This painted pumpkin sits on a grave monument at Gorham’s Hillside Cemetery, where ghostly things have happened. Robert Lowell / American Journal

GORHAM — Tales of ghouls and ghosts come alive on Halloween, especially those that arise from the old cemeteries in Gorham, Buxton and Westbrook.

Spotted in Gorham Monday on a Hillside Cemetery gravestone, a painted face on a pumpkin heightens the cemetery’s haunted reputation.

A half dozen teenagers from the Little Falls area tried to raise a ghost at the cemetery and got more than they bargained for when visiting the graveyard about 15 years ago.

Retired town clerk and former Town Council Chairwoman Brenda Caldwell recalled the teenagers’ story this week, but she didn’t name anyone. She said a high school student’s grandfather had died and a group of his friends, boys and girls, prowled around Hillside. Armed with cameras, the teenagers had hoped to conjure up the old man’s ghost and take photographic evidence of it.

But a long arm stretched out and collared the whole bunch – long arm of the law, that is. Besides getting photos, “They also got arrested by a police officer,” Caldwell said.

The students were good kids, Caldwell said, but they had been mistaken for graveyard vandals.

Caldwell viewed the teenagers’ photos depicting shadows and lights. “I didn’t see any human forms,” she said.

Last spring, Caldwell presented a program about Gorham cemeteries at a historical society meeting. She told of an unusual Eastern Cemetery gravestone, a long and narrow slab, that she called a “table stone.” Several years ago, a woman’s neatly folded clothes, including underwear and sneakers, were discovered on the stone. Caldwell said the apparel was never claimed.

Neighboring towns have some cemetery stories, too.

Richard “Sandy” Atkinson, president of the South Buxton Cemetery Board of Directors,  said that as a boy, he had a job mowing grass and raking in the old graveyard. He and other young boys took their lunch pails into an old tomb to eat where it was cool.

One day the older boys conspired and left the tomb one by one. He suddenly heard the tomb door slam shut. “That was my last day working in the cemetery,” Atkinson said. “I never forgot it.”

A tomb at the South Buxton Cemetery has a secret panel. During prohibition days, it was used to hide alcohol from the sheriff.

In Westbrook, a worker now long dead had told of digging graves by hand as a young man in the St. Hyacinth’s Cemetery on Stroudwater Street. He recalled one job when the digging was exceptionally hard and he had worked through the night.

It was nearly sunrise when a man driving a horse pulling a milk wagon was passing the cemetery. As the milkman passed, the grave digger popped his head up from the grave to holler, “What time is it?”

The frightened milkman cracked his whip and galloped his horse full tilt towards downtown, according to the story.

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