BOSTON — New Englanders fired up the weirdness machine again in 2019, and it cranked out oddities pretty much nonstop.

There was a giant spinning ice disk in Maine, a naked firefighter in Rhode Island, and twin mysteries in Massachusetts and Vermont, where people reported that intruders had entered their homes — only to vacuum and scrub them clean.

A sampling of some of the region’s stranger stories from the past 12 months:


A slowly rotating ice disk the width of a football field formed in the Presumpscot River in Westbrook, Maine, outside Portland, mesmerizing crowds and entertaining ducks who, one observer said, were rotating on the big Lazy Susan. The alien-like disk spun slowly counter-clockwise for days, grinding to a halt only after an attention-seeker from New Jersey tried to hack a giant peace sign on it with a hatchet.


No wonder this hound wasn’t hungry. A family in Wellesley, Massachusetts, brought its 3-year-old bulldog, Mortimer, to a Boston veterinary hospital after he suddenly stopped eating. An X-ray revealed why: His stomach was packed with 19 baby pacifiers he had apparently taken from his owners’ two children. The pooch made a full recovery after the binkies were removed using a medical scope that didn’t require surgery.


A veteran firefighter who police say walked naked into a Rhode Island convenience store on a dare retired early after being placed on leave. Authorities in Middletown charged 60-year-old John Walsh, of Lynnfield, Massachusetts, with disorderly conduct after he shed his clothing and wore nothing but a “smile on his face” as he purchased a soda at a 7-Eleven. A woman passenger in his car told police she dared him to enter the store nude because he said it was legal in the Ocean State.


These were clean capers — or maybe just cases of mistaken identity. In mid-May, Nate Roman, of Marlborough, Massachusetts, came home from work and knew instantly someone had been inside. Nothing was taken, but the house was spotless: beds made, rugs vacuumed, toilets scrubbed — even origami roses crafted on the toilet paper rolls. Police think a housekeeping service may have come to his house by mistake. Roman called the experience “weird and creepy.”

Three weeks later, a Vermont man came home to find a strange woman cleaning his house.

Then, in June, a Cape Elizabeth resident returned home to notice similar cleanliness and fresh sheets and laundry. In that case, a cleaning company representative stopped by to explain they had cleaned the wrong house.


Imagine being reunited with your wedding ring after losing it on a snowy mountaintop. That unlikely outcome happened to Bill Giguere, who lost the gold band on a snow-covered trail up 4,000-foot Mount Hancock in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. He put out a plea for help, and fellow hikers Tom Gately and Brendan Cheever managed to locate the ring in the snow with a metal detector. “It beeped and he’s, like, ‘I think I found it,’ and everybody’s like, ‘What?’” Cheever told WMUR-TV.


This was no ordinary distressed driver call. Police and bystanders in East Windsor, Connecticut, teamed up on Independence Day to remove a 6-foot-long boa constrictor that had wrapped itself around the engine block of a car. Police wrote in Facebook post that it “was not exactly the call” they were expecting on a holiday. Later, they said: “This may surprise you but we, the police, are not normally in the business of wrangling snakes.” The snake, which authorities think was an escaped pet, was brought to a nature center.


Whitetail deer and whitecaps don’t usually mix, so a Maine lobsterman was astonished to find a young buck drifting five miles out to sea. Ren Dorr and his crew managed to rescue the 100-pound deer, which had given up swimming. Dorr was a little worried that sharing the cramped deck of a lobster boat with a wild animal would be tricky, but the deer was so exhausted, “he laid right down like a dog.” The buck was set free on shore. Dorr said the deer would have been “a goner” if the lobstermen hadn’t intervened.


Apparently trying to guess when the ice will melt is such a thing in northern Vermont, some people even place bets on it. In West Danville, locals bought tickets for a $5,000 jackpot to see who could predict when a cinder block would fall through pond ice. Organizers say the annual Joe’s Pond Ice Out Contest began in the 1980s as a response to cabin fever. In Newport, near the border with Canada, there’s a similar contest with a twist. Residents bet on when “Vanilla Ice,” a large plywood cutout of a bottle of vanilla extract, will drop into Lake Memphremagog.

Press Herald staff contributed to this report.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. 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.