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The Smuttynose Murders

  • Museum of Old Newbury 98 High Street Newburyport, MA, 01950 United States (map)

The cold-blooded ax murder of two innocent Norwegian women at their island home off the coast of New Hampshire has gripped the region since 1873, beguiling tourists, inspiring artists, and fueling conspiracy theorists.

The killer, a handsome Prussian fisherman down on his luck, was quickly captured, convicted in a widely publicized trial, and hanged in an unforgettable gallows spectacle. But he never confessed and, while in prison, gained a circle of admirers whose blind faith in his innocence still casts a shadow of doubt. A fictionalized bestselling novel and a Hollywood film have further clouded the truth.

In his book Mystery on the Isles of Shoals, J. Dennis Robinson fleshes out the facts surrounding this tragic robbery gone wrong and provides a definitive "whydunnit" account of the Smuttynose Island ax murders.  Robinson delves into the backstory at the rocky Isles of Shoals as an isolated centuries-old fishing village was being destroyed by a modern luxury hotel.  Robinson goes beyond the headlines of the burgeoning yellow press to explore the deeper lessons about American crime, justice, economics, and hero worship.

J. Dennis Robinson has published over 2,000 articles on New Hampshire history and culture. His books for young readers include biographies of Jesse James and Lord Baltimore and an overview of child labor exploitation in America. His hardcover histories of Strawbery Banke Museum and historic Wentworth by the Sea Hotel both received honors from the American Association for State and Local History.  Robinson is also a history columnist and editor of, a website about New Hampshire history and culture.

Reception 6:30pm, Program 7:00pm
Free and open to the public
Reservations recommended due to limited seating. Contact 978-462-2681 or

Earlier Event: March 11
The Lowells of Massachusetts
Later Event: April 16
Patriots of the Past