sunjournal by Dave Sargent - Sometimes you just don't know what to believe.
Are there ghosts out there walking the streets of Lewiston-Auburn? Are they haunting homes along the Androscoggin River and in nearby towns?
One of the most likely locations for a ghost sighting ought to be Poland Spring, where the historic Inn high on the hill welcomed celebrities and even a president. Sure enough, there are dozens of Internet accounts of the famous founder, Hiram Ricker, roaming around the massive old building.
One of those stories says, "Several employees have seen the ghost of Hiram wandering the halls. Some workers report hearing the voice of Hiram coming from vacant rooms, and his footsteps can be heard in the early morning hours coming from the empty lobby."
It also says he has been known to play tricks on the staff by moving various objects to unusual places.
Some ghost stories become attached to a place for generations, and it seems likely to me that this story started many years ago among the chambermaids and groundskeepers who lived at the Inn through the tourist season. The huge, ornate hotel built by Ricker burned in 1976, so it's not likely that old Hiram was seen in the new structure on the site. And that, of course, is an issue only if you buy into the possibility of ghosts in the first place.
There are other Internet sources that give people a chance to share their supernatural experiences. There's one Web site post that comes from a young Auburn resident who worked at the Auburn Public Library. She writes about a night when open mic performances were taking place there.
She says she went outside for some fresh air and "I looked up into one of the dark rooms. When I blinked, I saw a man looking down at me, smiling.
"When I blinked again, it was gone.
"I went to go get my friends," she continues. "They saw him too. All the rooms were still dark. When we went to get (another library employee), she didn't see it. We looked up and the lights were on. No one was in that part of the building."
It's easy to say there are simple explanations for all that, but once a situation spooks you, it's as real as it can be.
Another Auburn story seems more fanciful, but some inexplicable happening probably triggered a young person to write about it.
"The other night at my house, I saw the ghost of a cat," the Internet account said. "I know it was a ghost, because I saw it in the middle of the road, and then a car ran over it and nothing happened. It was fine. And then it came up to me and I went to pat it and it disappeared right in front of me."
These tales are a lot like ghost stories that that have been swapped around campfires for generations. Nevertheless, a few stories posted online have great detail and a ring of sincerity. A Lisbon resident told of a house where "strange things went on."
She said, "At that time, my mom had just had twins and they were only a few months old. She and I would both be sitting in the living room, each with one of the babies, and you would still hear an infant cry, and both babies would be sleeping in your arms."
The twins' swings would start swinging on their own while they just sat there and watched, according to the writer.
"Their toys would start going off by themselves and no one in the room was moving," she said.
"One night while I was sitting at the computer near the kitchen on the second floor, I heard a husky voice say my name and felt breath on the side of my neck, face, and shoulder. Everyone else in the house was asleep."
A family in Durham also reported weird occurrences in their house.
"You always knew there was someone else there. You would feel a hand on your shoulder while reading on a quiet night. The flame from the candle you are burning triples in size. You wake up at night to the sounds of children laughing, and there's singing coming from the attic room. The dogs were constantly staring at something up on the ceiling, or looking around the room, seeing something you cannot see."
This report also said, "There were nights when cries came from the Androscoggin River. Was someone drowning? We called the police and they checked it out that night, but it continued long after that."
The writer said, "We were never scared by this feeling, just wondering ... who is there?"
If the Halloween season gives you a thirst for more spooky local tales, there are many on an Internet site at www.ghostsofamerica.com. Most of them are laughable fabrications, but there are a few ... well, you just have to wonder.
Dave Sargent is a freelance writer and resident of a very old farmhouse in Auburn, Maine where no ghosts have been seen ... so far.
Thanks to DOC Agren for forwarding this article