Top Five Haunted Places around Portland, Maine

If there is a Halloween capital of the U.S., it is Portland, Maine. The ghosts, witches and goblins that make their scary appearance just once a year in other places haunt this historic city year round. We're not talking about theme-park ghouls either but orbs and apparitions that startle the locals and live on in legend. Here's an insider's guide to five of the most haunted places in and around Portland, Maine.

Haunted hitchhiker, Route 26, Poland
The Route 26 Lady in White thumbing a ride on dark nights has been the subject of at least two newspaper stories, including a 2009 article in which a teenage boy told police he had picked up the comely young woman in the town of Poland (near the famous Poland Springs) trying to get to a church on time, only for her to vanish when they pulled up to the empty chapel. Legend has it she is a farmer's bride mysteriously murdered in the 1800s, never to rest in peace. Sometimes she offers eerie warnings to drivers; other times she simply disappears into the night.

Haunted cemetery, Portland
If there were a zombie apocalypse in Portland, the vast and desolate Western Cemetery would be ground zero. Western Cemetery is a 12-acre burial site that sits on a bluff in Portland's West End. The site was first used as a cemetery in the 1600s after European farmers who settled in Portland were massacred by Indians. Veterans from the Revolutionary War later were buried here. In subsequent years, the cemetery became the final resting ground for scores of nameless poor and indigent residents. In more recent times, the cemetery fell into neglect. Many graves were desecrated and the tombstones vandalized until the city passed strict ordinances to protect the historic area. But it's not just local laws that keep people away. Legend has it that angry spirits haunt the living who try to visit the place.

Boon Island lighthouse, off Cape Neddick
South of Portland is Boon Island Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse in New England. Boon Island Lighthouse has a tragic history and is the subject of many ghost stories since 1710, when a ship crashed on the island and some of the survivors ate the flesh of their dead crewmates to survive the harsh Maine winter. But that isn't the only horrible thing to happen on this desolate island that can be seen off the Maine coast. In the 1800s, a storm lashed Boon Island and killed the resident lighthouse keeper. Weeks later, his newlywed wife was found clutching his frozen corpse at the steps of the lighthouse. She was brought back to the mainland but died weeks later. Some people swear they can hear her screams to this day, when they view the lighthouse from Cape Neddick and the beaches in York, Maine.

Haunted college dorm, University of Southern Maine
Public universities aren't the usual place for ghost sightings, but there is little that is typical about Portland, a city steeped in New England history and plagued by ghost sightings. At the University of Southern Maine, a nondescript college campus, there are claims that five spirits reside with the students at Robie-Andrews dorm. They turn lights off and on, stomp around in the middle of the night and cause general mischief. Regardless of whether this is fact or fiction, dorm residents have a ready excuse when there are noise complaints.

Haunted mansion, Portland
The McLellan-Sweat House on Spring Street, behind the Portland Museum of Art, is a beautiful example of Federalist architecture. But the history of its owners mirrors the rise and fall of the shipping industry. Paranormal activity has been reported many times in the mansion, which is now a museum. They include sightings of the former shipping magnate Capt. Asa Clapp patrolling the house as if he were still lord of the manor.

Linda Fullerton Hersey is a former editor for AOL and for the Portland Press Herald in Maine. She has her own blog about the people and places of Maine.