NEWMARKET — One may never look at the streets of the town the same way again after taking Michael Provost's annual Halloween stroll with Lamprey Heritage Tours.
They will leave more informed about the darker side of the town's history.
Provost began offering the tours, titled "Murder, Mischief, Mishaps and Mayhem … Tales of Old New Market," five years ago and because of their popularity has been offering them every year Dressed in a dark flowing cape and carrying a candlelit tin lantern, "Michel de Morbide" walks visitors from the library on Elm Street around downtown, pausing along the way to tell stories of murder, mayhem and bizarre happenings over four centuries of the town's history.
"Newmarket was not always the sleepy community we think of it being today," Provost said.
Many of the stories focus on the era of the Newmarket Manufacturing Company, which operated for 106 years and in its heyday made Newmarket the sixth largest town in the state.
The journey with Provost begins across the street from the mill agent's house, built in 1823. Thirteen mill agents called the brick house home, including John Webster, a retired sea captain who arrived in town in 1845. In 1855, his only son died tragically, and in his bereavement, Webster resigned and left town. Upon his death, he left a sum of money to erect a monument in Newmarket in his son's memory. That monument is now the Newmarket Public Library.
Stories go on to include the tragedies of a small pox epidemic, a cholera epidemic, the town's only recorded tornado victim and how the earth shook the day Newmarket separated from Exeter, becoming its own parish.
It includes stories of young men who murdered young girls over unrequited love, the last Indian raid on the town, "Mary Moonshine" and "her dump" and Newmarket's connection to one of New England's most infamous murderers, Lizzie Borden.
Provost started collecting these stories about seven years ago when he began conducting research for a book on the final labor unrest that ended the reign of the Newmarket Manufacturing Company and sent the town into an economic tailspin.
"I kept coming across all these little interesting bits of information, so I started jotting them down. And before I knew it, I had a notebook full of stuff," Provost said.
He said people enjoy hearing about the odd and macabre events that took place in their town.
"Many longtime residents say nothing ever happened big enough to be able to go on a tour with. But I don't even use all of the material that I've got on any tour, and I change the material from year to year," Provost said.
Through Lamprey Heritage Tours, Provost also offers three other views of Newmarket, focusing on the history of the mills, the downtown historic district and the waterfront.
This year's tours
Proceeds from this year's haunted tours, being held tonight, Thursday and Friday will benefit the Newmarket Historical Society's Stone School Museum heating system project.
Tours leave the steps of the town library at 7 p.m. and last about 90 minutes. Tickets cost $10 a person. Tours are limited to 25 people. Reservations can be made by calling 781-7116 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.