Tag Archives: Ghosts

Town House Junction Haunted in 1921

A Mysterious Visitation
A Mysterious Visitation

Arthur Harriman was just settling in for his nightshift at the Town House Junction car barn one autumn night in 1921, when a blood-curdling scream jolted him to his feet. His wife Elizabeth had begged him not to work nights. Now the sound of her terror set him running as fast as he could to the house they shared across the street, midway between the Farmers Club and Town Hall in North Kennebunkport.

For about a year, the Harriman family had rented the lead color house with yellow trim from Benjamin Drown. Part of the building that is now known as Wink’s Place had been moved to that location in 1902 to make way for Atlantic Shoreline Trolley business. Things seemed perfectly normal until mid-August when Arthur took the night watchman’s position for the Railway Company. Every night that Arthur had to work, Mrs. Harriman complained of hearing a rhythmic rap-rap-rapping in the walls of the bedchamber she shared with her fourteen year old daughter Florence. Arthur feared his wife had become prone to hysterics. Florence, on the other hand, had never seemed more serene.

But on this September night, when Arthur opened the door, it looked as if a cyclone had torn through his house; curtains on a closed window were flapping, two chairs were upset, a large piece of plaster had fallen from the wall, a washstand had been toppled and all the articles on it were scattered about the room. Arthur’s co-workers, Al Potter and Everett Higgins, caught up with him just in time to see the rug on the floor wriggle and squirm as if some creature was trapped beneath it. The mistress of the house was inconsolable. Her daughter was seemingly unimpressed by the extraordinary events of the evening.

The men were convinced that some animal had been trapped in the walls and had escaped when the plaster fell.  Just then the rap-rap-rapping resumed and Harriman had to stop an unnerved Mr. Higgins from striking his wall with an ax. Arthur set up beds for his wife and daughter in a disabled trolley car in the barn but no sooner had they snuggled in, that the rap-rap-rapping commenced on the trolley car walls. Harriman brought his family into the rotary room for a few hours but nobody slept a wink that night.

The next morning Elizabeth Harriman took her daughter to stay with her sister, Mrs. Everett Rowe, who lived on Brown Street in Kennebunk, and Arthur notified the railway that for the sake of his wife’s sanity, he would have to resign his position as night watchman.

That night, while Florence was lying in bed at her aunt’s house, her nightgown was suddenly ripped from her body and large chunks of her mattress were torn out, as if by a steel claw. The little girl was taken into another room and a skeptical Mr. Mark Broadbent of Lowell, who was visiting the Rowes, volunteered to sleep in her room to watch over her. As he put his head down on the pillow it was whisked from under his head and the bed sheet was torn to pieces by some unseen force. Mr. Broadbent fled the room. Florence calmly followed her “protector” into the kitchen where her mother and aunt were huddled in fear. The girl gently patted her aunt’s shoulder as if to console her and the woman’s apron ripped in pieces, even though nothing but Florence’s gentle caress had come anywhere near her. Minutes after the child was made comfortable on the living room sofa and covered for warmth by an adult overcoat, the lining of the coat was shredded.

The following day, word was received that another of Mrs. Harriman’s sisters who had lived in Rochester, NH, passed away unexpectedly at midnight, the very same hour that Mrs. Rowe’s Kennebunk home had been so disrupted.

Somehow, a reporter for the Biddeford Journal got word of the mysterious events in the Kennebunks and after he published his first report on September 16, 1921, reporters came from as far away as and Boston and New York to get the scoop. A medium from Portland, whose name was not revealed, spoke to the girl for several hours and admitted to being completely baffled by the case. Florence’s demeanor had been perfectly normal since the death of her aunt but a spooked Mrs. Rowe insisted the Harrimans moved back to Town House Junction after the funeral. It was concluded that the haunting had been a forewarning of the woman’s untimely death.

All was quiet for a few weeks but eventually the strange visitor returned to the Harriman house in North Kennebunkport and continued to visit until late November. It was reported in the Biddeford Journal that local celebrities had taken an interest. Authors, Margaret Deland and Booth Tarkington each interviewed Arthur Harriman many times. Perhaps coincidentally, Tarkington published his one-act play, The Ghost Story, the following year.

