Have You Heard of the Smuttynose Island Axe Murders in Maine?
Many people know of the Isles of Shoals, a collection of islands off the coast of Maine and New Hampshire that are a popular destination during the summer months.
Guests can travel aboard the Thomas Laighton out to Star Island, get off the boat and explore the area, or even spend the night at the Oceanic Hotel.
Smuttynose Island is located northeast of Star Island, and many would be surprised to hear that it actually has a very dark history.
Back in 1873, this location was where two women named Karen and Anethe Christiansen met their untimely end.
According to Smuttynosemurders.com, Norwegian fisherman John Hontvet and his wife Maren moved to Smuttynose Island in the late 1860s-early 1870s. In 1872, they met 28-year-old Louis Wagner, a Prussian fisherman whom they took in.
NewEngland.com explains how other family members then joined the group on the Island, including Maren's sister Karen Christensen, their brother Ivan, and his wife Anethe. Louis ended up leaving Smuttynose, and became "destitute" by 1873.
On the fateful night on March 5th, 1873, an impoverished Louis journeyed back to Smuttynose with the intent of robbing the Hontvet's home, according to Smuttynosemurders.com. He had heard that the men of the Island would be out later than usual, and that Maren, Karen, and Anethe would be home alone.
NewEngland.com explains that after successfully reaching the Island, Louis broke into the Hontvet's house some time after 10 PM. However, his movements woke up Karen.
It was then that all hell broke loose.
Knowing that he'd been spotted, a panicked Louis beat Karen with a nearby chair according to the article. Maren, now awakened, managed to drag her sister into her and Anethe's room and barricade the door. Anethe tried to escape by climbing out a window, but encountered and recognized Louis, who had by that point left the house.
Louis then reached for a nearby axe, striking Anethe in the head with it and killing her. Maren witnessed the brutal scene from the window, according to NewEngland.com.
Maren knew that she and her sister Karen had to escape, but the latter was still too dazed from being hit. The article describes how Maren's survival instincts took over upon hearing Louis re-enter the house. She wound up escaping through a window, bolting, and hiding on another part of the island.
Karen was unfortunately unable to recover in time, and met a similar fate as Anethe.
Smuttynosemurders.com says that Louis searched for Maren all over the Island, but was unable to find her. After going back to the Hontvet home and taking some money, he left Smuttynose. The lone woman would be the sole survivor and witness of the attack.
At the time of their deaths, Karen and Anethe were 35 and 25 years of age, according to the site.
In the aftermath of the murders, Maren gave this testimony about the horrific events of that night. Louis would end up being imprisoned, found guilty after a nine-day trial, and hanged on June 25, 1875 according to NewEngland.com.
This Foster's Daily Democrat article reveals that the supposed murder weapon can be found today in the "Cabinet of Curiosities" at the Portsmouth Athenaeum.
You can learn more about this tragic story in this 2014 book by J. Dennis Robinson and this very in-depth account by NewEngland.com.
Did you know that the infamous pirate Blackbeard is also connected to the Isles of Shoals? Here's more information about him and these other historical figures with ties to the New Hampshire area.