GREENE — At George Stanley’s place on Route 202, there are almost too many doors to count: garage doors, doors made of fencing and doors constructed of plywood and nails.
On Thursday, working in the driving rain, the 71-year-old Stanley moved from one door to the next, assessing the damage and the losses.
“This was full of merchandise,” Stanley said, standing next to a wooden door that had been ripped off its frame. “All they left is trash.”
A few doors away, moving toward the back of the sprawling, chaotic property, he pulled open another door.
“This is the well house,” he said. “It was full of stuff.”
Another few steps across mounds of strewn merchandise and Stanley is at yet another door.
“There was a pallet of roofing shingles here from Home Depot,” he said. “There were 2-by-6’s in here; a whole stack, this high. That’s gone.”
Around the other side of the building, Stanley pulled open one more door and his temper rose appreciably.
“All my tools were in here!” he said. “This was my lumber yard and now everything is gone. Buckets and buckets of brand-new tools. Fifty pounds of assorted nails. Gone.”
It was a bogus Craigslist ad, Stanley said, that led to a frenzy of looting on his property over the past two weeks while he was away in Florida. Stanley arrived back in Greene late Wednesday night and said it was less than a happy homecoming.
“I had to come and face the music,” he said, “and to document the amount of distress and devastation.”
The Craigslist ad ran for three days, announcing that everything on Stanley’s property was free for the taking. It was unknown who placed the ad. Maine State Police are investigating.
While he waits for justice, Stanley estimates he is out roughly $10,000 worth of goods. Among the items with the highest values, he said, were new generators, power saws, framing hammers and roofing supplies.
It’s just stuff, Stanley said, but every stolen item meant something to him.
“You might attach sentimental value to your wife and kids,” Stanley said, “to the SUV or to your career. I don’t have any of those things. This is my life.”
As he raged about the damage, though, occasionally flinging random items aside, it became clear that one area of his property meant more than the others.
“Look what they did to my cancer-healing retreat room,” Stanley said. “Now that’s sentimental, right there. That hurts the most.”
Within the past year, Stanley was diagnosed with cancer. He believes he has only a few years to live. He built the healing retreat room, Stanley said, as a place where other cancer victims could come and collect their thoughts.
While he was in Florida, the window of the door to the room was smashed and items were taken, Stanley said.
“No restraint. No morality,” he said. “This is what the world has come to.”
It was not known how many people showed up at Stanley’s property in recent weeks to fill their cars and trucks with goods they believed were free for the taking. Witnesses said that while the spree was ongoing, there were sometimes half a dozen cars at a time parked in front of the property. It happened at all hours of the day and night, they said.
Stanley believes that in addition to the placement of the Craigslist ad, some of the rummaging was personal — many items that were not taken, he said, were smashed or otherwise destroyed.
“This is like somebody getting even,” Stanley said. “This is like somebody with a vendetta.”
Someone even climbed to the roof of the building and removed the iconic green alien, constructed of wood, that had hung there for a decade.
The head of the alien was ripped off.
Looters made off with a 4- by 8-foot, wood-constructed Paul Bunyan, although they left behind Babe, a wooden blue ox.
“Nice,” Stanley spat. “Wonderful people. Good Christian neighbors.”
The door to a 40-foot trailer was broken open and cleaned out of whatever had value, Stanley said. Recently planted trees and shrubs were uprooted and hauled away.
A Dodge Neon Stanley had hoped to fix up and get registered was ransacked during the rampage.
“They cut the tires with a Sawzall,” Stanley said. “They took the rims off and they got under the hood. They pried the trunk open, they went all through the car, which was full of sleeping bags and Cabela’s hunting hats and stuff. That’s all gone.”
A 100-foot power cord was removed from an outdoor refrigerator, Stanley said, leaving all of the food inside it to rot.
Before he began the long process of cleaning up Thursday, Stanley was in Lewiston making a variety of stops. He went to the Dempsey Center, to a supermarket, to the newspaper. Everywhere he went, Stanley said, people recognized him after reading about the Craigslist scam that cleaned him out.
“Everybody is coming up to me and apologizing,” Stanley said. “They’re almost in tears.”
He appreciates the support, he said, but it doesn’t diminish the bitterness he feels about the unrestrained scavenging of his land. And he doesn’t completely buy the notion that the people who hauled away his property were simply duped by rumor and a bogus Craigslist ad.
“I don’t think it’s so much gullibility and naivety. These are all adults here,” Stanley said. “These are all people who live in the real world. There are consequences for our words, there are consequences for our actions. You cannot act in this manner and do this to somebody who happened to go away for a few days. This should not be done to anyone and I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
By Thursday afternoon, none of his property had been returned, Stanley said. Police told him their investigation will likely last for months and the field of suspects is likely to be vast. Stanley has clashed many times over the past decade with neighbors and town officials irked by the disorder on his property.
Still in the clothes he wore on the drive back from Florida, Stanley said it would be a long while before he had a true measure of how much was taken and how much destroyed while he was away.
“I’ll be here in the snow,” he said, “trying to put it back into some semblance of order.”