The first clue that something was terribly wrong came when Floyd Ray noticed something floating in the water near his home on Taylor Pond on a Sunday evening in June 1940.

He quickly discovered the body of a fully clothed woman bobbing beside the brick and cement wall along the shore of his property. She wore a brown sweater over a house dress, with three rings on her fingers.

Police told the Lewiston Daily Sun they didn’t know who she was. They planned to check all the cottages surrounding the Auburn pond to see if anyone could provide insight into who she was and what might have happened.

It didn’t take long before authorities realized they faced a major disaster.

Alma Bouley Lewiston Daily Sun

Allen Wheeler and his son Francis told police they heard cries for help out on the pond about 9:20 p.m. on Saturday, June 8, 1940. They headed out in a boat to offer assistance, they said, but found nothing in their search.

More worrisome, Adrienne Croteau, who lived on the west shore of the pond, said that five people, including her husband and 7-year-old daughter, had gone out in a motorboat after dark on Saturday night. She said she watched the boat as it headed toward Sandy Beach until it was about halfway across, then lost sight of it.


That was the last time anyone saw the boat or its occupants alive.

It’s not clear why it took almost a full day before the body’s discovery led to a scramble to figure out what had happened. But it appears that Croteau didn’t realize they’d gone missing.

Four others were missing: Croteau’s husband, Donat, and her daughter, Monette; Louis Fortin; and Joseph Landry. All of them lived in Lewiston or Auburn. Monette, 7, had begged to go with the group.

Monette Croteau Lewiston Evening Journal

The Croteaus and Landry owned cottages on the west shore of the pond, not far from Ray’s home.

Croteau said they’d gone out in a steel boat to bring Fortin to his cottage on the other side of the pond. She said she didn’t worry about them not returning because “they often went away like that.”

Police didn’t realize they were dealing with so many missing until Landry and Fortin failed to show up for work on Monday morning. Landry worked as a salesman at Auburn Motor Sales while Fortin worked for Lown Shoe Co.


The only clue that police discovered from their searching on Monday was a single oar found in a bog on the north side of the pond.

Despite a dozen boats brought in to assist with the search and an airplane flying overhead trying to spot the wreck, nothing else turned up for a week, when authorities found the missing boat and most of the bodies. Some boys playing at a beach discovered Monette’s body in the water.

The bottom line is that nobody ever figured out what went wrong that night on the pond.

Everything was fine and then, out of view and beyond help, it very much was not.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: