Confronting the 'Boogie Man' of Ocean Point

May 14, 2014

Every community in America seems to have its own legends, its own eccentric personalities - the outcasts, the weirdos. Sometimes we integrate these people into our communities. Sometimes, we isolate them. But what happens when the outcast is considered dangerous? Even the well-to-do seaside community of Ocean Point, near Boothbay, has its own boogie man. His name is Bobby Moore. Galen Koch produced this profile for the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland.

Folks in town say that over 20 years ago kids would shut their windows on even the hottest summer nights, for fear that "Bobby Moore would get 'em." People say that Bobby sets fires under summer cottages. He walks in the woods, on paths behind people's homes, and peeks in their windows. He's a lecher. A pedophile. A stalker.

It's hard to know which stories are true. The only concrete evidence against Bobby Moore is that in the mid-'90s he was convicted of arson. The details of the fire are hazy to most people in town, but many folks who know Bobby say that, yes, he is dangerous.

Despite warnings from his neighbors, I want to meet Bobby. I want to know why he's demonized - and why he still lives in a town where he seems so utterly alone.

I'm not going to see Bobby by myself - I'm bringing my friend Pete along, just in case the boogie man is as scary as everyone claims.

Screen door opens "Bob, nice to meet you."

Bobby - or Bob as he likes to be called - greets us in his trailer. The beige mobile home doesn't fit in with the classic Maine capes and million dollar summer mansions in town.

Bobby's home is small, with sparse furniture that looks like it's been here since 1980. Neat rows of mason jars line the windowsills, each one filled with pebbles, sea glass, and shells.

Galen: "Gosh, how long have you been collecting these rocks, Bobby?"

Bobby: "Since I moved down, since my wife and I moved down here in October of '82."

Dozens of Disney figurines adorn a shelf in the kitchen. Folk records line the living room walls. And as for the boogie man? Well, he stands about 5'5" and he's 63 years old.  He doesn't look you in the eye when he talks, he rocks back and forth from the knees obsessively, and he has a tendency to invade personal space.

Bob's undeniably friendly, and within 20 minutes of entering his home, he's seated in the living room - tuning his guitar.

Bobby: "I don't have that good a voice but everybody sounds better than Bob Dylan, I think."

Go away from my window
Go at your own chosen speed
I'm not the one you want babe
I'm not the one you need

Bob taught himself to play music entirely by ear. He's a guitarist and a pianist. He doesn't have a piano at home, so he visits local churches and public spaces to play.

Talking to Bob it's clear that he feels isolated. He's been yelled at and teased since he moved here in the '80s.

Galen: "So Bobby, you were saying that in the town, people don't come over and visit."

Bobby: "Gosh, they really don't, to tell you the truth. There are a couple of - I call 'em the Harbor punks or the townies down here, some guys I'd be just walking down to the beach, they'd say, 'Hey Bob," give me the middle finger. Say 'f-you' to me or, 'Hey you bastard.' I'd mind my own business."

Galen: "Why do you think they yell at you like that?"

Bobby: "Probably cause I'm a loner. For one thing. By myself."  

There's another reason why people torment Bob, why they're afraid of him. People think that Bob sets fires. He was rumored to have started numerous fires in town - but he was only sent to jail for one of these alleged crimes.

In the mid-'90s Bob was living with his wife, Bonnie, and reporting the weather from Ocean Point for WCSH-Portland. Bob would row between the islands in the bay, calling in the weather report and collecting pebbles and shells.

Bobby: "All I know is I went out to the White Island on the morning of June 10th - I try to remember this like it was yesterday even though it was almost 20 years ago. And I'd already gone to bed and Bonnie was here, my wife was here watching television, and we heard a knock on the door and Bonnie said 'Bob.' She said, she said, 'The cops are here.' And they said, 'Bobby we wanna talk to you.'

"They said, 'Where'd you go this morning in your boat?' I said, 'I went out to White Island, landed on there looking for sea glass and shells.' And, 'You're a liar, Bobby! You set a fire on Fisherman's Island last night.' And I said, 'Of course I didn't.' And I said, 'Of course not.' And that's when the trouble started.

"They started hollering at me - they're trying to manipulate me, coerce me, interrogation or whatever. I kinda wimped out. I wish I hadn't. I said, 'I never set that fire, I wouldn't know anything about it.' 'You were seen rowing out there, Bobby, near Fisherman's Island.' I broke down, I got scared. I kept sayin' I never set that fire."

Bob was convicted of arson, sent to jail for six years, and was on probation for another six years. During that time, he tried to return to Ocean Point.  But the town sent a letter to his parole officer, begging that Bobby's restraining order remain in effect.

During his jail time Bonnie divorced him, and Bob finally moved back to Ocean Point in 2006 to live in his trailer, alone.

Bobby: "If I could make all the Ocean Pointers see down here that I never set the fire then maybe I'd have some friends down here, whatever."

After the interview, he takes us for a walk to the beach, to collect stones.

Bobby: "I think the tide's startin' to come in now - I wanna step on the low tide rocks."

He gives me two clear pieces of sea glass and two small bits of white china.

Bobby: "So I call this treasure beach, this is the best beach in the Point."
 
Galen Koch produced this profile for the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland. This and other examples of student work will be featured Thursday night at Salt's opening reception from 5 p.m. to  8 p.m. There will be a gallery show of student photographs as well as three live acts featuring radio, multimedia, photography, and writing.