In Episode 197, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger hike the Appalachian Trail up to Mt. Moosilauke near Benton in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, in search of three hikers who went missing in a ravine long ago, and an immortal mad doctor who abducts the unsuspecting to perform ungodly experiments.
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[HIKING IN WOODS]
JEFF: I love being back up here in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Ray!
RAY: It’s a great time of year, too. It’s not too hot yet, the leaves have filled in to offer some shade, and Mt. Moosilauke isn’t very crowded today.
JEFF: Still, we need to be extra vigilant on a mountain like this one because this place is home to a buffet of deadly strangeness.
RAY: Deadly?! Like what?
JEFF: There’s a ravine near here where three kids who went missing and were never seen again, and if that isn’t enough, this mountain is also said to be home to an immortal mad scientist who still hunts for new victims.
JEFF: I’m jeff Belanger, and welcome to episode 197 of the New England Legends podcast, if you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Mt. Moosilauke in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, is the next stop on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England. We appreciate you riding along with us.
JEFF: We also appreciate all of the nominations that have been pouring in for our first annual BoNEy Awards! We need your help to find the Best of New England. The best cemetery, pizza, beer, coffee shop, haunt, and more. Just head to our Web site and find a link to the nomination form right on our homepage.
RAY: While you’re on our Web site you’ll find links to join our super secret Facebook group, follow us on social media, see pictures related to each episode, and find all kinds of ways to get in touch with us. So many of these story leads come from you legendary listeners, just like this one! Thanks to Riva Krow for emailing us the tip on this one.
JEFF: Before we go looking for missing people and an immortal mad scientist on Mt. Moosilauke, we want to take just a minute to tell you about our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals! This week we caught up with Nuwati Herbals founder Rod Jackson. Rod, how did Nuwati Herbals get started?
ROD: Well, the premise for our company began over 65 years ago when my grandmother taught me how to gather the herbs and we would make medicine. I developed a respect for Mother Earth and those plants. And then in later years when I had a health food store, I made my own remedies. But I lacked the marketing background to put my products out into the world. Then in 2002 I met my wife Kimberly and with her marketing background, all of the pieces fell into place. We introduced our first herbal remedies at a show in August of 2002. Today, over 18 years later, Nuwati Herbals can be found in hundreds of locations, and we’re still growing!
RAY: Thanks Rod! The world is opening back up. We can shop in stores again. If you’re a retailer looking to carry some of these great, all-natural products, you need to reach out to Nuwati Herbals and ask about their wholesale opportunities. Tell them New England Legends sent you, and get free shipping on your first wholesale order!
JEFF: Of course you can always order Nuwati Herbals online. These are herbal remedies from Mother Earth. Check out the Nuwati Herbals Web site to see all of their great products AND you legendary listeners get 20% off your order when you use the promo code LEGENDS20 at checkout. Visit Nuwati Herbals dot com. That’s N-U-W-A-T-I Herbals with an S dot com.
RAY: Okay, Jeff. Now I’m a little nervous. People go missing on this mountain and there’s some kind of crazed zombie doctor up here too?
JEFF: That’s what they say.
RAY: Here’s a little more info about Mt. Moosilauke. The mountain is 4,802-feet high, so it’s one of the famed 48 4,000-footers in New Hampshire. It’s located in the town of Benton, New Hampshire, here in the White Mountains. The name Moosilauke is an Abenaki Indian word that roughly translates to “bald place,” which refers to the top of the mountain where trees don’t grow.
JEFF: It’s a great mountain, great hike, in a place with enough legends here to fill a book.
[WALKING IN WOODS]
JEFF: Most of what we know about the immortal mad scientist comes from legends told by students at Dartmouth College who come up here for hiking outings.
RAY: As in ivy-league Dartmouth?
JEFF: The very same. So we’re making our way up the mountain coming up from the northeast. We parked off of Route 112 at Kingsman Notch, and we’re following part of the famous Appalachian Trial – a trail that would take us all the way to Georgia if we followed it to the end. Hiking in the White Mountains has called to many people for more than a century and a half. Though it’s beautiful up here, it’s also dangerous, even deadly. There are bears, and weather conditions that can change in an instant, and no we also have to worry about some crazed doctor from almost two centuries ago.
