In Episode 262, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger search for a haunted well located at the back of Sabattus, Maine, cemetery where they say back in 2001, a kid was lowered down, and when he came back up his hair turned white, he’d aged decades, and he lost his mind. But is it true? We found the source!
Link to Mark LaFlamme’s original article from the Sun Journal, via the Internet Archive.
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Edited by: Ray Auger
Theme Music by: John Judd
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*A note on the text: Please forgive punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. Like us, the transcripts ain’t perfect.
[PLOP OF WATER]
RAY: Make a wish, Jeff!
JEFF: You don’t see too many old wells like this one anymore.
RAY: No, you don’t. For one they’re dangerous, and two, people are nuts, who knows what they’ll dump down there and contaminate the water.
JEFF: Or WHO they’ll dump down there, Ray….
RAY: Riiiight. I’m going to back up from the edge now.
JEFF: We’ve seen a lot of the same horror movies. And while this isn’t the exact well we’re looking for, we are looking for a haunted well in Sabattus, Maine, today.
RAY: What’s the story with the Sabattus well?
JEFF: They say 20 years ago, some kids lowered a friend down there, and when he came back up his hair turned white, and he lost his mind.
JEFF: I’m Jeff Belanger, and welcome to Episode 262 of the New England Legends podcast.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Thanks for riding along with us as we chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time. It takes a village to find and bring you these stories, and we’re glad you’re part of ours. So many story leads come from you, so please reach out to us anytime on or social media pages, contact us through our website, or stop us on the street. We love hearing from you.
JEFF: And be sure to tell a friend or two about our show. It’s how our community grows. You can always refer them to our Web site where we have an archive of all the episodes, plus some video content from the New England Legends television series that you can watch right now on Amazon Prime, and you can see an appearance schedule for me and Ray. My story tour that’s making stops all over New England this fall, and Ray’s band, The Pub Kings.
RAY: Before we go looking for this haunted well, we want to take just a minute to tell you about our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals!
JEFF: Nuwati Herbals has been busy this summer! They’ve launched two new flavored teas: Peach Nilla and Blueberry Cinnamon.
RAY: Both are delicious!
JEFF: Nuwati herbals just launched their new Busy Paws hand cream, which is great, because as the weather starts to dry out so do my hands. I have no shame in admitting I use hand cream!
RAY: Jeff gives the best handshakes with those soft hands…
JEFF: I appreciate that, Ray. If you’ve been listening to the last couple of episodes, you know Ray and I both got Covid last month. I gotta tell you, I drank The Healer Tea from Nuwati Herbals every day I was sick. It helped me feel better faster. I went through a week of what felt like the worst Man Cold in human history. The Healer Tea helped open up my sinuses and relieve some of the awful pressure.
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RAY: Okay, Jeff. How are we going to find this well?
JEFF: That’s the thing we don’t have much to go, other than it’s at the back of a Sabattus Cemetery near the ruins of an old barn.
RAY: Got it. Here’s a little more info on Sabattus. The closest city is Lewiston, Maine, about five miles to our west. Sabattus is a small town. It was founded in 1788, and today boasts a population of just over 5,000 people. And it has no less than nine cemeteries.
JEFF: So we’ll have our work cut out for us. Luckily, with a little recon we were able to hone in on Sanborn Cemetery in the northwestern part of town.
[DRIVING / STOPS / DOORS CLOSE]
RAY: Sanborn Cemetery is pretty small. What do you think, maybe about a quarter of an acre in size or so?
JEFF: That sounds about right.
RAY: There’s 230 people buried here. But I guess what we’re looking for is behind the cemetery.
JEFF: That’s right. We’ll head back toward the woods, and back in time to 2001 to check out this story.
RAY: It’s late summer of 2001 here in Sabattus, Maine. The kids aren’t back in school just yet, and like lots of young people, a group of pre-teens are trying to squeeze as much adventure as possible out of summer before it’s over.
JEFF: And then comes the dare… while playing in the back of this cemetery near the dilapidated ruins of an old barn, this group of kids notice an old well. The oldest kids dare the youngest kid to go down into the well… a well they say is haunted.
RAY: Mmmmm and we know how dares go. No one wants to back down from a dare.
JEFF: And this youngster is no different.
RAY: So the group finds an old tire and some rope, and agree to lower the boy down into the well.
JEFF: Okay, the rope seems sturdy enough. Okay, the tire is just over the edge of well….
RAY: I can see the boy is climbing onto the tire.
RAY: And now they’re lowering him down.
JEFF: Wow, this well must be deep. They’re still lowering him.
RAY: I’m going to take a peak over the edge… (PAUSE) Man, I can’t even see him. He’s in total darkness and still going!
JEFF: Okay, they’ve stopped. This is getting uncomfortable. Do you think he’s okay down there?
RAY: I’m not sure. No one is smiling up here anymore. (AWAY FROM MIC) Guys, I think you should pull him up!
JEFF: Okay, they’re pulling up the rope.
RAY: I haven’t heard a sound come from below this whole time. I’m getting a bad feeling…
JEFF: Okay, he’s just about back to the top.
RAY: I can see the other kids grabbing for his…
JEFF: Oh my God! What happened!?
RAY: The boy’s hair has turned completely white! And look at his face!
JEFF: He looks like he’s aged decades. He looks like an old man!
[KID BABBLING AND SHRIEKING]
JEFF: Something is very wrong with this boy.
RAY: The kids help the troubled boy back home.
JEFF: We should get out of here too.
RAY: I heard the young boy was committed to a nearby mental institution.
