There are new owners for the Desert of Maine, a new alien abduction documentary from Maine filmmakers, a new book with Mothman sightings in Camden, and looking ahead to 2019: the return of the storied Maine mustache pageant.

Maine’s always good for wild and weird.

This month, updates on Weird, Wicked Weird from the past year and beyond.

Hold the camels

When Mela and Doug Heestand moved to Freeport from Massachusetts 18 months ago, their kids discovered a desert in the backyard.

The desert.

Turned out their new home abutted the longtime Desert of Maine attraction.

“It’s through our woods from our current home,” Mela Heestand said. “They were like, ‘Look! We just found this amazing place,’ and it was amazing, it was beautiful.

When it went up for sale, we were concerned about who might buy it,” she said. “And then as we were talking, ‘Well, maybe we’re the ones to take care of it and just carry on the legacy?’”

So they did. The Heestands closed on the sale of the property Wednesday. Former owners Gary and Ginger Currens had owned it since 2004.

The Desert of Maine has been a tourist attraction since 1925, and it’s technically acre after acre of glacial silt, not sand, uncovered 200 years ago when the property was over-grazed.

Under their watch, Heestand said not to expect a return of high camp and live camels. (From a 2008 WWW: “Years ago Sarah (the camel) got mean and had to go live in a zoo. These days, well, there’s just nowhere to rent a camel short term. You try.”)

“People love kitsch, and we don’t want to remove all the kitsch, but really we would like to build up the educational component of the place,” Heestand said.

Doug owns a busy IT company. Heestand described herself as a former academic. She’ll spend most of her hours running the attraction.

Plans call to restore the historic 1783 barn on the site, turning it into a performance and gallery space.

The Desert of Maine, which appears in must-see strange attraction lists such as Roadside America, will still offer camping, gemstone hunts and sand-art projects.

Once it opens for the summer season in May, they also plan to waive admission for Freeport residents.

“I’ve talked to so many people who live here who say to me, ‘Oh! The Desert of Maine, I’ve never been there,’” Heestand said. She hopes people “enjoy the outdoors, come learn about Freeport, about the geology of this place. Just come steep yourself in the beauty of it.”

When one mustachioed door closes …

The American Mustache Institute sent out a news release in November announcing it would cease operations and facial hair advocacy because “the battle has been won. Mustache accomplished, friends.”

In 2012, thanks to the lobbying efforts of a handle-barred Farmington chiropractor, Portland was in the running to host the institute’s national annual ‘Stache Bash, part reason to show off amazing facial art, party and bestow awards on the likes of Burt Reynolds and Robert Goulet, and part fundraiser.

But never fear, Maine.

While the American Mustache Institute is gone, the Stache Pag is back.

After taking 2018 off, the 11th annual Stache Pag will return to the Portland House of Music on March 30, 2019.

“We took last year off to regroup and bring in a new energy to our team,” a pageant spokesperson said via Facebook. “The sequence of the event will be similar as past years. On average 10-18 participants enter, so there will plenty of entertainment.”

The event’s talent portion will include Facial Hair-aoke and the Stache Pag Kung Fu Challenge. Past categories include the The Burgundy (best natural mustache, no beard) and the 1899 Maine Legislature (best styled mustache, no beard.)

Ready, set, grow.

Don’t look up …

The man told Nomar Slevik that in 2001 when he was 17 and walking home after work on Washington Street in Camden, he heard a squeak like a mouse too loud to actually be a mouse.

“As he’s looking at the ground, he sees this large shadow go by, and it’s the shadow of something that’s above him,” Slevik said. “He looks up and sees this odd humanoid figure with this huge wingspan fly over him and it’s making that sound.”

The man estimated the figure at 4 feet tall and claimed its large translucent wings measured from one eave to another on a nearby house.

“I went down there last June and he gave me the address of the apartment building,” Slevik said. “From one eave to the other measures 25 feet in length; that’s like the size of a Cessna, that’s crazy.”

And otherworldly enough to make it into his new book.

Slevik, a 41-year-old Bangor author, included the story in “Otherworldly Encounters: Evidence of UFO Sightings and Abductions,” published in July by Llewellyn Publications.

It’s a follow-up to his 2014 book, “UFOs over Maine.”

Still Maine-based, the new stories include aliens, “dog men, Men in Black, some paranormal hauntings, that’s what makes it a little bit different,” he said. “The majority is stuff that’s never been published before.”

The Men in Black sighting came from Union in the early 1980s, after an 8-year-old girl noticed a fresh crop circle in her father’s field.

“She showed it to him and he was actually pretty distressed about it and immediately mowed the area,” Slevik said.

Not long after, while her parents were out on an errand, she watched a large black sedan drive up and two men in black suits emerge. They collected soil and grass samples and drove away.

Sometime after that, according to the now-grown woman, the abductions started.

Slevik said in his writing and research, he tries to evenly present what he’s learned or been told.

“Here’s the puzzle that I have, it’s missing a lot of pieces, but from what I have, you decide what you see,” he said.

In the Camden case, the man told Slevik that he had additional sightings over the next few years, one time even having something smack his windshield while he was driving around with a buddy.

“He described it as a blob of wet papier-mache,” Slevik said. “But then he saw the wings. The car comes to a stop. They’re just looking at each other like ‘WTF?’ The thing flutters, comes back to life and flies away.”

In the interest of research, Slevik parked in Camden woods for an overnight stakeout and saw … something.

What?

You’ll have to grab the book.

In the meantime, catch the new 32-minute “Abducted: New England” documentary by Slevik and “Monsters Underground” by Bill Brock on Amazon Prime. They were featured in WWW back in February when they were still looking for stories and are out now.

Weird, Wicked Weird is a monthly feature on the strange, intriguing and unexplained in Maine. Send photos and ideas to [email protected]

The Heestand family of Freeport, who moved to Maine from Massachusetts last year, bought the roadside attraction the Desert of Maine this week, hoping to up the educational aspects and attract more visitors to enjoy the outdoors. (Photo courtesy of the Heestand family)

Bangor author Nomar Slevik’s new book, “Otherworldly Encounters.” (Submitted photo)

The Desert of Maine in Freeport as seen in the summer. The new owners said this week to expect less kitsch, more learning opportunities. (The Forecaster file photo)


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