STANDISH — Meredith Goad didn’t chicken out on writing the ghost hunting follow-up to her Oct. 27 haunted restaurants story.
It just so happened that her trip south to visit family for the Thanksgiving holiday conflicted with the scheduled investigation.
Coincidence? I’ll let you be the judge.
Instead, I tagged along with the Paranormal Researchers and Investigators of Maine (PRI-ME) on Saturday at Maine Street Grill in Standish, the same restaurant whose reported visions, audible growls and wayward flatware Goad described in an Oct. 27 Portland Press Herald story.
The group, co-founded by Mandy James and husband Louis Logsdon a year and a half ago, investigates claims of the paranormal to uncover alternate answers to those strange sensations, unearthly sounds and seemingly inexplicable apparitions some people say they experience.
And as Goad noted, Maine Street Grill has no shortage of ghost stories.
In truth, there are spirits at the Main Street Grill. I saw them with my own eyes, huddled together on the shelves behind the bar. But in regards to the human apparitions PRI-ME had come to investigate, well, they were a little less obvious.
The six-member team arrived with electromagnetic field (EMF) detectors, closed-circuit television and infrared cameras, audio recorders, temperature gauges, walkie talkies, digital cameras and ample amounts of coffee.
“It’s the main piece of equipment,” joked James, who added that staying awake at 3 a.m. is sometimes the hardest part of the job.
After the restaurant closed at 11 p.m. and the last of the diners and bargoers had cleared out of the second floor “Man Cave” (where “Dead Guy Ale” just happened to be one of the night’s featured beer specials), Maine Street Grill owner Dan Roberts led the team through the building. He pointed out where specific experiences had occurred, including the basement where one employee heard a “growl,” and the staircase to the third floor where some have reported a sensation of being pushed.
As if the late hour, emptied rooms and creaky floorboards weren’t enough to set the eerie mood, the restaurant’s walls are decked with scythes, saws and ice picks. Those implements of a rural past might be quaintly historic in the daylight, but they’re downright ominous when it’s close to midnight in a potentially haunted building.
Then three of the investigators noticed their audio recorders had stopped working while walking through the third-floor function room — the one with the floating dance floor and reported cold spot. James said there’s a theory that spirits steal energy from electronic devices; batteries in cameras and recorders can go from full to dead in a matter of seconds when spirits are lurking.
TEAMS FAN OUT
Following the walk-through, the group divided into two teams to investigate separate floors simultaneously. Logsdon also set up three infrared cameras, which would record nonstop throughout the evening.
James led Deb Rossi, Carol Warren and me to the second floor while Logsdon, Jennifer Elliott and first-time investigator Melissa Connell tackled the basement.
Our flashlights threw shadows onto the walls as we walked, and I startled at the silhouettes and our reflections in the windows.
Rossi and Warren swept the small rooms and hallway with EMF detectors, holding the devices up to walls, outlets and electronic equipment. The restaurant’s speakers caused the lights on Rossi’s detector to shoot from yellow to orange to red.
The sweep gives investigators a baseline for what might set the detectors off later. Things like clock radios and microwaves were big culprits. Close proximity to those fields, Warren explained, can give susceptible people those “weird” feelings like they’re being watched.
After the sweep, the team gathered for an EVP session. Electronic voice phenomena describes sounds an audio recorder might pick up, but that might not be easily heard by the people present.
To help prevent the investigators from misinterpreting their own noise when analyzing the recordings later, they made sure to mark the sounds they made. “That was me moving a chair,” Warren said after she slid out a chair to sit down and the legs scraped against the old wood floors. Whispering is likewise discouraged for the same reason.
With recorders on and EMF detectors on the floor within view, we introduced ourselves in the quiet dark. James spoke to any apparitions who might be present. “None of the objects here will hurt anybody,” she said, adding that we weren’t there to harm or scare anyone.
“Are you with us?” James asked, followed by a long silence. “Did you live here?” Another pause. “What do you think of all the people coming in and out of here?”
James encouraged the presence to interact with the detectors, tap the windows or move objects in the room. “There’s plenty of bottles on the mantle,” she added.
“Thanks, Mandy,” laughed Warren, who happened to be sitting on the floor underneath them.
But no bottles clanked or toppled.
“You must be able to do something,” said James. “You’ve been draining our batteries.”
If any spirits were listening, they held their tongues.
TOYS AND A CHRISTMAS STORY
Later, in the function room on the third level where Roberts once heard women’s voices and kitchen manager Scott Berry said he spotted a young girl standing in a hallway window, the investigators brought out a toy truck and spinning top. If a child was hanging out up there, it was hoped that the “trigger objects” would be too tempting to resist.
James read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” aloud, and I watched the top for movement. Suddenly, a throaty muffle echoed from the adjacent stairwell. James asked if anyone else heard the sound. I did.
And I wasn’t comfortable with it.
James radioed to Logsdon on the first floor, who confirmed, “Yea, I coughed.” Sound had a ghostlike way of traveling in this reverend’s home-turned-restaurant.
When 3 a.m. rolled around and the awakening effects of coffee and soda had begun to wear off, the team called an end to the investigation.
Conclusions won’t be reached for a couple of weeks, when the group is able to review the audio and video footage, but the investigators did discuss some alternate explanations for a few of the experiences.
The “uuuuuhhhhhh” sound of a man growling in the basement could have come from a rumbling car on nearby Route 25, or even the hot water heater, furnace or ice machine.
A notable gap between the floor and the wall could help explain the cold spot in the function room. And the way sound moves from one floor to the next could account for some of the ghostly voices.
Even Roberts had noted how the restaurant’s speakers were able to pick up the sounds from a baby monitor in a home next door.
But most of their evidence, James said, comes from analyzing the recorded EVP session after the fact. In previous investigations, they’ve heard what sounds like whispered words and banging from empty rooms. (PRI-ME posts data and audio recordings from its investigations at www.pri-me.org. Readers can check back for more information on the Maine Street Grill investigation.)
There’s no telling what PRI-ME will hear when they analyze Saturday night’s recordings. Perhaps amid inquiring voices and prolonged pauses, they’ll hear a throaty whisper ask, “Uuuuuhhhh, where’s Meredith?”
Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at: [email protected]
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