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Geoff Rand


The Murders on Smuttynose

In March of 1873 occurred the terrible murder of two Norwegian women on Smuttynose Island. It seemed that the men folk of the family there had sailed to Portsmouth with a load of fish, leaving their three women alone on the island. A man named Louis Wagner, a Prussian, was on the wharf in Portsmouth when the men arrived. . . knowing the situation there, Wagner rowed out to the islands during the night in a dory. . . and attempted to rob the Norwegian home. The women discovered him, and he killed two of them. . . He pulled back against a head wind, landing before daylight at Newcastle, where he was seen and recognized by several people. . . He was tried and found "guilty" and hung at Thomaston, Maine.

Oscar Laighton, 1929

The 'Spanish Graves'

I walked with Mr. Thaxter over the island, and saw first the graves of the Spaniards. They were wrecked on this island [ie Smuttynose]. . . and lie buried in a range about thirty feet in length. . . Mr. Laighton says that the Spanish wreck occurred forty-seven years ago. . . Some of the dead bodies were found on Malaga, others on various parts of the next island. One or two had crept to a stone-wall that traverses Smutty Nose, but were unable to get over it. One was found among the bushes the next summer. Mr. Haley had [them?] buried at his own expense. [from Passages from the American Notebooks]

Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1852

Captain Kidd's treasure

This island is said to be haunted by a spectre called "Old Bab." He was one of Captain Kidd's men, and was slain for the protection of the treasure. Mr. Laighton said that, before he built his house, nothing would have induced the inhabitant of another island to come to this after nightfall. The ghost especially haunts the space between the hotel and the cove in front. There has, in times past, been great search for the treasure. . . Mr. Thaxter had once a man living with him who had seen "Old Bab,". . . and describes him as dressed in a sort of frock, and with a very dreadful countenance. . . "Old Bab," the ghost, has a ring round his neck, and is supposed either to have been hung or to have had his throat cut, but he steadfastly declines telling the mode of his death. There is a luminous appearance about him as he walks, and his face is pale and very dreadful. [from Passages from the American Notebooks]

Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1852

Miss Underhill

Not far from the spot there is a point of rocks extending out farther into the ocean than the rest of the island. Some four or five years ago there was a young woman residing at Gosport in the capacity of school-teacher. She was of a romantic turn, and used to go and sit on this point of rock to view the waves. One day, when the wind was high, and the surf raging against the rocks, a great wave struck her, as she sat on the edge, and seemed to deprive her of sense; another wave, or the reflex of the same one, carried her off into the sea, and she was seen no more. This happened, I think, in 1846. [from Passages from the American Notebooks]

Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1852

Betty Moody

I have often heard a story of a widow, named Betty Moody, who lived here with her three small children near the Cove at Star Island. . . Sometime before George Washington was born, there was a tribe of Indians camped at Breakfast Hill in Rye, New Hampshire. These Indians. . . decided to make a raid on the islands. . . They were seen by the islanders who rushed for safety into the fort -- all but Betty, who was delayed in hunting up her children. . . Betty hid with her children in a cave on the other side of the island. While the Indians were hunting for her. . . Betty's youngest child began to cry, and poor Betty held her hand over the child's mouth so long that it was smothered before she realized her terrible misfortune.

Oscar Laighton, 1929

Oceanic Hotel Yacht Race, 1873

Five hundred yachts were soon in our harbor. The Race was around Boon Island. . . and back around a spar buoy at Appledore. The race was won by the yacht 'America'. . . The race brought so many objectionable people to the Oceanic that their exclusive guests moved over to Appledore to escape the noise and confusion.

Oscar Laighton, 1929