Stories of ‘Ghost Alley’ and more
Sandy Smith of Eliot, Maine, and her sister, Linda Walton of York, were born and raised in Kittery Point.
Smith is fond of saying that her first trip out to the Isles of Shoals occurred in 1939 when she “came out in a wicker basket” as an infant. Sister Linda’s similar trip occurred in 1941, “so I guess you know who’s older,” Walton was quick to quip.
The sisters’ grandmother had been the head of waitresses at the Oceanic House on Star Island since the 1920s, and on weekends, the family would gather on their father’s fishing boat for the trip from the mainland.
Some of the sisters’ favorite childhood memories are of the one precious week each summer they were allowed to stay on the island with their grandmother.
As adults, Smith and Walton have long been Shoalers, following in the tradition of their childhood. Out on the island for a conference several weeks ago, they joined a group of folks out on the rocks around a bonfire for a night of old-fashioned Shoals ghost stories.
Many well-worn tales were told. There’s the ghost of Blackbeard or at least his wife, who legend has it was abandoned on the isles by her roving husband who is said to have left buried treasure behind.
Then there’s the child of Betty Moody. Moody hid in one of the natural rocky crevices, more of a cave, from Native Americans, so the story goes. Moody’s child started whimpering, and she smothered the child to death trying to stop the sound.
And of course, Smuttynose Island is replete with tales of the ghosts of Karen and Anethe Christensen, who were murdered in March 1873.
Smith later sent along her own ghost stories to share with Seacoast Sunday readers. Following are her accounts:
End of season, 1993. I was awakened around midnight (at the Oceanic House) by the Pels (the young people who work on the island each summer, called Pelicans) on the top floor, directly above my room, who were moving furniture around as they sometimes did, for whatever reason. This particular night, however, they never seemed to finish the job and sleep was out of the question. After what seemed hours, they were still at it.
The next morning, another resident mentioned being kept awake by the same racket. When I asked the others if they’d been bothered by the noise, they’d not been awakened by it. They also reminded me that the Pels had left for the season and there was no one up there! I’d forgotten the incident until a couple of years later when William O. Thompson gave a talk on ghosts at the William Fogg Library in Eliot. His closing comment was that I must know about the goings on in “Ghost Alley” â€” the top floor of Oceanic House.
While staying on Star Island to run the gift shop (at Oceanic House) one summer, I was also substitute ranger on Smuttynose Island when the scheduled ranger could not show up due to weather or other circumstances.
How excited I was when I learned I had my first assignment!
That evening, I rowed again to Smutty for my stay on the island â€” it was all mine for one night! I was in my glory! I was awakened a little before 1 a.m. by the rattling of the latch on the back door of the Haley House (where rangers stay). I grabbed my flashlight and went to see what was going on. When I got there, the rattling stopped and no one there.
Not quite asleep again, the front door began to rattle. Same story.
Just about to sleep again when a rattling came from the door in the other room under the stairs. This was a tad much, and besides, no one was on the island except me. The rattling stopped just as I arrived at the inside door.
Back to the sleeping bag and ready for a good night’s sleep, finally. My mind knew there was no such thing as a ghost. I felt no concern and was totally relaxed, or so I believed. Before falling asleep, however, I discovered the hair on the back of my neck was standing on end for no reason I would accept.
When I awoke at first light the next morning, I quickly gathered my things together and rowed with alacrity back to Star.
Smuttynose No. 2
Jan and Ron were staying with me on Smuttynose for a couple of nights during the week of my tenure as Smuttynose Ranger one summer.
In the middle of the night, I grabbed my flashlight and quietly made my way to the outhouse. When I closed the outhouse door, I heard the “hook” part of the “hook and eye” lock on the outside swing up and over and into the “eye,” locking me firmly in the little building.
Here again, the “hook and eye” were a firm fit and this could not possibly happen. I yelled to my companions to “turn me loose,” to no avail. Then I beat on the door as well, to no avail. Finally, I awoke Jan who came to rescue while Ron slept on.
We were the only people on the island.
Smuttynose No. 3
I awoke to Kara opening the front door of the Haley House on her way in from the outhouse and heard her crawl back into her sleeping bag.
It was 5 a.m. and so we exchanged our “good mornings” and she reminded me not to fall back to sleep as a friend was due to call me on my cell phone at 6 a.m.
The unheard of happened and I fell back asleep, only to be awakened by a wicked noise and pounding on the front door. Kara came dashing into my room to see if I was OK. Neither of us had made the ruckus, but each thought the other had. I looked at my watch. It was 6 a.m. I turned on my phone and it rang.