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Isles of Shoals Murders | Horror on Smuttynose Island

Isles of Shoals Murders | Horror on Smuttynose Island
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Petrified, Anethe watched the gruesome scene from a corner of the room. “Anethe! Run! Hide!” Maren implored as she bolted the door from the inside. Nearly incoherent, Anethe clambered out a window and stood barefoot in the snow. She was frozen with fright. “Run!” Maren screeched, but it was too late. Wagner had given up trying to enter the room and left the house. As he approached Anethe, his true identity was revealed in the moonlight. “Louis! Louis!” Anethe shrieked.Maren was astonished to see through the window the man they had so willingly accepted now so fiendishly occupied. As Anethe stretched out her hands before him he reached to the wood pile and seized the long handle of the axe. In one swift motion he raised the instrument high into the starry night and drove the steel blade into Anethe’s head. Her lifeless body shuddered violently and slumped as Wagner continued striking her, all in full view of Maren who stood so close on the other side of the window she “could have reached out and touched his arm.”

Seeing Anethe could no longer be helped, Maren turned her attention to saving herself and her sister. She rushed to the bed where Karen was kneeling with her head on the mattress and tried to revive the dazed woman. “Karen! Karen! We must run!” she begged, but her poor young sister was on the verge of fainting and could only manage to say, ‘No . . . too tired.’ ” Meanwhile Wagner completed his butchery and was returning to the bedroom door with the axe.

Maren’s keen sense of self-preservation told her they were both doomed if they stayed together. She hastily wrapped herself in a heavy skirt, and hearing Wagner entering the house, she climbed through the window into the bloodied snow with Ringe, now silent, close behind. As she ran, the spiny ice covering the undergrowth tore her bare feet. She expected to find Wagner’s boat in the cove and was near panic upon discovering it wasn’t there. Her first impulse was to hide in the cellar of a vacant building close by, but she thought better of it, realizing Wagner would be thinking likewise. Instead she ran along the shore to the far side of the island. As she passed the cottage, circumventing it as widely as possible, her ears captured the agony of Karen. Shivering and clutching Ringe close to her breast she crawled between two rocks near the water’s edge where the pounding waves obliterated all other sound.

At the house Karen was trying to escape through a window when Wagner burst into the room. He swung the axe wildly at the feeble figure, first on the mark, then missing, splitting the sill, and breaking the handle. Karen’s listless form melted into the room where Wagner twisted a handkerchief around her throat and pulled mightily until he was sure his deed was final.

What anxiety Wagner must have felt seeing Maren had escaped the room! He left a bloody trail of footprints in the snow surrounding every building on the island in a vain attempt to forever silence the last person who could identify him. He searched as long as he could but knew he had to abandon hopes of finding Maren if he were to escape under cover of darkness. He went back to the house and dragged Anethe’s body by the feet into the kitchen. Exhausted, he then brewed a pot of tea, leaving blood stains on the handle, and ate some food he had brought with him using a plate, knife, and fork from the Hontvets’ kitchen. After ransacking the house and finding only $15 he departed, leaving Anethe’s body on the floor beside a clock that had been knocked off the mantel in the struggle and stopped at seven minutes past one.

It was almost eight the next morning before Maren dared leave hiding. Unable to gain the attention of workmen on a neighboring island she staggered on frozen feet across the breakwater connecting Smuttynose and Malaga and waved her arms to the children of Jorge Ingerbredsen who were playing outside their home on Appledore. Once alerted, Jorge rowed the quarter mile to Maren’s rescue. He returned her to the care of his wife then gathered men with guns to search Smuttynose. When the party landed on the small island they discovered Wagner’s deed horribly documented.

Finding no one on Smuttynose the men returned to Appledore and searched there also. A few hours later the Clara Bella was spotted on the horizon, her sails spread majestically, gliding through the warming sunshine on the icy sea. Seeing a signal on shore, Matthew and Ivan rowed a tender to Appledore and John sailed the schooner to its mooring on Smuttynose. When the tender landed the men were told of “some trouble on Smuttynose.” They rushed to the Ingerbredsen house where they found Maren in a deplorable state.
“Anethe! Where is Anethe?” Ivan pleaded. Tearfully Maren answered “Anethe is . . . at home.”

Ivan and Matthew flew to the tender and rowed furiously to Smuttynose. They landed at the same time as John and the three raced to the house. Ivan pushed open the door and entered the kitchen. There, lying on the floor, her long gold hair matted in a pool of dried blood, was his adored lover. Covering his face he pushed his way out the door and collapsed senseless in the snow. John and Matthew viewed the full contents of the destroyed home, then sailed the Clara Bella to Appledore. Later that afternoon John and others carried Maren’s tale of terror to the authorities in Portsmouth.

Word of the calamity spread fast. A description of Louis Wagner was telegraphed to police throughout the coastal states and the evening editions were filled with all the gory details.

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