Curling up under the covers with a Stephen King novel is a brave thing to do, even more so on a dark stormy night with lightning flashing and the rumble of thunder overhead. Yet we crave the adrenaline rush of fear, the primal sensation of hairs rising on the back of our necks and the cool caress of an unseen hand across our cheek. Ghosts are most happy to oblige these cravings. Is Stephen King’s flair for the telling of unearthly tales the result of being born and bred in Maine? This Bangor native does have true talent, no mistake. But it doesn’t hurt that the man hails from a place steeped in history, a place so appealing to those of the ghostly realm that they just decide to stay.
Haunted Inns and Hotels in Maine
To really get those neck hairs in a tizzy, try reading that book while spending the night at one of Maine’s haunted hotels. The Carriage House Inn, in Searsport, offers delightful views of Penobscot Bay and two acres of manicured grounds to explore. Built in 1874, the stately Victorian mansion is the former home of Captain John McGilvery and it also has resident ghosts. Paranormal experts have investigated the property and found evidence of at least two spirits. Guests sometimes hear knocking, music and unexplained whispers. Sometimes they catch the whiff of cigar smoke, with no one else around. Even Jimi, the resident beagle, stays out of certain rooms, and won’t go near a staircase where it is believed someone died long ago.
Tides Inn By-The-Sea, in Kennebunkport is another Victorian home from 1899 and is haunted by the ghost of Emma Foss, the original owner. Emma is rather touchy about what renovations are done to her home and lets the current owners know if she is not pleased. The inn is across the street from Goose Rocks Beach.
The Kennebunk Inn is even older, dating back to 1799. It wasn’t until 1928 that the private home was turned into a hotel called The Tavern. Then in the 1930s, thanks to Prohibition, the name was changed to Kennebunk Inn. Ghosts here include a desk clerk, Silas Perkins, who passed away but loved his job so much he stayed on after death. Another clerk, Cyrus, was also quite fond of his job and decided to stick around. Both ghosts are sometimes seen by guests, move objects around and otherwise advertise their presence. It also seems that some of the spirits are not happy with certain renovations done to the original building. One tale is of a waiter carrying a tray of wine to some guests. One of the wine glasses lifted off the tray and then was thrown to the ground. The waiter was unhinged, the guests checked out and the ghost, having made his point, took the rest of his haunting night off.
Haunted Lighthouses of Coastal Maine
Imagine yourself on a vintage sailing ship, plying the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. In the distance a beacon of light, shrouded in the damp mist of pre-dawn, announces your arrival off the coast of Maine. Sounds like a fanciful novel, doesn’t it? Yet this was the life of an early mariner, placing life and limb in the hands of these solitary towers at the edge of the sea. More than 60 lighthouses grace Maine’s coast, and more than a few are haunted.
The Owls Head Lighthouse, circa 1852, is still watching over Penobscot Bay and is home to two resident ghosts. The lighthouse is now automated, but a former lighthouse keeper is sometimes seen in the tower. Another ghost is a woman, sometimes seen in the kitchen or just outside the lighthouse. Visitors sometimes hear rattling noises or see strange shadows.
The entrance to the Sheepscot River is home to Hendricks Head Lighthouse. In 1871 there was a shipwreck where all were lost except for one little girl. Visitors seeing the lighthouse from a boat or from nearby West Southport Beach sometimes see a woman clothed in white, endlessly walking the shore. She is said to be the mother of the little girl that survived.
Seguin Island Lighthouse, south of the Kennebec River was the scene of a gruesome murder. A woman was killed with an axe by her husband, after he smashed her beloved piano with that same axe. Sometimes people claim to hear piano music coming from the now unmanned lighthouse, courtesy of the “piano player ghost.”
Considered the most haunted of Maine’s lighthouses, and a favorite of paranormal investigators, is Boon Island Light off the southern coast near York. Nothing much more than barren rock, the island was the scene of many shipwrecks over the years, including one in 1710 where the survivors reportedly turned to cannibalism. At 14 feet above sea level, the life of a lighthouse keeper here was sometimes perilous. One of the most common ghosts is that of a woman that some believe is the wife of a keeper that drowned during a horrific storm. She died shortly after her husband.
The Isidore – Ghost Ship of Maine
On a cold, snowy night in November, 1842, the Isidore sailed out of Kennebunkport, Maine, despite the premonitions of several crew members. Leander Foss, the Captain, determined to get his cargo to New Orleans, left anyway. One crewman, Thomas King, risked the wrath of the Captain and stayed behind, spooked by dreams he had the night before. Nearly seven miles out of port the storm intensified, twenty foot waves pushing the ship onto the rocks of Cape Neddeck Island. All hands were lost, but not all the bodies were recovered, including that of Captain Ross. Since then there have been sightings, by those at sea and on shore, of a phantom ship sailing off Boon Island and nearby Avery’s Cove. Try to approach the ship and she disappears into the mist.
