BURLINGTON — Thea Lewis had no intentions of writing a book this year.
She was working on adult fiction for a change.
It’s the 10th anniversary of her popular Haunted Tours, Queen City Ghostwalk, and she wanted to focus on that and events such as the Green Halloween Costume Sale to benefit the Vermont Food Bank and two screenings of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Later this year, she publishes a digital collection of haunted tales after the tours die down.
Fate dictated otherwise. The History Press wanted another book for its Haunted America series. Three years ago, the press published Lewis’s “Haunted Burlington: Spirits of Vermont’s Queen City,” now in its fourth printing.
The History Press contacted her in March. Her deadline was June.
“There I was again at the kitchen table in front of my laptop and going off to visit places to do research,” said Lewis, who was director of Creative Services for WCAX Channel 3 News for 22 years.
“I signed the contract in April and spent all of April and all of May writing.”
“Ghosts and Legends of Lake Champlain” was a gift. With the first book, she was told her subject matter. With this book, she was able to explore UFO abductions, Plattsburgh, Fort Ticonderoga and Big Foot.
“It’s astounding. Sasquatch is roaming the hills of Vermont and upstate New York. It went fast. It was a fun book to write,” she said.
Her first chapter, “Frighteners of the Fort,” chronicles paranormal activity at Fort Ticonderoga.
“I try to open the chapters with little anecdotal stories. I want to make history approachable,” she said.
In her high-school days, she disliked classes reduced to memorization of dates.
“It wasn’t all that exciting. I like a good story because I’m a storyteller at heart.”
She loves the ghost story of Back Inn Time, Chapter 11 in the book.
“It’s a wonderful B&B on Fairfield Street in St. Albans. It possibly has three different ghosts. It’s a place that dates back to the time when a gentleman, Victor Atwood, built the home. He was a business owner in town and very well-known.”
The structure passed from the Atwood family to another man whose wife’s mysterious death fueled the town’s rumor mill.
“I like the idea of a haunted B&B. I just love the story about the presumed UFO sightings in the skies over Church Street in 1907.
Lewis was researching the destruction of St. John’s Cemetery in Plattsburgh when she discovered Patricia Kulman Samuelson, a descendant of Owen O’Neil, who died under mysterious circumstances.
In Chapter Six, Murder in Plattsburgh, Lewis wrote:
“Owen O’Neil was a landowner who lived with his wife, Catherine, and their eight children on the outskirts of Altona, New York, not far from Plattsburgh.”
“I interviewed Patricia about the murder mystery,” Lewis said. “The stories came to me in strange ways. I got to talk to the most fascinating people. Mark Rodighier, he’s the director of the Center for UFO Studies. When I told him about reading about this presumed UFO sighting in Burlington, he knew exactly what I was talking about.”
Lewis also contacted Sandra Mansi, who snapped a picture of Champy on the shores of St. Albans Bay on July 5, 1977.
“It’s the first clear photo of Champ that has never been debunked,” Lewis said.
Putting the book’s chapters together was like linking puzzle pieces.
“It’s like the puzzle pieces were magnetic, and they were pulling toward each other,” Lewis said.
Email Robin Caudell: firstname.lastname@example.org
WHAT: "Ghosts and Legends of Lake Champlain" by Thea Lewis.
PUBLISHER: Haunted America, a division of The History Press.