September 15, 2013

Places Named After the Devil In Northern New England

A while ago I was looking through Loren Coleman's Mysterious America, and noticed that Appendix V lists places named after the Devil. He mentions a couple in New England, but I knew there were more out there. I thought, Wouldn't a list of devil-named places make a good blog post?

I was wrong.

I simply underestimated how many geographic features are named after the Evil One in this part of the country. There are a lot, so it's going to be two blog posts. This week I'm just listing those devilish places in northern New England, with my commentary at the bottom. Next week I'll write about southern New England.

And please note, this list only includes sites or locations with the word "Devil" in them. I left out all the places named after Hell, Purgatory, or Satan. I had to rein in this evil list somehow! Otherwise people would think our region is just a hissing cauldron of demonic activity.


Devil's Back Trail, Harpswell
Devil's Back, Louds Island
Devil's Bog, Skowhegan
Devil's Bog Brook, Skowhegan
Devil's Chair Trail, Waterville
Devil's Den, Andover
Devils Den, Sanford
Devil's Elbow, Bristol
Devil's Elbow, Penobscot County
Devil's Footprint Rock, Manchester
Devil's Half Acre, a former neighborhood in Bangor
Devil's Half Acre, Bar Harbor
Devil's Head, Calais
Devil's Head, Hartland
Devil's Head, John's Island
Devil's Head, St. Albans
Devil's Horseshoe, Bear
Devil's Horseshoe, Grafton
Devil's Island, Jonesport
Devil's Island, Stonington
Devil's Limb, Bristol
Devil's Snowshoe Track, Milo
Devil's Wall, a mountain peak near Mattawamkeag Lake

The Devil's Bean Pot, Mont Vernon, New Hampshire. From Wikipedia.

New Hampshire:

Devil's Bean Pot, Mont Vernon
Devil's Den, Alton
Devil's Den, Mont Vernon
Devil's Den, New Durham
Devil's Footprint, Mont Vernon
Devil's Hopyard, Groveton
Devil's Slide, Stark


Devil's Den, Bradford
Devil's Dishpan, Stevensville
Devil's Gulch, Eden
Devil's Gorge, Clarendon

Devil's Hill, Peacham
Devil's Perch Outlook, Eden
Devil's Potholes, Bolton
Devil's Rock, Lake Willoughby, Westmore
Devil's Washbowl, Northfield

Path to the Devil's Den, New Durham, New Hampshire. From Wikipedia.

First of all, Maine is the clear winner for devilish names. The Maine tourism bureau markets the state as Vacation Land, but clearly something else is hiding just under the state's placid, pine-forested surface. I always thought Steven King was writing fiction, but maybe not.

My favorite name in Maine is the Devil's Snowshoe Track, an imprint on a rock in the town of Milo. According to a local legend, the Devil and his dog were hanging around in Milo one winter. I suppose they were there to cause trouble and steal souls. Luckily, a extreme cold spell set in. Being used to warmer temperatures, the Devil hightailed it out of town to find someplace warmer, imprinting a rock with his snowshoe on the way out. Before leaving town he also blasted out a cave called Satan's Cave, thinking it would keep him warm, but it didn't work.

Did he strap the snowshoes to cloven hooves, or to human-like feet? This is probably one of the most troubling theological questions of our time. Horseshoe shaped marks, suggesting Satan indeed has hooves, are found in Bear and Grafton, Maine, but a cursed rock in Manchester, Maine that bears his footprint quite clearly shows five toes. The human-shaped footprint he left in Mont Vernon is seven feet long!

What do the names tell us about the Devil's activities? Other than lurking about in multiple dens, the Evil One seems interested in the domestic arts, since a washbowl, a dishpan, and a bean pot are all named after him. But even cooking takes an evil turn when the Devil's at the stove. According to Charles J. Smith's History of the Town of Mont Vernon (1907), the Devil disguised himself and invited the local church elders to a bean supper in the woods. Beans take a long time to cook, particularly when you're heating them in a stoney depression, so he summoned a little hellfire to cook them faster. Unfortunately for the Devil, but luckily for the elders, the heat melted the rock around his feet. As he pulled out his foot he swore like the fallen angel he truly is, and the elders fled back home. Both the bean pot and footprint can still be seen today.

I'm not sure how much washing the Devil did (or does) in the Devil's Washbowl in Northfield, Vermont, but it is associated with the mysterious Pigman who lurks around that town, who has probably not bathed in years.  

There is a theory floating around that places named after the Devil were gathering spots for Native Americans. The local Indians were the Puritans' enemies, so their Puritans named the Indian gathering places after God's enemy. In reality, the Indians were no more evil than the Puritans themselves.

Some legends say that the Devil's Den, a cave in Alton, New Hampshire was indeed used as a lookout by the local Indians, but others say it was used by bootleggers and smugglers to hide their contraband. A similar story is told about the Devil's Den in Bradford, Vermont. Oh, that delicious but devilish liquor.

Next week, I'll unearth the devilish places in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut!


Anonymous said...

No Devil's Haircut, eh?

The Fairytale Traveler said...

How in the heck did you find all of these?? lol This was a fun read :-)

Peter Muise said...

Christa, I found most of this on the web.The government actually has a geographic name locator which is a lot of fun.

Anonymous said...

These are great lists, wow! Are you visiting them all?

Peter Muise said...

I would love to visit them all. Maybe someday when I'm retired?

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