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?