The Story from the Message in the Bottle

One of these bottles made its way to the shore where Mr. C found it…
a staggering 2.8 miles in 3 weeks 2 days!

Is anyone out there listening? I asked that question in this post. Before that, my husband, daughter, and I threw three bottles containing messages into bodies of water leading to the Atlantic Ocean—asking whomever found them to let us know.
So when I opened my email inbox last Sunday, my heart beat a little faster when I saw an email with the subject: “Your Message in a Bottle.”

Here’s what it said:

“Arrived yesterday at my parents’ house in Cumberland Foreside. Took a long time to get here! Maybe it went around the world first.”

Cumberland Foreside is about 2.8 miles from where we dropped two of the bottles—but still, I was curious about the particulars. What did they think when they found the bottle? Were there any details they could provide? Maybe a story?

I was lucky—when I emailed back, asking if the sender’s parents would be willing to talk to me, explaining: “I’m a writer, I write a blog. Might they be willing to tell me their story?”

The sender said “yes,” then generously gave me his parents’ names and phone number.

When I called, his mother answered. Mrs. C, a lovely older woman, immediately apologized: “You probably wish someone in a more exotic place had found it!” (I wondered if maybe she and Mr. C hoped it would have come from a more exotic place!)

She went on to explain that it was her husband who found the bottle on his morning walk on the shore—he brought it home. “It was exciting!” she said because it was their first message in a bottle they’d ever found; they’ve lived in their house, on a point jutting into Casco Bay, for 34 years.

“It looked like it was a pretty good bottle of wine,” Mrs. C said. “Was it?” They unscrewed the top and then tried to get the note out first with tongs and then with a “lobster poker.” Neither worked.

“Finally I said to Mr. C ‘why don’t we just breakthe thing!’ so that’s what we did! We put it in a paper bag and we broke it!” That’s when they read my note. She went on to tell me that since they don’t have email, they asked their son to send me an email about finding the bottle.

I explained I was going to write a story about the bottle and how they found it, and asked her if she’d ever found anything else unusual on the beach, could she tell me about it? She said they hadn’t, but she offered to tell me a story, if I had time to listen. Of course I had time to listen!

Mrs. C’s Story

Before Mr. C and I owned this house, his uncle owned it for a very long time. And his uncle’s first wife, E—a very beautiful and vivacious young woman—was invited, and attended, the opening of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. While she was there she was sickened by a terrible fungus. It was so sad, because when E returned home, she got sicker and sicker, and finally she died.

It was terrible! But my husband’s uncle went on to marry another wonderful woman, and they lived a good long life together in this very house. When my husband’s uncle died, he left the house to my husband, and that’s when we moved in, 34 years ago.

One day shortly after we moved in, I was going through things left in the attic, and I came across the loveliest photo of Uncle and his first wife E. I bought a beautiful frame for it, put the photo in the frame, and then placed the framed photo on the shelf over the television. And do you know what happened? As soon as I turned around, that television fell right off its shelf! Yes it did!

I picked up that framed photo, put it right back into the attic, right where I found it. And it never happened again!

*  *  *  *

“And what do you think of that?” Mrs. C asked me.

I told her it was one heck of a ghost story, and explained how my blog readers are pretty fond of ghost stories. And she said I should go ahead and share it with you.

Before we hung up, Mrs. C apologized once more that the bottle wasn’t found in a more exotic location. But how could I possibly be disappointed? Then I offered to call her if and when I hear back about those other two bottles.

She was thrilled! And I definitely will call her back—because I would love to have another conversation with a storyteller the likes of Mrs. C!

Have you ever had surprising results from a conversation with someone, like I did with Mrs. C, that started for one reason but ended with another? Are you, like me, always interested in the stories people have to tell

—no matter what path brings them your way?




  1. Ahhh!!! This is the coolest thing I’ve read all day! When I saw your tweet I got all geeky and squealy with excitement–I’ve been dying to know what happened with the bottles, and I’m so excited that someone found one! It’s something straight out of a book, Julia!

