Podcast 273 – Little Shop of Ponemah Bog Horrors

Ponemah Bog in Amherst, New Hampshire, is home to three strange breeds of carnivorous plants.

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In Episode 273, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger hike into Ponemah Bog in Amherst, New Hampshire, searching for some strange carnivorous plants that grow in the region. These plants are downright deadly… to the right species. Like the Venus Fly Trap that grows in the Carolinas, Ponemah Bog is home to plants like Sundews, Pitcher Plants, and Bladderworts. Could these plants have inspired the classic story and musical Little Shop of Horrors?

You can watch the 1960 film version of Little Shop of Horrors here: https://publicdomainmovie.net/movie/the-little-shop-of-horrors

Read the episode transcript.


Produced and hosted by: Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger
Edited by: Ray Auger
Theme Music by: John Judd

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Little Shop of Horrors 1960 film.

Little Shop of Horrors 1960 film.

Sundews - a carnivorous plant found in Ponemah Bog.

Sundews – a carnivorous plant found in Ponemah Bog.

Pitcher Plant - a carnivorous plant found in Ponemah Bog.

Pitcher Plant – a carnivorous plant found in Ponemah Bog.

Bladderworts - a carnivorous plant found in Ponemah Bog.

Bladderworts – a carnivorous plant found in Ponemah Bog.

*A note on the text: Please forgive punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. Like us, the transcripts ain’t perfect.

