As far as I can tell, the town of Poland is crawling with ghosts. In fact, there may be more ghosts out there than there are registered voters and potholes.

I gather this after receiving dozens of calls and e-mails in response to a story about a ghost hitchhiker on Route 26. The bulk of it looked like this:

“I saw a girl in a white gown walking that road just last summer!”

“I’ve never seen a ghost out there, but my hairdresser’s son’s second cousin once removed did!”

“I saw a ghost taking a leak by the side of Route 11! Weird thing is, it looked just like a regular man! He was drinking a Colt .45 and everything!”

And so on. You’ve got your ghost of the dead girl who never made it to the prom; your ghost lady who delivers a cryptic message before vanishing like pipe smoke; and back by popular demand, the ghost of Mary Knight, slain in 1856 and still pretty pissed off about it.

We still don’t know what brand of phantasm our friend David encountered in early July. According to the teenager’s report, he picked up a lady in a wedding dress and a few miles down the road, POOF! She was gone.

A week after that story ran in the paper, the e-mails and phone calls are still coming in. I’ve heard from a schoolteacher, a cop, Poland landowners, a paranormal group and several random people who range from ardent believers to unwavering cynics.

“What was that kid smoking?” inquired a few of the cynical variety.

“I got chills,” said a more open-minded sort.

“You owe me money, LaFlamme!” said one who was probably not talking about the ghost at all.

The teacher tells me he once had a student who claimed she tried to perpetuate the legend by dressing up in white and hitchhiking along Route 26. Another writer has been hot in pursuit of an elderly man said to be the widower of a woman run over and killed on her way to their wedding many, many years ago.

A paranormal group plans to visit the site of the Mary Knight murder to look for signs of haunting. The Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department has announced it will hire Fox Mulder of “The X-Files” to replace Deputy Tom Slivinski as the Poland patrol officer.

I may have made that last item up.

A man named Jeff owns the property where Mary Knight was murdered. Today, it is only a foundation, but Jeff goes out there once in a while to see if Mary has anything to say.

“I want her to sit down and have tea and crumpets with me,” Jeff said.

He knows more than a half-dozen people currently at work researching the Mary Knight murder and other history that may lead to the origin of Poland specters.

What has surprised me most about reaction to the Poland ghost story are the cynics. Several wrote to say they don’t believe in haunts. And then they went on to describe strange things they’ve seen, like the cop (who has nothing to do with Poland) who recalled spotting an ancient man in white roaming near a cemetery in the hours after midnight.

And finally, this from a woman who was driving through Poland with her husband in the early morning hours earlier this summer:

“When we turned onto Range Hill Road, off of Route 26, we saw a woman walking on the side of the road towards us. It was between Chipman Farm and Route 26. She was wearing a long-sleeved, long flowing dress that we couldn’t really describe.

“She had long hair and I would have placed her late 50s, early 60s. She seemed quite disheveled which led my husband and I to think maybe this was someone with psychological issues. Why would a woman be walking alone in the pitch dark of Poland at this time of night dressed like she was without so much as a flashlight?

“Interestingly, she never once looked at us. Most people, as you pass them along the road will turn to look at your vehicle. She was just looking straight ahead, walking along the edge of the road very slowly.”

Remember that high, wailing music they played in the old movies whenever they showed a wide view of the haunted house? Just wondering.

The couple had children in the car and didn’t stop to investigate the old woman at the side of the road. They had never heard the stories about wandering ghosts on Route 26 until they read it in the paper last week.

And so now, the hunt is on. While one man searches for an elderly fellow in Oxford who may have insights, the paranormal team will try to ferret out evidence at the site of a murder dating back more than 150 years.

Maybe the slain Mary Knight will have answers. Maybe she will relate what she has to relate and at last, find peace. Or maybe she will just rise from the mist to declare: “You owe me money, LaFlamme!”

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. If he owes you money, you can contact him at [email protected]


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