to find her own answers. She celebrates the sense of wonder that comes from hearing, and re-telling, these stories. For example, after quoting early-20th-century news reports about a “specter moose” — white, huge, and ghostly — in Maine’s woods, she reminds readers about cases of albino moose, or pale moose afflicted with winter ticks. “But honestly,” she asks, “would you prefer the idea of a specter moose or a tick-filled moose?”

Souliere knows the answer, and that’s what makes her book such an enjoyable read. It — and she — revels in the weird, and in storytelling.

Part folk-history, part field guide, Strange Maine is the perfect volume to tuck into your backpack or glove compartment so that adventurous inspiration is always close at hand. You, too, can experience the “thrill of discovery and realization” that motivated Souliere as she compiled her book: “It is the gradual but certain assembly of tiny pieces — stringing them together and finding oneself suddenly pulling on the strings of a web that forms the underpinnings of our state, its history, its places and its people. Detective work holds a certain glamour, even when your subjects are long gone and when the quest for their trail seems like a cold and lonely hunt for a needle in a century-old haystack that might never have existed at all.”

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