Marking a Tragic Anniversary
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Written by SeacoastNH Archives Presents
Historic Portsmouth #400

Each year as my wife and I celebrate our early Pisces birthdays, we can’t help but recall the March 5 murders on Smuttynose Island in 1873. Victims Karen and Anethe Christiansen are buried in Portsmouth. The story has possessed us like so many others, and we continue to research the crime. (Continued below)



I first heard the story at the Press Room, held spellbound by singer John Perrault. His “Ballad of Louis Wagner” imagines a ghostly encounter with the murderer down by the wharves of Ceres Street. John heard the story from Rosamond Thaxter of Kittery, grand daughter and biographer of Celia Thaxter whose family owned the “murder house” on Smuttynose Island. John released the song on a record album in 1981. The ballad became the soundtrack of a short film by Gary Samson and Dorothy Ahlgren back in the 1980s. You might call it an early “folk video.” Popular Prescott Park actor Scott Weintraub (in center) portrayed killer Louis Wagner who was hanged in 1875. Speaking of anniversaries, this is the 400th weekly image to appear in this column.  (Courtesy Portsmouth Athenaeum / UNH Media Services)


Visit our SMUTTYNOSE MURDER section