Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and here's proof:
(For more information on each attraction, visit the "Offbeat Northeast" experts at GetawayMavens.com.)
Rangley, ME: Scientist Wilhelm Reich believed that orgasm, or withholding of such, was the source of all good and evil on earth. A one time colleague of Sigmund Freud, Reich was a controversial, anachronistic, pro-women's reproductive rights figure who set up his Institute - Orgone - in the remote Maine lakes region where he conducted experiments on weather manipulation, energy sources, and cancer cures. His home and lab are open for tours.
Oquossoc ME: The very first Registered Maine Guide, licensed in 1897, was actually a woman- Cornelia "Fly Rod" Crosby. As her name suggests, Crosby was an ace fly fisherwoman who would take visiting anglers out on fishing trips. Learn her story and more about the history of fishing and hunting in this area at the Rangely Outdoor Sporting Heritage Museum.
Greenville ME: In 1963, a B-52 from MA crashed on Elephant Mountain that looms over Moosehead Lake. Pieces of the plane were left as a memorial to the 7 who died and a testament to the 2 who lived through a blizzard overnight. In 2011, the ejection seat was discovered "a significant distance" from the crash site, and it is now displayed in one of the museums of the fantastic Moosehead Historical Society.
Inland Maine: There's a to-scale model (93,000,000:1) of our Solar System spread out over 40 miles from Houlton to Presque Isle Maine on Route 1 - the largest model of its kind in the world.
Presque Isle ME: One of the most famous residents of Presque Isle ME was a racehorse named John R. Braden. Braden started in 68 races over 4 seasons, winning 31, earning a whopping $48,000 over his short career. The community threw a banquet in Braden's honor, invited the steed into the hotel and allowed the horse to drink champagne from the ornate silver Winner's Cup. Braden died in 1929, and the local cinema was named after him.
Waterville ME: Mill owners in Waterville built a pedestrian bridge over the Kennebec River linking the laborer's neighborhoods to their work-site, and then charged workers a penny each way to use it. Known as the "Two-Cent Bridge," it was restored and is now free to cross.
Newfield ME: Willowbrook Museum Village, a "Living History Museum" features the only working portable merry-go-round that visitors can still ride. Built in 1894, the cable-operated, steam powered Armitage Herschell Carousel was found in pieces in a nearby barn, and reassembled to its former glory.
Madawaska ME: Tante Blanche Historical Site pays homage to the formidable figure who, during the Great Winter Famine of 1796, after floods and frost destroyed all crops, battled driving wind and snow as she trudged door-to-door to collect food and clothing from the rich to give to the poor. Her story and that of other Acadians is told throughout Aroostook County ME in St. John River Valley museums.
Fort Kent ME: "America's First Mile" - mile 1 of US Route 1 sits across the St. John River from the Canadian border, and is marked by a granite monument.
Bennington VT: You might know Hemmings Motor News from its catalog, but the publication also runs a gas station and antique car museum from its headquarters in Bennington VT.
Bennington VT: Of course Vermont has a Covered Bridge Museum! It's located inside the Bennington Center for the Arts building.
Manchester, VT: Nubian goats gallivant on the property of Hildene - summer home of Robert Todd Lincoln. In addition to touring this house (which contains one of three surviving black top hats owned by Abe Lincoln, and the mirror he purportedly used before heading to the Ford Theater that fateful night), and a beautifully restored Pullman Car (Robert Todd was President of the railcar company), the public is invited to watch these adorable creatures and nibble on (and buy) wonderfully fresh cheese.
Woodstock, VT was home to the man who first sounded the alarm about climate change 150 years ago - George Marsh, author of the 1864 call-to-action tome, Man and Nature. His story and, that of other world-changing conservationists, is told at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Site.
Salem NH: Criss-crossing stone walls, an assemblage of structures, and rock piles date back 4,000 years in what is called "America's Stonehenge." Visitors are invited (for a fee) to explore this mysterious site.
Manchester NH: Proceeds from lottery tickets funded the first canals built for industrial use here in 1802. See a copy of one of these tickets at the Millyard Museum, set inside a renovated Amoskeag Mfg. Co mill building. In 1957, one of the buildings in the tanning complex was site of the only fatal inhalation anthrax breakout in the USA (four deaths), with live anthrax believed to have entered the country on sheep hide from Greece. That particular building was demolished, but others have been repurposed as businesses, restaurants and museums.
Manchester NH: The first Credit Union in the USA was established in this NH town to accommodate the saving and borrowing needs of a growing number of mill workers hailing from Canada. Learn all about it at the underrated but engaging America's Credit Union Museum.
Manchester NH: One of largest Lego Installations in the world - with over three million pieces, a slew of vignettes, and water features can be seen at the See Science Center.
