With Halloween approaching, we look forward to spooky hay rides, horror movies, pumpkin patches, parties, costumes, trick or treating, ghosts and haunted houses.
If anyone is looking for Halloween fare, Wiscasset certainly has its share of haunted houses and ghostly tales. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, you have to admit there are some compelling stories handed down from one generation to another that could make a believer out of a doubting Thomas.
The Smith House on High Street in Wiscasset is perhaps one of most famous haunted houses in town. It was built in 1792 by Judge Silas Lee, and believed to be the first house built on High Street. Lee sold the house to General David Payson, and in 1831 Payson sold the home to Samuel Emerson Smith, who served as Governor of Maine from 1831-1834. This is apparently why the house is sometimes referred to as the Lee Payson Smith house. The home is owned today by a sixth generation descendant of Samuel Smith, Susan Lowndes Blagden.
The Smith house always has been considered haunted. Even in the late 1800s people used to walk on the other side of the street because they said it was “peculiar.”
Ghosts That Still Walk, a book written in 1941 by Blagden’s late mother Marion Smith Lowndes, details several unexplained happenings in the house: sightings of an old lady waving from the upstairs bedroom; sounds of children playing; an elderly lady rocking in the parlor; a dog scratching at a door when there are no dogs in the house; cats stopping in their tracks when there is visible reason for it; the sound of feeble steps coming down the stairway with no one there.
As a possible explanation, Lowndes tells the story of a previous mistress of the house: “It was about 100 years ago that she lived in the house and raised a family.” According to the story she lost five of her sons, and “Her husband, once able and distinguished, ended his days as a fretful invalid in a wing chair.” As the woman in turn lay dying she said, “‘Everything has failed me except this house. If I can, I’ll come back,’” and apparently she did.
Although the old woman is not named in the book, Blagden believes it could have been her great-great-great grandmother, Louisa Sophia Fuller Smith, the widow of former Governor Smith.
According to Blagden, the house has three ghosts. Besides the old lady, there is the Penobscot Indian and a dog named Guy.
Other interesting tidbits in Lowndes’ book explain perhaps why the sound of a dog scratching is heard in the house. “No surprise to hear that an old uncle had once secluded himself in the one story north wing and lived there for years without speaking to the rest of the family, alone with law books and his black and white setter, Guy,” she wrote.
“It would be no surprise to know that Seven Days, the Penobscot Indian, used to grunt about gold hidden in the odorless granite cellar under the kitchen,” Lowndes wrote.
Although according to Blagden the ghosts have never showed themselves to the family, several other local people claimed they have seen the old lady in the upstairs bedroom window.
Wiscasset resident Karl Marean said he thinks the house is haunted. He said he and a friend were invited to a social gathering at the Smith house several years ago. There were portraits of Governor Samuel Smith and his wife Louisa facing each other on the wall. He had his friend reverse the portraits to have them facing in the opposite direction. Marean said he was absolutely sure no one went into the room.
However, when he and his friend got ready to leave they went through the room and the portraits were facing each other. “How did they get moved, when no one went into the room? I also witnessed the old lady in the upstairs bedroom,” he said. “I personally experienced these two occurrences.”
The late Max Brubaker and his wife Barbara rented the Smith house for several years. During that time a housekeeper who worked there two days a week for the Brubakers was told by Max “to watch out for the dog.” The Brubakers did not have a dog at that time. One can only assume that he had heard the sounds of a dog scratching as was heard many years before. The housekeeper thought at the time he was just being funny.
In the book’s closing paragraph, Lowndes wrote, “She loved the house, like everyone else who has lived there. It stands on High Street today very much as she left it, inside and out.
“They tell these stories about it and the people who them are positive of what they saw or what they heard. There’s one more peculiar feature. No one, now ever feels alone there.”
Charlotte Boynton can be reached at 844-4632 or email@example.com.