Saco River, Maine


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The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
The Curse of the Saco River
By Patrick Rafferty

The Saco river begins in the mountains of New Hampshire and winds it's way
through southern Maine to the Atlantic ocean.

It is a rough and dangerous river which has taken the lives of many who
chose to risk it. Every year the news media reports the crashing of boats on
the rocks or kids braving the ice chunks. The mouth of the river is a place
called Camp Ellis. Just a few weeks ago during a major storm a few houses
collapsed as Camp Ellis with the help of the river, is slowly eroding away
into the ocean.

I once went on a fishing trip with my father. We went to a popular fishing
spot at a place called the Skeleton Dam. The water was deep there, so it was
the perfect spot for catching trout. There were a few people there that day,
including an old man who my father just happened to know from his own
childhood. They talked for a little while.

He, at one point, turned to me and said, “You know this river is cursed don’t
you?” Of course I didn’t, but I was sure about to find out. As it turns out,
there is an old legend in southern Maine regarding the early English settlers
and the Saco River.

The story goes like this: Back in the summer of 1675, a group of drunken
sailors, anchored off the coast of what is now southern Maine came across a
young Native American mother in a canoe with her child.

There had been tales circulating around that an Indian baby could swim from
birth, so the sailors decided to put this to the test. They captured the canoe,
took the baby from the mother and threw him right into the water, where he

When the mother returned to her tribe, she spoke with the chief who
instructed the medicine man to place a curse upon the river. The curse was
said to go like this: "Three or more white man shall die in this river every

This wouldn’t be the last time I heard of the curse of the Saco River. While
telling my grandmother the story, she dug out a box of 45 rpm records. There
was a song about it, that she had, called the
Curse of the Saco River. The song
was sung by a local woman, although I do not remember who.

So far, to my knowledge, this number (3 deaths of white men per year) has
held true. There are also various stories about the curse of the Saco River on
the web. A Google search will turn some of them up. But I can testify that if
you live in southern Maine, you are bound to see news stories every year of
people drowning in the Saco River. Perhaps it’s just the nature of the beast.
Perhaps it’s due to the carelessness of those who brave the waters.

Then again, maybe there is something to this curse after all.

About the author: Patrick Rafferty is otherwise known as the Blogmaster of the site of Wacky Weirdness, Mischievous Magical Mayhem, and
Modern Madness.
Photo copyright Rob Stegmann,
©The Heart of New England online magazine
...celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont!
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