Beautiful and Creepy

Hello, I’m Vicki Doudera. I live in Camden and write the Darby Farr Mystery Series, starring an intrepid real estate agent selling homes and solving crimes. I’m thrilled to be a part of this new blog and in such excellent company.

When I need inspiration as well as a brisk walk to stave off the dreaded “writer’s butt,” I head up the street and choose a hiking trail in Camden Hills State Park. One of my favorite is the gradually climbing path up Mount Megunticook known as Maiden Cliff.

The summit is a massive hunk of rock jutting over an 800-foot sheer cliff, and the views of Ragged Mountain to the west, Lake Megunticook below, Penobscot Bay to the east, and the meandering auto road up Mount Battie are spectacular.  It’s a beautiful spot — just one of millions in Maine — but for all its grandeur, there’s a palpable feeling of foreboding.

You see, Maiden Cliff is a dangerous place.

In May of 1864, a young girl named Elenora French plummeted from the mountain top while on a church picnic. Legend has it that she was chasing her bonnet, blown off in a gust of wind. The eleven-year-old died from her injuries the next day and is memorialized by a white cross and plaque, as well as by the trail’s name.

When my sons were little, they would ask about the tragedy, and I’d explain that there was no such thing as modern emergency medicine in the late 1800’s, and that given our town’s search and rescue teams, ambulances, and paramedics, Elenora might have lived today. Even I found my explanation comforting. Accidents such as Elenora’s are safely in the past, right?

Fast forward nearly one hundred and fifty years to this spring, when Maiden Cliff Trail was once more the talk of quiet Camden. Husband and wife schoolteachers from Missouri had recently moved to a house downtown, and it seems they were spending some of the spring’s soggy days on the trails. What truly happened on that April day is still emerging, but it is another incident cementing Maiden Cliff’s notoriety.

The wife in the story claims that her husband hit her repeatedly on the head with a rock before pushing her forcefully off the cliff. Somehow she managed to stagger into Route 52 below and flag down a passing car. Her husband also fell from the sheer drop. After a search through the underbrush for his bloodied body, the couple was transported to Eastern Maine Medical Center. Unlike poor Elenora French, both survived their injuries.

Even in picture-postcard perfect Maine, some places are beautiful, but creepy. Perhaps an actual tragedy or crime has occured there, as is the case with Maiden Cliff, or perhaps an “accident” is waiting to happen. As a crime writer, I am always in tune to the emotions engendered by the places I visit. They fuel my imagination, inform my writing (there was a dramatic fall from a rocky precipice greatly resembling Maiden Cliff in A House to Die For) and, if I’m lucky, help with “writer’s butt” as well.

Where’s a place that you find lovely, and at the same time, unsettling? Did an actual crime take place there?

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7 Responses to Beautiful and Creepy

  1. Kate Flora says:

    The Camden Hills are so gorgeous! Growing up in Union, the eerie history of Maidens Cliff was always talked about. And when I wrote my first Thea Kozak mystery, Chosen for Death, I put the body on a trail going up to Mt. Battie.

    It’s fun to write about the places we know, although, as Gerry noted in his post this week, we tend to shift it to fit the places we imagine.

  2. Annette says:

    Interesting stories in today’s post.

  3. Allene says:

    There is a beautiful old mill site near where I live in Missouri. They have a Civil War Re-enactment there every summer commemorating the Union attack on the Mill. No one knows how many were killed. I never had any bad feelings there until I decided I needed to clear my head and went when no one else was around. I parked my car and crossed the pasture in front of the mill to stand by the clear water stream when suddenly I had an overwhelming urge to run – panic overcame me as I sprinted across the open field to get to the car. I remember locking the car doors and driving off as fast as the dirt path would allow. I have been back since, to re-enactments, without panic and have researched all I can find but still have no explanation. Was it a ghostly threat, or was someone hiding there in the woods?

  4. Pj Schott says:

    I have strong feelings about Salem MA. I was drawn there by what I have since learned is an energy vortex. I feel the power of the place, but also know the history and can still feel the wounds those incidents left behind.

  5. Cher'ley says:

    Beautiful photos. There’s lots of history and stories around where we live.

  6. Gerry Boyle says:

    Great story about the couple and the cliffside wrestling match. What ever happened to them? Anyone charged?

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