A horribly terrifying murder took place on Smuttynose Island, which is the setting for the movie Weight of Water.
This tale is the testimony of Maren Hontvet, the only survivor of the tragic night of ghastly murders.
Six Norwegian settlers lived together in a lone house on Smuttynose Island. A married couple named Maren and John Hontvet, Maren’s sister, Karen Christensen, their brother Ivan Christensen and his wife Anethe, and finally, John’s brother, Matthew.
The household took in a boarder, Louis Wagner, a Prussian fisherman suffering from rheumatism. When his arthritis allowed it, Wagner worked for Hontvet who became a successful fisherman while living on the island. The women of the household tended to Wagner when he was ill. According to rumors, Wagner had become infatuated with Christensen’s wife, Anethe.
It is unknown why Wagner left Smuttynose Island six months prior to the murders and moved to a public house in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, across from the Island. He had no money and was lax in paying his rent, eventually falling behind. He complained to everyone of his poverty, blaming his problems on the family that had wronged him.
Maren was the sole survivor of that horrible night. Her husband, John, and his workers were held up in Portsmouth and did not return to the island this infamous night. He reported that he had spoken with Wagner that evening, who had asked repeatedly if Hontvet and his party would be returning to the island that night. It was the first night the women were left alone overnight.
At 8:00 pm a local fisherman realized that his small boat was missing. Some believe that Wagner stole the boat to row to the island and commit the murders. The entire rowing trip from Portsmouth to the island and back is roughly 20 miles at night during the winter time.
It is reported that Wagner had an estimated 11 hours of time unaccounted for that night. It would have been a hard task even for a young man let alone a older man with health issues. However, according to the reports from that night the tide was right. With the half moonlight shining brightly, he could manage the trip.
Maren’s testimony claimed that a fellow fisherman had brought her a note from her husband, stating that the men would return very late. Maren, Karen, and Anethe retired early, leaving the door unlocked. Mauren said she and Anethe shared a bed, while Karen slept in the kitchen on chairs pulled together to form a bed.
Their home was the only one on the island occupied that winter. It is suggested that Wagner broke into the home, unexpectedly finding Karen in the kitchen. A family dog was also startled and commenced barking. Karen thought John and the others had returned. She called out to him.
As she was being attacked, Karen yelled out “John is killing me!” This statement is the main reason Wagner’s guilt was debated so readily. Maren said that she tried to help Karen but the door was blocked. She assisted Anethe out of the bedroom window, but Anethe was too scared to flee. Wagner allegedly attacked Anethe who screamed “Louis!” Maren witnessed Wagner beating Anethe with the ax. She escaped the house and hid in a rocky area near the water with her dog, which helped her keep warm through the frigid night. She was found barefoot the following morning; her night gown had blood on it.
Read Part 2 for the remainder of the tale.