JEFF: I don’t think I can ever unsee that!
RAY: And that brings us back to today.
JEFF: Okay, more of an urban legend this week.
RAY: A fun one. But I have a hard time believing it’s true. It reminds of that movie The Ring.
JEFF: I know, right?! This is one of those stories that we’ve had our eye on for years. It shows up on Web sites that list weird Maine stories, in books about Maine legends. And the story hardly varies. It’s like everyone is repeating the same thing over and over.
RAY: We traced the story to a Strange Maine blog post from 2007 who tips their hat to an article by Mark LaFlamme of the Sun Journal newspaper out of Lewiston, Maine. LaFlamme’s article was published in 2007 and claims the story took place six years prior, which lands us at 2001. The only problem is, the link on the Sun Journal Web site is dead. It’s gone. We searched and searched their Web site, but found nothing. Plus, you’d think if the story were true, those young boys would mostly be around today and we could talk to them about it. Or we could visit the mental hospital and interview the victim.
JEFF: You’d think. However, it turns out Mark LaFlamme’s article IS the source on this story. So we reached out with an email.
RAY: Mark emailed back pretty quick too.
JEFF: He did. And this was his entire reply to my email, and I quote: “I get asked about this a lot. The funny thing is, I’m pretty sure the concept of the well is something I made up many years ago for an urban legends writing contest. I wrote up a few fictional stories such as that one, but the one about the well is the one that stuck. As far as I know, there is no such place. I live right next to Sabattus and have never heard about a real-life version of the legend. I kind of feel bad relating that.”
RAY: So he made it up?
JEFF: He made it up. I was dying to know more, so I emailed back asking if we could interview him. He said he’d be willing to talk to us. And he also added, and I quote: “I’m impressed that you wrote back. Most researchers go completely dark once I explain the genesis of the story.”
RAY: We followed up with Mark daily to try and talk to him, but he stopped answering our emails as of this recording.
JEFF: I’m not sure why he couldn’t talk to us. But Mark is still actively writing for the Sun Journal newspaper. Ordinarily, this is the kind of story we would pass on, because there’s just not much meat on these bones. It never sounded real to us, but it kept showing up in various books and Web sites like a bad penny. There’s also a great YouTube video by the Central Maine Ghost Hunters where they read a version of this legend. Then they go exploring Sabattus searching for a cemetery with a well in the back. At Sanborn Cemetery, they trek into the woods behind the boneyard and found what looks like the ruins of a small shack—possibly a barn—and some stones that may have been part of a well at one point. It’s not conclusive, but it’s something, which is why we placed the story here.
RAY: I love how thorough the Central Maine Ghost Hunters were in exploring these cemeteries. They asked all the right questions. I mean, if they found a definitive well still intact, it would have put some more meat on these bones.
JEFF: Exactly. But we tip our hats to them for looking. We did search the newspaper archives and read Mark LaFlamme’s October 14, 2007, Halloween feature for the Sun Journal titled “Fear” which continues onto another page with campfire tales and local urban legends. But the Sabattus Well story wasn’t in the print edition, it was online which as you said is gone. So I dug into the Internet archive Wayback machine and found LaFlamme’s original online article from October 14, 2007 titled Local Urban Legends, and to be fair, he added the subheadline: that may or may not be true. He titled this story “All is Well.” It’s 192 words long, and those three short paragraphs grew into something that’s been repeated over and over to the point where people are actively looking for the well… and now we made a podcast episode about it.
RAY: We explored this story because we thought it was an opportunity to show the life and death of a legend 15 years after it was born.
JEFF: Ha! The irony is this isn’t the end of the Sabattus Well story. I mean, for some people it will be. They’ll cross it off their list, but plenty of legend seekers won’t hear this episode, and it may live on a while longer. We don’t get to decide which legends live or die, Ray. But we can explore them as deep as we can dive, and call them like we see them.
RAY: That we can. And that brings us to After the Legend, where we explore this week’s story a little more, and sometimes veer off course.
JEFF: After the Legend is sponsored by our Patreon Patrons! This group of insiders get early access to new episodes, they’re part of a private community that gets to comment on our regular episodes, plus all of the bonus episodes and content that we provide just for them. It’s only $3 bucks per month. Like buying Ray and I a fast-food burger each month… that we have to split, ‘cause $3 bucks doesn’t go very far. If you can help the cause, we’d appreciate it. Head over to patreon.com/newenglandlegends to sign up.
We added a link to the Wayback machine archive of LaFlamme’s article on our Web site, just click on Episode 262.
It’s worth noting that the movie The Ring came out in 2002. So maybe that was part of the inspirtation.
We get asked: Is it true? Most of the time there’s plenty of truth to these stories, which is why they stick around. So this one burns my biscuits a little bit.
It’s not my way to just make something up. It’s one thing to say it’s a legend, it’s the story going around. It’s another to invent it. Then it ends up on a newspaper’s Web site, which adds legitimacy to it. Plus, if you read the other quote urban legends in LaFlamme’s online article, they all look like made-up stories with local Maine locations plugged in to make them feel local. It’s a bummer, because once you make something up, we have to question what else you make up.
Please be sure to subscribe to our podcast because it’s free! And we don’t want you to miss a thing. You can find us wherever you get your podcasts. If YOU have a story you think we should check out, please reach out to us through our Web site, through our Super Secret Facebook group, or on our social media. Most of our story leads come from you.
We’d like to thank our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals, we’d like to thank our patreon patrons, and our theme music is by John Judd.
Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.