Location: The Hawthorne Mill is in Penobscot County on Ayer's Island near Orono, Maine, two miles from the University of Maine and five miles from Bangor. It is private property.
Description of Place: The sixty-two acre island is covered with dense and inaccessible forest in addition to the Hawthorne Mill, a large derelict old mill with some 360,000 feet of space including a large barn and several smaller structures. The riveted girder construction is typical for the time period it was built. It's believed is was built by Italian immigrants up from Boston. One area of the mill, a brick arch foundation support system seems to be part of a much older structure predating the girder construction but incorporated into the construction. Certain areas of the mill are in badly need of repair after being left attended to the elements, but plans of development are being considered. The atmosphere of the location has been heightened by manikins in period dress for recent television explorations at the location, thus giving the interior an innocuous supernatural look.
Ghostly Manifestations: The native Penobscot Indians feared a number of spirits, among them the Wamageswak, a group of evil cannibal ghosts so thin they could only be seen by the side. Among other Penobscot legends is the legend of "Wooden Lucy" which invading Europeans later turned unto the urban legend later known as Bloody Mary, Hell Mary, Black Mary and Bloody Bones among other preternatural incarnations. Supposedly, the ghost of "Wooden Lucy" wanders the island, sneaking up on trespassers and hikers and glimpsed bobbing through the trees. Fishermen and boaters have reported seeing her over a hundred times racing fleetingly through the trees on the island. The majority of their descriptions are wholly similar: a petite blonde girl with flowing blonde hair racing through the trees and vanishing behind a tree or obstruction.
Trespassers and curiosity seekers have made the gamut of other supernatural claims for the island, but these so-called ghosts are connected to the history of the mill rather than the land itself. Since the days after a fire claimed much of the mill, former mill employees returning to the site to retrieve or poke through the remains have claimed to have felt an overwhelming presence on the site watching over them and following them through the burned structure. The so-called presence has been described as a shadowy male figure in dark. Never allowing anyone a clear glimpse of him, he lurks round corridors and corners and generally making his presence known. Footsteps have been heard from dark halls, doors have been heard creaking open from empty rooms and the sounds of the old shredder machine, seemingly trying to start itself up, seem to vibrate through the walls and floors.
Since 1978, there have been quite a number of unsubstantiated rumors of teenagers going to the mill and not returning, but there is no basis for any of these tales. Somewhere around thirty people from different time periods have claimed to see lights floating through the location, but the logical explanation is that these are headlights from the highway bouncing off windows and parts of the mill. In 1981, there was a rumor that the Maine State Police dredging a stolen car from the river heard screams of a woman from the direction of the mill and stormed the location with guns drawn, but didn't find another living being on the site. Yet another tale describes a fisherman in a canoe off shore somehow drawn to look up to the mill and the spectacle of a woman in long dress trying to wave him inland before "falling apart into the air."
The invention of video cameras certainly brought a share of amateur ghost-hunters and would-be parapsychologists to the location, but the supposed ghosts have refused to be cooperative. Orbs and balls of light have been photographed and odd shadows and illusory images have starred in segments of film. Vandals and trespassers have claimed hearing footsteps, having objects thrown at them and being chased off by screams and zombies, but it is more than obvious the gamut of these alleged manifestations were actually born from the bottom of a beer bottle. One enterprising young man in 1993 with a vivid imagination, low IQ and lack of personal morals claimed he was raped by a beautiful blonde woman who floated and flew through the structure!
Curiously, the degrading hoax attempts for attention and monetary aspirations have done little to dissuade the real ghosts. In 1999, the Penobscot Ghost-Hunters Society camped on the location for Halloween. The short-lived paranormal research was comprised of at least one police officer, one high school teacher, one store manager and two ghost enthusiasts each devoted to serious research and documentation. No one knows what happened to the original videos, photos and tape recordings from their over-night visit, but they did depart the following morning with credible and remarkable evidence featured in the local "Bangor Today" morning program. Among anomalous sounds from a sound-sensitive tape recorder left untouched in the lower ramparts were alleged voices saying "It happened down there.," "I didn't do it.," and "Is she coming?' A section of videotape had the image of a man in gray obscured in the background which many former workmen identified as an old foreman who had lost his life at the shredder.
Over the years, activity was reported few and far between until the producers of the popular TV-series "Celebrity Paranormal Project" considered the old mill was perfect for a team of lesser-known celebrities and struggling actors to show their real personalities in the pursuit of ghosts. The series, however, has been criticized by serious paranormal agencies for exaggerating both history and phenomenon and concealing special effect devices along with hidden cameras and microphones. Fans, however, credit the series for plying on the innate fears of all human beings by adding to the atmosphere of the locations with a right amount of props, suggestion and a sketchy history. Basically a haunted version of the old "Candid Camera" series, the show brought renowned former TV star David Carradine, models Bridget Marquardt and Mia St. John, reality TV star Andrew Firestone and the entertainer known as Coolio in search of "the heart of the haunting." Coolio and Bridget both described the sounds of footsteps on metal as well as possible whispers in the old boiler room. Bridget later described the sound she heard as a "whispery voice." In the shredder room, David, who is known to be Buddhist, commented that he felt a presence, but he reacted a bit irritated when Mia screamed after hearing a knocking noise near them.
