Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Weird New England

Mark Moran and Mark Scearman, authors of Weird U.S. present
Weird New England
Your Guide to New England’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets
Joseph A. Citro

Colonists, clambakes, and the coastguard. Sure, those things define New England, as do witches and whale watching. And don’t forget the Red Sox and the Patriots. But there’s more. New England us also filled to the brim with serious strangeness. And there’s no one better to chronicle the odd goings-on in our patriotic, but extremely weird, section of the country than Joe Citro, a citizen in full possession of the “weird eye.”

For years, Joe has traveled our six states with camera and notepad in hand, mosquito netting or snowshoes firmly in place, in search of the bizarre and the offbeat. And he found the everywhere. He has tracked down some unbelievable tales that have just enough truth in them to create the same uneasiness a chance meeting with Lizzie Borden’s ghost would.

So grab a bowl of clam chowder and start browsing. Visit Hell’s Half Acre, read the walls and the furniture in Rockport’s newspaper house, dally in Dino Land, learn about Leatherman, chat with Frog People, get creeped out by the Men in Black, cross Emily’s Bridge (if you dare), get rained on by rocks, climb up the Bloody Tower, spend time at America’s Stonehenge, tramp through Gungywamp, visit the grave of a vampire, size up Littlefoot, and look out for the Bennington monster. It’s all wild. It’s all weird. It’s all New England.

Weird New England proves without a doubt that the pilgrims landed in one very strange spot. So travel down our region’s highways and byways with your tour guide par excellence, and learn all the stuff about New England that our schoolmarms never taught us. We promise: It’s a journey you’ll never forget.

This was an impulse buy like you wouldn’t believe, folks. I was in Barnes & Noble looking for a stitch dictionary and I stopped to browse the Halloween table. This book stared right up at me and I needed to browse through it. I remember seeing the Weird U.S. book and a copy of Weird California somewhere, but I don’t consciously remember seeing the Weird New England book. I flipped through it, saw some things that I’ve grown up hearing about, and then hit a stretch of the book full of stuff that sparked something in my brain for this year’s NaNoWriMo.

So I bought it.

Hey, every little bit helps with novel writing, right?

Anyway, of course there were a lot of things in there I was already familiar with, even if I didn’t know specifics. I’m a born and bred Connecticutter and the Gergler side of the family settled in New England after leaving Germany way back when. It’s in my blood. I’ve even visited a couple of the places talked about in this book and have probably driven past more of them without knowing it.

The point is, I really enjoy regional history and folklore like this. I’m not a huge history fan most of the time, but this kind of stuff is fantastic. This is the kind of stuff that still has a huge impact on how we structure our lives today, even if we don’t realize it. And the fact that I can hop into my car and go to these places (the less scary ones, obviously) to learn more about them is fantastic.

I also really enjoyed learning about the stuff that I didn’t know was lurking in the woods and down the roads. Not so surprisingly, the ones that I really had no idea about were either much more remote and to the north than I have been or less than a half hour from my house.

Seriously, guys. Dudleytown (in Cornwall, CT) is basically next to Goshen and it takes me a half hour to get to the Goshen Fair Grounds. Creepy.

If you’re interested in cryptocreatures, disappearances, local legends, mysterious old ruins, abandoned insane asylums, and roadside attractions, you should probably have a look at this book. It’s by no means an in-depth look into the weird stuff in New England, but it’s a fascinating sampling of what we’ve got lurking around dark corners in this part of the country.

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