Tom Hincks, owner of Jameson Tavern in Freeport, inside the tavern’s barn, a hotspot of paranormal activity. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Before Tom Hincks took ownership of Freeport’s storied Jameson Tavern in 2013, he didn’t believe in ghosts.

In fact, he characterized himself as a former “huge” skeptic of supernatural phenomena and speculation in general. “That Bigfoot stuff and ghosts, I’m not one of those guys,” he said.

So when the veteran restaurateur signed the lease on the property 11 years ago in a turnkey deal, he quickly dismissed talk of spirits residing at Jameson Tavern.

“When we first got here, we were told that this place was ‘haunted,’ ” he said with an eye roll and air quotes around the h-word. “And I was like, ‘Yeah, blah blah blah.’ But then it started happening immediately.”

There was the rolling ball incident. And the wall-thumping incident. There were the mysterious voices, pans clanging in an empty kitchen, staffers being “touched, pinched and tugged” by unseen forces and many more strange phenomena seemingly without simple explanations.

Today, Hincks feels quite differently about the Tavern and its occupants. “I think that were sharing a place with a couple of entities.”


A number of Maine’s older hospitality venues – taverns, restaurants, bars and inns – have their own ghost lore, stories of resident spirits that make random, unsettling appearances or sometimes hassle the staff. For decades, staff and guests at what is now Henry’s Public House on Fore Street in Portland have reported seeing a female spirit in period garb serving tea upstairs, for instance. Just down the street at Rosie’s Restaurant and Pub, staffers have come to suspect a spirit spent much of 2022 playing pranks with their jukebox.

Paranormal experts say such sightings and experiences make sense in places with long, rich histories.

“I think when you look at taverns and eateries, where there are gathering places there are bound to be stories,” said Roxie Zwicker, the New Hampshire-based author of a nine-book series on haunted New England locales, including “Maine Book of the Dead” and “Haunted Portland: From Pirates to Ghost Brides.”

“These places are pretty historic, going back at least 100 years, 200 in some cases,” Zwicker added. “You have all these layers of history, and the multi-purpose uses of all these buildings. It’s fascinating when you start looking at these places over the years and peel back the layers of all the stories people tell.”


Hincks said Jameson Tavern, built in 1779, had briefly served as a brothel, morgue and courtroom at various points, perhaps further boosting its potential for supernatural activity. Regardless, he said his first two unexplainable encounters there were sufficient on their own to change his thinking about ghosts.


Hincks recalled working in the tavern’s upstairs office early one morning in June 2013, believing he was alone in the building. “I’m sitting there, and all of a sudden a racquetball rolled by the door,” he said.

He’d seen the racquetball somewhere in the tavern earlier, but how it came to roll through the hallway seemingly on its own was admittedly strange. He picked up the ball, placed it in a wicker basket on a shelf in the hallway and returned to his desk.

“All of a sudden, the ball rolls by the door again. I’m like, ‘Alright, I’m outta here.’ ” Hincks said he left the property, feeling somewhat disturbed and wondering if someone was playing a joke on him somehow.

Then a week later, Hincks was upstairs in the office again after service had ended for the night. He heard a persistent thumping moving along the wall outside his office. Thinking again he was being teased by an actual living person, he slipped out to the hall in an effort to surprise the perpetrator. “I went ‘Boo!’ to scare somebody – nobody was there,” he said.

“It can feel heavy in here,” Hincks went on. “Like you’re walking by yourself and there’s somebody at your back. And when that happens, I can’t get out of here fast enough. Out of the office, down the stairs, out the door and I just shut it as fast as I can.”

Bizarre occurrences continued. A kitchen worker said he was walking through the tavern one night when he felt like he was stopped in his tracks by something unseen. Staffers complained to Hincks that they were being “grabbed” and having their hair pulled by invisible entities while fetching dry goods from the loft above the barn dining room, a space where Richard Codman – who ran the venue as Codman’s Tavern from 1828-1856 – is said to have hung himself.


Soon, Hincks had two “ghost hunter” teams investigating the tavern. One team made an audio tape of 60 questions posed to the spirits, asked at one-minute intervals on a constant loop. They played the tape overnight in the barn, with video and audio recorders set up to capture any spectral replies.

