The Mysterious Smuttynose Murders

In the mid 1860s, married couple John and Maren Hontvet emigrated from Norway to Boston, hoping to find a better life. Being from sparsely populated Norway, they found city life in Boston to be too chaotic, so they saved up and bought a house on Smuttynose Island in Maine.

After their move, John bought a boat and became a fisherman. His business did so well that he decided to hire help. He took on a man named Louis Wagner in 1872, a German immigrant, and paid him by giving him free room and board. Wagner had been struggling to get by, so he accepted the job even though he did not receive any pay.

vaughncottage.files.wordpress.com

Hiring Wagner would prove to be a fateful mistake for the Hontvets.

In the fall of 1873, a large contingent of Hontvet relatives joined John and Maren on Smuttynose Island. With so much family available to work, Wagner was not needed anymore. He was dismissed from his job.

On a fishing trip to the city of Portsmouth on March 5, 1873, John and his crew ran into Wagner again. They needed temporary help with their current job and offered him the work. He agreed but did not show up for work the next day.

Meanwhile, Maren Hontvet, her sister Karen, and her sister-in-law Anethe were staying together at the Hontvet’s house while their husbands were away in Portsmouth. The Hontvet house was the only occupied residence on Smuttynose at the time, so Maren was probably lonely.

In the middle of the night, somebody came into the house through the kitchen door. Karen, who was sleeping on a cot in the kitchen, surprised the intruder, who probably did not expect to find anyone there. Whoever it was, he picked up a kitchen chair and started beating her with it. Karen was screaming, “John is killing me!” the whole time, probably because the only person she expected to come through that door was John Hontvet.

Maren and Anethe were sleeping in the bedroom when they heard the commotion. Maren managed to drag Karen into the bedroom and lock the door. Knowing that the intruder would break down the door eventually, Anethe tried to escape through the window. Unfortunately, the intruder had also left the house and had found the Hontvet’s ice-chopping axe.

Maren heard Anethe shout the name “Louis” before the man killed her with the axe. He then came back into the house and began breaking down the bedroom door. After trying and failing to rouse the beaten Karen, Maren climbed out the window alone just as the killer burst through the bedroom door. Maren heard Karen give one final scream as the man killed her, too, with the axe.

Maren ran in her nightgown, barefoot and carrying the family dog, until she found a place under a rock to hide. She stayed there all night in the freezing weather. At dawn, she crossed a breakwater to the island of Malaga. She was rescued there.

Louis Wagner was accused of the murder. It was discovered that a rowboat had been stolen from Portsmouth the night before. The authorities believed that he rowed from Portsmouth to Smuttynose, committed the murders, and then fled to Boston, where he was arrested.

After a nine-day trial, Wagner was convicted of the murders. A bloody shirt and a button from one of Maren’s shirts was found among his possessions. That, and the fact that Anethe apparently recognized him before he killed her was enough evidence to convict him.

Despite an escape attempt that ended in his recapture, Louis Wagner eventually paid the ultimate price for his crimes. He was hanged on March 26, 1875. He professed his innocence until the end.

Even though Wagner was convicted of the crime, some people still doubt his guilt to this day. Some say that Maren Hontvet was the killer, since she was the only living eyewitness. Some also accuse John Hontvet, since Karen seemed to think John was the person attacking her with the chair. Those who believe this theory say that Maven was simply covering for him.

Though most believe that the right man was convicted, the Smuttynose murders continue to be seen by many as one the greatest unsolved American murder mysteries.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • Every Panda In The World Is Owned By China

    No matter where the panda is or in what realm of the world he is wandering, one thing they all have in common is they are actually all owned by the Chinese government. And they make quite a hefty sum of money from leasing them out every year. The panda...

    Read More
  • Switzerland Has Accidentally Invaded Liechtenstein Three Times

    You may not have heard of the small country of Lichtenstein, a tiny country in central Europe which is landlocked by Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. It is a microstate, and still has a constitutional monarchy with the Prince of Liechtenstein at the top. But that didn’t stop Switzerland accidentally invading...

    Read More
  • Prehistoric Frogs Show Us Life From 99 Million Years Ago

    Scientist and archeologists together have been able to shine a light into a lost world, finding frogs trapped in a sticky amber resin from over 99 million years ago. These frogs have been preserved in the resin and have most likely been there since the end of the Age of the Dinosaurs. [caption id="attachment_4700" align="aligncenter"...

    Read More
  • Walking Through A Door Can Cause A Loss In Memory

    It has happened to all of us, we think we know what we are looking for and suddenly you do not. As you enter the next room, you are left wondering why on earth did you walk through the door? You run upstairs to grab your phone before going out, and then when you get...

    Read More
  • When One Team Was Defending Both Nets

    When it comes to strange football matches there have been many, some point to the 31 goals Australia put passed American Samoa or the infamous AS Adema 149-0 win over SO l’Emyrne. But actually, the strangest match of football was between Barbados and Grenada during the 1994 Shell Caribbean Cup. ...

    Read More
  • Ball Lightning The Mysterious Glowing Phenomenon

    For years ball lightning has stumped scientists and caused panic all around the world. Many times it has been mistaken for UFOs and caused confusion, even causing damage to homes. And for many centuries it was a mystery, it made no sense when confronted with the norms of science. Was it something supernatural? [caption id="attachment_4691"...

    Read More
  • The Infamous Uranium Thief

    Whenever people debate about nuclear power plants, one thing comes up as a heated subject: nuclear materials are dangerous and having them in the area could mean they fall into the wrong hands. Well, that is exactly what happened in a power plant in North Carolina during the 70s, when two whole drums of enriched...

    Read More
  • Marine Snails Have The Strongest Teeth In The World

    When it comes to strong natural materials, you may think of diamonds or gold. Maybe if you are a scientist then you may think of the amazing spider silk from their webs, but you would all still be wrong. In fact, the answer may come as a big surprise: marine snail teeth are the strongest...

    Read More