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Mass. author explores North Shore legends and lore

July 20, 2014

NEWBURYPORT, Mass. (AP) — Salem wasn’t the only place with witches.

In Peter Muise’s “Legends and Lore of the North Shore,” which was scheduled to be published last Tuesday, the author discusses witches in Newburyport, Lynn and other places in Essex County.

“I also talk about the trial of a Christian Science practitioner, who was trained by Mary Baker Eddy,” said Muise, who grew up in Haverhill and lives in Boston. “Somebody accused him of witchcraft in the 1800s.”

Muise has always loved myths and folklore. He studied anthropology at Bates College and Brandeis University.

“When I was studying anthropology, you study these stories from all over the world,” he said. “But once I was working, I realized I didn’t know as much about the place I’ve lived all my life.”

Muise has been blogging about legends and lore from around New England since 2008, but most of the material in his book is new.

“It gave me an excuse to focus on one area,” he said. “We decided on the North Shore because it has such a rich history.”

In addition to discussing witches, the book has chapters on Native Americans, pirates and buried treasure, eccentric people, strange places, and monsters on the North Shore.

The eccentrics include John Hammond, who built Hammond Castle in Gloucester.

“It has some bizarre features,” Muise said. “He built a Faraday cage, a large metal box like a refrigerator, which is supposed to reduce interference from electronic communications, with electric waves.

“He used it for mediums, so they could communicate with the dead.”

The strange places visited in the book include Witch Rock in Danvers, which is covered with occult symbols and was discovered by archaeologists in the 1980s.

“They analyzed the paint the symbols are done in, and it’s not modern,” Muise said.

The monsters include a mermaid who supposedly jumped into a boat off Gloucester, and Bigfoot, who someone claimed to have seen on Plum Island.

“The sociologist Max Weber talked about ‘the disenchantment of the world,’” Muise said. “The world is not disenchanted. There’s still lots of interesting things to learn about, whether they are true or not.”

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