PROSPECT —  As a middle school teacher outside Bangor, Kate Hudson wanted a deeper understanding of 150-year-old Fort Knox to share with her students when they visited Maine’s largest historic fort. So Hudson took a late-night tour of the fort, searching with 35 others for ghosts.

“If I’m here with the students and they’re not paying attention I can say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this cool story about the paranormal,’” Hudson said as she stood in the parade grounds one evening last weekend. 

For others who paid $28 to attend the five-hour “Ghosts of Fort Knox” tour that consistently sells out, the draw was much the same. Even to the doubters in the group, the nighttime wandering above and through the pitch-black brick-and-granite fort along the Penobscot River was not your normal Saturday night – if not quite paranormal.

“This is awesome that the state allows this. I’m a skeptic. But even for a skeptic, this is a unique experience to go bumping around in an old fort at night,” said Cody Brackett of Patten, who came with his wife and two daughters – all true believers who faithfully watch the Travel Channel’s show “Destination Fear” about paranormal explorers.

Maine is home to more than a dozen forts that were built along the coast or along rivers to serve as deterrents during several wars, including the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and World War I. Most did not see combat, including Fort Knox. Legend has it that many may be haunted – such as Fort Baldwin in Phippsburg, Fort Preble in South Portland which was built in 1808 and Fort O’Brien in Machias, built in 1775 and active in three wars.

However, only Fort Knox has ghost tours led by paranormal researchers late at night – sometimes while camping inside the fort’s parade grounds.

“I grew up in Phippsburg, and I have heard stories about Fort Baldwin being haunted. But we’ve never been able to get inside at night to investigate,” said Paul Wolfe, a member of 207 Paranormal, the research team out of Bangor that leads the tours. 

The unique relationship between the state, which owns Fort Knox, and the Friends of Fort Knox – which leases the fort, maintains it, and holds fundraisers to preserve it – makes the “Ghosts of Fort Knox” tours possible. Several times a year the friends group turns the fort over to 207 Paranormal, which uses special equipment to detect spirits for small groups. It’s a significant fundraiser for the fort.

Because, let’s face it, ghosts sell. 

“Just today we had three parties ask about the paranormal activity, including one from Ohio,” Friends’ Executive Director Dean Martin said last weekend.

An entrance to the Fort Knox Historic Site, Maine’s largest historic fort. Deirdre Fleming photo

The 207 Paranormal team donates all profits back to the fort, because the nighttime access they are given to an old fort is a rare opportunity. 

“In the paranormal world, most teams have a home base. Our playground is a fort in Maine. That’s very special. To have the experience to hunt this fort as regularly as we do, is a unique thing,” Wolfe said. 

At 8 p.m. on a cloudy fall night, the Fort Knox parade grounds were pitch black as visitors stood side by side. They were unable to see their neighbor’s face in the darkness, but few turned on the flashlights they were encouraged to bring.

The paranormal investigators split the crowd into smaller groups of 10 to 12 and took them to three different parts of the fort considered “hot spots,” where paranormal activity has been detected before and where they used several instruments to detect spirits. One was a small hand-held meter that reads electromagnetic energy, which the ghost hunters say is present when a spirit is near. Participants were asked to turn their cell phones to airplane mode, to avoid tripping the meters that were passed out. 

Wolfe said it’s believed a man who died while working on the fort may haunt it. On Sept. 26, 1844, the year construction of the fort began, a workman took a break with a cigar while sitting on a keg of powder, the Prospect Historical Society reported from an article that appeared in the Portland Weekly Advertiser on Oct. 1, 1844.

Sgt. Leopold Hegyi was the caretaker of Fort Knox in the late 19th century. He died on July 17, 1900, in a house in the corner of the parade grounds where he lived, according to the Prospect Historical Society. Some belive his spirit haunts the fort as he continues to make his rounds. Harding Family Collection

“In a sort of daring bravado,” the society reported, “he declared there was no danger and applied the end of his cigar to a few grains of loose powder. The barrel ignited and in an instant he was blown a great distance and instantly killed.”

The fort’s caretaker at the end of the 19th century also died on his death bed in the fort, according to the Prospect Historical Society.

Leopold Hegyi, who immigrated from Hungary, enlisted in the U.S. Army and was transferred in 1889 to Fort Knox where he became the fort-keeper, according to the Society. He is believed to haunt the fort still.

In July 1900, a local fisherman noticed the flag was not flying over the fort, which was unusual. Hegyi was found ill in his residence in the fort, and later died.

“His widow collected his personal effects, but declined to bring his body back to New York for burial,” the Prospect Historical Society reported. “He was interred down the street from the Fort, in the Narrows Cemetery, Sandy Point, Maine.”

“Leopold still does his rounds,” Wolfe said. “It was his job to make sure the fort was secure. There has been a lot of evidence, like audible footsteps.”

The paranormal research team stops in hallways and small openings, talking to the spirits in friendly banter, asking if they can say hello – and greet this new group of strangers. 

Ghost hunters explore Fort Knox late at night on Oct. 2. Deirdre Fleming photo

“Who’s that? What are you trying to say? What’s your name?” Wolfe asked in the darkness of a hallway they call Two-Step Alley.

In one room believed to be regularly visited by the spirit of a man the 207 team calls “Mike,” several of the K2 meters light up – one held by a woman went from green to yellow to orange several times, a strong indication of a spirit presence, said Amanda Curry, a veteran on the 207 team. 

“That makes sense. You’ve got long hair. And Mike likes women,” Curry said. 

But Curry, who has led the tours for 10 years, emphasized to the group they can’t guarantee an experience with spirits.

“It’s not like a circus. We can’t make them do things,” Curry said.


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