While passing through the Penobscot County town of Etna on research trips for her new book, Maine writer Mira Ptacin stopped at the local variety store for a snack and asked the customers there if they’d ever heard of Camp Etna, located just a quarter-mile down Route 2 from the store.
“Nobody there knew about it, despite the fact that it’s been in the community for over 100 years,” said Ptacin, who lives on Peaks Island with her husband and two children. “I think people assume it’s some sort of Boy Scout camp or retreat center, and not this historic center for spiritualism.”
A few years ago, Ptacin herself didn’t know anything about Camp Etna, or about spiritualism, a religious movement founded in the 1840s that is based around the belief that the spirits of the dead exist, and that the living can communicate with them.
When a friend told her about the camp, a wooded 27-acre property on Etna Pond that includes 50 cottages, a temple, inn, library and meetinghouse, she was curious. After her first visit, she was ready to write a book, which would become “The In-Betweens: The Spiritualists, Mediums and Legends of Camp Etna,” to be published this month by Liveright/W.W. Norton.
Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.
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