Things that go bump in the night: Ghost stories in Oxford Hills

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OXFORD HILLS — While Darcie Rowell wouldn’t call herself a full-on believer in ghosts, she does believe alleged paranormal activity associated with hauntings and spirits isn’t out the realm of possibility.

The playroom at the Rowell home on Paris Hill is said to have been the site of a suicide by a teenager in the 1920s and unexplained paranormal activity, including a play kitchen set turning itself on.
The playroom at the Rowell home on Paris Hill is said to have been the site of a suicide by a teenager in the 1920s and unexplained paranormal activity, including a play kitchen set turning itself on.

That is because she and her family had a number of experiences they can’t explain since moving to their home on Paris Hill in Paris about six years ago. At the same time, not everyone is convinced her house could be haunted.

“My husband is not a believer in any of that, so if you ask him, he’d laugh at you,” Rowell said about her husband, Troy. “I watch ‘Ghost Hunters’ and see stuff on TV. I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t be convinced it [exists].”

The first inkling she had that her house – which was built in 1854 – could have some unseen residents was when she was approached by a woman at a community supper while the family was still working on the home. The woman asked her if she had any issues with the house and, then, if she knew it was haunted.

It is a number of little things that have added up over the years that caused Rowell to wonder, including her seeing shadows inside the house and her daughter’s princess kitchen set turning on by itself. Rowell’s husband and father were finishing up work one night on the house and were standing in the driveway when something unexpected occurred.

“[My dad] swore he felt someone put their hand on his shoulder. There was no one behind him,” she said, noting her father didn’t believe in ghosts. “He jumped in his truck and … backed into a tree. It really jumped him quite a bit.”

Before the family moved in, Rowell tried to open a door, which felt like someone was holding it shut on the other side.

“It was unlocked. It did stick a little. Then it flew like someone had almost pulled from the inside opening it,” she said.

After moving in, the family began digging into the house’s history and spoke with their next door neighbor, who had grown up in the house. The woman, now in her 90s, told them back in the 1920s when she was a teenager, a 18- or 19-year-old male friend had shot himself in the house.

“Come to find out he actually had committed suicide in what is now our son’s playroom. Any time you hear anything like that, when you think of ghosts and unsettled spirits, it’s like, ‘Oh, ding, ding, ding,’” Rowell said. “Even if there is something here, I have never felt uncomfortable with it. It wasn’t a threatening, bad vibe.”

Next door, in neighboring Norway, one of the town’s most iconic buildings is said to be the site of paranormal activity. The Gingerbread House, on Main Street, which was built in the 1850s, greets residents and visitors alike as they enter town. The building was moved from behind the Advertiser Democrat to its current location in 2011.

Albert Judd, a Friend of the Gingerbread House, stands in front of the iconic building on Norway's Main Street, where many people have reported seeing spirits and hearing footsteps inside the building.
Albert Judd, a Friend of the Gingerbread House, stands in front of the iconic building on Norway’s Main Street, where many people have reported seeing spirits and hearing footsteps inside the building.

“People actually swear they see, probably, the ancestors rising from the ground [at the house’s old site] and they’re looking for the house and it’s gone. It’s a pretty scary thing,” said Albert Judd, who’s a member of the Friends of the Gingerbread House.

He noted it’s believed the spirits are the original families who lived there, including the Evans and Cummings. “There are some of us that try to direct them to the new location so they’re happy.”

Judd said a number of sightings in the house have been reported by people across the street at Old Squire’s Farm Market and volunteers have reported footsteps and movement inside the house when no one else was there, along with objects being moved.

“It’s always at the same time of year – Halloween,” Judd said. “We don’t ignore it, we live with it every year.”

Over in Buckfield, history and cemetery buff Phil McAlister has had a couple of experiences that made him do a double take. He isn’t a believer in “that stuff,” but nonetheless he couldn’t explain what happened to him.

As an adult, he was in search of a lost cemetery on Sodom Road in Buckfield and he was traveling down a gully. It was this time of year and a cold, still day with “not a wind in the air at all.”

“There was a rush of wind that shook the tree and an old shovel [a maple tree] had grown up through … it landed just inches from me,” McAlister said, noting the shovel was 40 feet in the air, and when it crashed down, it still had a branch growing through it and three bullet holes in it. “I just got a really feeling it was the weirdest thing that ever happened. [I asked myself,] ‘Should I stop digging around for cemeteries or should I keep going?’”

An even spookier event happened to him when he was seven years old circa 1967 at his grandparents’ farm, the Harrison Town Farm, in the Friendly Village. He and his cousins were playing underneath the giant barn on a large cement slab.

“A black bull was standing on that granite slab with a big, silver ring in his nose. It was like a mist that evaporated in the air,” McAlister said. “I don’t know what it was. I don’t know where it came from or how it got there. … We have never spoken of it again.”

Until now.

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