Carol Olivieri Schulte, |
Ghosts on the Coast of Maine
(Down East, 1989)
We were only in Salem for the afternoon, stopping in Massachusetts for some pirates, witches and pumpkin ale en route to a week spent on the glorious coast of mid-Maine, so it was with a certain amount of satisfaction that I found, in the chaotic stacks of books at the Derby Square Book Store on Essex Street, Ghosts on the Coast of Maine by Carol Olivieri Schulte. And, while the stories within didn't lead me to any supernatural encounters during our too-brief stay, it did provide a pleasantly spooky day's reading early in the week.
Schulte has a comfortable narrative style, the amiable voice of someone who believes what she's writing to the Nth degree. Indeed, several stories will lead you to believe Schulte considers herself especially sensitive to supernatural matters, uniquely suited to the task of finding, collecting and publishing ghostly tales.
Whether or not that suspicion is true, Schulte is certainly adept at sharing her stories openly, conversationally, as if chatting over a hot cup of tea.
The stories themselves, while rarely hair-raising on paper, sound eerie enough to those who may have experienced them. Set in a wide range of times in Maine's history, the tales speak of murder and greed, love and remorse, revenge and confusion.
There's Ben, who lost his head in a Prohibition-era encounter with rum runners. There's George, who hoped to be a Vietnam War hero. And there's 13-year-old Sarah, who in 1865 fell from a cliff.
Businessmen whose fortunes soured are still walking. An elderly victim of suicide wants a young lady to share her fate. A kindly patriot still offers his hospitality to passersby. A mansion destroyed by fire reappears in photographs. And a young French queen may be seeking lost treasures.
On Wreck Island, the wrongly slain attempt revenge on their killers. A Freeport farm grows only desert after it's left to the wrong inheritor.
Schulte's stories sometimes lack detail -- for instance, key details about the life and death of Mary Jason are missing from "Witch's Grave" -- but they still provide a light, easygoing portrait of Maine's coastal hauntings. This book won't make it hard to sleep at night, nor will you start jumping at small sounds after reading it, but Ghosts is a friendly taste of Maine's coastal culture and the people who live -- and die -- there.
by Tom Knapp