Sunday, February 07, 2010

UMaine ghost hunters

UMaine in Orono has its own on-campus paranormal investigation club, the UMPIC, (or possibly PRIUM: Paranormal Research and Investigation of the University of Maine, depending on where you look online). The Maine Campus online newspaper has been reporting on the recent rallying of the group, which was founded in 2005 (according to an earlier Maine Campus article, also included below).
Who you gonna call? UMaine Paranormal Investigation Club
By Rhiannon Sawtelle
Posted on Thursday, February 4th, 2010, 4:01 am

Tales of Ma Estabrooke wandering the halls of her dormitory, the spooky noises in Colvin Hall and the housemother watching over the Beta House remind the University of Maine community there is a rich history of supposed paranormal activities on campus.

The UMaine Paranormal Investigation Club is ready to confirm or disprove these legends. With a resurgent presence on campus, the group is working on building their base of members to expand their ghost-hunting endeavors.

“We’re still working on trying to get it up,” said Denise Bickford, a second-year English student and president of the group.

The group has been on campus for at least six years, but has declined in membership over the past few years. When Bickford joined in the fall of 2008, she began to pick up the slack of the dissipating group.

The club made strides last semester when it became an official student group, recognized by Student Government.

“That was really exciting,” said Amie Dick, a second-year social work student and vice-president of the club. “We just got back on our feet.”

The numbers are growing, with a solid base of 10 members and five or six more new recruits who grew interested after a presentation from Mike Marino, a member of the Bangor Ghost Hunters.

Marino spoke to the group during their usual meeting time Monday from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Senior Skulls room. He spoke about his experiences in the group, how to investigate and the equipment used in the process.

“It was really informative. … It was interesting to hear from someone on the case,” Bickford said.

With growing interest in the group, the club is escalating their efforts to investigate the paranormal.

“We’re trying to expand to all paranormal stuff,” Bickford said.

This year, they plan to investigate hauntings around campus, take a tour of a cemetery in Lewiston and visit a cryptozoology museum. According to Bickford, this is a great improvement over last year when the group only went on one investigation in Estabrooke Hall.

The members’ interests lie in all things paranormal, and they takes different steps depending on what they are investigating. When they investigate supposed hauntings, they bring camcorders and still-frame cameras, hoping to capture ghost sightings.

During the cemetery visit, they will use their own observations and electrical readings that denote the presence of spirits. There has been a lot of reported activity around a mausoleum in the cemetery.

“A lot of people have felt a presence there. … It’s intuitive,” Dick said.

“It depends on what you’re looking for in a haunting,” Bickford said. “It’s not a science; you can’t really prove anything.”

Bickford and Dick note that a real ghost-hunting experience isn’t like those portrayed on popular television shows like “Ghost Hunters” and “Paranormal State.”

“You’re not going to find something most of the time,” Bickford said. “You have to go over what you think is real and what isn’t.”

“I think it’s good to go into an investigation with an open mind,” Dick said.

Both women believe there is paranormal activity alive and well in the world but admit that skeptics are good to have around to balance an investigation.

“I don’t consider myself a skeptic … but there are things that can be written off,” Bickford said.

They explained the importance of critically examining evidence and understanding there won’t be activity every investigation.

An interest in the unknown is what drew Bickford and Dick to the club; they joined through word of mouth. While Dick is still waiting for a paranormal experience, Bickford recently experienced a sighting this summer. The incident confirmed her suspicion there were things we can’t explain in the world.

Bickford’s family lives in an old house in Winterport, and her mother has always heard unidentifiable voices and music. Bickford had never before experienced a haunting but woke up one night this summer to see a figure of a man in her room.

“It’s nothing I should be scared of. … it freaks you out if you don’t know what’s going on, though,” Bickford said.

As for Dick, she is still waiting for an experience to confirm her beliefs.

“I wish,” she said.

an earlier article, also from The Maine Campus online newspaper, mentions a Ma Balentine spirit instead of a Ma Estabrooke spirit, but you get the idea.
Paranormal Club tackles supernatural on campus
By Michael Hartwell
Posted on Monday, April 4th, 2005, 12:00 am

Toby Paradis has been intimately familiar with cemeteries for over two years. He’s not a grave robber or in mourning. No, the third-year theater major goes to graveyards because he has a passion for the supernatural. A little while ago, he figured out a way to find other students with similar interests: He started a club.

