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‘Wild! Weird! Wonderful! Maine’ a wickedly entertaining read

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The latest book from Maine author Earl Brechlin, “Wild! Weird! Wonderful! Maine,” (Islandport Press, $16.95) is an endlessly entertaining and resourceful read, especially for us local folk.

With its coverage of more than 300 subjects and equal space assigned to virtually every region of the state, Brechlin’s book reaches beyond the conspicuous entries we’d expect to find in a Maine-related tome to encompass most everything that makes Maine the historic, magical and mythical place we call home.

Brechlin’s fascination with Maine started, he says, when he arrived in Bar Harbor to work one summer 40 years ago, adding “I fell in love with the place and never left.”

A longtime Maine journalist, Brechlin was editor of the Bar Harbor Times for nearly two decades and later became founding editor of the Mount Desert Islander in 2001.

A registered Maine Guide, Brechlin is now communications director for the conservation group Friends of Acadia.

“Wild! Weird! Wonderful! Maine” is Brechlin’s ninth book related to the state.

The Maine Edge: What prompted the idea to write such a fun book about Maine, and is this something you’d been thinking about for a while?

Brechlin: It is something I’d been thinking about. I’ve written some other books about the north woods of Maine, and I’ve done a lot of traveling around the state, both as a journalist and as a registered Maine Guide. You find out these little snippets of local history and think ‘that is really cool’ or, how all these towns have these claims to fame, like Strong, Maine was the toothpick capital of the world, and Belfast was once known as the chicken capital of the world. You start making notes and the thought ‘there’s a book here’ pops into your head. It’s difficult to put your finger on what it is about Maine that gets you excited or gives you that special feeling when you think of the state. I think it’s a combination of all of these things, and I wanted to celebrate that and share it with people.

The Maine Edge: You’ve made it easy for travelers to locate all of the places you write about in your book.

Brechlin: That was also part of the impetus for writing it. In Maine, you can’t really go anywhere without the Maine Atlas and Gazateer. Every description in the book, for every place where you can physically go, contains the coordinates for the map, page and grid. Say it’s a Saturday and you want to check out the covered bridges that are still standing, or visit the town (Sangerville) where Hiram Maxim, who invented the machine gun, and became a knight, was born. You’ll see the corresponding coordinates for the Maine Atlas.

The Maine Edge: How did you go about conducting research for the book?

Brechlin: It’s sort of a collect it as you go process. It would have been very difficult to put this book together before the internet. So many places have websites and I’m also president of the Bar Harbor Historical Society, so I’m familiar with a lot of the historical resources for the state.

I would hear stories and reach out to people, or I’d talk to people I know in Aroostook County to ask who might know more about a particular subject. We’ve got about 140 images for 300 items covered in the book, and I’ve collected about 2,500 images over time, and have taken a bunch myself.

I’ve worked with some great photographers, including Kevin Bennett (of The Maine Edge, formerly of the BDN) and Paul Cyr, the premiere photographer of Aroostook County. I made some great friends with the Outdoor Heritage Museum of Oquossoc when I needed to gather some photos of President Dwight D. Eisenhower who had a whole retinue of staff and 70 reporters when he went fly fishing in Rangeley. I’ve made a lot of friends while putting this book together.

The Maine Edge: People who like spooky stuff will enjoy the section on Maine myths and legends. I understand that cryptozoology is another one of your interests.

Brechlin: That’s right, here in Maine, we have ‘Cassie,’ the Casco Bay sea monster, the Meddybemps howler and the Phippsburg screecher (laughs) to cite a few. The climate in Maine is kind of unyielding and there has always been this question about what’s really out there. Maine is also home to the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, which has a nine-foot tall, allegedly life-sized statue of Bigfoot conveniently located next to Bissell Brothers Brewing Company, so you can have a beer and get the right attitude before going to check all of these things out.

The Maine Edge: What is one of your favorite entries in the book?

Brechlin: One of my favorites is the story of Jeanette Corbett, a 26-year old woman married to a sea captain from Cutler. They traveled from Cutler to Cuba in 1873, and she died of yellow fever which was pretty rampant at the time. On her deathbed, she made him promise to bring her back to Maine for her burial.

How do you ship a body from Cuba to Maine in July? They figured it out, they put her in a barrel and filled it with rum from the Cuban distillery. When they sailed into Cutler Harbor, flying a flag that indicated a death on-board, people rushed down and told the undertaker they wanted to do it right. He said he didn’t want to open the barrel because he didn’t know what disease might be in there, so they did what any common-sense Mainers would do: They dug a big round hole in the cemetery and buried her barrel and all. You can go and see her grave to this day.

Last modified on Wednesday, 07 October 2020 12:56

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