The Isle of Shoals may be one of the most beautiful spots in New Hampshire, full of seaside charm. However, nearly 150 years after it happened, the site is also famous as the haunted islands where the most gruesome murders in Granite State history unfolded.
Today the Isle of Shoals is a charming vacation destination off the coast of New Hampshire. However, despite its pleasant appearance Smuttynose Island, one of the isles, has a sordid history.
In 1873, the island was the scene of a gruesome ax murder of two women. A third barely escaped with her life, hiding in a seaside cave until her attacker disappeared. It is said that sometimes visitors still hear her screams.
In the early 1870s, Maren and John Hontvet were the only two people living on Smuttynose Island. When Louis Wagner, another fisherman appeared on the island, they couldn't help developing a friendship in the close quarters. Eventually, John hired Louis and he moved into the Hontvet's home. At the same time, Maren's sister Karen moved to the Isle of Shoals and began working for another family on the island. Soon after, Maren's brother and his wife Anethe also moved into the Hontvet household.
However, Louis soon left to make a living on the mainland. But luck was not in his favor and he was soon destitute - so much so that he decided to rob the Hontvets. On a night when he knew that the men were on the mainland, he rowed an amazing 12 miles to Smuttynose island, where the three women had just tucked in for the night.
It is said that Louis intended to rob the house undetected, but when he woke Karen the violence began. Karen was attacked with a chair, while Anethe was killed in the moonlight with an ax blow to the head. Maren, realizing that her sister and sister-in-law could not be helped, hid beneath a rock on the jagged shoreline, despite the freezing winter night.
Louis searched the island for Maren, but couldn't find her. After making himself a cup of coffee, leaving bloody hand prints on the pot, he disappeared. Maren waited out the night in the surf, not daring to leave until 8 a.m. the next morning, when he was able to flag down workers on an adjoining island.
The police were notified and the island searched. Louis' boat was discovered in New Castle, and police received a tip that he was on the train to Boston. He was arrested there later that evening. As he was transported back to Portmouth, angry mobs demanded justice in the well-publicized case. Louis escaped from jail, but was recaptured quickly. On June 5, 1875 he was hanged for the murders of Karen and Anethe.
Although justice was delivered, it is said that Karen and Anethe still haunt Smuttynose Island. Even Maren, who survived the attack, is said to wail from the rock that provided her refuge that horrible night.