Sunday, August 9, 2009

Book Review: Mysteries and Legends of Montana, by Edward Lawrence



Mysteries and Legends of Montana: True Stories of the Unsolved and Unexplained by Edward Lawrence. Guilford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 2007. TwoDot; 1st edition (June 1, 2007). 144 pages. $12.95.

A selection of teaser mysteries from Montana's past, some relating to true crime, others to paranormal or cryptozoological events, and some plain old "history's mysteries." Probably the most diverse sampler of all the books out on Montana so far. Mr. Lawrence is not "a believer" in such things, but he tells the stories in a spirit of fun. The chapters include:

1. "What Happened to Meriwether's Boat?": Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, buried the iron frame of an experimental boat somewhere on the Missouri River in Montana in 1805; researchers are still trying to locate it.

2. "A Mummy and the Little People": Several mummies (desiccated remains) of humanoids (most scientists have accounted them deformed infants or fetuses) have been discovered in caves in Wyoming and Montana. Many tribes have legends about the "Little People." This entry, with a photo of one of the mummies, summarizes the stories.

3. "Did Governor Meagher Go Swimming? Or Was He Drowned?": The story of Thomas Francis Meagher, who is believed to have drowned in the Missouri River near Fort Benton in 1867, either pushed in or as a result of an accident/murder/suicide. [Interesting sidenote, not in this book: This is a big mystery for many in Montana. However, in the summer of 2007, when I was taking a tour on the Last Chance Tour Train in Helena (where I live), the tour guide said that a year or two ago, some tourists from Ireland came up to him and said that Meagher had faked his own death, absconded with a large loan from the federal government, and fled to Ireland where the money was used to fund the IRA (Irish Republican Army)!]

4. "Was Frank Little Murdered by a Cop?": The mystery of a 1917 murder of a workers' union organizer in Butte by a cop and the anti-union forces there, and the subsequent murder of the cop.

5. "Is the Mystery of the Easton Murder Solved?": The 1963 murder of the Eastons, an elderly couple who ran The Paradise Lodge north of Kalispell, and the later murder of the probable perpetrator Pendleton.

6. "Was Sheriff Henry Plummer a Highway Robber?": The apparent double life of Henry Plummer as a lawman hung as a highwayman by the Montana Vigilantes in 1864.

7. "Is There a Connection Between UFOs and Cattle Mutilations?": Summary of the 1975 cattle mutilation cases of Cascade County (near Great Falls) and a possible link to UFOs/mysterious helicopters; additional material on other Montana UFO sightings in the early 1950s (notably the famous "Montana Film") and other incidents up through 2001.

8. "If Bigfoot Exists, He Needs a Shower...": A look at some of the sightings of Bigfoot in Montana, from the 1974-76 events associated with cattle mutilations and UFO sightings mentioned in the previous chapter, to more recent sightings in the 90s and 2006.

9. "Who Named the Crazy Mountains?": Some of the different stories about how the Crazy Mountains down by Livingston got their name, from the Crow Indians to the story of the "crazy lady" later portrayed in the movie "Jeremiah Johnson."

10. "Meet Flessie, the Monster of Flathead Lake": First sighted in 1871, this lake monster (or mysterious objects thought to have been the monster) has been seen many times since then --over 80 times.

11. "There Are Ghosts in the Butte Archives, Aren't There?": Accounts of ghosts and hauntings in Montana, with mentions of Ellen Baumler's books, Tortured Souls Investigations in Missoula and at the old state prison in Deer Lodge, the Butte-Silver Bow Archives (once a fire station), Lucille's house and Bonanza Inn/House in Virginia City, the Crowne Plaza Hotel (old Sheraton) in Billings, Chico Hot Springs, Bannack, and the Little Cowboy Bar in Fromberg.

Epilogue. "A Shaggy Dog Story Produces a Mystery": The story of Shep, the legendary faithful dog of Fort Benton who waited at a rail station every day for 6 years for his master who would never return; the master had died and shipped off on the train. Shep died waiting for him, and has been immortalized in state legends and has had a statue made of him by famed sculptor Bob Scriver.

Lawrence has written up a nice short fun read for people of all ages (except the -very- young of course! Most kids shouldn't read some of the violent details or see the photos of some of the crime cases) from many sources sure to entertain anyone with an interest in the unexplained or who is traveling through the Big Sky Country..some nice b/w photos and a list of sources cited. This is a nice collection to give someone who has wide-ranging tastes in the realm of the odd and eerie, and a fascination with Montana's history and urban legends. The cryptozoological chapters are a particularly nice addition. Worth getting!

-Lance Foster, Paranormal Montana

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