I get a lot of press releases from the state Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry. Usually they are boring or irrelevant for our readers. But this holiday-appropriate essay, written by a Parks and Public Lands employee, caught my eye, as did the creepy photo above of a cabin below Holeb Falls on the Moose River (provided by Carrier Timberlands, LLC). Happy Halloween! Please send any cool ghost stories my way!
Turner, Outdoor Recreation
Planner, Maine Division of Parks and
I don’t have a good ghost story anymore. The one “good one” I
had recently was cast in doubt -- all due to one chilly night in a remote cabin
on the Moose River.
You’d think spending a fall night in an isolated cabin far
from any real development would be fertile territory for spookiness, but rather
it cemented a suspicion about my one decent ghost story. This original story
also came from a night in a cabin, though in this case the cabin was one located
at Upper Dam Pool in the Rangeley Lakes Region. Outside this cabin, one of
several at the pool, water surges from Mooselookmeguntic Lake through Upper Dam
and out several hundred yards to Upper Richardson Lake. This is a storied
fly-fishing destination rich in history.
Central to my tale, or at least the tale I had, is the fact
that this site once boasted not only guest cabins but also a hotel reached by
steamboat. The hotel and its associated dance hall are long gone, but the
privately owned neat row of cabins remains.
I was working in the Rangeley Region on recreation monitoring
projects and had the good fortune of staying the night in one of the cabins. For
whatever reason, there were no other people in any of the cabins, so I was the
only person aside from the dam keeper and his wife, who were hundreds of yards
away presumably asleep in the dam keeper’s house. The night was dark following
an August dusk that proved fishless. As I settled in and awaited the generator
shut-off, I heard voices.
I couldn’t quite make out the muffled words, and it sounded
like faint music was being played as well. Upon opening the door, I lost the
voices and music and instead heard only the constant churning of the water
pouring through the dam gates. I looked to find the late-arriving guests, but I
found I was still the only one there. Once I went back into the dark cabin, the
voices and music started back up. I thought I clearly heard the clink of
drinking glasses mixed amidst the soft party noises.
Knowing the general resort history of Upper Dam and having
seen Stephen King’s The Shining a few times did not put me at ease.
Nonetheless, I didn’t have much choice but to settle into my sleeping bag and
try to sleep like a little boy upstairs while his parents have a dinner party
downstairs. It was unsettling, but I did manage to sleep well
Fast-forward perhaps 12 years to a Spartan cabin below Holeb
Falls on the Moose River, and I’m alone again in a cabin hearing party noises
when there is nobody around for miles. Once more, I think of The Shining
and Jack Nicholson nestled up to the bar in the Overlook Hotel ballroom. As
before, I walk outside, and in this case, shuffle down to the pool below the
rapids. I walk back behind the one-room cabin off a ways into shadowy woods
hemmed in by a steep, boulder-strewn shoulder. Nobody is within sight, and the
sounds are all natural. The party sound is gone.
I return to the cabin and my field mouse housemates. The
party sounds return. This time, though, I have confirmation to allay my anxiety.
I theorize that what sounds so much like slightly muted party sounds must be the
acoustic effect of the sounds of strong, running water filtering through and
within a small, airy cabin. My original suspicion at Upper Dam was such, but a
second encounter gave me more confidence to ignore my senses and the eeriness of
So, I’ve lost my one half-way decent personal ghost story.
These experiences, however, hint at what I feel much more commonly in the
Places like Upper Dam and the Moose River live in the souls
of visitors. Famed destinations such as the terminus of the Appalachian Trail on
Mount Katahdin or the lakes and rapids of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, as
well as innumerable other places well-known and little-visited alike imprint on
all of those who let nature enter into their being. Is it not too much of a
stretch to think that that imprinting might go both ways?
It may all be in my head, but when I’m out in the woods and
on the waters, I sense ghosts lurking. I don’t see them. I don’t hear them. I
don’t have spooky tales to tell around a campfire. I can, however, almost
palpably sense the power of being where others have sat, maybe 10 years ago or
10,000 years ago, while they absorbed some aspect of what life is all about.
When we hold a place and an experience dear, maybe, just
maybe we leave a little marker there. And for me at least, I appreciate these
traces of “existential graffiti.”
Next time you’re out in wild places, try a little ghost
hunting. You don’t need any high-tech equipment or a medium tagging along with
you. Just take a moment to stop and see if you can feel the spirit of those who
came before you and their connection with the outdoors. Who knows, maybe you’ll
even pick up a new ghost story.