Ripley’s Believe It or Not! goes into its archives for strange Maine tales — and we get the rest of the story.
They brought you the Chinese man with a candle in the top of his head.
A waitress who got a Porsche for a tip.
The all-nude Web newscast.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! knows weird. Scratch that; they own weird.
Ripley’s has an archive of thousands and growing – staff come up with 25 new Believe It or Nots! a week – so, of course, they’d have weird Maine sprinkled in there.
From Ripley’s: Norm Crocker of North Turner, Maine, has two pet roosters that sit on his shoulders whenever he drives or plays cards!
The rest of the story: Norm Crocker found Mike and Oogie as chicks on the side of the road in the late ’80s, and for years they were almost inseparable.
“DeCoster Egg Farm is here. Once in a while, they fall off the truck,” said Eva Leavitt, current town manager and town clerk in Turner. Leavitt knew Crocker personally; he was her mother’s longtime companion.
“He and mom would sit at the table playing cribbage, and the rooster would be there.”
For Crocker, a retired paperworker, “It was entertaining attention,” Leavitt said.
Her mom, Laura Giroux, thought it was charming.
In addition to regular car rides, Mike and Oogie slept inside when it was cold. “They had their own little corner with their blankies and papers, in the summer they were in the barn,” Leavitt said.
The pair chased away cats, a dog and visitors when they felt too crowded. She said she never had a problem with the roosters; a sister-in-law did once.
“They just attacked, pecked and clawed at her,” Leavitt said. Luckily, she wasn’t hurt.
Mike lived a couple of years. When Crocker died in 1993, in his 80s, Giroux was left to care for Oogie.
“She bought him into the town office with her one day,” Leavitt said. “I was embarrassed but everyone thought it was funny.”
From Ripley’s: Car dealer Phil Lenentine of Calais, Maine, once accepted a cow as down payment on a new car!
The rest: The Chevrolet dealership offered a sale with a familiar ploy that usually attracts old heaps, sometimes snowmobiles:
You get it here, and we’ll take it as a trade-in.
“(One customer) really didn’t have any money, he didn’t have a car, but he had a cow,” said Phil Lenentine, now retired and living in Massachusetts. He thinks the year was 1994.
“The sales manager at the time said, ‘I’ll have to ask.'”
Lenentine OK’d the deal. Temporary fencing was brought in to create a corral in the field next to the dealership.
“We had the cow there for a couple of weeks,” he said. He eventually donated it to a farmer for a charitable cause he’s since forgotten; Lenentine does remember he didn’t want the brown-and-white Jersey eaten.
The unusual trade-in made worldwide headlines at the time.
“Reuters picked it up, and I had an old, old friend read it in New Zealand. He called actually, and said, ‘What?'”
Ian Pratt bought the dealership, now Pratt Chevrolet, from Lenentine 11 years ago. Asked whether he’d accept a cow today, his answer was also “yes.”
“Anything’s always available for trade for a reasonable market value,” Pratt said.
From Ripley’s: Richard Ingraham and Lydia Dyer, shipwrecked in 1850 near Rockland, survived being frozen alive inside a block of ice that formed on the deck!
The rest: The late historian Edward Rowe Snow called them Maine’s Frozen Couple.
In updating Snow’s “Mysteries and Adventures Along the Atlantic Coast,” Jeremy D’Entremont called a cryonics expert to see if it could possibly be true. (More on that in a bit.)
The story goes that a schooner was anchored in Rockland Harbor during a nasty storm with four people on board. The captain fled and, after a time, the first mate went for help.
“Because the situation was getting very dire, the vessel was in danger of breaking up,” said D’Entremont, a New England lighthouse author and historian. “(The first mate) was half-dead by the time he found the lighthouse keeper from the Owl’s Head lighthouse.”
Ingraham and Dyer had wrapped themselves in blankets on the ship’s deck to keep warm. The rescue party found them and their linen frozen in a wad of ice. They chiseled the mass free of the deck, brought it by sleigh to the keeper’s house and – just in case the couple were alive under there – slowly thawed them out over the next few hours.
