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History and mystery – Bangor’s secret library

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BANGOR – This is a city built on secrets.

We’re not talking about the typical everyday mundane secrets, the little things that you’ll find in any city. No, we’re talking about the deep-down secrets. The weird secrets. Secrets like ancient crowns with mysterious social powers or a cohort of prominent figures who are probably robots.

Those secrets.

We here at The Maine Edge have never been ones for what you’d call “real journalism” – that’s never really been our beat. As a rule, we like to stay in our lane as far as that goes. But longtime readers know that every once in a while, we’re swept up into the whirlwind of a story that won’t let us go until we reach its (almost-certainly strange) ending.

This is one such story.

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It all started with the sandwich.

Every once in a while, I get a craving for a particular sandwich that is only available from a particular local establishment. It’s an irregular thing – sometimes I’ll go months without even thinking about it. But when the desire hits, it needs taking care of immediately.

One early evening a couple of months back – the last time I had the craving, in fact – I was sitting by myself at a small table sipping a beer, reading a book and waiting for my coveted sandwich to arrive. All business being minded was my own, you know?

Oh, but that it had remained so.

See, I am blessed (some say cursed) with excellent hearing. And so, despite no intention or effort, I found myself inadvertently tuning in to a nearby conversation. Usually when this happens, I realize it quickly and shift my focus – everyone is entitled to privacy, after all.

But before I can steer my attention away, I overhear the phrase that would ultimately lead me on yet another unexpected and utterly bizarre journey:

“Secret library.”

As a book lover, there was no way I could hear that little snippet and NOT want to know more. Was it wrong to start intentionally listening in? Probably. But I couldn’t help myself – so many questions evoked by just two words. Where was this secret library? What kind of books are in a secret library? Are the books secret or is it just the library itself?

The conversationalist was behind me; I didn’t dare turn around for fear of distracting her away from this line of discussion.

“Yeah. A secret library,” the woman said. “According to what I heard, it’s basically this massive vault underground that contains all the weird secrets and mysteries from this city’s history. Stuff a lot of people don’t know about, or don’t talk about anyway.”

It was at this point that I realized I was trapped. My idle curiosity had officially shifted into professional duty; I had to find out where this secret library was. I needed to know more.

“It’s all pretty weird, from what I understand,” she continued. “I guess there’s some kind of secret door hidden out behind the library.”

“Wait – the secret door is behind the secret library?” her companion asked. “Then how do you find the secret door?”

“No no no,” laughed the woman. “The secret door is behind the ACTUAL library. The Bangor Public Library. Which is actually probably a little on the nose for a secret library, but what do I know? Not like I’m a secret librarian.”

My head was spinning. A secret library beneath the actual library? Library-ception? I didn’t know how or when, but I was going to see the inside of that place and find out just what kinds of mysteries there could be upon which I hadn’t already clumsily stumbled.

The chatter had ceased. I turned just in time to see two people – a man and a woman - walking out the door. They had to be my eavesdropees, but they were facing away from me and already pretty much gone. I threw some money down and went out after them, but by the time I got outside, they had already disappeared into the dusk.

My sandwich would go uneaten.

-

I’m not known for my investigative acumen. Any rabbit hole I’ve gone down has been the result of me tripping while bending over. However, it’s no secret that these strange tales seem to seek me out, and this new one was no different.

All I had to go on was a brief bit of conversation that I overheard at a bar. Half-assed internet research turned up nothing. My usual sources either didn’t know or weren’t telling, though it’s hard to ask someone about a secret library when you don’t actually want to reveal the potential existence of said secret library. It’s a delicate dance we do.

In the end, I did what I always do when confronted with a lack of information – stumble around and hope for the best. So one evening, I wandered out behind the library and started looking for the door to the secret library. Just tromping around, hoping to literally trip over what I was looking for.

Like I said, I’m not a journalist.

For most, it would have been obvious after a few minutes that this was a stupid idea. It took me a little over an hour, because I’m not the quickest on the uptake. I threw my hands up in exasperation and started to leave, kicking a rock as I went.

“Oh, sure,” you’re probably thinking. “He kicks the rock and it turns out to be the switch that opens the secret door and this is such a stupid story.”

