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Monday, November 10, 2014

Murder on Smuttynose

In 1873 there was a double murder on the isolated island of Smuttynose off the coast of Maine/New Hampshire. It involved a Norwegian fishing family and a man they once gave a job to, Louis Wagner. Smuttynose is the third largest of the group of islands known as The Isles of Shoal. There are nine islands in the group, five of which belong to Maine and four to New Hampshire.

I first learned of this true crime when reading Anita Shreve's book The Weight of Water. It is a fictionalized account of the true happenings. I read it in one day, couldn't put it down. But then I researched the true story and that caused me to not really like Shreve's account at all, even though it is clearly 'fictionalized'. The book was also made into a movie which is available @Netflix. It wasn't that good.

I was reminded today on the blog Maine Crime Writers, Vaughn Hardacker wrote about it. I thought my fellow mystery lovers might like reading up on this interesting bit of history.

Poet Celia Thaxter lived on a neighboring island, Appledore, and actually employed one of the victims at one time. She was among the first on the scene and knew all of the people involved well. She wrote a fascinating article, A Memorable Murder, describing the events. Read the letter Celia wrote to a friend just a few days after the murders. Lots of interesting things on this website to whet your appetite for this tale!

Murderpedia's Louis Wagner page

A great article about it in The Yankee Magazine. I love this magazine and get a subscription myself!

A couple of non-fiction books about it...
Return To Smuttynose Island: And Other Maine Axe Murders

Cold Water Crossing: An Account of the Murders at the Isles of Shoals

Visiting Smuttynose today

Visiting Karen & Anethe's graves at South Cemetery off Sagamore Road in Portsmouth, NH

Peggy Ann


  1. Interesting, Peggy Ann. I'd never heard of these murders. Read through the links you provided. Ghastly stuff. The guy must have been a psychopath. Or maybe he was innocent. Who knows? But likely not if the surviving woman is to be believed. I think I'll skip the movie.

    1. A button was found in his pocket that was in the one victims purse. Just too much circumstantial evidence. But what fun to speculate over the years since they were so isolated on the island!


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