Ghost-hunting at Portland High School

By TIMOTHY GILLIS

Students from the New Media program at Portland Arts & Technology High
School (PATHS) spent last Friday night looking for ghosts at Portland High School. The class is taught by David Beane, and teamed up with the Maine Paranormal Society (MPS) to conduct this paranormal investigation.

The project had students on their toes, creeping around corners at Portland High, which is the second-oldest continuously running high school in the country. But the main goal was to show them what it takes to create a TV show, like the spook search hit called “Ghost Hunters” on the ScyFy channel. “Whether the students realize it or not, this is more about showing them how much work goes into producing a half-hour show than anything else,” Beane said.

The TV show features The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), and the Maine Paranormal
Society is an officially recognized affiliate of TAPS. “We’ve always wanted to investigate Portland High School,” said Jason Steele, MPS co-founder. “The school’s long history, combined with many stories of paranormal activity, makes it a natural location for us. The fact that we get to work with the New Media students is an added benefit. We’re training the next generation of ghost
hunters.”

“We did a ghost hunt two years ago, but it was a real home job,” Beane said. “We were going to do it last year when I busted my leg – nine screws in my knee from a dix I took on the ice.” Beane, whose neighbor is in the MPS, combined efforts to plan this year’s event.

The class was divided into two groups – hunters who would look for episodes of paranormal activity, and producers who would gather the evidence, through videography and sound recorders, and interview members of the MPS. The groups would switch halfway through the night, so each student could sit on both sides of the camera.

Greg Mikkelsen is a chaperone and parent of two ghost-hunters. His son, Josh, is a junior at Deering High School. “I wanted them to look at the old railroad building on St. John’s Street. There’s definitely something going on there.” Mikkelsen used to do maintenance work there, fit-ups for new tenants, and had hoped the MPS crew would choose the site for their search. “There was a massage therapist there. She went up in the elevator instead of down, and her dog freaked out. After 2 am, that’s a pretty spooky place.”

Greg was on the hunt two years ago with his son, Jonathan, then a student at Portland High School. He likes the class, and thinks it has served his sons well. Jonathan is now a student at Southern Maine Community College, where he is still working in media studies. “This class inspired him.”

The ghost-hunters at MPS had a few rules for the students. “Relax and have fun. If you’re looking for ghosts, you can’t find them. And no running. If something makes you uncomfortable, just walk away,” Luke Jackson said.

Jacob Richards, a PATHS junior from Gray/New Gloucester, said he loves the way the media class is designed. “It’s independent. You get to do what you want to learn.” Richards recently attended an open house for colleges, and is interested in pursuing media studies at the New England School of Communications in Bangor.

“Everyone walked out of there a little bit spooked,” Beane said from his classroom Monday. “We had some flashlights on the library table, and in response to some questions, the flashlights turned on. I was the closest to them, and looked under the table but couldn’t see anything. I don’t even know how to describe it. Some students said they saw faces in pictures they took, but I want to wait to see them on high resolution monitors.”

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