VASSALBORO — An electromagnetic field meter beeped and lit up near the shoulder of one of 30 people on an overnight ghost investigation at the Olde Mill Place in Vassalboro on Friday.

Using a spirit box — a device that scans radio frequencies and white noise where spirit voices are allegedly able to communicate — guide Travis Hartford asked a series of questions. Do you live in the mill? Did you come with anybody? There were no distinguishable answers. Then, he asked, “What’s your name?”

Amid the static, Hartford said, a clearly enunciated word rang through: Brittney. Hartford, who leads Ghost Research and Investigations of Maine, asked the crowd if the name meant anything to anyone. No one said a word. The group continued on the seven-and-a-half hour tour, where they used a range of other devices in an attempt to contact the spirits that are believed to haunt the shuttered woolen mill at 934 Main St.

The next day, a man approached Hartford at the associated all-day Paranormal Festival. Two years ago, his daughter passed away. Her name was Brittney. It was the area near his wife’s shoulder that triggered the electromagnetic field meter the night before. The couple was too taken aback at the time to say anything on Friday, Hartford recounted.

“It was pretty great,” Hartford said of the evening. A second ghost investigation on the site, scheduled for Saturday evening, sold out 55 slots by mid-morning.

The ghost investigations are the centerpiece events of the third annual Paranormal Festival, or Parafest, at the mill in Vassalboro. The venue was packed Saturday as visitors from across Maine and as far away as Connecticut explored tables set up by organizations and vendors ranging from the White Mountain Bigfoot Research Society to crafters offering handmade wire trees infused with Reiki.


“So far, this is our biggest year yet,” said Dustin Marcia, of Central Maine Ghost Hunters, which co-hosts the event with Ghost Research and Investigations of Maine. “We’ve grown a lot in the last couple of years — the word is really getting out there.”

Marcia helped arrange a lineup of celebrity speakers in the paranormal activity world to give a series of lectures Saturday. John Zaffis, star of the SyFy show “Haunted Collector” and founder of the Paranormal and Demonology Research Society of New England, discussed haunted objects. Jay Prather, who owns a paranormal investigative equipment company, explained how he designs and builds electrical devices that can allegedly contact spirits. Cory and Jennifer Heinzen, who recently bought the home that inspired the horror movie “The Conjuring” in Rhode Island, also spoke about their experiences living in a famously haunted house.

“We see a lot of shadow people, flashing lights, objects getting thrown,” Cory Heinzen said. He said one of the largest items that was thrown was a framed painting.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say it makes me nervous because anything that’s got that much energy to throw something — it can throw anything at any given time, but at the same time that’s what we’re there for,” he said.

The Heinzens said they don’t have any regrets about purchasing the property in June. The couple, from Mexico, Maine, plans to fix up the 1736 farmhouse and open it to visitors and paranormal investigators soon.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own a piece of American history, a piece of paranormal history,” Cory Heinzen explained.  To the nonbelievers, he said “You’ve just got to give it a chance.”


Lynn Boutilier, of Augusta, attended the ghost investigation at the mill Friday night and Parafest Saturday. She said she has been interested in spirits since she saw a shadow figure with a top hat lean into the doorway of her childhood room in Eastport.

“I felt it before I saw it,” she recalled. “I was scared and I didn’t know why. The shadow figure looked around the door and stayed there for three to four seconds. If it had been a shadow on a wall, I would have thought it was a dream or I was imagining something. But it was in the doorway. When you see something like that, there’s no doubt in your mind what it is.”

While on the mill ghost investigation Friday, Boutilier said she heard a “little giggle, just as clear as a bell” in the basement, along with feet dragging on the cement — which Marcia said is his favorite location in the mill. At one point, Boutilier and her friend Chriss Welch, of Readfield, were last in the line and a ball shot right through their legs, out of nowhere. When they used a periscope to sense activity from the spirits after both of those incidents, it lit up. Boutilier said that at another point of the tour, when they were upstairs, her night-vision camera shut off instantly. She said it was fully charged at the time, a claim Welch backed up. It was an exciting night, Boutilier and Welch agreed.

“We had fun with it,” Boutilier said.

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