Terrible trio: Gowen, Carol Cleveland, and Katie Webb (from left to right) are scary smart about all things paranormal.
Maine’s YouTube paranormalists ain’t afraid of no ghosts.
Photographs by Michael Strout
[dropcap letter=”O”]n a recent chilly evening, ghost hunter Ty Gowen, of the web TV show Haunt ME, walked into the circa-1800 Tubbs-Reed House, one of the oldest remaining structures on Swan Island, in the Kennebec River. Gowen, the show’s analyst, headed in toting audio-recording equipment and a device that detects disturbances in electromagnetic fields. “It’s like Little House on the Prairie meets Hellraiser right now,” he observed. “Creepy on the outside, creepier on the inside.”
Gowen, with occultist Katie Webb and manesologist (or ghost expert) Carol Cleveland, had ferried out to the island, filming an episode for the show’s fifth season, which premieres this month. The first four seasons of Haunt ME have brought the team to some two-dozen other sites — from Fort Knox, in Prospect, to Seguin Island, off Phippsburg, to the Biddeford library — where they lurked around at night rolling infrared tape, staring inscrutably at their equipment, whispering nervously to each other, and assigning each site an “investigatory rating” based on its supernatural goings-on. Haunt ME’s average YouTube viewership hovers in the middle four digits, and the crew often hears from fans using the show as a travelogue for planning their own eerie excursions.
At the Tubbs-Reed House, before crossing the threshold, Gowen recited a spirit-awakening incantation that Webb had suggested. Inside, which is normally off limits to the public, he and his camera operator looked around at the peeling wallpaper and tattered furniture. The last residents of Perkins Township, the only village on the island, were driven out by economic hardship in the 1930s. Today, five buildings still stand, and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has added a few campsites for visitors.
Haunt ME’s Spookiest sites
Mill Agent’s House, Vassalboro
(season 2, episode 5; season 4, episode 7)
Spirits “overcharged” Gowen, blocking his vision and making his ears ring. Webb, meanwhile, captured a photo of a spectral woman lingering in a first-floor window.
Greater Rumford Community Center, Rumford
(season 3, episodes 1–2)
At the old paper company building, an apparition startled the team, and when a fire alarm triggered, they took it to mean that someone from the other side wanted them out.
Sanford Mill, Sanford (season 4, episode 6)
The crew was never so terrified as when they realized, aside from ghosts, another living soul stalked the dark passageways too.
Gowen cautiously climbed a narrow staircase, guided by a slant of moonlight coming through the windows. In a bedroom, he tried to decipher a string of letters and unrecognizable symbols scrawled on a wall. In the next room, he stopped short when he saw that the floor had long since rotted and collapsed. If a ghost were present, he said, his electromagnetic meter would jump from green to yellow, then orange, then red.
After more than an hour, the meter hadn’t budged, but Gowen thought he’d heard some faint footsteps and breathy murmurs — “residual haunts,” he called them — so he left his audio recorder behind, just in case the spirits had felt shy around him. Then he headed off to meet Webb and Cleveland at the island cemetery, where they were planning to transfer their energies into special stones and channel any spirits that might linger among the graves.