American novelist Saul Bellow (1915-2005) once so profoundly wrote: “There are evils … that have the ability to survive identification and go on forever …” And the Wendigo is truly one of those evils.

“Wendigo” is Stockholm, Maine, author Vaughn Hardacker’s excellent third novel, a chilling supernatural thriller to be read at night, indoors, with all the lights on and the doors and windows locked.

It’s a bitterly cold January in Maine’s northernmost woods, and Maine Game Warden investigator John Bear is frightened. His Maliseet Indian heritage tells him that the eviscerated body of a dead snowmobiler is the grisly work of a Wendigo, an Algonquin evil spirit in humanoid form; a creature stinking of decay whose unnatural appetite for human flesh cannot be satisfied. The Wendigo hunts at night, feasting on the solo and unwary, he is “human, yet not human.”

Even John thought his grandfather’s stories of the Wendigo were just superstitious baloney to scare children. But after seeing the dead body and the Wendigo’s gigantic tracks in the snow, he is convinced. But nobody else believes him; they scoff, saying the killer is just another backwoods psycho.

The Wendigo’s appetite is insatiable — the more he eats, the hungrier he gets, driving him to feed constantly, even hiding body parts for future dining. When more human remains are discovered, John and other officers try to track the Wendigo, not realizing they are the prey, not the predators.

The Wendigo can recruit a human disciple, exposing a family clan to unspeakable horror before John can intervene. This is a scary tale of legend and myth, with the grim realities of a high body count, graphic violence and a game warden facing his greatest fear. Remember all those hikers who disappear in the Maine woods each year? Guess what?

 

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Maine’s lighthouse stations have always served mariners well, attracted tourists and provided fascinating local history. And perhaps few are as interesting as the light station on Isle au Haut.

“The Lighthouse & Me” is lighthouse historian and former innkeeper Jeff Burke’s delightful history of Isle au Haut, its iconic light station and his 26 years operating the island’s bed-and-breakfast inn, “The Keeper’s House Inn.”

Burke is an excellent storyteller — funny and colorful, honest and perceptive.

Isle au Haut sits offshore in the Atlantic, south of Stonington, east of Vinalhaven and has a year-round population of just a few hundred souls. Burke tells of its early Penobscot inhabitants, the first permanent European settler in 1792 and the eventual creation of the light station in 1907 (the only 20th-century light built in Maine). He covers the island’s geology, three-century history and island life without electricity, running water or telephones until late in the 20th century.

Best, however, are his descriptions of the light station’s construction on solid granite bedrock, incorporating unique construction features like double thick brick walls inside, a mechanical fog bell and “balloon” framing in the keeper’s house. He also tells of the light station’s two keepers: Frank Holbrook (1907-1922) and Harry Smith and his 10 kids (1922-1933).

Burke tells tales of pirates, shipwrecks, the gruesome murder of a customs officer in 1808, the curious sighting of a sea serpent, rum-runners, German U-boats, Nazi spies and ghost stories, of course. Learn about the island’s two-year “civil war” over who owns the lighthouse, and about the site of “Morris’s Mistake.”

For more interesting reading about lighthouses, see “Lighthouses Of Maine” by Bill Caldwell (Down East Books, 1986).

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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