March 12, 2008

Journey to Stage Tower

A view from the bottom.The whole point of the Weird UNE articles is to showcase local oddities and legends for UNE students as well as the Biddeford community to visit and enjoy. So naturally for our first story we wanted to do something memorable. But with all the rich history Maine has to offer, what would we choose?

Stage Tower. This ominous hunk of rock looms across the horizon just down the beach from our campus. Just about every student has had the pleasure of walking down Freddy beach only to turn the corner and see this gloomy faux lighthouse. As stated in the article, ever since our freshman year we've always wondered what exactly this hollow awkward structure is doing off the coast of Biddeford, Maine. When Ty suggested that we write our first article on the tower, the history nerd in me got excited.

If there is one thing you should know about me (if you already don't know) is that I love historical research. I mean, LOVE research. Immediately I drug Ty to the McArthur Library in Biddeford and quickly introduced him to archival research. It can be a tedious process at times, but thanks to the amazing help of the reference librarians our research took no time at all. While Ty charmed the librarians into e-mailing us some archived pictures of the tower (it's always good to have him around for that sort of thing), I got to browse through newspaper articles all the way from the 1930s! But of course I'm assuming that you're not interested in the research part of the story, you want to know about the tower itself.

On a brisk November afternoon Travis (our trusted photographer), Ty, and myself set off for the island. To get to Stage Island, it is quite simple. Stage Island is connected to an adjacent The beginning of the journey.island by a sandbar that magically appears when the tides goes down. You can simply walk across this sandbar to the first island (which has houses on it!) and then across to the tower. Theoretically you can make it to the island without having to set one foot into the ocean. Of course it wasn't this simple with Ty.

Let me explain one thing to you about Ty Gowen: it is always an adventure with him, regardless of wherever you go. Instead of taking the aforementioned route, Ty thought it was a good idea to walk directly to Stage Island from the beach. The only thing standing in our way was what we presumed to be a small, shallow pool of water. We were dead wrong.

By the time we got to the island the sun was beginning to set. The frigid waters didn't exactly put us in high spirits; soaked up to our knees and shivering, we pressed on. Instead of the beaches of the island being made of sand, it's covered with tiny broken shells and rocks; a most The boys taking a breather.discomforting walk if you ask me. The tower is at the opposite end of the island (how convenient) and is about a 5 minute walk regardless of which path you choose. I have to say that the oddest part of the island is that it's completely dense with trees/brush/growth/etc. yet there is always a clear path to and around the tower itself. No matter what time of year it is, you can always get to the tower.

People always tend to exaggerate when it comes to visiting [potentially] haunted places. They always talk about how eerie and quiet the site is, how cold they were, or how the animals got spooked. Well, let me tell you that I was soaking wet, therefore already freezing; the only animals around were the bats that inhabit the inside of the tower, and were spooked by our loud entrance and flash photography; the only odd feeling I got was from being inside the tower and having to smell the overpowering stench of bat guano. I don't mean to sound condescending and dismiss the overall creepiness of the tower (because trust me, it is creepy) but this time around, the only bad feeling I had was that feeling of sneaking onto your neighbor's lawn to retrieve a lost frisbee. Oh and the bats, I'm not a fan of flying things screeching at me in the dark.

I'd have to say the coolest part of the journey was the little tupperware container weSign-in sheet and container. found in the tower. When Ty and I visited the island last spring, the only thing in the tower was a big hole in the dirt. Well, the hole's still there, but now there's a container with a sign-in sheet and a rule that you need to leave something in the container everytime you visit. Of course we would have signed in if someone had been smart enough to leave a pen. But we did leave a little something in the container, which was oddly enough filled with a lot of lobster things; mostly keychains. I'm assuming that the majority of the people that visit Stage Tower are kayakers on the Saco who can get to the island far easier than those on foot.

Thankfully we made it to the main land before the tide came back in. Stage Tower is definitely worth a visit, especially in the spring time when it doesn't matter if you get your feet wet. One word of caution though, make sure you wear longer pants. The person on the sign-in sheet was right, the tower is surrounded by pucker bushes... and they really do hurt.

- M


Anonymous said...

What is the history of the Stage Tower? I walked out there once via Basket Island (the one with houses). I waited till absolute low tide and had my dad's rubber shoes on. When I got to the island, I felt I was invading the birds sanctuary. They were everywhere, especially at the tower. I went out there and I'm in no hurry to go back.

Ty and Mandy said...

In the December issue of UNE's Nor'easter News Ty and I did an article about the Tower. Basically it goes like this:

The tower was built in 1825 by the US government because they wanted a plain stone land-marker for sailors. There is a light house further down the coast, so I'm assuming that this tower was meant simply as a means of marking off the low tide. One of the contractors and a few workers died during the construction due to the tower collapsing. It is said that the tower is haunted, but I think that it just gives off creepy vibes of its own, regardless if somebody died there or not.