    I’m so amazed. Wow. What a great story, and great characters. (Do I smell another WIP brewing? A family drama ghost story perhaps?)

  2. Pet says:

    It is a wonderful story! And you tell it at the right pace to keep the emotion up to the end. Very skilled 🙂 It has made me willing to write more little stories, and less of pure description may be. Thanks, you’ve amused me and put my mind to work too !

  3. Country Wife says:

    Wow!!! What a cool, fun story. Can’t wait for part II and III, whenever that may be! 🙂

  4. Wonderful!!! I love the part about King Tut’s tomb. That’s totally creepy. So cool that Mrs. C. turned out to be a storyteller. The ghost story is super.

  5. Ann says:

    I’m SO excited to read your bottle was found! Mrs. C. was a GREAT story teller, please tell her thanks – she rocks!

  6. I love this from top to bottom, inside-out and backwards!! I love the adventures you come up with, Julia. As a mutual friend was saying as we discussed feeling lucky to know you: “Julia and her blog have pixie dust around them!”

    I’m so thrilled your bottle was found by Mr. and Mrs. C, who were excited and treated it like a real adventure. I enjoyed every detail.

    It never ceases to amaze me how nearly everyone believes the place they live is not exotic. I’ve heard this from people living in Tokyo and beyond. And Mrs. C is CONVINCED that living on a point jutting into Casco Bay is dull and not worthy of mention. But I gotta tell ya . . . from where I sit (landlocked in Ohio) it sounds pretty darn exotic ;~)

    Your investigative spirit is very creative and I just love that Mrs. C wanted to tell you her ghost story. And that she wants to hear about the other bottles if/when they’re found.

    So far this has been great value!!

    ~ Milli

    P.S. I love the map you made indicating the journey of the UFB (Unidentified Floating Bottle). Too cool.

  7. Liz says:

    What a cool idea! You should be a mystery writer. For real! You love uncovering histories and personal stories. You could weave those into some pretty awesome tales, julia!

  8. OMG that is so awesome! I love that the bottle was found and they were so nice to let you know!

  9. Natalia, So glad you enjoyed the post — I was SO excited when I heard back!! And what a story! Not sure if it’ll become a WIP (what a great idea, btw), but no doubt Mrs. C will make an appearance somehow. Thanks for the nice compliment!

    Pet, So glad you enjoyed the story — so nice of you to say I told the story so well! I’m glad it’s inspired you to write more stories for your blog & helped put your mind to work — thank you for such a huge compliment!

    Country Wife, Glad you enjoyed the story! I can’t wait for Parts II & III either… I really can’t imagine where bottles 2 & 3 might be!

    Cynthia, So glad you enjoyed the fun but creepy story, I agree… King Tut’s tomb WAS creepy. I was so psyched that Mrs C was a story teller, too. 🙂

  10. Ann, It was SO exciting! Mrs. C was great and so happy to talk to me — it was wonderful to think that I brought some fun into their day, too!

    Milli, So glad you enjoyed it — and thank you for the huge compliment. 🙂
    Mrs. C loved the adventure and she and her husband had fun with it, it was great! I agree, this is a pretty exotic place — just a “known” exotic place! No question this was a fun adventure for all — and the map was a blast to make (thank goodness for google!).

    Liz, Thanks! One of my WIPs is a mystery, and I have to say that “Maggie” (my protagonist) and I both do some pretty fun things 🙂 so THANK YOU! I do love uncovering history and personal stories, but they would be nothing without wonderful readers like you. Huge compliments, thank you!

    Leah, Thank you! So glad you enjoyed the story — Mrs. C was SUCH a nice person and quite entertaining too. A very nice side benefit of the bottle adventure, meeting such a fun person with such an interesting story!

  11. Warm fuzzies reading this. 🙂 It’s got that Julia stamp all over it. Mrs. C’s ghost tale is great… Storytellers have a way of finding each other, don’t we?

