PORTLAND – Four students waited quietly in the dark, lounging in a cluster of comfy leather sofas and chairs. On the table was a digital audio recorder they hoped would pick up the sound of any restless spirits in the library at Portland High School.

Custodians had told them that the library was a prime location to experience paranormal activity. Outside on the roof, dozens of seagulls suddenly raised a racket with their groaning and squawking and screeching.

“Do you think the voices that the janitors hear are the seagulls?” asked Duke Newcomb, drawing a burst of laughter from his fellow students.

The students are members of a new media class at Portland Arts and Technology High School. They spent the wee hours of this morning, and part of their spring vacation, hunting ghosts at Portland High, with some apparent success.

Portland High is the nation’s second-oldest continuously operating public high school and has long been rumored to be haunted by restless spirits. PATHS is a vocational school that serves students from more than 20 area high schools.

When David Beane asked his students for class project ideas, Portland High seniors Jon Mikkelsen and Rocco Didonato suggested creating a program modeled after the television series, “Ghost Hunters,” on the SciFy Channel. The half-hour program will air on local cable channels.

The students were at the high school from 11 p.m. Wednesday through 3:30 a.m. today. They used audio recorders, low-light cameras, hands-off laser temperature gauges and electromagnetic frequency readers to monitor paranormal activity in Portland High’s auditorium, a basement music room, an art room, the science wing and the library.

In the music room, an audio recorder picked up several minutes of rustling and what sounds like music stands being moved.

“There also was something that sounded like chimes, but that could have been (the bells of City Hall),” said Mike Cardinal, a Scarborough High senior who attends music classes at PATHS. Beane invited Cardinal to participate in the ghost hunt because he is familiar with modern sound equipment.

In the library, three people reported feeling the sensation of being touched.

“It felt like someone touched my hand,” said Andrea Brown, a junior at Bonny Eagle High School. “I got up and walked around a little and it happened again.”

In the art room, two students felt similar sensations.

“I get the heebie jeebies when I come in here,” said Mikkelsen, who plans to attend the New England School of Communication in Bangor.

Didonato took a digital still photograph of an orb in the auditorium.

Beane, a former TV news director and producer, said he believes in the spirit world. He grew up in the house where his great-grandmother died. In the decades that followed, she was credited with making rocking chairs move and walking the stairs at night.

Beane’s students have different opinions. Duke Newcomb, a South Portland senior, said his family has shared several paranormal experiences, so he jumped at the chance to participate in the ghost hunt.

Matt Peaslee, a junior at Greely High in Cumberland, said, “I don’t necessarily believe in this kind of stuff. I just thought I’d come and be a part of it.”

Whether or not his students encountered a ghost, Beane said they’re learning to use various new media technology and practicing other skills such as math, literacy and teamwork. Most of all, he said, they’re working on a project with passion and creativity that could lead to a profession.

“Most of these kids chose to take this class,” Beane said. “More than half of them are serious about following new media as a career path.”


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