It does seem like the sort of thing I’d say right now, doesn’t it? But no – all that rock did was not move. At all. Despite the fact that I kicked it pretty hard. So now I’ve maybe broken my toe (turns out I didn’t, but still) and I can’t find this door and I’m just throwing out curse words; I’m even making some up as I go.

I was so furious and distracted that I didn’t notice the door open at first. So I can’t actually tell you what it was that I did that caused it to open – or if I even did anything. It might have been the curse words I made up. It might have been something I sat on when I dropped to the ground in pain. Hell, it might have been the rock I kicked. I didn’t know then and I don’t know now.

But the door was open, so I walked through it.

-

I entered a brick-lined hallway; old but well-maintained, lit by unexpectedly delicate wall sconces. It was short – barely 10 feet long – and came to an end at a dark hole with a ladder going down into it. You never want to find yourself climbing into a mysterious hole in the course of chasing a story, but when the time comes, you find out pretty quickly what you’re made of.

For instance, I’m made of cowardice, but my fear of shame outstrips my fear of the unknown, so down the hole I went.

(It was at this point that I finally thought to maybe take some pictures – again, I’m not great at this. I took out my phone to do just that, but it died in my hand. I actually watched the last 10 percent of my battery life bleed away in a couple of seconds. So yeah – that’s why I don’t have pictures. Some sort of techno-occult secret library business happened. It definitely wasn’t because I dropped my phone when I stubbed my toe and left it in a bush.)

It was tough to tell how deep the hole went, but I finally made it to the floor. There was a single door set into the wall of the hole; despite everything Indiana Jones taught me, I just went ahead and opened it.

What lay behind that door bordered on the indescribable.

The door opened onto a sort of catwalk suspended above what appeared to be a massive warehouse, with rows upon rows of bookshelves spanning the floor. There were also a number of climate-controlled cabinets and cases, clearly meant to protect delicate documents and other ephemera. And a vast array of viewing technology, spanning decades – magnifying glasses shared space with tiny scanners; there were wax cylinders and film strips and cassette tapes and punch cards. If it was ever used to consume content, it was there.

But the most striking thing of all was the sound. It was silent-but-not-quite; so quiet that you could hear the background noise of the world. It was a sort of reverential hum so low that you couldn’t be sure it was real. Honestly, it was one of the most intensely spiritual moments of my life.

So obviously, it couldn’t last.

“Can I help you?”

I turned and saw a mysterious figure wearing a robe and a mask, looking kind of like an extra in “Eyes Wide Shut” only without the weird pretense of sexiness. It was the kind of ceremonial garb one definitely expects when making one’s way into a secret underground library that is purported to be full of mysteries.

“Oh, um, hello there,” I stammered. “I just … I saw … the door … wanted … open …”

The figure stood without speaking as my stream of barely-coherent syllables trailed off. I was left to simply stare at the masked person in silence; as to whether the mask stared back, well … I mean, it was a mask. How would I know?

The figure spoke again.

“Are you looking for anything in particular? Can I help you find something?”

“Wait a second,” I said. “Are … are you the librarian?”

“Of course I’m the librarian. Why else would I be here? Anyway – first things first. You’ve clearly never been before, so I’m going to need something from you.”

The figure reached into the depths of the robe. I shut my eyes in fear, frozen motionless by anticipatory dread. Silence.

“Um … are you OK?”

I opened my eyes. The figure was holding out a clipboard and a pen.

“I just need you to look this over and sign here so we can get you a library card.”

“A … a secret library card?”

The figure nodded solemnly. I took the clipboard and looked over the form attached to it. I checked a few boxes, signed my name and presto! I was the proud owner of a secret library card.

It really was that easy – aren’t libraries just the greatest?

From there, I was able to just spend some time poking around. And man, that woman wasn’t kidding when she said that there was a whole lot of cool and mysterious stuff to be found down there. I couldn’t possibly share with you everything I saw – it’s too much in terms of both quantity AND quality. The world just isn’t ready. Not for all of it.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t give you a taste, a small inkling of the mysteries and histories contained in that underground vault.

-

The Lost Crown of the Queen City

Long-term readers of The Maine Edge will remember my in-depth investigation of the myths and more surrounding this legendary Bangor artifact. While I struggled to trace the provenance of the relic with the help of a guy who claimed to be both a PhD and an expert on the Lost Crown (and who turned out to be neither; he was just some dude), it turned out that the actual truth was just sitting here. Sure, I gave up the hunt just because some ninja told me to stop. And maybe I had totally forgotten about it until I wound up in the secret library. What’s it to you?

