Concord, Massachusetts

Two weeks of talks, readings, and discussions celebrating the written and the spoken word.

Elyssa East

Events: Suspense Night 2010

Book: Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost town

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Elyssa East received her B.A. in art history from Reed College and her M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times and various New England regional magazines. A scene from her opera libretto, Mr. Hawthorne’s Engagement, was performed with American Opera Project’s Composers and the Voice series.

Her new non-fiction book is about an area known as Dogtown, an isolated colonial ruin and surrounding 3,000-acre woodland in Gloucester, that has exerted a powerful influence over artists, writers, eccentrics, and nature lovers. The history of Dogtown is woven through with tales of witches, supernatural sightings, pirates, former slaves, drifters, and the many dogs Revolutionary War widows kept for protection and for which the areas was named.

In 1984, a brutal murder took place in Dogtown: a mentally disturbed local outcast crushed the skull of a beloved schoolteacher as she walked in the woods. Dogtown’s peculiar atmosphere and eerie past deepened the pall of this horrific event that continues to haunt Gloucester even today. In alternating chapters, Elyssa East interlaces the story of this grisly murder with the strange, dark history of this wilderness ghost town and explores the possibility that certain landscapes wield their own unique power.