Author Randi Minetor said she writes books about deaths in state and national parks “to help people be more aware of what they need to know” to safely enjoy the parks. Author Randi Minetor said she writes books about deaths in state and national parks “to help people be more aware of what they need to know” to safely enjoy the parks.

Death in Acadia Book details common missteps



ACADIA NATIONAL PARK — Beautiful and serene with its iconic rocky coastline, Acadia, like any national park, can be dangerous.

Rochester, N.Y. author Randi Minetor, who has written a “Death in the Parks” series, has turned her attention to Acadia.

“Death in Acadia,” published in May by Lyons Press, details 78 deaths that occurred in the park between 1853 and 2017. It joins five other books in the series including “Death on Mount Washington,” “Death on Katahdin,” and “Death in Glacier National Park.”

Minetor will discuss the book Thursday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Jesup Memorial Library.

“I don’t have a morbid fascination with death,” Minetor said in an interview with the Islander. “I write these books to help people stay alive.”

The book includes the story of three murders that happened in and around Acadia: the still-unsolved 1977 case of the death of Leslie Spellman, the Thanksgiving shooting of Mark Reed in 1982 and the killing of Kathy Frost Larson by her new husband in 1987.

Aside from the murders, Minetor said most of the stories have a common thread.

“Overall what you really find are people out of their element,” she said. “They take chances [on vacation] they wouldn’t take at home. They climb out on rocks that they don’t realize are really slippery. They don’t realize how cold the north Atlantic is… or how quickly the tide is going to come in. These are just people unfamiliar with the hazards they are going to face.”

Of all the deadly accidents detailed in the book, Minetor said the one that stuck with her the most was the 2012 death of Shirley Ladd.

Ladd was hiking the Precipice Trail, and “was on the verge of turning back and saying, ‘This is too hard for me.'”

Instead Ladd continued, and she didn’t make it.

In fact, a whole chapter of the book is devoted to incidents and accidents on the Precipice over the years

The point of this and other Death in the Parks books, Minetor said, is “to help people be more aware of what they need to know” when exploring the outdoors.

“Be prepared for anything. You’ve got to have things with you in case things go wrong.”

Minetor did the research for “Death in Acadia” on location. Though she did not go so far as to hike the Precipice, she said, “I do want to lay eyes on things and get an idea of what the terrain is and what people are facing.”

She also talks with park rangers and volunteers, to get a sense of what draws people to a place.

Information on the accidents and murders was found in old newspapers.

“I spent some fascinating time in the attic of the Jesup Library,” Minetor said, where there is a collection of “hard-copy newspapers dating back to the ‘40s and ‘50s that have not been digitized.”

Additionally, Minetor said she “could not have done this without folks at the park. Chief Ranger Stuart West was extraordinary.” Park staff Christie Anastasia and Leslie Ann Dykes also proofread her manuscript for accuracy.

Minetor is the author of over sixty books including more than a dozen hiking and birding guides, most focusing on New England and New York State. Several guides, including her 2019 book Birding New England, are done in collaboration with her husband, photographer Nic Minetor.

Death in Acadia is available in paperback, ebook and audiobook.

Books will be on sale at Minetor’s talk at the Jesup courtesy of Sherman’s Books. For more information on the talk, contact 288-4245.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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