AUBURN, Maine — This time of year, the city of Auburn is decorated with trees changing color and losing their leaves, scattered among historic buildings with outdated architecture. The chilling fall temperatures whip around in gusts of wind, setting the scene for what feels like it could be straight out of a thriller.
Most of us understand a big part of history relies on storytelling. That knowledge isn't lost on the people in this city, who welcome the opportunity to share their experiences about what they believe those before them left behind.
"If you don't understand your past, then you really can't frame your present -- nor can you plan effectively for your future," Jason Levesque, the mayor of Auburn, said.
Levesque met NEWS CENTER Maine in a building at the corner of Court and Spring streets known as the old Engine House.
Levesque said this building was built more than a century ago in 1878 and served as the city's fire station for decades. As the story goes, a firefighter apparently died in the building at the turn of last century, falling from the tower either accidentally or on purpose. Pictures hung on the wall in the Engine House (which now serves as a hub for entrepreneurs) feature the hearse he was carried in.
Before he became mayor, Levesque ran a business in this building. He said he hasn't always believed in the paranormal, but something felt off here.
"It was just odd. There were times when my staff or myself -- we would feel presence. We would see doors opening and shutting repeatedly and were just staring at it, watching it," he said.
One of the most bizarre stories came from one of his former employees.
"She could not get out of the bathroom," Levesque recalled. "There was no earthly reason. She would open the door a couple of inches, and the door (would) shut right back. She was (there) alone. Nobody was in the building."
Another building with a spooky reputation is the Community Little Theatre on Academy Street. This building was the Great Falls School decades ago, and its worn stone façade is daunting to some.
"I've definitely felt my hair stand on edge," Brandon Shaloux, the building and stage manager and vice president, told NEWS CENTER Maine. "(There are) a lot of feelings of not really being alone, noises that I don't really know where they're coming from."
Shaloux said he has spent his fair share of nights alone at the theatre, and there's one place he really dislikes: the basement. He led NEWS CENTER Maine downstairs on a tour, and out of nowhere an audible "thump" came from the other side of the eerily silent room.
"Once you experience it for yourself, it kind of changes you," Shaloux joked.
He said some cast members at the theater refuse to go down to the basement alone. Others have reported seeing faces in the windows while walking to their cars.
The theatre is so intriguing, a local ghost hunting group, Central Maine Ghost Hunters, decided to check it out last year. Michael Owens is the team leader and Andrew Hunt is a researcher for the group. They said they did discover some type of activity here, noting the spirits seemed mostly "curious."
"It's a morbid curiosity," Owens said about his interest in the hobby.
"You get that rush, and that rush never changes I don't think," Hunt later added about the sense of adrenaline ghost hunting brings.
Shaloux wants to assure people that no dangerous experiences or interactions have ever happened at the theatre, and he encourages people to come out when the theatre launches its first show since the beginning of the pandemic in a couple of weekends. You can learn more about that here.
The Central Maine Ghost Hunters are releasing a new project this weekend called The Bowdoin Witch Project. You can learn more about that, and ask to join a ghost hunt, here.