Freedom—November 3, 2016—A fire at a cottage on the big lake…the body of a woman…a sensational murder trial…reports of a ghost that haunts the site…Those were the ingredients of night of mystery and history in the summer of 2003 when Ossipee Lake Alliance presented “The Ghost of Ossipee Lake” at Calumet Conference Center.
The topic was the Frederick Small murder trial, and the speaker was Janice Petrie, whose book, “Perfection to a Fault: A Small Murder in Ossipee, New Hampshire, 1916”, was recently republished to mark the centennial of the case.
Small, an Ossipee insurance salesman, was in Boston on a business trip when his big lake cottage burned to the ground, killing his wife, Florence. Initially thought to be a tragic accident, Florence’s death was later ruled a homicide after authorities conducted a forensic investigation that was highly sophisticated for the time.
Newspaper readers were kept in suspense for months, but the trial faded from memory over time. Many years later, a new home was built on the foundation of the burned cottage, and reports began circulating that the house was haunted. Among those who felt a presence in the house were Petrie’s relatives, whose accounts spurred her to research the story and publish her book in 2000.
Down near the water at Calumet that night in 2003, thunder rumbled in the distance as several hundred people—including many children—listened raptly to Petrie as she detailed the crime and her opinion about whether Florence’s ghost haunts the lake.
Where is the cottage? That’s still a secret, at least to most, but a video produced to promote the new printling of the book might provide clues.