Wolfeboro NH: When opened in 1912 this "table of curiosities" meets Ripley's Believe it or Not, the Libby Museum, drew thousands to see an 11.2 ft alligator caught in Florida (dead, of course), a real "Cootie" bug sent from the trenches of WW1, a long Chinese fingernail, lace from Napoleon's wife's dress, a mastodon tooth, and eek, two severed mummy's hands - all still on display.
Waterville Valley NH: The married co-authors of Curious George, Hans and Margaret Ray, summered in Waterville Valley and left their mark on the town. Now, this Pleasantville-like hamlet features a popular ski resort, a tiny charming library, 9-hole golf course, hiking, and one of the largest indoor fitness centers in New England.
Lincoln NH: The performing bears at Clark's Trading Post are trained using positive reinforcement (treats) only. Orphaned and injured, these adorable animals are loved and given a second chance at the popular attraction that is much more than a souvenir stand.
Littleton NH: Chutter's candy shop has the "World's Longest Candy Counter" measuring 112 ft.
Moultonborough NH: Loons are endangered due to a proliferation of lead-based tackle that pollutes pure New England lake water. The Loon Center in Moultonborough offers free non-lead tackle and a short overview of these beautiful birds.
Rockport MA: Heavy curtains at the back of the Shalin Liu Performance Center stage, which hosts boomer favorites like Melanie and Ricky Lee Jones, open on to a floor-to-ceiling window with views out into the harbor. For this reason, it's a favorite venue of many.
Rockport, MA: Built in 1922, the Paper House - a two-room summer home - was constructed almost entirely of 100,000 rolled-up newspapers covered with marine grade varnish. Swedish immigrant, Elis Stenman, was a mechanical engineer and an avid reader (three newspapers a day) with a unique hobby. It's open for tours.
Southbury, CT: Established by two Russian writers, Count Ilya Tolstoy, the son of Leo Tolstoy, and Siberian novelist George Grebenstchikoff in 1925 as an artistic community for Russians who fled to America after the Revolution of 1917, the Russian Village calls to mind a fairy tale town hidden in the woods. Though it's unlikely that any descendents still live in this quaint, vaguely mysterious community (where every street is a dead end), and those who live here dissuade tourists from ogling, you can still stop by to see the exquisite chapel that sits behind trees off to the left as you first enter the neighborhood. If it's open, you can ask to see it. If not, take a picture and politely move on.
Connecticut is home to two of the oldest operating inns in America; Curtis House in Woodbury (opened as an inn in 1756) and the better known Griswold Inn in Essex (June 1776).
Litchfield CT: Alain and May White, brother/sister founders of the 4,000 acre White Memorial Conservation center in 1913, are credited with bringing back the Mallard and Wood Duck from the brink of extinction. Stroll on 35 miles of trails and peruse engaging exhibits in the museum - the most compelling, The Art of Taxidermy.
Kent CT: Connecticut Museum of Mining and Mineral Science and Antique Machinery Museums, all in one incredible complex, house one of the most comprehensive collections of working antique industrial engines and rare rocks and minerals you'll ever see in one place. Unsung, but shouldn't be - this is a must see for rock hounds and tinkerers who like to make things go.
Wethersfield CT: Red onions, grown to feed slaves in the West Indies, were this Colonial town's primary crop from 1738 to 1839. When a blight decimated the onions, Wethersfield began packaging seeds, and became The Cradle of the American Seed Company. Comstock Ferre (now Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co.) and Hart Seeds still remain in business here.
Wethersfield CT, one of two oldest towns in the state, conducted witch trials 30 years before those in Salem MA. The 1958 book, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, was based on events in this lost-in-time hamlet.
Wethersfield CT: You can get as close as possible to actual, handwritten merchant ship's logs and ledgers from the 1700's at the Wethersfield Historical Society Library: nirvana for scholars researching everyday life in the Colonies.
Hudson, NY: This little town on the Hudson River, 130 miles from the port of NYC, was a whaling town. Now, it's become a mecca for interior designers and antique-hunters and the only whales you'll see are on street signs.
Northern Catskills NY: Fried chicken, or lack thereof, set off an 1880's hotel building boom here. Hike the 10.3-mile loop around North South Lake, and you'll see signs for the remains of the Kaaterskill Hotel - at 1,200 rooms, once the largest mountain hotel in the country. Local lore has it that Philadelphia businessman, George Harding, stepped into the 400-room Catskill Mountain House and demanded fried chicken for his daughter, who could not eat red meat. As The Catskill Mountain House was serving only Roast Beef that evening, the owner bellowed - "If you want fried chicken, you'll have to build your own hotel." Harding took the challenge - opening the bigger and better Kaaterskill Hotel right at the top of Kaaterskill Falls less than a mile away. The feud, known as "The Fried Chicken War," was forever stamped in Catskills history. Kaaterskill burned down in 1924, and the Mountain House was destroyed in the mid-1960's to preserve the forest.
Saratoga Springs NY: You might get slapped by an invisible entity at the Saratoga History Museum. Set inside the former Canfield Casino in Congress Park, this historical museum has given some guests more thrills than they bargained for - especially on the top (3rd) floor.
