Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town
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Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town

3.26 of 5 stars 3.26  ·  rating details  ·  420 ratings  ·  107 reviews

In rich first-person narrative, Dogtown tells the strange, dark story of a wilderness ghost town that has enthralled artists, writers, and eccentrics—and of a brutal murder committed there. Documenting its history and lore,
East explores the possibility that certain landscapes wield their own unique power.

The area known as Dogtown—an isolated colonial...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published December 1st 2009 by Free Press (first published 2009)
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D.M. Dutcher (Sword Cross Rocket)
Meandering and surprisingly boring, focusing too much on minutia. In 1984 a woman was murdered in Dogtown, the abandoned interior of an island. Elyssa is entranced by the area because of a minor painter, and goes there to research the area and the murder case.

There's a lot of problems with this. First of all Dogtown isn't really a ghost town as she writes it. It's the ruins of a town in the middle of an island, and she stretches the ruins a bit. There's a lot of TALK about how mystical and super...more
Diana
There was such a wealth of material here, but sadly it was not well-handled by the author. In the hands of a better writer (someone like Richard Preston, for example), this had the potential to be a great book, but as it was, it felt naive and clumsy and overly self-referential. Disappointing.

One last note on this book: I do think that some places are magnets for badness, although I don't know why. Is it supernatural? Is it that once a place gets a reputation, it attracts the wrong kind of peop...more
Janellyn51
I bought this in my local independent book store on a Monday. I already knew I was going to Gloucester that evening. We had dinner at the Causeway which is the most amazing townie, BYOB place where you get more food/fish than you can possibly eat at one sitting for a good price. We dined with a couple and their near two year old who are good friends, after which, we went to Tony's recording studio so my guy and he could rehearse a couple of songs. After that, we went to the Monday night jam at t...more
Anna Ligtenberg
ISBN 1416587047 - I chose to read this one for several reasons. Love ghost towns! My grandmother was infatuated with Gloucester. Dogtown? Sounds like my kind of place! Enchantment? Cool!

Dogtown has many stories. In recent history, there was the murder of a local woman. Long ago, there were tales of witches. Both of those stories, along with others, are woven into this book as author Elyssa East ventures into this abandoned area, now largely reclaimed by nature, in her search for the Dogtown of...more
Julie
A strange history of a strange place. Dogtown is an isolated spot of land, completely surrounded by Gloucester and Rockport. East does an excellent job of describing the eeriness that is present when you walk through the woods of Dogtown. She also does an excellent job chronicling the history of the place and Gloucester itself.

The book is basically divided into three areas - the history of Gloucester and Dogtown; the murder and subsequent trial for Anne Natti; and East's search for herself in D...more
Rose
Dogtown is a decayed colonial ruin nestled in the wilderness outside Gloucester, Massachusetts. Although it was officially abandoned in 1839, after its last resident was carted away to the poorhouse, this rural slum continues to attract people sensitive to its powerful charm. It inspired several of Beat poet Charles Olson’s famous Maximus poems, and Modernist painter Marsden Hartley felt a crippling depression recede after he committed Dogtown’s unique scenery to canvas.

Dogtown: Death and Encha...more
Kristi
I totally enjoyed this book. This book is creepy. I have to admit, there was a point I put this book down, and I didn't return to it for a solid week it creeped me out so bad. This was an extremely graphic description of a murder - the writing was so clear and vivid I felt I'd watched it.

