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Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town

Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town

by Elyssa East


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The area known as Dogtown—an isolated colonial ruin and surrounding 3,000-acre woodland in seaside Gloucester, Massachusetts—has long exerted a powerful influence over artists, writers, eccentrics, and nature lovers. But its history is also woven through with tales of witches, supernatural sightings, pirates, former slaves, drifters, and the many dogs Revolutionary War widows kept for protection and for which the area was named. In 1984, a brutal murder took place there: a mentally disturbed local outcast crushed the skull of a beloved schoolteacher as she walked in the woods. In this award-winning debut, Elyssa East evocatively interlaces the story of the grisly murder with the strange, dark history of this wilderness ghost town and explores the possibility that certain landscapes wield their own unique power. Winner of the 2010 L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award in nonfiction and named a Must-Read Book by the Massachusetts Book Awards, Dogtown takes readers into an unforgettable place brimming with tragedy, eccentricity, and fascinating lore, and examines the idea that some places can inspire both good and evil, poetry and murder.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416587057
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 10/12/2010
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Elyssa East received her B.A. in art history from Reed College and her M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. She has received awards and fellowships from The Corporation of Yaddo; the Ragdale, Jerome, and Ludwig Vogelstein Foundations; Columbia University; the University of Connecticut; and the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Elyssa’s book, Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town, interlaces murder, legend, and history in a Massachusetts ghost town. It was recently awarded the 2010 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award for the best work of non-fiction about New England. Dogtown was also named a “Must-Read Book” by the Massachusetts Book Awards and an Editors’ Choice selection from the New York Times Book Review.

Elyssa’s writing has also been published in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Dallas Morning News, The Kansas City Star, and other publications nationwide. A scene from her opera libretto, Mr. Hawthorne’s Engagement, was performed with American Opera Project’s Composers and the Voice series. Elyssa currently teaches in the undergraduate Creative Writing program at Purchase College, State University of New York.

Table of Contents

Prologue The Prophetic Pictures 1

Part 1

Chapter 1 The Birth of Tragedy 11

Chapter 2 Follow the Brush 21

Chapter 3 Cynomancy 33

Chapter 4 The Painter of Dogtown 38

Chapter 5 Le Beauport 45

Chapter 6 The Baron in the Trees 55

Chapter 7 Ghost Dog 64

Chapter 8 Rollicking Apparitions 69

Chapter 9 Taking Care of Its Own 75

Chapter 10 In the Time of Pirates 86

Chapter 11 The Green Man 93

Chapter 12 Dooming the Seats 99

Chapter 13 Shadow Hunting 106

Chapter 14 God's Burning Finger 112

Chapter 15 Confession 119

Chapter 16 In Gypsy Ways 129

Chapter 17 "Viva San Petro!" 139

Chapter 18 Life's Book 148

Chapter 19 Island Heart of Darkness 55

Part 2

Chapter 20 Maximus, to Dogtown 161

Chapter 21 The Masked Man in Yellow 171

Chapter 22 The Geography of Being 180

Chapter 23 Into the Deep Woods 193

Chapter 24 City Bred Tenderfoots 200

Chapter 25 "No Intention of Leaving This Courtroom Alive" 206

Chapter 26 Nature Working Her Magic Unmolested 213

Chapter 27 Confabulation 227

Chapter 28 Mountains in Stone 239

Epilogue 246

Author's Note 253

Appendix: Notes on the Term "Dogtown" 254

Notes 257

Acknowledgments 280

Index 283

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