July 19 – 25, 2019Vol. 21, No. 7

The Guide Ghosts of Great Pond

Suspected culprit Charles Grant in guide boat caper. Note the name, Ida, on the starboard bow.

by Rod Johnson

As many of you may recall, for each of the last five summers strange happenings have occurred on Great Pond. Several "near sightings" and "close run-ins" with ghostly beings lead us to believe that the Guide Ghosts of Great Pond may in fact have an annual outing on the very pond where they guided fishermen a century ago.

Foggy nights seem to be their favorite weather, assumedly to minimize the risk of being spotted. First, in 2014, it was a tourist scared out of her wits when she and her boyfriend "bumped into" a drifting old guideboat when canoeing at dusk around Abena Point.

The next year, three young teenage girls heard fiddle music and voices on Otter Island when they swam out from Pine Beach.

After that in 2016, police records note that a hysterical call came in from a man who had been sideswiped by a long white boat while he was waiting out a thunderstorm on Whale Rock. His frantic report described the driver of the long boat as a ghostly looking soul with wispy white hair.

In 2017 Phil Cobb investigated fiddle music on Oak Island and found the still-hot remnants of a bonfire.

Lastly in 2018, Rod and Doris Johnson's inboard suffered an engine failure at night while returning from a visit with Steve and Edie Dubord on Gleason's Shore. A fog had settled in quickly as they drifted onto the White Ledges and the Lyman went aground. Simultaneously they became entangled in a long anchor rode strung out from the bow of a very nice antique guideboat about 20 feet long.

They took note that the old Gray Marine engine was still warm and a pail of recently caught white perch was evident. Doris recalls smelling a rather pungent odor wafting from the craft — which she described as a mix of kerosene, fish and wool, all with a strong tinge of home brew. Given the evidence, who could doubt the existence of The Guide Ghosts of Great Pond. This leads me to report on some very recent shenanigans that were reported to the Maine Warden Service just last week.

It seems that very recently on June 22, Mr. Paul Thompson, a seasonal resident with a cottage in Sahagian Cove, Great Pond, town of Belgrade awoke early at approximately 4:45 a.m. While moving about his cottage in the new light of day he noticed a strange craft was tied to his dock. The sight of the long narrow double ended craft instantly stirred concern, curiosity and a quick stab of nostalgia. Paul realized quickly that he had not seen a boat of that type since he was a very young boy. He recalled traveling with his siblings and mother Esther when she often paddled her canoe to the village for supplies.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, a post-heyday era of the fishing guides and boats, many of these long narrow boats could be seen up on blocks or hanging from chain falls in boathouses lining the stream. Most would never run again.

Paul cautiously opened the creaky screen door, then left the camp to slowly approach the dock and craft. He had no idea what to expect and was somewhat overwhelmed with emotion.

After a good perusal of the long double ender it was clear that the driver had vanished, but he noted that the boat had been tied and fendered properly as a boatman would do. Paul also noted several items in the boat such as antique bamboo fly rods, a frog box, ring anchor with hemp rope, and several empty Kruger Ale bottles. Also, a plug of Day's Work chewing tobacco lay on the motor box. There was no hint of any identification on the craft such as a registration or hull number, only the name Ida on the lapstrake hull.

Paul then conferred with wife Maria who had joined him at the dock and agreed they should call the Maine Warden Service. The plot thickened when the couple noticed that Esther's old aluminum canoe was gone from its usual spot under the big pine.

A young warden was dispatched to the camp by mid-morning and took a full report of both the missing canoe and abandoned guide boat. After three days passed the warden returned with a chagrinned look on his face, saying that he could find no clues about either the stolen canoe or abandoned guide boat.

By then, word had spread all over town that a mysterious antique guideboat was tethered to the Thompson dock. Boat after boat came idling by to get a glimpse of the old craft. Many folks were taking pictures, some even had the gall to yell ashore, "Is it for sale?"

By the fourth day the Thompsons realized they needed to have the boat removed to regain their privacy and planned to do so the next morning. At midnight however, all hell broke loose when a strange weather phenomenon overtook Central Maine, shrouding Great Pond in a thick fog. Following the fog came imbedded lightning and north winds up to near hurricane force.

The storm slowly petered out and by daybreak it was over. The lake took on the look of a polished mirror and as if by premonition, the Thompsons peeked out of the upstairs window only to see that the guide boat was GONE — and Esther's old Grumman canoe was back in its resting place under the pine.

Once again, our only conclusion is that The Guide Ghosts of Great Pond work in strange ways — and that we can expect their shenanigans to continue.

Rod Johnson was born and raised in the Belgrade Lakes in the 1950s and '60s.