WATERVILLE — A group of Mainers is spending time at a Waterville cemetery in hopes of making contact with the spirit of man a murdered in 1847.

Members of Paranormal Research and Extermination spent a recent night at Pine Grove Cemetery attempting to contact the spirit of Edward E. Mathews, a wealthy cattle dealer who was the city’s first recorded murder victim. A prominent doctor was convicted of the crime and hanged, but many people weren’t convinced that he was the culprit.

Chris Clarke, of Fairfield, tells the Morning Sentinel that the aim is to find out conclusively who killed Mathews. He says they have yet to connect with Mathews’ spirit using a night vision digital recorder, voice recorders and an electromagnetic field detector, but they’ll try again later this month.

Many skeptics scoff at the idea of psychic activity and say it’s not supported by science, but Clarke is a believer.

“Spirits generate an electromagnetic field and when they cross in front of the sensor, it beeps, so we know it’s there,” Clarke said. “We pan the camera around and try to entice them out. We’re not there to hurt them or take over their home.”

Mathews was last seen on Sept. 29, 1847, while holding an elaborate party at a downtown hotel to celebrate a successful cattle sale. During the night, he left for an appointment but told friends he’d return.

The next day, his body was found in the cellar of a nearby vacant house, his head bashed in and his money and watch gone.

Investigators later charged Coolidge, saying he was in debt and in need of cash. Mathews’ prized watch was found in Coolidge’s sleigh.

But many residents at the time said Coolidge had a stellar reputation, was an excellent surgeon and well-liked and couldn’t possibly be the killer.

Access to Pine Grove Cemetery is prohibited after sunset, but city officials have given Clarke’s group permission to do research there.

“It’s a treasure that people are actually interested in and I think it’s beneficial to the city to increase interest in it,” said City Clerk Patti Dubois.

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