Hiking With Ghosts
Burnt orange and crimson leaves fall, covering the forest floor in a vibrant carpet. He watches the colorful show from his seat on the bench, and he tries to imagine the property as it was nearly 200 years ago, back when the Black family estate had just been built.
The trails, carving three great loops through the woods, were once used as exercise tracks for the family’s horses. If he listens closely, he can almost hear the thud of hooves and the rattle of carriage wheels turning.
As his imagination runs wild, ghostly images fill the forest, phantoms of days long gone. Is that an ethereal figure there, beyond rock wall? Or is it just a shadow cast by a gnarled tree? Is that an eerie whisper? Or just the bushes rustling in the wind? Curious, he stands and continues on the trail, walking deeper into the forest and further into the past.
Woodlawn in Ellsworth — Easy
The historic Black House in Ellsworth was constructed in the 1820s for Col. John Black, who built his fortune in lumber, and it served as the home of the Black family for three generations. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969, the house is now open to the public as Woodlawn Museum, and the 180-acre estate is home to a network of about 2.5 miles of intersecting trails.
Visiting the property is like stepping back in time, which may explain why many visitors claim to see inexplicable shadows of the past wandering the grounds and rooms of the grand house. Most commonly, visitors have described feeling a friendly male presence in the house, one that doesn’t seem disturbed at having company, according to the book “Ghosts of Maine” by T. M. Gray. But this spirit is not so kind to the staff. If they’re not out of the house by 6 p.m., the ghost has been known to knock chairs over and slam doors. Some people have also seen candlelight through the windows when the house is empty for the night.
For more information, visit www.woodlawnmuseum.org or call 207-667-8671.
Directions: Woodlawn is located at 19 Black House Drive in Ellsworth. To get there, start at the intersection of Route 1 and Route 172-Surry Road in Ellsworth. Drive approximately 0.25 mile on Route 172, then turn right onto Black House Drive, which is marked with a big white sign that reads “Woodlawn Museum, Garden & Park.” Follow signs to the large parking area at the end of the drive.
Swan Island near Richmond — Moderate
Located in the Kennebec River, between the towns of Richmond and Dresden, Swan Island was once home to a small community. Today, the 2,019-acre island is a state-owned wildlife management area with a campground and 7 miles of hiking trails.
Many of the houses on the island, uninhabited since the 1940s, still stand, as does a large, old graveyard. And artifacts unearthed on the property confirm that North American indians lived on the island hundreds of years ago, before colonists moved in. So it’s no surprise this beautiful place with its abandoned town has inspired a few ghost stories. Open from May through October, it’s a great spot for a spooky walk or even an overnight ghost-hunting experience.
For more information, visit maine.gov/swanisland or call 207-547-5322.
Directions: Getting to Swan Island requires a five-minute ferry ride across the Kennebec River from Richmond. The ferry is only available if you reserve it ahead of time from May through October and it does not accept vehicles (it’s too small). People also paddle to the island in canoe or kayak. To get to the ferry dock from the intersection of Route 197 and Route 24 in Richmond, turn left and the Swan Island Ferry Parking Lot will immediately be on your right.
Ocean Path in Acadia National Park — Easy
Visiting some of Acadia National Park’s most iconic landmarks, Ocean Path is tied to ghost stories that span centuries, according to the book “Haunted Islands in the Gulf of Maine” by Marcus LiBrizzi.
The path offers stunning views of the ocean, where ghost ships are seen on foggy nights and unearthly voices are heard echoing in caves along the shoreline. And on Otter Cliff, one of the many highlights of the trail, visitors have reported ghostly encounters. Most commonly people report the feeling of someone sneaking up from behind them to push them over the edge of the cliff, which rears more than 100 feet above the ocean. Others have reported unaccountable darkness at the location.
“There are reasons to think that coldblooded murder is the origin of the uneasy feeling experienced on Otter Cliff,” LiBrizzi wrote.
In 1987, a young woman fell from the cliff to her death. She was on her honeymoon, and her husband confessed to pushing her from the cliff while in an argument. He went to prison, where he died in 2001 from a fall from a third-story window.
For information, visit https://www.nps.gov/acad or call 207-288-3338.
Directions: Enter Acadia National Park at the Sieur de Monts Entrance, which is south of downtown Bar Harbor off Route 3. Drive south on Park Loop Road about 3 miles (passing through a fee collection station) and follow the signs to the large Sand Beach parking lot. The Ocean Path starts at the south end of the parking lot. Another option is to continue south on Park Loop Road and parking at nearby trailhead parking areas, such as Gorham Mountain Trailhead. Ocean Path runs close to the Park Loop Road, along the edge of the shore.