Coolio, however, teamed with Andrew to visit the dye room where the 1975 fire was reported as started. This is also the location where mill workers trying to escape thought they saw a figure in the flames. Andrew thought he saw something, but Coolio disproved him. In another segment, Mia screamed at the sight of a manikin in dress placed on the location by the series location assistants and later left Bridget alone in a room trying to encourage the ghosts to appear to her. Eventually, the boiler room was chosen as the most haunted location in the mill, but by now, the imaginations and the fears of the all-star team was in full swing and it's not for sure what was real or imagined.
In a later episode, actors Ernie Hudson, Eric Nies, Nicole Eggert, Willie Garson and Courtney Fiel arrived at the island to instead search for Wooden Lucy herself, but again, it is difficult to say just how much was possibly genuine or imagined. For a third episode milking all it could from the site, actors Sherman Helmsley, Crystal Bernard, comedian Hal Sparks, model-turned-actress Erika Eleniak and former football player William "Refrigerator" Perry arrived in good humor and spirit to once more poke into the mill's legends. However, Sparks, having done a few previous episodes for the series, seemed to add to the atmosphere himself by describing his experiences at Tennessee State Penitentiary in Nashville, Tennessee and Waverly Sanitarium near Louisville, Kentucky. Helmsley thought he saw another person lurking on the site that he refused to believe was "anything but genuine," Perry nearly took Sparks' head off trying to get him to stop scaring the actresses present and Eleniak escorted Bernard off the premises when the mill's atmosphere became too much for her. In looking back, the former football player testifies that he did not ever want to "visit a place like that ever again," although his publicist later clarifies he was speaking of the run-down nature of the property than any ghosts.
History: Ayer's Island was based on the name of Eayers, the name of the first white settlers to the area, but it was Samuel Hawthorne in 1927 who saw the island as the ideal location of his textile factory to be built on the island. The factory was a success with boats coming up and down the Penobscot River trading and selling their goods. When Hawthorne retired, his son, Paul Hawthorne, continued the mill and continued it until his death in 1975. The mill struggled onward without the Hawthorne name for almost a year when a fire claimed the mill. Because of the distance from the mainland, the fire was not contained soon enough and the mill had to close shortly thereafter. Sitting unused and abandoned, it garnered notoriety on the TV Series, "Celebrity Paranormal Project," and soon gained interest as the site for a possible historical center. The ideals for the historical center never reached fruition, and by 2010, the location was acquired by horror maven Watson Ray, the owner of over thirty successful horror amusement sites in the United States. His plans are to turn the site into another horror attraction.
Identity of Ghosts: The old mill is the location of a number of unconfirmed legends which have been passed down as truth. The most notorious is the legend of "Wooden Lucy" and Margaret Hawthorne. Margaret was the first-born daughter of Samuel Hawthorne and after bringing her father lunch at the mill, she reportedly went exploring through the woods on the island for "Wooden Lucy." At some point, Margaret as a teenager was reported as worshipping the spirit and making up rituals in her honor. She also liked sneaking up and scaring her father's employees as they departed the mill, but one day, Margaret made the mistake of trying to scare her father. Hearing the tales of "Wooden Lucy" from his rattled employees, Samuel was carrying a tool to defend himself (either an axe or a shovel) when Margaret slipped up behind him. Catching her out the corner of his eye, he swung out and fatally injured his daughter. Despite being called an accident, Hawthorne couldn't forgive himself and became isolable. Afterwards, Margaret's ghost began being reported wandering the island and sneaking through the trees.
Paul Hawthorne also became part of the legends on the island. He had hired a foreman named John Tanner to oversee the mill in his absence, and Tanner became something known as cruel, hard and difficult with the workers. He also became something known of a paramour with Hawthorne's wife, Clara, and snuck her down into the bowels of the mill for clandestine affairs under the noses of the workers. Eager for revenge for how they had been treated, they sent Hawthorne to "accidentally" discover the affair. A few days later, Tanner was seemingly killed in a suspicious accident that ripped his arm from his body and left him to bleed to death. As he cried out for help, the workers ignored his pleas over the roar of their own work. According to the legend, Tanner's ghost returned to the mill to carry out Hawthorne's death, and when the mill burned down, several employees ran into a locked door that prevented their escape from the flames. Two dozen people died in the blaze, but the few that survived later swore they saw Tanner's ghost in the blaze unfazed by the flames. The fire was reputedly traced to a stray cigar of identical brand to that Tanner smoked in life!
Some witnesses swear that the ghosts of Paul and Clara Hawthorne also roam the location.
Source/Comments: Celebrity Paranormal Project, Episode: "Tanner's Ghost" and "Wooden Lucy," Phenomenon based on that from the series and myriad sources