Updated: Apr 25, 2022
By Earl Brechlin
Like much of Puritan New England, Maine has always held a fascination with the devil. There was no better way to ward off interlopers or display disdain than to black mark someplace with devil in the name or invoke the prospect of hell. From rock formations along Maine’s southern coast, to chasms in the deepest woods, any place that was dark, geologically unique, or out of the ordinary became linked to the hand of Satan. Some tales involving encounters with Lucifer took on a true unique Maine flair. While fire and brimstone figure in many of the stories, so does the cold. One legend from the Milo area tells of the devil leaving snowshoe tracks in the rocks.
Hell’s Half Acre, Bangor Located between Front and Broad streets, near where they intersect with Union Street, Hell’s Half Acre was, according to Bangor Daily News writer Wayne Reilly, “a place where loggers, sailors and other workingmen gathered to spend their cash on whiskey and women. Many of these men were transients, often immigrants, who traveled with jobs and the seasons.” Although Maine adopted prohibition early, liquor flowed freely in the saloons and brothels there where fights and other acts of violence occurred often. Devil’s Ovens, Bar Harbor Located on a rocky shore that is inaccessible at high tide, the caves and natural bridge in Salsbury Cove in Bar Harbor were once thought to be an entrance to the underworld. In an imaginative stroke of geo- graphic irony, one cave was later renamed Cathedral Rock. Located on private property but accessible by sea at low tide.
Devil’s Pulpit, York Not to be outdone by other towns whose promotional efforts went to “hell,” the Ogunquit/York area sported more than one unholy natural attraction. They include York’s Devil’s Pulpit, a unique rock “throne” along the shore near Bald Head Cliff, as well as Devil’s Kitchen, a deep notch in the ocean-side rocks along Marginal Way, Ogunquit’s 1.25-mile shore walkway. Hell’s Gate, Bath Steamboat captains feared plying the narrow channel of the Sasanoa River, known for its sharp rocks, and fierce currents. This tidal passage that connects the Kennebec River with the Sheepscot, undoubtedly felt like they were in navigation hell. Blasting done by the US Army Corps of Engineers in the early 1900s significantly reduced the risk.
Devil’s Den, Andover Located along on Black Brook, just off Devil’s Den Road, the scenic cascades, dark, cool canyons, and overhang caves are best explored during warmer weather. The site even has its own Facebook page. Hell Before Breakfast Cove, Sysladobsis Lake Long lost off official maps, this bay in Sysladobsis Lake was reportedly named for the famous last words of one Sam Hill who, while swimming out fully clothed to retrieve a loose barge filled with bark for the local tannery, yelled back to shore “I’ll fetch back that boat or go to hell before breakfast.” He disappeared under the waves after observers said a mysterious dark shadow, rose from beneath the water. Devil’s Snowshoe Track, Milo Storytellers share that Satan and his dog were fleeing Milo on a cold winter’s night and left their tracks while trekking over a hillside ledge. The Devil supposedly sought shelter by blasting a cave with one fiery breath. Purportedly workers building a local dam on the nearby Sebec River around 1906 discovered similar tracks heading toward the cave.
Read more of Maine's wacky history in Wild! Weird! Wonderful! Maine. by Earl Brechlin, a long-time Maine journalist. Earl has written several other nonfiction books, including hiking guides and Forever Yours, Bar Harbor, and Forever Yours, Boston. Brechlin now works as communications director for Friends of Acadia, and is a registered Maine Guide, a model railroad enthusiast, and sometimes attends comic book conventions to tout his Ancient Alien Expert business, offering interested parties potential degrees in Ancient Astronaut Theory, Cryptozoology, Zombie Survival, and Middle Earth History.