Anyway – I’m not going to out the Crown’s current Keeper, even though I totally know who it is now. It’s someone that might surprise you a little bit. Or not. I’m being mysterious. As for the crown itself, the research comes to two very different, yet equally supported conclusions.

One conclusion is that the Lost Crown of the Queen City is roughly 1,000 years old and was originally worn by Cnut the Great, who ruled the North Sea Empire (consisting of Denmark, England and Norway) in the early 11th century. The other is that it was invented in the 1960s as a promotional tool for a local TV station, only to be co-opted and kept alive by an unnamed fraternal organization.

Either way, I was wrong.

-

Robots

I was surprised to see as much material on Bangor’s robot concerns as I did. While I myself did some pretty impressive uncovering of the secret robot invasion for a story published last year, I had barely scratched the surface. These robots have been here for a long time – longer than one would really think possible.

Apparently, the opening salvo of the invasion took place sometime in the late 1940s. The first arrivals were bulky, heavy with transistors and clockwork and steam power; they struggled to find effective disguises and hence operated mostly in the shadows. It wasn’t long, however, before their technology outstripped our ability to detect it, allowing them to fully ingratiate themselves into our society.

Included was an impressive list of known robots – far more than the scant handful I was able to confirm – but again, I can’t in good conscience list these names without independent confirmation. Do I believe this list? Of course. But I can’t PROVE that any of these people are robots. And so – the mystery remains.

I’m pretty sure their intentions are at least sort of benign, so there’s that.

-

Aliens

It’s an open secret that the old Bangor Auditorium was in fact a crashed UFO that was quickly and quietly converted into a place to host high school basketball tournaments. We here at The Maine Edge exposed that particular secret nearly a decade ago, so finding that information here was no surprise.

What I didn’t know – and what these archives told me – is that there has been an alien presence in the City of Bangor since before there was an actual city of Bangor. There are numerous documented encounters with visitors from beyond the stars, with reports of incidents dating from as far back as the late 1700s.

One lengthy journal purports to be actually written by one of these visitors, one who was marooned here under unclear circumstances back in 1833 and lived with a prominent local family for nearly two years before disappearing. And the mid-1970s apparently saw a massive uptick in encounters, a phenomenon that was treated as suggestion from the sci-fi cinema of the era by the local media but was in fact true.

They’ve been here. And they’re probably still here.

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Bigfoot

Obviously, we all know about the great work being done by the Bigfoot/Yeti team in St. Pomme de Terre. They’ve got the local government running smoothly and their YetiFoot consortium continues to redefine the corporate paradigm up there in northern Maine.

What you might not know is the rich and vital history of the Bigfoot here in our state. While this is the first time a Bigfoot has made his presence known to humans so completely, he’s far from the only Sasquatch around; there are a lot more of them out there than you’d ever have thought possible.

The secret library contains detailed maps of Bigfoot settlements, villages isolated in the depths of the Maine woods where hundreds of crypto-beasts live in harmony with nature and with one another. There are photographs of Bigfoot cultural items - sculptures and carvings and the like. There are even extensive recordings of Bigfoot language and assorted translation guides.

You have to put one Bigfoot in front of the other.

-

That’s just some of the secret knowledge that came my way thanks to my secret library card and a very helpful secret librarian (whose identity I won’t reveal, though I will tell you this – she was the one upon whose conversation I eavesdropped, thus learning about the secret library in the first place; it really is a small world). There’s plenty more where that came from, but really – what’s the fun of me telling you?

Once again, I have blundered into an incredible and fascinating story and told it in my usual ham-fisted fashion, blending self-celebration, self-deprecation and self-delusion into a mélange of barely coherent rambling weirdness. So, you know … you’re welcome. As for what’s next?

I’m going to see someone about a sandwich.

(Editor’s note: This is the annual April Fool’s edition of The Maine Edge. As such, the majority of this story is completely and utterly made up. The only part that isn’t is the idea that libraries are just the greatest. They serve a vital purpose in every community, providing a variety of services – including some you might not expect. We’ve got a world-class one right here, and while there might not be a secret library underneath it, the Bangor Public Library has a whole lot to offer.)

Last modified on Wednesday, 28 March 2018 13:21

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