“Frank Parsons, a member of the prominent New York family of that name which spends a good part of the year at Parson’s Beach,” wrote the correspondent from Biddeford, “is quietly investigating and trying to satisfy himself that the strange happenings at the Harriman home are due to natural causes.” A government specialist in Post Traumatic Stress or Veteran’s Shell Shock as it was called after World War I, stepped forward and offered to help cure Florence, whom he was convinced was suffering from the disorder.

When a reporter from the Lewiston Journal knocked on the Harriman’s door a cheerful Arthur let him in. He led him into the kitchen where young Florence was playing with her new Scotch Collie puppy. Arthur hemmed and hawed for a few minutes before informing the reporter that he would require a $5 stipend to tell his story. When the reporter objected he was shown the door but not before he was indignantly informed that the New York and Boston papers had happily paid $25. The Lewiston reporter wrote a rather sarcastic account of his visit to the Kennebunks and soon after, the haunting stopped without further explanation.

A Kennebunkport haunting

The haunted Gideon Merrill house on River Road
The haunted Gideon Merrill house on River Road

“I was awakened from a sound sleep and saw this figure of a Quaker lady surrounded by a gray haze. She glided by the foot of the bed and went out the door,” recalled musical actress Jane Morgan’s good friend Muriel Pierce to a reporter in the mid-1960s.

The newspaper man and his photographer had agreed to spend one a dark misty night in the farmhouse next to the foundering Kennebunkport Playhouse.

Photogenic believer Jane Morgan conducted a guided tour of the most haunted corners of the old house, stopping briefly to let the photographer capture her stunning silhouette in a dimly lit doorway that led to the attic.

“You go to bed with this door securely latched,” the starlet whispered, “and the next morning it’s wide open.”

Some of the ensemble actors at the playhouse slept in an adjoining room one summer and were spooked by the door that mysteriously unlatched itself. They nailed it shut and went to sleep only to be awakened in the middle of the night by crashes and thuds on the other side of the door that sounded like furniture being tossed around the attic. Performances at the theatre were plagued by lighting and scenery mishaps until the door was un-nailed.

Jane’s older brother, Robert Currier, founder of the Kennebunkport Playhouse, purchased the farm when she was just a little girl known as Flossie. That’s when she became aware of his two uninvited guests: a serene woman clothed in a long gray dress with a broad white collar and a restless uniformed soldier with a menacing countenance.

“I grew up with them in this house but I don’t think I could spend a night alone here,” Jane told the reporter. She believed that the soldier, whom she nicknamed Ned, had killed Nellie the Quaker lady when she did not return his affection. Nellie’s father then took revenge on the soldier leaving both souls to wander the old farmhouse for eternity. The reporter was not graced with a ghostly encounter but the newspaper printed a full page story anyway, about his memorable night with Jane Morgan.

Robert Currier, a gifted publicity instigator, recalled in a later interview that Mrs. Kenneth Roberts had been the first to bring the ghosts to his attention. She had seen the costumed apparitions in an attic window when nobody was home. Amused, he invited a psychic to the house who saw the same spirits the author’s wife had described.

With the help of a Ouija board, Quaker Nellie communicated to Currier’s cook that she was fond of Robert but that she would never rest until those dreadful actors vacated the premises. One of Robert’s friends, Darryl DiShurley, rented the haunted house for a while. Kennebunkport historian and storyteller, Barbara Barwise, reports that the Quaker woman Nellie once joined Darryl in the music room for a few moments. She sat quietly in a chair near the door and then vanished into thin air.

The old gray house was built sometime after 1754 by Gideon Merrill. His two sons Jacob and Abel inherited the property. Both sons fought in the Revolutionary war but both died as very old men long after having left the house. They are probably out of the running for the role of Ned.

Abel’s son Stephen acquired the house from his father and sold it to Samuel Lewis in 1830. Though he and his family lived in the house for only eight years, Samuel’s story was intriguing. His young son was one of the casualties resulting from the tragic wreck of the barque Isadore off Bald Head Cliff in 1842. Samuel was an undertaker who built glass top coffins for his clientele. A believer in the supernatural might speculate that Ned and Nellie each found their way into the house in one of those coffins and chose not to leave.