    I have a 90 year old aunt who tells the best stories. My dad calls it “revisionist history,” but oh, how I love the creative splash she weaves into her recollections of her youth. Did you ever see the movie Big Fish? That’s what her stories remind me of.

    Great post!


  12. Barb, Glad you enjoyed it! Your aunt sounds AWESOME, my mom also had “revisionist history,” so I know what your dad means! Yes, I’ve seen BIG FISH, and I hope your aunt had a chance to record or write some of her stories. They will be loved by generations to come, I’m sure! (p.s. Really? “that Julia stamp”? That made my day, thank you 🙂

  13. thelmaz says:

    What a delightful story. I guess I missed your earlier post so I want to know what your message said: email me or something more exciting. Anyway, I’m glad someone found the first bottle. I tried doing that once years ago, but no one ever found the bottle. Lucky you.

  14. Ado says:

    I *love* this! Love it! I think you should start a message in a bottle linky where we can all send off our messages and (of course, it might take years…) when/if we hear back we can write about it. (-;
    I love that Mrs. C found it and what a great ghost story! I think that was plenty story enough! Although it would have been mighty interesting, too, if it had been found by Somali pirates off the coast of Yemen but then there would’ve been a pretty big language barrier…(-:
    What a great story!

  15. Awesome! I’ve always loved the spooky and unexplained, especially stories about curses and such. What a fantastic person to come in contact with, and through such a seemingly “random” act. Of course, I believe that the Universe is connected in very special ways, so there was every reason for Mr and Mrs C to be the ones who found your message in a bottle!


  16. Thelma, I feel so lucky that someone found the bottle — what great fun! It was wonderful to actually get to talk to the person, too!

    Ado, Isn’t it great? I’ll have to think about the linky…. although if this bottle traveled at .13 miles/day, it would be about 461 days to get to England (not that I calculated it or anything)…. have you and the girls done one? Mrs. C was a hoot! Of course, as you say, further would’ve been better. If not Somali pirates (as you say, language barrier) then I vote for Great Britain. At least then I could talk to them…. 🙂

  17. Ashlee, Glad you enjoyed the spookiness of it…me too! And as you say, what a wonderful find Mrs. C was! I love the connections I find with people through writing, the blog, the Twitterverse, and now… through bottled messages — who knew? 🙂

  18. This is so crazy!! I suppose it’s not too weird, living around all that water, but still the odds have got to be low. What a story she had to tell you as well. I really believe that everyone has an amazing story to tell. This is truly a unique experience in today’s world. I’m glad you got to experience it and we got to share in it!

  19. Sara, Fun huh? I so completely agree about everyone having a story — I loved that about studying journalism: finding out I had “the authority” to ask questions to seek out the story. I LOVE interviews and hearing the stories — pretty ironic since I’m usually holed up in my house writing. researching. twittering. etc. So happy you enjoyed it!

  20. Darian Wilk says:

    What a great story! I too think everyone has a story to tell, and I love hearing them. I guess because writers are naturally inquisitive creatures?

    Can’t wait to hear about the other bottles : ) I might have to steal your idea and do this with my kids, they would absolutely love it!

  21. Darian, Thanks, glad you liked it! I hope the other bottles are found too — so much fun. You should definitely do it with your kids; what a fun project! As for stealing it from me, I think I’m only one in a long line of message-in-a-bottle senders, and the more the merrier! If you do, please let me know & maybe even blog about it? So happy you enjoyed! 🙂

  22. I love this post for SO many reasons… I love the “hope” that you placed in that bottle and that it was actually returned. Who cares that it was 2.8 miles – that’s still impressive, especially when you think of what COULD have happened to it (it could have fallen to the bottom of the ocean never to be found). VERY cool that it washed ashore and that someone read it and delighted in the experience. So wonderful! When I was young I did the balloon and message thing, but, alas, never heard a word.

    And the ghost story … so lovely. So wonderful that you had a dialogue with the recipient of the bottle.

