Does this 12-foot-tall fisherman statue in Eastport, Maine seem almost cartoonishly on-the-nose? Well, that’s because it was originally a prop for a reality television show.
The 2001 Fox show, called Murder in Small Town X, was shot in Eastport and, judging by its description, was akin to taking one of those dinner theater murder mysteries that involves the audience and televising it for consumption by third parties far away from the theater, months after the performance took place. Contestants investigated a series of murders in the town of “Sunrise” by collecting clues from actor-townspeople, conducting missions, and ritually opening lots of envelopes. The backstory was all about Prohibition-era liquor smuggling and something called “The Order of the Scarlet Lupine.” It was basically for people who thought Murder, She Wrote could use some clunky, tacked-on game mechanics. In other words, it didn’t last past the first season.
What did last, however, is the magnificent fiberglass fisherman statue that was made to bring “Sunrise” to life. Even though the statue was actually cut from the show’s budget, sculptor Jeff Poss decided to go ahead and make it anyway — and it’s a good thing he did, because it has gone on to become an Eastport favorite. Although it has drawn criticism for its disproportionately squat legs and “regionally inaccurate fish” (he’s apparently holding a Pacific salmon, rather than an Atlantic salmon; it’s worth noting that an alternate concept for the statue was a lobster wearing a raincoat, which would have introduced even wilder inaccuracies), visitors still enjoy taking pictures with the statue and locals appreciate the statue’s mix of goofiness, symbolism, local history, and tourist appeal.
In 2004, a committee of citizens formed to restore and preserve the statue, as it had simply been left behind, unmaintained, to weather and deteriorate after production wrapped in 2001. At the same time, they also installed a plaque to commemorate Ángel Juarbe, Jr., the winner of Murder in Small Town X and a Bronx firefighter who was killed in World Trade Center collapse on September 11, one week after the series finale. Thus, the statue also continues to stand as a memorial to Mr. Juarbe.