Last semester, Student Council gave the University of Maine Paranormal Investigation Club the greenlight. Right now there are 10 dedicated members and a host of drifters and frequenters. Since only a few months have passed since its formation, UMPIC is still a trial club. This means it will take a few months before Student Council starts giving them any funding.

UMPIC covers a lot of ground in the world of the unexplained. “We focus on ghosts and spirits,” Paradis said, but is quick to point out that nothing mysterious is off-limits. Secretary Michelle Shandorf said “We don’t do aliens and stuff, but we’ve been asked about it a lot, so maybe we will someday.”

A typical one-hour meeting can have discussions that cover topics as diverse as poltergeists, telekinesis, Chupacabra, rains of frogs and Pamola, the storm god who watches over Mount Katahdin.

UMPIC members don’t just talk about the supernatural, they go out and look for it. In late January, they investigated Balentine hall in hopes of finding Ma Balentine, the long-dead house mother who allegedly still makes her curfew rounds. Unfortunatly, their search didn’t yield any evidence of hauntings. Vice President Caiti Joly wasn’t discouraged. “Just because we don’t find anything doesn’t mean there’s nothing there, we could have missed it,” she said.

Veterans of the Balentine expedition point out that the residential director wouldn’t let them into the locked fourth floor due to a series of potential hazards. UMPIC members think that recent construction may have driven Ma Balentine up to the restricted, untouched floor.

UMPIC prides themselves on their fair investigations. “We don’t make conclusions around opinions or beliefs. We’re scientific. We stay focused and we stay skeptical,” Shandorf said.

Investigations involve members exploring areas that are reported to have paranormal activities. They bring any equipment they have, cameras and tape recorders for now, and try to find evidence. The investigations are open to anyone, even scaredy-cats.

“We don’t go anywhere alone, we use the buddy system,” Paradis said. There are two reasons for this rule. One reason is to make sure no one gets protecting investigators from becoming uncomfortable or frightened. The other incentive is so they can rely on any evidence they collect.

“If you were recording and alone, you could cough into the tape recorder and forget about it, and then when we listen to the tape, we wouldn’t know where that sound came from,” said Joly.

The Maine’s Paranormal Research Association, the group responsible for the Halloween night investigations on campus in 2003, are making plans to visit UMPIC in the near future and give them some investigation pointers.

According to UMPIC, most of the buildings on campus have had reports of unexplained phenomena. One of the explanations the group suggests is that the Hilltop area is built over Indian burial grounds. Well-known spectors include the suicide ghost of Stodder, Ma Balentine and the various spirits of Estabrooke.

UMPIC member Dave Sawyer is looking forward to the upcoming investigation of Estabrooke hall on April 9. The Estabrooke resident director plans to accompany the group and grant them access to all of the locked rooms. “From what I’ve read, classic hauntings happen around places people don’t frequent,” Sawyer said.

Sawyer reports that he has already seen a few paranormal activities in Estabrooke.

“I was in the basement and I saw what appeared to be a ball of light dance around and melt into a door. What did I actually see? I can’t be sure. I still don’t believe my own eyes. That’s something I’m embarrassed about; I don’t tell my friends about it,” Sawyer said.

Other phenomena from Estabrooke include exploding light bulbs and a locked, unoccupied dorm room that placed a series of 911 calls.

UMPIC feels their investigations will really take off when they receive their funding. The club plans to spend it on an electromagnetic field meter, cameras, thermometers and transportation costs. Instead of sitting on their hands and waiting like good little children, UMPIC is making plans to earn money by selling pizza cards for $10. Each card is good for 20 buy-one-get-one-free pizza opportunities. The store to redeem them has not yet been selected yet.

UMPIC encourages potential new members and curious parties to stop by their meetings Thursday nights at 8 p.m. in the Senior Skulls room on the third floor of the Memorial Union. Unfortunately, there are no telepaths in UMPIC at this point. Until then, all questions can be directed to Toby Paradis or Michelle Shandorf via FirstClass.

PRIUM has a Facebook page here:

and a presumably defunct/non-functional website here:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this article to your blog. I've linked a couple entries from Strange Maine to the Paranormal Club email folder, and it was pretty cool to see Denise and me quoted on your site.

Amie Dick

ps- my sister and I checked out the Green Hand this weekend, really enjoyed looking around