One of the questions was, “Do you like to play tricks on people?” Hincks said the ghost hunters caught a reply on tape at 3:17 a.m.

“It came within a millisecond: ‘Yes,’ ” Hincks said. “A deep male voice. You could hear it loud and clear as day.”

Shortly after, Hincks had been asked to tell Jameson Tavern ghost stories to a class of local third graders. He said he played the tape for the kids, a move he now regrets.

“I freaked them out,” he said. “It wasn’t great. You know, their eyes got big. You could see the faces, and they’re like, ‘Was that real?” Hincks said he recovered quickly and told them it wasn’t actually real, he was just having a little Halloween fun.

Hincks would learn to play along with people, like the older couple who visited around the July 4 holiday in 2015. The pair complimented Hincks for stationing an older staffer dressed in 18th-century period costume – complete with tricorn hat – in the Tavern’s entranceway at midday.


“They wanted to thank me for how festive it was to put an old man at the front door with a minuteman outfit and patriot hat,” Hincks said. “They said this gentleman was letting them into the building. In my head, I’m like, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’ I played along and said, ‘You’re welcome.’ But I went back inside, blown away. I have no idea how that could have happened.”

Manager Jen Temple behind the Jameson Tavern bar. Temple has been “pinched” repeatedly at the Tavern by unseen forces. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer


Zwicker said Jameson tavern is her “favorite haunted restaurant in Maine,” in part because of her own exceptionally creepy experience there. Several years ago, Zwicker was filming a segment with New England Cable News at the tavern about its haunted history, including the lore of a young girl from the 1800s named Emily who is said to have died in a fire on the tavern’s third floor.

“About halfway through the shoot, the cameraman got a phone call from a laughing little girl,” Zwicker said. “And it spooked him out. He couldn’t trace the phone call. We were all there to hear it, and there was definitely a moment where we were like, ‘Okay, she’s here.’ ”

Jameson Tavern manager Jen Temple said she doesn’t like to talk about her own weird stories from there. “It seems so silly not to get into details, but once I start talking about it, it sort of starts happening again.”

Still, Temple reluctantly recounted having a pitcher of lemonade nearly knocked from her hand with nobody else around her, and a six-week period in 2020 when she felt the tiny hairs on the back of her neck being pulled, and serious pinches on the back of her legs while upstairs in the barn.


“Every time I go up in the barn, I kind of get that feeling that somebody’s watching,” Temple said, noting that the pinches didn’t feel like playful teasing. “You can tell it’s not with a good intent. It’s painful.”

Hincks disagreed about the spirits’ intent. “They seem to be benevolent. They’re tricksters and they’re fun,” he said. “There’s just the one time that I didn’t like it.”

Hincks said he was back in the office with the door closed one night, talking on the phone with his business partner, when he heard low grumbling and growling noises coming from the other side of the door. He held his phone up to the door so his partner could hear the strange sounds.

“He goes, ‘what the hell was that?’ ” Hincks then checked his security camera monitor to see the hallway outside.

“And you could see it in front of the door, the mist. It was foggy,” Hincks said, describing a “ball of fog” about the size of a medium dog on the ground.

Hincks said he shut his eyes, opened the office door and felt his way downstairs and out of the building. And as he walked, “there was that heavy feeling again. That was definitely the worst I’ve experienced here.


“To be honest with you, I still don’t like it, because I don’t know what I’m dealing with,” Hincks continued. “When it gets that heavy feeling, what is it? The weight, it’s like it makes you feel dread and doom.”


Other purportedly haunted hospitality venues around Maine share remarkably similar stories of strange happenings. Henry’s Public House opened in the Old Port this past summer in a building that dates back to the 19th century, just after Portland’s great fire in 1866. The venue has racked up its share of ghost stories over various incarnations as Bull Feeney’s and the Seamen’s Club before that.

“There’s a pretty long history of ghostly inhabitants here,” said Henry’s General Manager Randa Vashon. “In the tea room and library upstairs, there’s a woman who haunts these two rooms. She sweeps back and forth between them, walking around the rooms dressed in (19th century) period clothing serving tea. That’s why we named the room the tea room, because she’s been here much longer than anyone else. We’ve heard the story about her at least 10 different times since we bought the place. She’s made herself very visible.”