I'd never heard of Dogtown before, and I think I'll skip if I ever get a chance to visit. This is a very talented writer, the language is beautifully crafted, the insight is solid, and the combined effect, for m...more
Mara
Ok so I don't usually like non-fiction and this was no exception. I thought I'd take a chance and see what happened. Maybe I would like it? Um, no. It's not that the book wasn't interesting at times. It was. Especially the part about the murder of Anne Nati. I did like learning about Dogtown-Gloucester. However, some of the details were just too much and my mind easily wandered during my reading. If you like historical fiction about small towns and you are ready for the details, then this may be...more
Kathi
I wanted to like this book. I've been to Dogtown in Gloucester - its' great for a dog outing and the book did win the New England Award in Nonfiction. But I just couldn't get into it. I had to force my self to finish it. It was long, rambling and kept jumping around between the present day of the author researching the book to the settlers in the 1700's to some poet and some other painter. It was just a disjointed mess.
Rick Hautala
I grew up on the fringes of DOGTOWN, and my friends and I played in the woods all the time ... This book captures both sides of the area ... its beauty and its terror in it depiction of the absolute horrible murder of Anne Natti ... Read it! It is, hands down, the best book I've read this year!
Lesley
I have seen this book going in and out at the library for years and every time I think - "that looks interesting... I should read that." Well, I finally checked it out and I was right! This is an intriguing book looking at one small area of Cape Ann from historic, artistic, spiritual, true crime, and anthropologic perspectives. The entire book is framed by the author's own interest in this area, sparked by her admiration for and connection to the paintings of Hartley Marsden that center on the r...more
peaseblossom
True crime is not really my genre of choice, so I was less enthralled by the murder chapters, but I did enjoy the history and fascination of the place itself. Probably could've used more Lovecraft references, though.
Beth
To much going back and forth between far past, current time and murder. It didn't flow for me and it was hard to finish it.
Michael
East is obsessed with Marsden Hartley's paintings which use Dogtown (on Cape Ann in MA) as their inspiration.
East obsessively researches the area and the many eccentrics inhabiting it.
She concludes that the place is stubbornly mysterious, but that this mysteriousness is partly a product of perception.
East does too much research and seems to try to fit too much of it into the book.
The seams start to bulge.
East lambasts people for fixating on the murder of Anne Natti, but does the same by framing...more
Lisa
I have been to Dogtown several times hiking with my husband and dogs, and have been enraptured by the place. It's very lonely feeling walking through, you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, yet civilization is close by. Each time I've been, I've gotten lost and a little scared that I couldn't find the way back to the car before dark so I truly understood the authors impressions of the place.

This book was received as a Christmas gift, a very thoughtful gift indeed. The author did a wond...more
Deb Mj
This was interesting enough, but didn't live up to my expectations. I would think that someone at all familiar with the area would find it a fascinating read, but I had to fight my way through it.

The murder is horrible, yet no more horrible than any committed any day in any location; the accused is a somewhat frightening individual, yet not inherently evil, and of whom we never get a clear picture; and Dogtown itself is no more mystical or supernatural than any random community's remote, forest...more
Steven Belanger
Really well-written, in a very pondering, smooth way. It does not read like other non-fiction books. It has a workshop-like feel about it when you read it, a book version of a grainy documentary. It goes back and forth between the colonial history of the place (it's a remote part of Gloucester, MA, so there's lots of history) and the murder of a young woman by a local whistling kettle in the 80s. But mostly it's about the feel one has in the place itself. East shows that the entire acreage of Do...more
Michele
East's book is what could be called a landscape narrative, in which she attempts to explore the history of Gloucester, Mass via her own discovery of the area (in search of the inspiration of painter Mardsen Hartley's works). She intersperses a historical narrative of the area, biographies of artists (such as Hartley and poet Charles Olson) who have been inspired by the landscape, in addition to a 1984 murder that took place in the area. Specifically, she focuses on the wooded interior, an area k...more
Zack


Synopsis: A journalist becomes fascinated with an American modernist painter and visits the forbidding island wilderness of Dogtown, just outside of Gloucester, Mass., where he drew his inspiration. There she learns about a senseless murder committed in the woods in 1984, and spends the rest of the book trying to account for the eerie presence that inhabits both the wilds of Dogtown and the minds of those who dwell nearby.

