From lobsters and housing development to strange wildlife sightings, here's what you wanted to read about this year. Credit: BDN Composite

As we near the end of the year, we’re revisiting the stories from 2022 you read the most.

Unlike the past two years, which had headlines dominated by COVID-19 and political unrest, this year’s stories have a distinctly Maine feel: strange animal sightings, community members helping those in need, lobster rolls and the challenges of the state’s red-hot real estate market.

Here’s a look back at the most-read Bangor Daily News stories of 2022.

Most of you couldn’t identify the mystery beast spotted on a Maine trail camera

This trail camera photo from far western Maine has created some interesting discussion among those who have seen it. Credit: Courtesy of Allie Ladd

BDN readers love a bizarre trail camera photo or video, and this was the year’s strangest. In June, we asked readers to identify an odd-looking creature caught on a trail camera photo from Allie Ladd of Byron.

Outdoors Editor Pete Warner wrote that he thought it resembled the smooshed-in face of a large primate, such as a gorilla, although there clearly aren’t any apes in the Maine woods.

Readers’ guesses included bear, moose, porcupine and even a tree. Some even threw out answers such as bigfoot and the chupacabras. Many folks — approximately one-third of responders — correctly identified the image as the backside of a moose.

Here’s how Ladd described what he had photographed: “Tail on a cow moose,” he said. “Noticed what looked like eyes, then after zooming in noticed the nose, mouth, a tooth and a beard. Moose rubbing the area to rid the ticks or rubbing the old winter fur off.”

This small western Maine town is booming with subdivisions

Ken Haley, general manager of M&H Construction, with a work crew building a modular home at the Rangeley North subdivision in Rangeley. Credit: Courtesy of Steve Hewins

An acute housing shortage and high demand for weekend retreats led to a plethora of subdivisions springing up in the small tourist town of Rangeley.

Ken Haley, general manager of M&H Construction, and his associates had 150 lots for sale across five subdivisions in the Franklin County town, which is popular for outdoor activities on its lakes and mountains.

It is unusual to see 150 lots available in a town of only 1,200 year-round residents, even though the population more than triples in the summer. But Rangeley has benefitted as a popular place for out-of-state buyers to escape to during the pandemic, with 25 more students enrolling in its K-12 schools in 2020.

“It’s definitely helped our market to be a safe haven during the pandemic,” Ken Haley, general manager of M&H Construction in Rangeley said. “People come here to have a second home and recreate.”

While the group is building some higher end log cabin homes, they are focusing on less expensive modular houses that cost from $299,000 to $399,000.

A historic Maine island once touted as a pandemic-free retreat for the wealthy has been sold

A marketing photo shows the north end of House Island in Casco Bay which was marketed as a coronavirus-free getaway for the wealthy in 2020. It once housed a federal immigration and quarantine facility and just sold for more than $5 million. Credit: Courtesy of House Island

A company affiliated with Prentice Hospitality Group bought part of House Island for $5.35 million this spring, an historic Casco Bay island with 3,980 feet of usable ocean frontage, five sandy beaches and a 375-foot long, commercial-grade pier.

The previous owner was Portland entrepreneur Noah Gordon, who bought the 12-acre parcel on the north end of House Island in November 2019 for $4.5 million. He hoped to rent it as a luxury wedding and events venue. But after the COVID-19 pandemic began, he began offering it as a high-priced COVID-free playground for anyone who could afford it.

The weekly rental price was $250,000 per week, plus expenses.

“You can be wheels up on a jet out of New York or D.C., land in Portland and arrive on island with your first cocktail in hand in less than two hours,” read the website pitch. “New Yorkers can get to House Island faster than they can get to the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.”

Prentice Hospitality Group, the driving force behind several new waterfront and restaurant developments in Portland, intends to rent the property out for weddings, clambakes, corporate retreats and other events.

Sightings of 2 rare owls in Maine may be an omen

This great gray owl was spotted in October in Aroostook County. Credit: Courtesy of Colin Jandreau

In October, Good Birding columnist Bob Duchesne wrote that he had recently heard two  reports of rare owls  in Maine. A great gray owl was photographed on the Maine side of the Canadian border in Aroostook County, and two days later, a northern hawk-owl was photographed near Eagle Lake.

Both owls are rare visitors to Maine. Duchesne guessed that one shows up in Maine about every four or five years but rarely this early. Great gray owls and northern hawk-owls tend to appear later in winter, when adverse weather and a dwindling food supply drive them south. Rare owls arriving in October may mean that more will come.

The owls can and do hunt in daylight. They nest in a region where it’s daylight almost round the clock in summer, so night hunting is a luxury for them. You could see one roosting at noon, although they may not be very active in midday since that might draw harassment from angry crows.

Maine man accused of fraud allegedly hired a ‘work wife’ and has history of labor violations

Nathan Reardon walks to a vehicle outside of the old Sears location at the Bangor Mall in April 2022. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Nathan Reardon was the first Mainer charged with illegally receiving a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, which was intended to help small businesses survive the early days of the pandemic. He was sentenced in November to 20 months in federal prison for obtaining a $60,000 loan in 2020 by falsifying information about payroll for his business.

But before he was sentenced, two businesses owned by Reardon faced a lawsuit from the Maine Human Rights Commission after its members found he had discriminated against a former female employee he had hired as a “work wife” and suggested he go to her home for a massage.

He had posted a job listing online in late 2017 looking for a “work wife” to “take care of me” during long, 60- to 80-hour work weeks, according to Human Rights Commission documents.

The job posting sought someone to iron shirts, clean, cook, run errands and travel with Reardon. He and the woman he hired also discussed having her give him neck and shoulder massages.  She quit a few days into her work after Reardon suggested in a text message that he go to her home for a massage and made a sexual comment, according to the commission documents.

