2012-11-08 / News

Spirits still alive in downtown Biddeford Mills

By Brian Keely and Molly Lovell- Keely

We have both heard many stories about spirits that haunt the buildings in downtown Biddeford’s Pepperell Mill Campus and we always wondered if they were true.

Then we heard Biddeford resident George “Pete” Lamontagne was told to stop mentioning ghostly activity during his tours of the campus. To satisfy our curiosity, we contacted Pete to ask him about his experiences and to see if he would take us on a late-night tour of the mills. After he checked with the Biddeford Mills Museum Board of Directors, it was a go.

Haunt ME, Maine paranormal investigators, who Pete affectionately refers to as “ghost busters,” also had the opportunity to explore the mill’s other side recently and documented multiple episodes of activity – just one more reason for us to check this out.

Brian, during an interview for “52,” a weekly piece he writes for the Courier, was at the mills to write about “Halloween in Pepperell’s Shadows,” a historical and spooky tour held by the museum and Biddeford High School’s National Honor Society. He captured a photo of a woman holding a baby in blue pajamas and a cat sitting on a window sill above a desk. (Visit www.mainelymediallc.com to see the photos.) When we took the tour a few days later, he caught a photo of what looked like a soldier hovering in a stairwell.

We spent a couple hours with Pete in the mills Nov. 4, mainly building No. 36, which runs along lower Main Street. He suggested No. 36 because paranormal activity in the building has been high the last few weeks.

Pete, who worked in the mills for 40 years, isn’t ashamed to admit he’s had hundreds of otherworldly experiences in the mills and has seen many a nonbeliever change their mind after some sort of encounter. Pete said it was important that doors didn’t lock behind us as he gave us a flashlight and headlamp that Brian wore. He also had a night vision scope in case the flashlight batteries drained, which is common during paranormal encounters. It is believed that spirits, who are composed of energy, use the energy from batteries to manifest or communicate, which ends up draining batteries from various equipment used on a ghost-finding experience. Oddly, my fully-charged digital camera died 20 minutes into our adventure and Brian’s iPhone screen flickered most of the night and kept showing out-of-place prompts that he has never seen before.

After a debriefing and checking our video camera, digital camera, iPhone and voice recorder, we began. Pete brought us into the basement of the building, which was cold at first, except for a section where it was unusually warm. Pete said there wasn’t any equipment or heat on and no reason why that small section should be 15 degrees warmer than the rest of the basement. We went from being cold to sweating in no time.

We carried chairs into the basement with us and sat in the complete darkness listening for anything unusual. Though we didn’t hear anything, we tried out the night vision scope and had flashbacks to the serial killer movie, “Silence of the Lambs.”

We also blindly snapped flash photos in hopes of capturing an apparition.

We moved on to another floor, where Pete showed us a small connecting room where he often feels uneasy and is reluctant to visit. Brian went into the room and said he felt uncomfortable – as if we were being watched. As we passed through to a larger room, Brian couldn’t shake the feeling we were being followed.

We continued up a spiral staircase tucked behind a wall Pete said few people know about. As we came back down, Pete in front of me, I became disoriented and he seemed to blend into the shadows as if he were part of the mill.

Coincidently, Pete said at any time, dozens of cats could be found in the mills, which explains Brian’s photo. Sunday night, as Brian snapped photos down a stairwell, he noticed a black cat with white spots on its face came out of the shadows and glared up at him before disappearing.

Next Pete brought us to a place that had the most activity as of late, which was predominantly where many of the women worked in the mill’s heyday. The extraordinary thing here is, while our tour guide explained the room’s history to me, Brian, in another part of the room, saw the ghosts of three women dressed in work attire from the early 1900s, working on an old, broken assembly line still in the room.

Brian hadn’t heard our conversation and, when he related it to us, Pete and I looked at each other in disbelief.

Pete then asked if a familiar spirit was with us. Her name is Rose and was a supervisor on that floor during the 1940s.

Her perfume often overpowers him and others who visit that floor or stairwell leading to it. Pete leaves his lucky lady flowers from time to time, but Sunday he couldn’t find her. Although Brian and I smelled a vague trace of perfume, Pete was sure she wasn’t there with us. Brian joked she must prefer to have him all to herself.

We did some voice recording and asked several questions such as, “Were you happy when you were alive?” “How did you die?” “What was your religion (as some of the workers were Muslim)?” “Can you show yourself?”

We didn’t hear any responses, but when we played back the voice recording later, after each question we heard faint knocking. We need to find a program so we can plug in the voice recorder to a computer to further analyze it. It is believed the average human ear can’t detect most ghostly voices without assistance. Most experts concur, ghosts don’t have vocal chords – that’s why their voices sound like low whispers or they often make other noises to communicate.

Pete gave us a great tip we had never heard before. When you ask a question, give the spirits some time to respond. He was told this by a local Biddeford High School teacher who leads adult education classes in paranormal activity.

In the same room, Brian heard footsteps and shuffling while Pete and I heard a faint cry that could have belonged to a child. Throughout the entire adventure, I would go from sweating to feeling chills on my legs. However, old mill buildings are probably drafty and unpredictable as to where they are insulated.

Pete had a device that detected energy changes in the atmosphere, which was directly linked to spiritual energy. It works on a system of green and red lights; more lights mean more energy is in the immediate area. The device maxed out nearly a dozen times and Pete noted that he had never seen it do that before.

Our final experience had to do with orbs. Most people think they have captured orbs – round, nearly see through circles of light – in photographs. If you zoom in, sometimes orbs have facial features. Others, however, believe orbs are simply specs of dust captured on a lens.

I tended to believe orbs were merely dust until Sunday, when I saw orbs dart about rapidly in the lighted frame of a camera viewfinder seconds before the picture was snapped. It started out with one orb here and there darting about. I stood behind Pete as he aimed his camera up this one staircase, readied to shoot the photo, when about 50 or 60 orbs moved rapidly around the frame. Brian and Pete, who are familiar with orbs, said this was a rare occurrence, as usually only one or two orbs are seen at a time. Opinions on orbs vary. Some say a single orb is an individual spirit before it manifests into an apparition, while others believe an apparition requires lots of orbs to manifest. At the same time Pete and I saw all the orbs, Brian, who was upstairs where the orbs were headed, felt three tugs on his jacket sleeve.

Through our paranormal phenomenon, we did manage to debunk one occurrence. Brian took a photo of something with his iPhone and then heard sounds that mimicked the sound of the camera’s reproduced shutter. I saw the look on his face and asked what was wrong.

“I think a ghost is mimicking my camera,” he said excitedly.

When he took a picture to show me, sure enough I heard it. Right when I began to believe, I noticed Pete on the floor below us, taking photos with his iPhone, which made the same noise and echoed up the stairs that connected us.

Please note, we don’t claim to be experts in the paranormal, but in our opinion, there was too much paranormal activity to deny that spirits are definitely alive and well in Biddeford’s mills.

Molly Lovell-Keely is managing editor at Mainely Media, which publishes the Courier. Her husband, Brian Keely, writes “52” each week f\or the Courier. Both are aspiring paranormal investigators. Want to comment on this story? Login to our website at courier. mainelymediallc.com to let us know your thoughts.

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