  23. Melissa, Glad you enjoyed it. It was a really really cool and fun experience. Mrs. C was so wonderful to talk to and she and her husband were so excited, it was awesome! I find it so interesting that I would never have met or heard her story if I hadn’t done this — and she’s only 2.8 miles away. I really did have the “hope” and proves although it’s a small world via the Internet, in real life it’s very very large!

  24. How cool is this? Only the most fabulous thing I’ve read today.
    I loved hearing about Mrs. C and the history of her house. I smell a story in there somewhere.
    I hope the 2nd and 3rd bottles end up with similarly wonderful tales to tell.

  25. Now THAT is one great story . . . Mrs. C’s story, and just the FACT that she found the bottle and you talked to her, etc. I love it!!!!

  26. artistsroad says:

    What a great project. I hear at times about people doing this but you actually did, kudos! Someone above mentioned mystery writing, that’s exactly what that is, asking the universe to answer a mystery of your own making.


  27. Jackie, No question, you made my day with your lovely comment! So glad you enjoyed it — great fun to research, interview and write! Mrs. C is a phenomenal real-life stumbleupon, and I can’t possibly hope for such luck w/ 2nd or 3rd bottles. But who knows? Thanks for your visit to my post and for your sweet comment! 🙂

    Nina, Thank you! It was such a pleasure to talk to Mrs. C. She was a very entertaining and fun interview — with a great story! I loved the fact, too, that she was so excited to talk about the bottle!

    Patrick, It was *such* fun to do! I was pretty surprised, actually, that I had any result at all in such a short time — even though it was so close to home! And as you say: I asked for a mystery and I was given one. Very cool!

  28. Michael Ann says:

    Loved this! What a great idea to put the message in the bottle in the first place. And the resulting story DID read like a book! Or it was like one of those stories on 20/20 that they unravel slowly to you and make you wonder. VERY cool. Creepy about the photo….

  29. Lisa Ahn says:

    Ah!! I’m so glad someone found one of those bottles! I love this story — I love the quirky twists and turns that led you to Mrs. C and the ghost story that surprised everyone. Fabulous!!! Can’t wait to hear about those other bottles. King Tut! Seriously!

  30. Michael Ann, So happy you enjoyed the post — and what a big compliment that it reminded you of a 20/20 story. Made me happy down to my journalistic roots 🙂 Thanks for your comment! Yes, the photo story was creepy, no question! 🙂

    Lisa, It was so cool that someone found one of the bottles, and the conversation was great fun — what a wonderful way to meet someone! I am also looking forward to the other bottles, the mystery of it all is wonderful and intriguing!

  31. Great story!

  32. Karen, Thank you! 🙂

  33. Bella says:

    Julia, what a wonderful ending to one of your bottles! About ten years ago, my sister, her kids and mine, threw a bottle in the Mediterranean Sea. We have yet to hear from anybody. 🙂 So happy this wasn’t your case and Mrs. C sounds delightful!

  34. Bella, So glad you enjoyed the story! It was such a fun thing to do–as you know from when you did it with your sister and your/her kids! That someone found it and had a story to tell was frosting on the cake. 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!

  35. That is so cool, Julia! Ever since I saw Message In A Bottle, I’ve always wanted to do that. You have such fun ideas and since I can’t throw any bottles here without hitting a wheat field, I will live vicariously through you.

  36. Hallie, hahaha, that’s so funny about the wheat field…. I will happily let you live through my bottle-message adventures! I agree, that movie was a bit of an encouragement, what a story!

  37. I’ve tied messages to balloons when my kids were younger and always wanted to place one in a bottle. I think it wonderful that you passed on excitement and wonder to others.

  38. badluckdetective, what a sweet comment! I like to think that I made Mr. and Mrs. C’s day a little more fun and exciting! She certainly sounded like it on the phone. It’s such a romantic notion to find something on the beach that randomly ties us to another person! Nice to see you here today!