Vashon said a former Bull Feeney’s manager said that a customer told him one night, “It’s so cool that you have staff wear old period clothing.” The manager said they didn’t have anyone on staff in period costume, and chalked it up to the tea room woman.

Vashon has not yet seen the tea room woman herself, but has noticed her vibe upstairs. “You can certainly feel it. It’s always super late or super-early, and you get a cold chill on your back or an odd feeling like someone’s watching you.”


For her part, Vashon said she finds the mystical happenings “really cool.”

“I love it. I embrace it,” Vashon said. “The ghosts have been here longer than us. We’re kind of invading their space.”

Not everyone at Henry’s has been as welcoming as Vashon to the seeming entities, though. She recounted the morning several months ago when a plumber was working on the new second-floor ladies’ room. Henry’s upstairs bathrooms are positioned where a “whisky room” used to be in the 19th century, a gentlemen-only refuge for relaxing with cigars and drinks by the fireplace.

Vashon was in the bathroom consulting with the plumber, when they both started to hear piano music from a bygone era coming from the general area. “We don’t have a piano there. And it scared him. I think it’s very cool, but he was not having it,” Vashon laughed. “He started humming really loudly and telling me that we didn’t hear anything, and then we left the bathroom.”

Sarah Simagna, general manager at Rosie’s Restaurant & Pub in the Old Port. Behind Simagna is the TV screen that fell from the wall for no apparent reason in the middle of the night in August, and the table from which two legs-up chairs also fell. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


Down the street at Rosie’s Restaurant & Pub, fluky occurrences seem to happen often enough that the night shift, who close the place up, are convinced it’s haunted.


“They’re like, ‘Oh yeah, definitely, there’s ghosts here,’ ” Manager Sarah Simagna said. She even has video documentation.

One of the venue’s security cameras captured a late-night incident from August when at 1:30 a.m., with Rosie’s closed and nobody inside, two chairs that had been set legs-up on a small table suddenly fell from either side of the table.

A television set mounted on the room’s brick wall also fell to the ground, though the security footage doesn’t show it. Simagna figures as it fell, the screen or its cord may have pulled the nearer chair off the table, but that explanation still wouldn’t account for why the other chair also fell, or why the tv itself – which had been hanging there for several years – would dismount for no apparent reason.

Simagna has another security video from January 2022 that shows the jukebox in the bar room turning on all by itself at about 4:30 a.m. Over several months in 2022, this would happen repeatedly in the middle of the night, and residents in the building’s upstairs apartments complained to Rosie’s management that the music was playing at full blast, much louder than it plays during business hours.

Rosie’s staff started double- and triple-checking that the jukebox was turned off before they left the building for the night, but it kept happening from time to time nonetheless. By October, they resorted to unplugging the machine at the end of the night, which seems to have worked so far.

Simagna showed a group text that went out to Rosie’s staff last October: “Night shift – please remember to unplug the jukebox before you leave. It’s kind of a big deal.”


Though Simagna hasn’t experienced it herself, some of Rosie’s servers have also said they have been hit from behind by a propped-open door between the basement kitchen and storage room, although the door seems to be stably held in place. “With old buildings, you never know,” she said, noting that Rosie’s building dates back to about 1901.

In her three years working at Rosie’s, Simagna said she finds most of the freaky things happen there in the winter. “When things are slow and you’re paying more attention to things, because it’s not so crazy,” she said.

“I’m not super into that kind of stuff. I usually think there’s a reasonable explanation for things. But maybe I just tell myself that so I’m not scared to come to work,” she laughed.

Simagna said while she prefers to find logical reasons for strange occurrences, she’s still open to the possibility that the supernatural phenomena at Rosie’s is real.

“I just hope it isn’t, because I’m here alone a lot and that freaks me out,” she said. “But when there’s no other explanation, what else is there?”

“I think people would be very surprised to hear that all sorts of folks are out there having experiences. They just don’t always tell people about them,” Zwicker said. “But it’s fascinating how many stories are actually out there.”

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