JEFF: Ray, what’s your favorite rock n’ roll musical based on a meat-eating plant?
RAY: Uhhh… I guess I’d have to say Little Shop of Horrors. I mean, is there another rock n’ roll musical about a meat-eating plant, Jeff?
JEFF: I don’t think there is. I was just trying to steer you in the right direction.
RAY: Of course! Who could forget the 1986 classic movie starring Rick Moranis, Steve Martin, John Candy, Christopher Guest, and Bill Murray. That movie was star-studded. AND the musical has been done by countless productions around the world. Shoot, I’ve even seen high school drama departments perform that one.
JEFF: It is a classic for sure. A story we all know about a Skid Row florist, a hapless employee, and a giant man-eating plant.
RAY: I’m guessing we didn’t come out to this bog in Amherst, New Hampshire, to discuss musicals.
JEFF: No, not entirely. We came to Ponemah Bog in New Hampshire, to search for some REAL meat-eating plants.
JEFF: Hello, I’m Jeff Belanger.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger. Welcome to Episode 273 of the New England Legends podcast. Thanks for joining us on our mission to chronicle every legend in New England one story at a time.
JEFF: We’re so glad you’re with us as we make our way through the streets, back roads, and bogs of New England looking for oddities, ghosts, monsters, aliens, and any other weirdness that makes our radar. And stories make our radar mainly through YOU! So please like, subscribe, and share our podcast with a friend or two. You can subscribe for free anywhere you get your podcasts. The more people listening and sharing, the more people who reach out to us with weird story leads that are truly the sugar in our tea. So reach out to us anytime.
RAY: Speaking of tea… before we go searching for meat-eating plants in the Ponemah Bog, we want to take just a minute to tell you about our sponsor, Nuwati herbals!
JEFF: Ray, just like people there are good plants and bad plants. Some plants are carnivorous, and of course some are… deadly.
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RAY: Okay, Jeff… when I think of meat-eating plants, I think of the Venus Fly Trap…. OKAY… the Venus Fly Trap AND Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors.
JEFF: That’s fair.
RAY: But I don’t think the Venus Fly Trap grows in New England.
JEFF: No, the Venus Fly Trap is native to the wetlands of North and South Carolina. Not terribly far from here, but far enough. When I worked my first corporate job during my college summers, I remember a coworker bought a Venus Fly Trap for his desk. We spent the better part of that work day chasing flies around the office trying to catch one for the plant.
RAY: Did you catch one?
JEFF: We eventually did. Then he stuck it to the plant’s leaf. The whole experience was a far-cry from Little Shop of Horrors. The leaf of the plant was sticky, it slowly closed on the fly. Digestion takes about ten days before a mature adult plant will reopen and be ready to eat again.
RAY: And New England has some carnivorous plants too?
JEFF: We do! There are three kinds growing here at the Ponemah Bog in Amherst, New Hampshire. There are Sundews, Pitcher Plants, and Bladderworts. Each of them are deadly…
RAY: Deadly?! Are we safe out here? Should we wear hazmat suits or something?
JEFF: Before we answer that, I think we should head back to 1960 and watch a movie…
RAY: It’s September 14th, 1960, and a new movie called The Little Shop of Horrors is about to start.
JEFF: The film is directed by Roger Corman, written by Charles B. Griffith and starring Jonathan Haze. Jackie Joseph, Mel Welles, and Dick Miller.
RAY: Shhhhh… it’s about to start….
[Little Shop oof Horrors Clip]
JEFF: Got it. So the story takes place on Skid Row – a bad section of Los Angeles that’s on the skids. A young, bumbling hapless guy named Seymour is working at Muchnick’s flower shop. Seymour has a crush on his pretty coworker, Audrey. But she’s clearly out of his league. But then Seymour happens upon a new kind of plant…
[Little Shop oof Horrors Clip]
RAY: Sow Seymour names the plant Audrey Jr. But the plant is sickly. Seymour is going to have to nurse it back to health if Mr. Muchnick is going to let him keep his job and prove his worth around plants. Seymour tries every kind of plant food and water, but the unusual plant just gets sicker and sicker. Seymour can’t figure out what this plant needs until one night he’s alone in the shop…
JEFF: Once Seymour discovers what the plant needs… human blood… it starts to recover. Grow… even thrive overnight!
RAY: And now the plant becomes a draw for Muchnick’s flower shop. Customers are flocking in to see the plant and buy Muchnick’s flowers.
JEFF: But then it becomes clear…. Audrey Jr. needs more blood to survive. And then… and then… and then…
[Little Shop oof Horrors Clip]
RAY: The plant starts to talk! Audrey Jr. is ravenous. And if Seymour is going to keep his job at the flower shop, this odd plant needs to thrive or his boss Mr. Muchnick will throw Seymour out on the street. And no job means no Audrey One… Seymour is in a pickle. This plant needs blood…
JEFF: After a horrible train accident that claims the life of an innocent man, Seymour takes the opportunity to feed Audrey Jr. the body parts. And that’s when Mr. Muchnick catches him. And while Mr. Muchnick is conflicted and wants to call the police… when he sees the crowds coming to his shop to experience the now huge Audrey Jr., Muchnick doesn’t know what to do. Seymour thinks it’s a kind of Venus Fly Trap that only needs to eat three times in its life to reach full size. That satisfies Muchnick that maybe there will be no more blood.
RAY: Meanwhile, a toothache takes Seymour to the local dentist… a real quack who takes pleasure in the pain of his patients. A scuffle ensues… and then…