Issachar Wells purchased the haunted farm from Lewis who moved to a home on Maine Street. Allegedly, that house is also haunted. One of Issachar’s sons did serve in the Civil War but he survived to live a long full life in Massachusetts. The Wells family owned the house on River Road for three generations before selling it to Robert Currier in 1940.

After the closing the playhouse founder wandered downstairs to the basement. He was marveling at the intricate brick archways built into the foundation when he discovered an old coffin tucked under one of them. It was empty. Happy Halloween!

Captain Maling conjures the dead

maling“A letter written on the high seas nearly 90 years ago by Capt. Moses Maling of Kennebunk and mailed by him in San Francisco was a feature of the program at the 130th annual meeting of the Kennebunk Fire Society,” reported the Kennebunk Star on the front page of its November 12, 1943 issue. After making some remarks about her own high seas adventures Mrs. Irving Fletcher began reading the mystifying correspondence written somewhere in the Pacific Ocean during December of 1856.

Captain Moses C. Maling was born in Kennebunkport in 1819. His first wife, Olive Chadbourne, was the daughter of Kennebunk’s Captain Elisha Chadbourne. Their first child, Mary, was born in 1849. A son, Charles Howard, better known as Hobby, followed in 1853. The young family hated to be apart. Olive and the children accompanied Captain Maling on two voyages before his 1856 adventure on the Donald McKay ship Bostonian.

When in Kennebunk the family lived in the Elisha Chadbourne house with Olive’s mother and sister. Seven year old Mary was ill when Moses left for Boston alone in 1856. He received a letter from his wife just as he was boarding the vessel bound for San Francisco by way of Cape Horn. His daughter’s condition had worsened and hopes for her recovery were slim. The Captain was reduced to tears before his crew.

For three months Maling believed his daughter Mary was dead. The Bostonian reached the equator 29 days from Boston, passed Rio de Janeiro 38 days out and Cape Horn on Day 59 of the voyage.

“The next day after passing Staten Island” Moses wrote, “the wild winds of old Cape Horn came down upon us in full blast and for 22 days we encountered the most terrific weather. Snow and rain every day and upon two occasions our decks were completely filled with snow so that all hands were employed all day shoveling it off. After a hard battering of four weeks we got around the horn into the Pacific.”

They were then becalmed for 16 days which Maling found more challenging than rounding the horn.

The second half of the voyage was much less stressful and the men found themselves with time on their hands.

Just before leaving Kennebunk, Moses had attended several “Spiritualist” meetings at Thomas Lord’s house on the Portland Road in Kennebunk. It seems clear in his letter that Olive had not shared Moses’ fascination with the supernatural. The seamen aboard the Bostonian decided to reach out to the dead every evening for the last month of their journey. They discovered that 16-year-old Henry Ward, Olive’s nephew, who would later become a celebrated sea captain himself, was a gifted spiritual medium. Most of the good spirits that visited the Bostonian were coincidentally related to Olive Maling and therefore to Henry.

Olive’s father and brother, Frank came every night. At first Ward wrote what the spirits told him but they soon gained full control of him and spoke with his voice. One night the ghost of Moses’ sister came to call. She had just been in Kennebunk and had good news for Moses. His little girl had regained her strength and was out in the snow with her brother Hobby. Moses had had misgivings when evil spirits Joe Crediford and Daniel Nason influenced Henry Ward to throw a table across the cabin knocking him on the head but the reassurance of daily reports of his loved ones’ activities won him over. By the end of the voyage Moses was practicing to be a medium himself.

The Bostonian reached San Francisco on January 3, 1857. Captain Maling raced to pick up his mail and was delighted to discover that the spirits had been correct about his daughter’s recovery. Though they had misled Moses about a few things he was quick to blame the evil Daniel Nason and Joe Crediford for maliciously lying to him.

Moses C. Maling returned home and sadly, his son Hobby died the following year. Another daughter was born in 1859 and in 1863 the family moved into a beautifully appointed new home on Zion’s Hill that still stands there today at 36 Summer Street. When he died in 1893 Moses Maling was mourned as an intelligent and respectable man.

The sometimes judgmental Kennebunk Town Clerk, Andrew Walker, who seldom omitted any incriminating details from his diary, had a most complementary opinion of Captain Maling. One can only assume that Olive had the good sense not to share her husband’s letter with her neighbors.