Shores of Horror: The Shadow over Fort Foster Park

September 18, 2017 — I never thought that a post about a beach would make it into the OTIS Halloween Season. It wasn’t on purpose, I can assure you. This is one of those beautiful little Halloween Season surprises that I’m always doing the textual equivalent of yapping about.

It was Sunday, approaching 5:00 in the evening. We were heading to Gerrish Island in Kittery, Maine. My wife is a photographer, and she had a family portrait gig scheduled there on the beach at Fort Foster Park. Her client wanted something summery and beachy and knew a nice spot for it.

Despite it being mid-September, the day really did feel like summer. Temps were in the eighties and the sun was so bright I thought I smelled scorch on everything. It really speedbumped our Halloween Season.

But then some Halloween magic happened. In the hour between my house and Kittery, the mercury dropped a good 20 degrees.

And then we saw the beach. It was straight out of a Scooby Doo episode. One of those where a barnacled ghost pirate or a seaweedy ghost diver rise slowly up from the water to a soundtrack of deep bass notes.

The entire place was covered with a fog so thick, we could barely see the ocean. Atop a bluff sat a 120-year-old crumbling fort with views of, well, the fog, but also dim shapes that were an old, spider-webbed-covered pier and the beheaded supports of an even older pier. It was low tide, too, so scattered across the beach and out into the water were intimidating humps of rock and clumps of shaggy seaweed, like the decayed remains of an army of Sid and Marty Krofft puppets. We even saw crows perched on those snail-covered mounds of seaweed and rock. I mentally raised our situation from Scooby Doo episode to opening scene of a horror movie.

And I loved it. This is the kind of beach that would made me a beach guy instead of an anyplace-but-the-beach guy. It was absolutely, well, I want to say Lovecraftian, because the fog and the water remind me of The Shadow over Innsmouth. But it could just as well be Carpenterian, with the fog hiding a ship full of drowned ghost lepers. Or Kingian, since this was an honest-to-God Maine mist after all.

Whatever, it felt like the Bermuda Triangle had drifted north. And we did find a monster lurking in its depths. An eight-legged armored creature with a spikey tail…a horseshoe crab. Once you flip one of those tailed domes over, they’re pretty creepy. I mean, I’m not going to use them as a Halloween decoration anytime soon, but...well, maybe that’s not such a bad idea. I mean, if we ever do "haunted beach" for a decoration theme.

My seven-year-old picked up the creature only after making me get reassurances from Google.

Seven-Year-Old: “Ask your phone if it’s dangerous.”

Me: “What?”

Seven-Year-Old, raising her voice: “Hey Google, can you pick up horseshoe crabs?”

Me: “Stop that.” I pulled the phone out of my pocket and whispered into it, “Hey Google, can you pick up horseshoe crabs?”

The first result had a .edu address and a Google summary that said, “When you find a live horseshoe crab, just pick them up!”

Me: “Google says it’s okay.”

And if you’re wondering why I didn’t just pick the thing up, it’s because the little guy was out in ankle deep water and I was wearing jeans and Timberlands (not a beach guy, remember?) and those boots have way to many eyelets for me to just whip off easily.

Anyway, she scooped up the crab and took it to a dryer part of the beach so that we could check it out, although the fog had saturated everything at this point, including ourselves, so there was no such thing as “dryer” anywhere close.

Eventually, Lindsey finished immortalizing the family. I have no idea if her client hated that her sunny beach had turned into a horror show, but there’s no way she doesn’t get cool photos. Just no way. They’re definitely the kind of family pics I’d want…although I would have also worked the horseshoe crab into them.

Moral of the story: Just do things at this time of the year, and Halloween will figure out the rest for you.