Mencken supposedly once quipped, "No one ever went broke
underestimating the intelligence of the American people." Tim Sample
notes in Maine Curiosities that the ability to tell the folks back
home that, while on vacation in Maine, you stopped to visit a "nut
house" has got to be right up there with flatulence jokes in terms of
timeless appeal. He’s speaking, of course, of Perry’s Tropical Nut House
on Route 1 in Belfast, Maine.
Perry’s Nut House is just one of hundreds of offbeat and sometimes
downright weird stuff that Sample and co-author Steve Bither bring to light in
their new book, Maine Curiosities.
Take the Belt Sander Races in Bath. Now let’s get real. Sample says that
the reason this exciting new sport would just naturally have to have been
created in Maine is the state’s really long winter when there just isn’t a
whole lot "goin’" on. And then there’s the Desert of Maine, the
Down East Museum of Natural History, The Wilhelm Reich Museum or the House
that Orgasms Built, and Lenny the 2000-pound Chocolate Moose. The authors also
point out such oddities as a large pink dinosaur named "Floyd."
Many people probably think the fad of wearing jeans slung low on the butt
belongs to mall rats and rap artists. No so, say the authors. Mainers have
been on the "dropping edge" of haute couture for years. It seems
Maine clam diggers had perfected the technique of butt exposure long before
today’s teens. They even have a name for it–"flashin’ the Deer Isle
Creating truly memorable roadside attractions outrageous enough to induce
the road-weary driver to pull over and visit seems to be something Mainers are
really good at. And there’s more to be seen than slicker-clad seamen and
oversized arachnids. Unsuspecting motorists cruising along Route 1 east of
Ellsworth in Hancock are usually surprised to see a huge red lobster making
its way toward an old-fashioned open-air lobster cooker. "Wilbur the
Lobster, " as he’s known, looks as if "he’s heading for a soak
in the hot tub after pumping iron at the Arachnid Gym."
Then there’s the big Indian of Freeport. This gargantuan statue has been
around since the 1950s when it was built to advertise the Casco Bay Trading
Post, which sold moccasins Indian belts, and decoys, among other souvenir
paraphernalia. These larger-than-life advertising symbols from the days of
Brylcreme and doo-wop are all that remain from before Maine outlawed such
This book is hilarious–and even more so since I’ve actually visited
many of these sights. And until I read this book I didn’t know that earmuffs
were invented in Maine. Maybe it’s time for me to get a life!