“The couple went on to completely recover and get married and have a few kids,” D’Entremont said.
But really, could that have happened?
One doctor D’Entremont talked to suggested pockets of air trapped in the blankets might have helped them survive. A cryonics expert said the couple couldn’t have frozen solid – blood flow would have been impossible – but their hearts may have stopped. Ice may have even acted like an igloo, trapping heat.
From Ripley’s: Gigantic marble statue 27-and-a-half feet high to be erected (in Camden) to Captain Hanson Gregory, inventor of the hole in the doughnut!
The rest: The story starts back in 1847.
Hanson Gregory, a boy of 15 living in Clam Cove – now Glen Cove in Rockport – watched his mom make a batch of fried cakes and asked why the middle never cooked.
“He walked across the floor, he picked up a fork and he poked it through the fried cake and the doughnut hole was invented,” Fred E. Crockett, 96, said recently from his home in Camden.
Crockett’s the unofficial keeper of the legacy. It’s kept him busy.
Gregory was a cousin of Crockett’s mother. In 1941 – almost 100 years later – in front of a crowd of 500 New Yorkers, Crockett defended his family’s version of the sweet snack’s genesis against Cape Cod lawyer Henry Ellis.
Ellis maintained it came about in Cape Cod when an Indian attacked a woman making dough cakes in an iron kettle. His arrow missed the woman, pierced one of the cakes and, viola, the doughnut hole. Ellis even brought an Indian chief to the debate to back him up.
“This lawyer was, of course, very suave, and I was a man from Maine,” Crockett said. “He told his story, and I told mine.”
The crowd voted. Crockett won, and the doughnut hole’s origin was settled.
Through the years, Crockett’s given hundreds of doughnut-related interviews and appeared on “The Merv Griffin Show,” “To Tell the Truth” and “What’s My Line?”
“You may say, who cares who put the hole in the doughnut? But, well, it represented good fellowship, good cheer, clean fun and wholesome public relations for the state,” Crockett said.
He, unfortunately, didn’t get very far raising money for that tall statue of Gregory, who went on to captain numerous ships including – true story – one named Donut (but pronounced dough-NA-tee). Blame for the lack of a statue seems to lie with those from away.
“They wanted to put it on top of Mt. Battie in Camden,” Crockett said. “Summer people said, ‘Oh, no, it would be very disrespectful to have a man up there, a statue 25 feet tall, holding a doughnut in his hand,’ and they say, ‘We have summer cottages around there and we think that would be very demeaning.'”
From Ripley’s: Wrestlers exchanged grunts and groans in an entire wrestling ring filled with mashed potatoes on July 20, 1985, in Fort Fairfield Maine’s annual Mashed Potato Wrestling Championships.
The rest: The monster mash-up stopped about 10 years ago; turns out grown men pinning each other in 8-inch-deep mashed potatoes might be dangerous
“Unfortunately, we don’t (do it anymore) due to insurance requirements,” said Shawn Murchison, executive director of the Fort Fairfield Chamber of Commerce.
In the event’s 10- or 12-year run, no one was ever hurt, he said. Murchison holds out hope that a corporate sponsor might still come along and defray the $25,000 premium.
“I wouldn’t mind it being the Geico Mashed Potato Competition. I don’t want it to go away,” he said.
Held during the still-active annual Maine Potato Blossom Festival, people drove from all over to watch.
The recipe: Hundreds of pounds of dry flakes poured into a plastic-lined “ring;” water (added by the fire department); stir.
Competitors were paired by age. The winner of each match got a trophy. Winning took a count of 10 with a shoulder-pin; you had to be careful, he said, that your opponent could still breathe.
“We had showers off to the side. Mashed potato can be pretty nasty stuff if you let it dry,” Murchison added.
“It was fun – it’s funny. It’s comical to watch them wrestle in mashed potatoes because it’s very hard to stand up, very hard to get your footing. Once they got mashed potato all over them, it’s a challenge for the competitors to even hold onto one another. It’s easy to slip away.”