February 17

High school students to hunt for ghosts at Skowhegan’s Strand Cinema

Students from Portland Arts and Technology High School plan to visit the 1929 theater in March to ‘elicit a response from the spirits.’

By Doug Harlow dharlow@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

SKOWHEGAN — Students at Portland Arts and Technology High School ain’t afraid of no ghosts.

Students in the school’s new media program plan to conduct a paranormal investigation next month at the historic 1929 Strand Cinema on Court Street, a place reputed to be one of the most haunted places in Maine.

The group of about 17 high school students will use an eight-camera, infrared security system that professional ghost hunters use in hopes of capturing images of elusive spirits, according to class teacher David Beane. They will have night vision cameras for still photos and video, electronic voice phenomenon equipment and other devices to produce a film titled “Ghost Hunt.”

“After looking at a bunch of locations, one of our students who spends her summers in Skowhegan — her grandparents live up there — mentioned the Strand Cinema,” Beane said. “The more we looked into it, the more interesting it became. Strand Cinema patrons have reported everything from sightings to physical contact at the theater.”

Beane said the group will videotape locations around Skowhegan, as well as inside and outside the theater, before setting up their equipment for the night. They plan to be inside the theater from 10:30 p.m. until 3:30 a.m.

“We’ll be trying to elicit a response from the spirits,” Beane said.

The Strand Theater is a classic movie palace with marble walls and terrazzo floor in the lobby and 25-foot ceilings. There is a red brick facade and the original 1920s marquee and narrow box office. The theater is listed in ghost books and on several websites, including hauntedplaces.org, for being home to a very angry apparition.

“The phenomena surrounding the place are said to have begun in 1978 when an apartment was added to the building,” according to the hauntedplaces website. “Workers took the brunt of the ghost’s anger.”

The website states that workers were shocked by electric tools that were not plugged in. Tools were thrown about and stains were splattered all over newly painted walls. A shadowed apparition is reported to have thrown a piece of balcony ceiling tile into the sets. Hand prints also have been found on the movie screen, according to the website.

Beane said the class will make the two-hour trip to Skowhegan and arrange for transportation, accommodations and food March 18-19. The school, which is part of Portland Public Schools, is a vocational school that takes students from 23 different high schools in southern Maine.

Taylor Almeida, 17, a senior at Bonny Eagle High School, in Standish, said she is excited about coming to Skowhegan to look for ghosts.

“I’ve always been interested in the paranormal, and having the chance to actually investigate a place like this is phenomenal,” Almeida said. “I’m a little nervous about it, but I’m not really afraid. I’m hoping that we get what we’ve heard is there. I’ve heard that there are shadows in the balcony, people have been touched, things have been thrown. I just hope we experience some of that — it would be amazing. Even if we don’t catch it on film, it would be an amazing experience.”

Her classmate, Will Beland, 18, of Gorham High School, agreed. “I’m anticipating some great events going on,” he said.

The ghost hunt idea first came up about five years ago when students visited the Lyric Theater in South Portland looking for spirits. Two more ghost hunts were conducted at Portland High School, Beane said. He said students reported being touched by an apparition and saw floating orbs.

“At Portland High School we heard some stuff the first time, but the second time was phenomenal — we had all kinds of stuff happening,” Beane said. “We had two groups in two different parts of the building at Portland High, and they never crossed paths the entire evening and both groups described the same types of things happening — people brushing the back of their neck.”

(Continued on page 2)

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