[Little Shop oof Horrors Clip]
RAY: And now the dentist is dead. But another patient just walked in… Wait a minute… is that a young Jack Nicholson?!
JEFF: It is! He plays the undertaker who comes to visit the dentist because he loves pain.
[Little Shop oof Horrors Clip]
RAY: Amazing! Seymour brings the dead dentist back to the flower shop and feeds the whole body to Audrey Jr.
JEFF: The police are getting suspicious now. A dead railroad worker and a dead dentist on Skid Row. But Audrey Jr. keeps getting bigger! And two people are dead at the hands of Seymour who finally catches the affection of Audrey One.
RAY: Love is blooming, but so is the man-eating Audrey Jr. And Mr. Muchnick is suspicious, so he sits in his flower shop all night keeping watch. But then a burglar breaks in to rob Mr. Muchnick at gunpoint. Not finding much in the cash register…. The thief grows angry and demands more, that’s when Mr. Muchnick gets an idea.
[Little Shop oof Horrors Clip]
JEFF: Seymour and Audrey One have a picnic at the flower shop, but then Audrey Jr. starts acting up looking for food. Audrey One is confused at hearing voices, and walks out on Seymour. And now, Seymour is furious with Audrey Jr. for ruining things with his girl! That’s when Audrey Jr. places Seymour under a hypnotic spell to go find more food.
RAY: Seymour finds a local prostitute who ends up being the next victim. Meanwhile, Audrey Jr. grows bigger, stronger, and hungrier. And when some admirers show up at sundown to give Seymour an award for Audrey Jr., the murderous plant’s flowers bloom revealing the faces of all the victims. The police walk in and are sure they have their man. Seymour runs for it.
JEFF: The police chase him, but Seymour gives them the slip and then makes his way back to Muchnick’s Flower shop for the final confrontation with Audrey Jr.
[Little Shop oof Horrors Clip]
RAY: Audrey Jr. eats Seymour and blooms one more flower revealing the hapless clerk’s face. It’s over. And that brings us back to today.
RAY: Okay, this was weird.
JEFF: I know, right?! We came to a bog in Amherst, New Hampshire, and traveled back in time to see a cheesy movie.
RAY: How did we even get the rights to play those clips?
JEFF: Funny story. The film’s creator, Roger Corman didn’t think the movie had any future prospects after its release in 1960, so he didn’t bother to copyright the work. It was in the Public Domain for all to use. In 1982, the story became an off-Broadway musical written by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman—being public domain they didn’t need to buy any rights. And then the 1986 movie version came out.
RAY: The 1986 version didn’t make too many changes to the original story. Though they did add the musical numbers we all remember and have since seen on countless stages.
JEFF: Little Shop of Horrors was inspired by an Arthur C. Clarke short story called “The Reluctant Orchid” that was published in 1956. In that story, an orchid collector comes across a carnivorous breed of Orchid that almost kills him.
RAY: And I’m guessing all of these stories draw their inspiration from REAL carnivorous plants like the Venus Fly Trap, and the some of the carnivorous plants found here in the Ponemah Bog in New Hampshire.
JEFF: Of course! They must. It’s not that much of a scifi stretch to imagine one of these plants evolving, growing huge, and deciding insects aren’t enough to satisfy their hunger…. So let’s see if we can find all three deadly native carnivorous plants here in the Bog.
RAY: Deadly?! You said deadly again.
JEFF: Deadly to insects. I think we’ll be okay. Alright, this one looks like a Pitcher Plant.
RAY: I can see why it’s called the Pitcher Plant. It looks almost like a vase that’s a couple of inches deep. The insects get lured inside, get stuck to the sticky insides, and then never come out.
JEFF: And further up here are some Sundews.
RAY: This plant has thousands of tiny hair-like fibers that insects get stuck in. The leaf then rolls up on the trapped bug, and then the plant secretes digestive enzymes that dissolve the bug until the leaf opens up again to wait for its next victim.
JEFF: And finally we have the Bladderworts over this way.
RAY: The Bladderworts float in the bog and have pretty flowers sticking above the surface. The roots are tubes that get triggered by a floating insect. Once triggers, the tube sucks the bugs inside and digests them.
JEFF: The name of this bog, “Ponemah” is a reference to the Land of the Hereafter from Henry Longfellow’s 1885 “The Song of Hiawatha” poem. The land was donated in 1979 and has been under the protection of the Audubon Society of New Hampshire ever since.
RAY: There’s 75 acres here that feature trails around the pond and through the bog. It’s basically a living museum that you can visit to see some plants and trees unique to our region.
JEFF: The Ponemah Bog made our list because of the weird plant life that’s turned this place into a unique destination. And while I’m not too concerned about us getting out of here alive… keep your ears open should any of these plants start talking, Ray….
RAY: Thanks, Audrey Jr… for bringing us to After the Legend where we take a deeper dive into this week’s story and sometimes veer way off course.
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This was a weird one.

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We’d like to thank our sponsor, Nuwati Herbals, thank you to Jack Nicholson for lending his voice acting talent this week (though he had no say in that), thanks to our patreon patrons, and our theme music is by John Judd.
Until next time remember… the bizarre is closer than you think.

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