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Weird Dead People for Halloween

In 1905, according to the local newspaper, a crazed-looking unshaven man kept showing up at the home of a family in Elliot, Maine demanding dinner. This costume requires a very hungry look and you arrive carrying your own salad fork.

Poor Ruth Blay of South Hampton was sentenced to death for killing her own child and was hanged in Portsmouth in December 1768. She was declared innocent at the last moment, but too late. Sheriff Thomas Packer had done the deed and gone home for lunch. Local mobs hung him in effigy. Ruth Blay imitators should wear a noose around the neck, carry a realistic-looking doll and do a lot of accusatory finger pointing.

Thomas Bailey Aldrich tells us of the Portsmouth boy who, imitating some chickens, once leaped off a barn roof and landed on his head. He was never quite right after that and was often seen to scratch the ground with his foot, cackle and peck at things. He always wore a few chicken feathers in his cap.

Not a scary character, Aldrich described Nicholas Newman of Portsmouth as cross-eyed, very short and bowlegged. The last of the Portsmouth town criers, he carried a gigantic bell and had a booming voice. Newman walked sideways through town like a land crab shouting "Hear All! Hear All!" Wear a three-cornered hat and throw in some salacious local news.

Another evil figure in local lore, this ghostly murderer from the Isles of Shoals reportedly wore a bloody apron and carried a butcher knife. That is, of course, because Phillip Babb of Smuttynose Island was actually a butcher and very likely harmed no one. But a big rubber blade and an apron smeared with ketchup still cuts most viewers to the heart.

The infamous "Portsmouth Hermit" born in 1720 who, one author tells us "vegetated 82 years" wandering around the city. He was often seen gnawing from a large slab of meat that he carried with him. This character is especially suited for males with long facial hair, but is not recommended for vegetarians.

Driven from town to town, Molly Bridget was staying at the Portsmouth almshouse in 1782. Testing to see if she was truly a witch, the locals burned a few pig tails in the fireplace there. Molly suddenly died on the spot, proving beyond a shadow of doubt that she was indeed a witch. At her burial a storm arose, further convincing your enlightened ancestors of her evil origins. You can pick up large greasy dried pig ears at any store that sells doggie chews, although the tails may be hard to come by.

This fictional character comes from an 1848 ballad by Portsmouth poet James Kennard, Jr.. Jack Ringbolt was a dying sailor who refused to be buried on land, so his friends wrapped his corpse in a blanket and buried him in the Piscataqua River. Ringbolt’s body reportedly refused to sink, began burning like a torch and hovered above the water as it disappeared over the horizon. For this costume you will need an old mummy sleeping bag (with a hole cut out so you can walk on tip-toes). Rig up some lights so that your head appears to glow like a halo. Carry a portable tape recorder under the costume that voices muffled messages like "Trick or Treat!" since Jack’s corpse did not move its mouth when speaking.

hate to see Karen and Anethe Christiansen, the 1873 Smuttynose Murder victims, exploited any more than they already have been. But Louis Wagner was a bad man and he deserves to be remembered as a monster. All you need is a knit fisherman’s cap, a hatchet and an oar. Locals will quickly identify Louis if you speak with a German accent.

Why not put a positive role model among this bloody mix? As chief of the local tribes, the sachem kept the peace for the first 50 years of European occupation. He wore a cool leather hat like an upside-down funnel and a bear's head around his waste like a hip belt.

The ever-popular 14th wife of the pirate Blackbeard was left on White Island to guard her husband's treasure, which she reportedly still does. Legends seem to favor her costume as a diaphanous gown that does not blow in the breeze, so be sure to starch it down flat. Just repeat "He will come back!" endlessly, and Old Shoalers will get the message.

Residents of Dover will recall that their early leader Richard Waldron cheated the local Indians. They took revenge during the famous Cochcecho "massacre". For those into gory makeup, the natives cut off his nose and ears, which they put in his mouth before slashing him across the chest and forcing him to fall on his own sword. Waldron was 74 years old so make-up is tricky on this one.

In 1682 George Walton's house in New Castle was pelted repeatedly with a shower of rocks. Most amazingly, the rocks fell from inside the house. Objects like the cooking spit and candles flew all around the house and up the chimney as attested to by many witnesses. For those who don't like all the fuss and expense of this silly holiday, here's the solution. The Rock-Throwing Devil, although he did grave damage to the Walton's house, was never actually seen. So if you don't see me at your Halloween party, look again. I'm the one in the Rock-Throwing Devil suit.

Copyright © 2006 by J. Dennis Robinson. All rights reserved.

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