Haunted Fort Knox – Bucksport, Maine
Forts are often scenes of death and destruction. Fort Knox, in Bucksport, is considered one of Maine’s most haunted structures. It was built during the early 1880s after the Revolutionary War, in the hopes of deterring further British attacks in what was one of the bloodiest battlegrounds in Maine. The area is said to be infused with the life-force of those that died in that war. Luckily Fort Knox was never fired upon, but it did serve as a U.S. Troop training area for the Civil and Spanish-American Wars.
Open for visitors between May 1st and October 31st, visitors have claimed they were touched by ghosts, have seen ghost-like figures walking about and have captured strange images on film. The “Ghost Hunters” TV show even did a segment at Fort Knox. While they didn’t actually see ghosts, they did pick up readings on their thermal equipment and reported strange sounds.
Every Halloween the fort adds to the haunted fun with the “Fright at the Fort” display. People dressed in period costumes and other ghoulish attire jump out at you as you make your way through the fort. Flashlights are forbidden, so you literally are clambering about in the dark, making it even harder to tell if the ghosts you are seeing are the real thing.
Haynesville Woods, Route 2A – Aroostook County
Route 2 was once one of the busiest roadways in Maine. Before the building of Interstate 95, it was a main truck route, treacherous in winter and noted for its many curves. Dick Curless, a former trucker turned songwriter, wrote a song called “A Tombstone Every Mile” about Route 2, which about sums up how dangerous that roadway could be. Those who died sometimes left their ghosts behind. One is a young lady seen hitchhiking along the road. When picked up she tells a story about a car accident. When the driver reaches the end of Haynesville Woods, the lady vanishes, leaving a chill behind. Another is a little girl, who also is picked up by a driver and then vanishes after a short ride. Some truck drivers still use Route 2 and some report seeing these ghosts, and more. This isolated section of Route 2, now called Route 2A, is considered one of the most haunted locations in the state.
Haunted Cemeteries of Maine
Walking through a cemetery in Maine can be an enlightening experience, in more ways than one. Yes, there is the historic intrigue, but in some of Maine’s final resting places, there are also the ghosts of those not yet ready to leave planet Earth. The Pinewood Cemetery in Belfast is noted for glowing orbs showing up in photos, the sound of footsteps following people around and strange banging on the sides of visitor’s cars.
Jonathan Buck is buried in Bucksport Cemetery. The man ordered his mistress killed, accusing her of witchcraft. Before she died, the mistress vowed to come back and “dance on his grave.” The tombstone over the grave has a footprint smashed into it. No matter how many times the tombstone is replaced, that footprint keeps coming back. The dancing never stops.
The Chute Road Cemetery in Windham is home to the ghosts of two young girls, believed to be victims of a mine shaft or old well accident. They are seen playing in the road in front of the cemetery. The girls are sisters, and while their tombstones mark their gravesites, no bodies are entombed. Those bodies were never found.
Haunted Tours in Maine
Perhaps you’d like to go in search of ghosts, but prefer a bit of company and a guide to lead you on your quest. Specialty tours are available that take you into the sometimes hidden, spirit infused parts of Maine. In Portland, Wicked Walking Tours offers night-walks through the haunted streets of the old Portland waterfront. Add a misty fog, the mournful wail of a fog horn and the lights and sounds of ships quietly moving in and out of the harbor and the stage is set for tales of witchcraft, murder and mayhem.
Portland is also the site of the Halloween Ghost Train, hosted by the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum. The train is decorated with ghosts, ghouls and goblins and the museum staff in their own scary costumes. As the night train steams along Casco Bay, it’s easy for your imagination to go into overdrive. The train rides and activities at the museum are spooky enough to give you a chill or two, but quite suitable for youngsters.
Another company, Red Cloak Haunted History Tours, explores the haunts of Camden, Damariscotta, Boothbay Harbor, Bath and Wiscasset, all led by a lady dressed in a long red cloak and carrying a period lantern. More than one guest has found some interesting orbs or images on photos taken with cameras and cell phones.
Stephen King fans, you have not been forgotten. The Tommynockers Tour, named after one of King’s spookiest books, is offered during the summer in Bangor. Leaving from the Bangor waterfront, it takes you through the city that inspired the fictional and considerably more frightening town of Derry. Hosted by the Greater Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau, the tour highlights places like the Mount Hope Cemetery that gave rise to “Pet Sematary” and the Paul Bunyan statue that came to life and pursued a character in the novel “It.” True, the tour is meant to showcase Bangor and its delights, but if it stimulates your imagination and gets your adrenaline going at the same time, all the better. You’ll never look at Paul Bunyan the same, that’s for sure.