After both parents died, 2 Maine towns stepped up to keep teen sisters in their home

Devyn (left) and Jordyn (right) Robinson stand with their dog Shawdoe in the backyard of their Carmel home, Jan. 26, 2022. The Carmel and Hermon communities have stepped up to help the sisters after their mother, Lea Ann, died in January and their father died in September 2021, leaving the children without parents. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

Devyn and Jordyn Robinson lost their father in September 2021, then their mother in January, just a few days after she was diagnosed with cancer.

The girls, 17 and 19, at the time, were determined to stay in the only home they’ve ever known, on a property in Carmel that’s been in their family for three generations. But the trailer needed major repairs, including a new roof.

So people in Carmel and the neighboring community of Hermon have been rallying around the orphaned teenagers since their mother’s death so they can stay on their family’s property.

People have brought them food, given them money, paid for heating oil and plowed their driveway.

Shortly after a GoFundMe page was set up to raise funds for home repairs, Billy and Robina Hartt of Carmel, whose twin sons grew up with Jordyn, purchased the new two-bedroom, two-bathroom mobile home for the girls to replace their aging trailer.

A young Maine couple fought to buy their dream home. It took 14 offers and the right seller.

Jennifer Wolfe and Chase Dolloff stand in front of their house in New Gloucester on Friday, March 4, 2022. The couple bought the home after bidding on 14 different properties. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Facing a big rent hike at their Portland apartment, Jennifer Wolfe and Chase Dolloff embarked on a harrowing house-hunting journey in January 2021 that took 14 offers until they met a seller willing to give them a break.

Wolfe and Dolloff, both in their early 30s, were trying to save for a house when their rent increased to an amount that equaled a monthly mortgage payment on a house in their price range.

After 13 failed offers, they looked at a home in New Gloucester. It was being sold through a company that lists homes for a low fee and does not show the house, so the owner was the primary contact.

The owner, Dan Wade, ended up returning home before Morse and Wolfe left. They talked in the front yard for a half hour. Wade had paid off the house and was more interested in selling to someone who would appreciate the work he had put into it and fit into the neighborhood.

The $310,000 offer he accepted from Wolfe and Dolloff was one of the lowest offers. While it was $30,000 over the asking price, the highest bid from an out-of-state buyer was $20,000 more.

“I didn’t want to sell to an out-of-state person with a pile of money who might not fit into the neighborhood,” Wade said.

Bangor condemns major section of mall following fight with man accused of fraud

Through black material meant to keep prying eyes out of the former location of Sears, a department store chain, at the Bangor Mall mattresses and other furniture sit, wrapped in plastic, April 5, 2022. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

The city of Bangor condemned a major portion of the Bangor Mall where a Nathan Reardon, who was later convicted of defrauding the government, had been trying to set up an auto sales and repair business.

Bangor’s code enforcement office condemned the area of the mall that used to house the Sears department store and Sears Auto Center in January, deeming the space unfit for use because of a lack of heat and a working sprinkler system.

In February, a city fire inspector found gas-powered space heaters — a potential fire risk — were being used in the space along with electric space heaters in Reardon’s second-floor office space. The fire alarm system wasn’t working, and there was water on the floor from roof damage, according to the inspector.

The placarding of the property marked the latest development in Reardon’s approximately two-year effort to set up the business at the vacant property. It also marks a low point in the history of the once-popular Bangor Mall that is today worth a quarter of what it was worth five years ago.

Arizona restaurant chain buys Maine wharf so it can keep selling lobster rolls for $9.99

A lobster roll from Angie’s Lobster, an Arizona drive-thru business that bought a Maine wharf and started a lobster processing facility last summer. Credit: Courtesy of Angie's Lobster

An Arizona lobster drive-thru business that touts a $9.99 lobster roll purchased a wharf on Bailey Island with the intent to cut out the middleman and maintain its extremely low price point.

Angie’s Lobster said in July that it bought the wharf and started a lobster processing operation in Maine. Lobster rolls in Maine now regularly go for upward of $30, but Angie’s cofounders Tony and Roushan Christofellis said they invested $10 million and planned to build the “most efficient restaurant business the world has ever seen” by owning every step of the process and eliminating third parties wherever they can.

The husband-and-wife duo had plans to buy directly from Maine lobstermen and process their own lobsters at some point in the future but decided to buy the wharf as they try to get eight lobster drive-thrus in Arizona up and running in the next year.

Former Maine mill town known for Moxie and Stephen King sees housing boom

Frank’s restaurant and Pub is reflected in water on Main Street in Lisbon on Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. It is in the former location of the Moxie Store. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Lisbon, a former textile and paper mill town, is known for its summer Moxie Festival and as the location for Stephen King’s “11.22.63” novel and TV miniseries adaptation. Recently, though, it’s been attracting new residents drawn to its amenities and quality of life.

The town’s population rose 8 percent from 2010 to 2020 to 9,711, according to census data. Some 150 homes sold in Lisbon in 2021, up 14.5 percent over 2020.

Following in the footsteps of other former mill towns such as Westbrook and Biddeford, Lisbon is being redeveloped by new businesses, including its first craft brewery, a malt company and an aquaponic farm that uses fish waste as fertilizer to grow vegetables.

Last year it received federal grants to upgrade the facades of several downtown buildings, and the town plans to redevelop the site of the former Worumbo Mill, a woolen mill on the bank of the Androscoggin River that was once the town’s largest employer. The mill was destroyed by fire in 1987 and demolished in 2016.

“Lisbon looked like an old mill town until the mill was torn down,” said Cheryl Haggerty, owner of Haggerty Realty. “It used to loom over the downtown, but now the whole area is beautified.”