As the story goes, Harry Main came to the Massachusetts seaport town of Ipswich from the Isles of Shoals—a series of islands not far from Portsmouth, New Hampshire—where an unsolved double murder from the 19th century continues to intrigue those interested in the dark underbelly of New England’s history.
Before coming to Ipswich in 1671 with his friend Andrew Diamond, Main had been a successful fisherman. When both men moved to Ipswich to continue their fishing activities, Diamond’s career took off. He helped to build several wharfs in the town and co-owned a fleet of merchant ships that actively took part in New England’s profitable trade economy with Great Britain. While Diamond became a wealthy and well-respected man, Main turned to a life of crime. In particular, he worked as a “wrecker” who would steal whatever he could from the many ships that wrecked near Ipswich’s shores.
Worse still, Main was a “mooncusser,” a type of pirate who purposely set bonfires on Ipswich’s beaches to steer ships toward dangerous rocks. Like the fictional General Zaroff of The Most Dangerous Game and the founders of Antonio Bay in John Carpenter’s The Fog, Main not only caused shipwrecks, he also killed off the survivors. When Main’s crimes came to light, legends say that he was tied to a stake in a sandbar and forced to perform the Sisyphean task of shoveling sand until his demise.
Since then, Main’s ghost has been said to haunt his former residence on Water Street, where a secret treasure protected by magic may contain all the items that he stole from those wrecked ships.