The Island of Strange
2013 / USA / 19 Minutes / Amanda Trudell
‘The Island of Strange’ is a historical documentary about Beaver Island, Michigan. In the 1850s, Beaver Island was the location of America’s only legal monarchy. The self-proclaimed king, James Jesse Strang, settles his group of Mormon followers on Beaver Island in order to escape the harassment bestowed upon the Mormons–however, Strang’s reign on Beaver Island is anything but typical. The story of King James Strang is one that includes greed, deception, passionate love, polygamy, piracy, and, of course, murder.
This film uncovers the metamorphosis of Beaver Island as a result of King Strang and his followers’ time on the Island. Beaver Island transforms into a far more civilized place as the Strangites build roads and better architecture, improve agriculture, and make a generous income due to lumbering and ship refueling/restocking. These changes make King Strang very powerful—and a threat to the welfare of the United States. President Fillmore plans to “put out” the Beaver Island ruckus and sends Strang to Federal court. However, Strang wins his own battle in court and returns to his people officially as King of Beaver Island.
A couple of disgruntled followers, believed to be assassins arranged by Federal forces, attack King Strang. Mortally wounded, Strang abandons his followers and dies on the mainland. The Island inhabitants previous to King Strang soon reclaim their far-improved home on Beaver Island.