Thoughts: We're all familiar with this trope from fiction—the visitor roll...more
Deb
Knowing just a little about Dogtown and feeling drawn to it, I was excited to find this book last weekend on a clearance table in a Sherman's (locals all know they are great!). I cracked it open a day or 2 later and was immediately anxious about the focus. The author spent a great deal of time on a real and horrible crime that happened in Dogtown in 1984, going deeply into the families of both murderer and victim as well as the murderer's psyche and many details of the crime and trial. She also...more
Sandy
this book was about 75 pages too long. It was the author's love note to a place that, in the end, she never made the case for me to want to visit. Dogtown is a mysterious, rocky abandoned settlement that sits between Gloucester and Rockport on Cape Ann. It has fallen into disrepair for many years and has become overgrown. Many think that the land has a certain mysticism about it, an otherworldliness. Author East tells many stories of denizens in the area from the 1700s to the present, and she su...more
Sara
On the North Shore of Massachusetts, some 30 miles northeast of Boston, an oblong of land called Cape Ann projects into the Atlantic Ocean. The Agawam tribe, belonging to the Eastern Algonquian language group, occupied the area when Europeans began arriving. By 1617 three quarters of the Native Americans in Massachusetts had perished from a pestilence, probably European-delivered, against which they had no immunity. In 1623 when ships from the Dorchester Company, precursor to the Massachusetts B...more
Trudy
Oct 03, 2012 Trudy added it
Dogtown, a remote portion of the island peninsula on Cape Ann, in both Gloucester and Rockport (formerly Sandy Bay) has a rich historical past. Elyssa East, the author, became enamored of the work of Marsden Hartley, an American Modernist painter whose best (translate most haunting) work was done in Dogtown. East, becoming obsessed with him, comes to Gloucester to commune with the magic of Dogtown, to discover the magic of the place that imbued Hartley's paintings with a mystical sense of place....more
Bobbi
I recently read Anita Diamant's book, "The Last Days of Dogtown", a fictional account of the death of a small town on Cape Ann, Massachusetts which was quite good, so I thought I'd continue on with this one. Not so good. The author is enchanted by paintings of this isolated area of about 3000 acres and decides to see it for herself in 2001. One of the first things she discovers is that there was a brutal murder there in 1984. One of the native women was hiking through the paths and was killed by...more
Jennifer
This is the second time that I've read this book and I love it even more now that I've been to Dogtown and experienced it first hand. I'm glad that I now own a copy of it and can read it whenever I want. Although it is a work of nonfiction, East has woven two stories together in a way that makes it read like fiction. Although I think that many, especially so many years after the Natti murder, are connecting the murder and setting together, I don't think that is a wise thing to do. I agree that D...more
Kathleen
I read the first third of the book very quickly, but then got really bored and it took me months to finish it. I felt the book's choppy timeline did not work. If she had written the book chronologically (history of Dogtown, followed by the 1984 murder and done it in two major sections) it would have worked better for me. She also wrote this over ten years and part of the lack of congruity I feel is due to that. Certain sections are clearly inspired and others aren't.

I read this book because was...more
Lam
I've never been to Dogtown, a wilderness area in the heart of Gloucester, MA. But I think I remember my mother telling me that the branch of our family that came to Gloucester in the 1600s settled in Dogtown. This book made me want to explore the area--but only in a large group with at least some people who know their way around. Evidently, it's very easy to get lost. The book weaves the history of Dogtown from colonial times to the present with the story of a murder that took place there in 198...more
Tom
Once into the book, I saw this Read as Route 66 instead of I-40. Don't bother to read it if you don't have the time. As a slow reader, I can always appreciate the "journey" instead of the "destination" storytelling. I was wrong however. Upon finishing, I found the book to be less of a journey on a road less traveled as a drive around Cape Ann: my childhood haven. Although I have regularly come to Gloucester for over fifty years, it had been 30 years since I last made a Dogtown trek. My last full...more
Mary
Three threads in this book: the account of a random, senseless murder, the history of a region in New England, and the third: the effect of this particular patch of land on artists and poets of the 20th century. Elyssa East personalizes her research into Dogtown, which began as a fascination with the painter Marsden Hartley, an American Modernist. I wanted to read it because it was recommended by someone on Goodreads. I found myself trying to imagine an area in Washington state that would have t...more
Maura Stone
I wasn't hooked by page 25, but liked it enough to continue. I liked learning some of the colonial history of the Dogtown & Gloucester area. The alternation of a Gloucester history chapter with a murder chapter helped to keep me interested. I wish I caught the Marsden Hartley exhibit at the Cape Ann Museum last year!
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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 Universitys School of the Arts. Her writing has appeared in numerous New England regional magazines. She grew up in Georgia and now lives in New York City."
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