RAY: It’s about a three-mile hike to the summit. But our first stop is the halfway point. This is the ravine where they say three boys went missing.
JEFF: Here’s the name of the ravine on the trail map.
RAY: It says… okay, this isn’t going to be easy to pronounce…. Jobildunk Ravine?
JEFF: The figure out what happened we’re going to head back to the year 1880 and meet these boys.
JEFF: If we really wanted to start at the beginning, we’d have to go back thousands of years to the time when mighty glaciers retreated north in the White Mountains, leaving behind this ravine which is technically called a glacial cirque.
RAY: It looks almost like a giant bowl depression sunk into the mountain to form the ravine.
JEFF: Right. This region is becoming more popular for hikers ever since the late 1700s when settlers first arrived. But once roads were built near here about 60 years ago, and railroad just a few years ago, now these mountains are accessible to the adventurous. Though roads and rails make getting here easier, the mountains are still dangerous and wild. It’s a winter day in 1880 when three friends head out on a hike on Mt. Moosilauke.
[HIKING THROUGH SNOW]
RAY: There’s William in the lead right now, followed by Duncan, and then Joseph in the rear. It’s chilly today, but not too bad. Besides, these are strong and hardy young men who are dressed for a cold-weather hike.
[HIKING THROUGH SNOW]
RAY: The trio are making their way up through this big ravine on the northeastern slopes of Mt. Moosilauke. There are frozen streams, and plenty of snowpack, so they’re on their snowshoes right now.
JEFF: The thing about the White Mountains, is the weather can get extreme really fast. Though it was only partly cloudy when the three young men started out this morning, the sky has been filling in and getting darker.
RAY: After three hours of winter hiking, the men are now about six miles from the nearest road. William is the first to speak up about the weather, but Joseph doesn’t seem so concerned. He figures, even if snow starts to fall, if they take a direct path back they could get to shelter within maybe two hours.
JEFF: Pretty soon, a few snow flurries start to fall. And the wind is picking up. This time Duncan speaks up and declares it’s time to leave this ravine and get back to shelter. The others are disappointed, but agree they should head back.
RAY: It doesn’t take long for the wind to pick up and the snow to fall at a steady clip. The trio follow their footprints back the way they came. As the weather worsens, they pick up their pace.
[HOWLING WINTER WINDS]
RAY: But pretty soon it’s white-out conditions. There’s no way to know which direction to go anymore. Getting back to shelter is NOT an option right now. They need to find some kind of covering right now.
JEFF: Joseph finds a huge pine tree and breaks off some of the lowest branches so they can get underneath the tree so it forms a natural umbrella over them. After snapping a few branches, and pushing other aside, the three hunker down on the ground next to each other using the tree for shelter.
RAY: The shelter IS helping. The three men huddle together for warmth. They just need to wait out the worst of it. Maybe this is just a squall, and it will be over in a few minutes.
RAY: But as the minutes melt into hours, it becomes clear this is no squall. This is a real storm. Joseph is shivering, and now there’s another concern. It’s getting later in the day. There are only a few hours of daylight left. If they don’t get out soon, they’ll be here all night and may not survive. That’s when Joseph tells his friends that he’s too cold to sit still. He needs to get his body moving or he’ll freeze. He’s going to find their track and head back for help as fast as we can.
[FOOTSTEPS IN SNOW]
RAY: Duncan and William don’t like splitting up, but they can’t argue that they’re now getting desperate.
JEFF: A few more hours pass, and there’s no sign of the storm letting up. William and Duncan agree that if they stay put, they’ll freeze overnight when the temperature drops. Cold and tired, they leave their meager shelter and try to track their friend. (PAUSE) Joe, Bill, and Duncan are never seen again.
[SLOW FADE OF WINTER STORM]
JEFF: Search parties are sent the following day, but soon any hopes of finding them alive fade with the following day’s sun. Maybe they survived one night, but the odds are remote of surviving two. At this point, the searchers give up. No remains are ever found. The only thing that survives is the story of Joe, Bill, and Duncan. That, and the name locals slap on this glacial cirque of a ravine. The name Jobildunk.
RAY: For Joe, Bill, and Duncan. Jobildunk.
JEFF: That’s what they say.
RAY: What about this mad immortal scientist lurking around the woods?