Pocantico Hills NY: Nine Marc Chagall stained glass windows illuminate the interior of a small-town Church a few miles from Tarrytown NY. Commissioned by Nelson Rockefeller, who's home, Kykuit is nearby (and also opened for tours), the 1954 modernist windows were the last that Chagall designed before his death.
North Tarrytown NY was renamed Sleepy Hollow in 1996 to capitalize on its association with author Washington Irving, who lived in a charming house on the Hudson River (open for tours) and is buried in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where his fictional apparition, The Headless Horseman, made an appearance in Washington's famous ghost story, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Saugerties NY. If you love eccentric characters with passions expressed as enduring attractions, you'll love Opus 40, an in-the-woods expanse of bluestone ramps, stairs, pedestals, statues and ledges - all created by one man, Harvey Fite. In his quest to find a "huge pile of rocks," Fite stumbled on an abandoned bluestone quarry (from which many New York City sidewalks of the day were sourced), bought the property, built a beautiful home, sculpted statuary from abandoned quarry stone and singlehandedly fashioned a six acre ramped and stair-stepped bluestone terrace, standing a huge monolith he found in a nearby streambed on a pedestal in the center. Fite was 37 years into his planned 40-year "opus" when he fell to his death at the age of 72. Open for tours.
Scranton PA: Escape artist Dorothy Dietrich, co-owner of Houdini Museum with fellow magician Dick Brookz, was the only woman to have ever successfully completed the "Bullet Catch Stunt," and once managed to extract herself, in front of a huge live audience, from a straight jacket, hanging from a burning rope hundreds of feet off the ground. Nicknamed the "Female Houdini," she and Brookz now manage the small but entertaining Houdini Museum.
Bucks County, PA: Rocks in this boulder field - Ringing Rocks Park - sound like hollow steel pipes when hit with a hammer.
Fredericksburg VA: Stonewall Jackson's Arm was buried separately from his body. Find out how that came to be and visit the gravesite of his arm through Hallowed Ground Tours.
Dumfries VA: Parson Weems, the man of cloth at George Washington's Church, wrote the first biography of our first President, completely making up the "fact" that Washington "could not tell a lie," the Cherry Tree tale, and others. Hear this story at Weem's former parsonage, part of the Weems Botts Museum.
Triangle VA: Figures in the incredibly life-like dioramas at the National Museum of the Marine Corps were cast from actual soldiers. Seeing these men and women wandering around the museum next to their sculptural counterparts is a surreal experience.
St. Mary's MD had the first documented Sheriff's office in the New World, established 1637 (it's twitter handle is now the witty @firstsheriff), and the first Catholic Church as well. The Church has been rebuilt on its original footprint at America's first Catholic Settlment (1634), now an ongoing archeological site, Historic St. Mary's City.
St. Leonard MD: The "Bernie Fowler Sneaker Index" determines the quality of water in the Patuxent River. The 92 year old Fowler, a former State Senator, wades into the river from Jefferson Patterson Park every June to the point where he can no longer see his running shoes.
Calvert County MD: The sandy Chesapeake Bay cliffs in Calvert County MD are packed with ancient shark's teeth. While under 200 feet of sea millions of years ago, this area was a shark nursery. Wind and storms have released a bounty of teeth from the cliffs, making this shoreline one of the best places on earth to hunt for these ancient fossils.
Lewes DE: A few months after the bust that was the opening of gangster, Al Capone's, vault in 1984, treasure-hunters raised the 1700's Dutch Merchant ship turned British warship, the DeBraak from the deep off of Lewes DE in search of Spanish doubloons. It, too, was a bust in more ways than one. Not only was there no gold to be found, but the salvage company botched the raising of the fragile wooden hull, underwater since 1798, leaving it a decaying mess. You'll learn about the DeBraak and the history of the Delaware coast at the engaging Zwaanendael Museum in Lewes.
Milton DE: The Soap Fairy, based on the grounds of Lavender Fields @ Warrington Manor, creates natural soaps with fragrances like Naked Man and Naked Women among 40 other more traditional aromas.
Dover DE. The first case of "Murder By Mail" happened in Delaware's capitol city - in 1898, originating in San Francisco, but with victims right here on the Dover Green. The case involved a philandering husband on a newspaper assignment in San Francisco (John Dunning), a spurned lover (Cordelia Botkin), and a Delaware society wife (Elizabeth Pennington Dunning) and her sister, Ida. In a fit of jealousy over her man, Botkin sent a box of poisoned chocolates from S.F. to Elizabeth in Delaware. Elizabeth, believing it was from another friend in California, ate the chocolates, but not before sharing a few with neighbors and her sister. The neighbors became ill, but Elizabeth and Ida died. Botkin was tried, found guilty and sent to San Quentin where she died of "softening of the brain," a euphemism for syphilis.