This question comes to us from a song that any Mainer who loves country music is likely very familiar with — Dick Curless’ 1965 classic, “A Tombstone Every Mile.”
Is Route 2A in Haynesville really as dangerous as ‘A Tombstone Every Mile’ made it out to be?
Route 2A in Aroostook County isn’t too different from any other rural road in Maine: heavily wooded, quiet and studded with potholes.
But the stretch of Route 2A that passes through the town of Haynesville (population 97, not too far from the Penobscot County line) has a reputation that precedes it.
What became Route 2A was originally built in the 1830s to better connect Houlton and Bangor, and passed through many tiny settlements like Haynesville. By the 1940s, it was regularly full of trucks carrying loads of potatoes from County fields to market towns like Bangor, Portland and Boston. And when the weather got wet, foggy or icy, accidents happened regularly — especially on the hairpin turn right in the center of town.
Those car and truck crashes were memorably put to song by Maine country legend Dick Curless, whose 1965 hit “A Tombstone Every Mile” vividly described the treacherous road and the truckers who drove it. It’s Curless’ most famous song by far, and has become a country classic that helped put Aroostook County on the map.
Curless’ song made the Haynesville Woods section of Route 2A sound like a veritable graveyard for truckers, with perhaps a supernatural element contributing to the deadly nature of the road. The reality is that while it certainly was a dangerous stretch of road back in the day, it wasn’t exactly a death sentence — at least, not every time.
Searching through the BDN archives back as far as 1906, there are reports of nearly 100 accidents on that stretch of road. Since 2003, the Maine Department of Transportation has reported around 40 crashes on Route 2A in Haynesville, almost all of which involved deer or moose, and none of which were fatal.
A few accidents were particularly shocking, like the 1967 death of two 10-year-old girls who were struck by a tractor-trailer. Another incident in 1993 involved a driver who was seriously injured in a crash, when he allowed a hitchhiker he picked up to drive his truck. The truck owner was thrown from the vehicle, and the hitchhiker fled and was never found.
Overall, though, very few of them ended in fatalities. But nearly all of them involved the combination of that deadly hairpin turn and bad weather — just like the icy roads Curless described in the song.
The road has also figured into a common modern legend: that of the ghostly woman walking along the side of the road, whom passersby must stop to help or risk being cursed. The “white lady” is usually the spirit of a young woman who died in an accident of some kind, and is now doomed to wander the earth, searching for her lost love. The most famous example in Maine of the white lady legend is the Black’s Woods Road ghost, on Route 182 between Franklin and Cherryfield, though examples of it are found all across the world.
Today, trucking accidents there are rare. But the myth of Haynesville Woods lives on through Curless’ famous song, and his striking baritone — the kind of voice that brings to mind a haunted wood and lonesome Maine road, filled with the ghosts of brave truckers lost to seemingly supernatural forces.