JEFF: Right, the strange tale of Dr. Thomas Benton. To meet him, let’s head back to 1816 to the town of Hanover, New Hampshire, about 30 miles to the southwest of Mt. Moosilauke.
JEFF: It’s the spring of 1816, and love is in the air.
JEFF: But so is illness.
RAY: A little bit about Dr. Thomas Benton. He comes from a prominent family, and has the money to travel to a university in Germany to study medicine. Though Tom is a doing well in his studies, he doesn’t really fit in with the other students. He’s a loner. Still, one older professor takes a liking to Tom. Maybe because he’s lonely, Tom ignores the rumors and whispers regarding some of the ungodly experiments this old professor has been conducting.
JEFF: After the old professor dies, Tom takes some of his ancient books and an old locked chest back to New Hampshire. But whatever he learned either in his regular classes or from this mysterious professor is not enough to save the life of his fiancée who is sick with Typhoid.
[WOMAN COUGHING AGAIN]
JEFF: After she passes away, Tom snaps. He walks away from his life, and away from his medical practice, and takes those old books and locked chest into the woods of Mt. Moosilauke.
RAY: That’s when things get weird on the mountain. Dr. Benton is experimenting with elixirs that can grant eternal life. Over the years, farm animals go missing. Sometimes loggers go missing, and even hikers… after all, Dr. Benton needs subjects for his experiments.
JEFF: By the time Joe, Bill, and Duncan go missing in the winter of 1880, some wonder if the boys were lost to severe weather, or if maybe they were snatched up by Dr. Benton. Either way, Dr. Benton must have had success with his immortality elixir, but at a steep price, because now he’s lost his mind. Hikers report seeing him run through the woods and then vanish, or they hear his maniacal laugh in the wind that whips around the mountain.
RAY: By the turn of the twentieth century, students Dartmouth College, located in Hanover, make regular outings to Mt. Moosilauke. The story of the crazed and immortal Dr. Benton is a tale they tell the freshman every year… and that brings us back to today.
JEFF: So the Dartmouth Outing Club still tells the tale of the immortal Dr. Benton to this day.
RAY: Okay… wait a minute I have questions.
JEFF: Yeah, me too.
RAY: Is there any historical Thomas Benton? It’s not lost on me that the closest town to Mt. Moosilauke is BENTON, New Hampshire.
JEFF: To answer your question: yes and no. There is a Thomas H. Benton. In fact, Benton, New Hampshire, is named for him. Originally called Coventry, New Hampshire, the town was renamed Benton in 1840 in honor of Thomas. But here’s the weird thing. The Thomas H. Benton who is the namesake of the town is actually a senator from Missouri. It was New Hampshire Governor Isaac Hill who proposed naming the town after the senator who was a champion of western expansion.
RAY: What about Jobildunc Ravine?
JEFF: That one is even more hazy. Another version of the story suggests it was named after the first three people to explore the ravine. Yet another suggestion is that it’s a Native American term whose meaning has been lost to time. Either way, this mountain blends legends and words from the two worlds that collided here. There’s the Abenaki name of the mountain colliding with the British and European names of people who came here.
RAY: No matter what you believe, the White Mountains are beautiful, but can also be a dangerous place. Hikers can and do go missing. People do die up here. Maybe that’s why Dartmouth warns their freshmen of the strangeness that might be lurking in the woods. Plus, we know from some of the other legends we’ve explored that sometimes people do turn feral. Hermit, wildmen, and others have been known to terrorize locals. Maybe those people can’t live forever, but their story… does.
JEFF: We’d like to thank people who have been walking the path of the weird with us since we started the podcast almost four years ago. I’m talking about our Patreon patrons! These folks kick in just $3 bucks per month to get early access to new episodes, plus bonus episodes and content that no one else gets to hear. If you want to become an even bigger part of the movement, head over to patreon.com/newenglandlegends to sign up.
RAY: Please tell a friend or two about our podcast. So many stories come from you legendary listeners. We’re a community to legend seekers, and we love it when you get involved. Please also consider posting a review for us on Apple podcasts. Those reviews go a long way in helping others find us.
JEFF: We’d like to thank our sponsor Nuwati Herbals, and our theme music is by John Judd.
RAY: Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.