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Finding company in Evergreen Cemetery

Ghost buster
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  January 23, 2008

Also featured
We can’t let this mention of local spirits go by without bringing up Cris Mazza’s Waterbaby, released in October by Soft Skull Press. The book, a quick and quirky read set primarily in coastal Downeast Maine, tells the story of Tam, an emotionally wounded middle-aged woman, and the ancestral spirits she pursues and eventually understands. Part ghost story, part self-discovery novel, Mazza’s latest is a treat for those who want their 19th-century lighthouse apparitions paired with a healthy dose of modern subject matter.
In October 2007, Portlander Joshua Fisher, 33, was walking through Evergreen Cemetery when he felt a “swirling energy sensation, like a bird flapping around my head.” Most of us would dismiss it as a weird hangover, or some otherwise-explained dizzy spell. But not Josh Fisher.

The following day, the amateur ghost-hunter — he’d been involved in paranormal investigations in his previous hometown of Philadelphia — went back to the cemetery to try to identify the source of the strange feeling. “I ended up at this one stone,” he recalls, “and I can’t explain why.”

That headstone marked the grave of Sarah Haskell, who was born in New Gloucester in 1822, and died in 1848 at the young age of 26. Fisher sat down in front of the gravesite and opened his mind — “there was a palpable sense of presence in the air,” he writes at, the blog where he keeps track of his Sarah-Haskell sleuthing.

And so began Fisher’s relationship with this spirit. He’s discovered a lot about her past through municipal records, old newspaper articles, and communication with Haskell’s distant relatives (her husband’s name was Alfred Woodard, and her descendents looked like regular 19th-century stiffs), but one fact remains elusive: how Haskell died. It could have been during childbirth, but there’s no mention of a baby. It could have been the result of one of the many diseases of the day, but that’s not noted either. Or it could be something juicier — “we may never know,” Fisher admits.

He employs several tools and techniques to help solve the mystery, including digital voice recordings that can capture faint, unidentifiable voices, and an infrared camera. (The best of these are posted on Fisher’s blog.) The untrained ear or eye may remain skeptical, but these electronic voice phenomena (EVPs) and images are just what trained ghost-hunters hope for when they start an investigation.

Fisher — a married graphic designer who otherwise comes off as totally ordinary — has been into the paranormal for years.

“I can’t think of anything that’s more universally interesting,” he says over lunch at O’Naturals one recent afternoon. His interest began with TV shows like the Sci Fi Channel’s Ghost Hunters, but soon the casual spectator wanted a hands-on experience. “It’s the kind of thing I always thought I’d be scared of — but the fascination kind of overrides the fear.”

He joined paranormal investigations in Philadelphia — investigations that took him to supposedly haunted inns, train tracks, and graveyards. Once, in the middle of the night on a train track, he captured an EVP of a girl, in which he clearly heard her saying her name: Gloria. It’s his prized ghostly "get."

Fisher knows that his hobby isn’t exactly mainstream, and he acknowledges that when it comes to spirits, “there’s no definitive proof. I try to rule out as much as I can” to debunk paranormal explanations for events that can be justified in other, more scientific, ways. And while he firmly calls himself a believer who takes “a more spiritual approach than scientific,” he doesn’t claim to have any answers about the afterlife, nor does he offer much in the way of ghost-hunting tips.

“Just try to open up and use your intuition,” he says.

The Sarah Haskell case is Fisher’s first since moving back to Maine about a year ago; he hopes to continue his paranormal research in the Old Port, and wants to eventually launch a ghost-hunting team of his own. One of the most intriguing potential investigation sites? Bull Feeney’s. We knew there was something eerie about that place.

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Joshua Fisher:

  Topics: This Just In , Parapsychology and the Paranormal
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