When one thinks of ghost towns in the United States, one tends to think of old mining towns and cowboy towns out in the Midwest. But there are even ghost towns in New England! Perkins Township in Maine is especially unique because it is located on an island. Swan Island, the location of Perkins Township, has been completely abandoned since the late 1930s.
From Flourishment to Abandonment
The first white residents of Swan Island began building their homes in the eighteenth century, though there were native Americans on the island prior to that time. The island was apparently self-sustaining, hosting a schoolhouse, government buildings, a cemetery, and just about anything else you would expect from any town. There were full-time residents with businesses, trades, and farms, and there were even some summer residents who built seasonal homes on the island. The highest peak in population during the township’s official existence was 95 in 1860.
Though some sources claim that the island was abandoned for unknown or mysterious reasons, with the usual vague rumors of curses, disease, or other unusual circumstances, sources allege that economic depression in the 1930s and 1940s was what really pushed the last few residents out. By 1936, Perkins was completely abandoned.
What Perkins Township is like now
Though the Perkins Township finally fizzled out due to mundane circumstances, it now has a reputation for being haunted. This comes as no surprise, given the odd landscape: The area has remained mostly untouched since 1936. Five houses dating back to the eighteenth-century still stand, as well as the remains of other houses and structures. The outside of the houses that are left are in good condition—some are used by the state of Maine as official buildings decay—and the insides of some of the houses have also been left alone since the forties. Looking in the windows of some of the buildings, one can see rotting furniture under layers of dust and grime. Other buildings have been mostly cleared of furnishings, but still seem as if they have just been vacated. Peeking into the long-abandoned buildings really does make one feel like a peeping Tom!
It is no surprise that some residents may not have left their homes behind. Both the standing houses and ruins of homes and other manmade structures are said to be haunted. Visitors say they can feel the presence of the past and its ghosts when exploring the island. In 2018, the ghost investigation team Haunt ME explored the Tubbs-Reed house on the island. An electromagnetic meter did not give any readings that would indicate paranormal activity. However, Haunt ME’s analyst, Ty Gowen, said he thought he “heard some faint footsteps and breathy murmurs” in the aged house. He also noted that parts of the floor in the house had rotted, so explorers visiting the ruins should take care! Of course, there are also rumors that the old cemetery on the island is haunted, and the ground, so far as anyone knows, is plenty solid there.
At this time, the state has added some lean-tos and shelters for campers, hikers, hunters, and fishers. Unlike many other abandoned towns throughout the US, visitors are encouraged, at least from May through October to visit the area. Still, it is far from overrun with tourists or other recreationists.
Swan Island seems like a good start for curiosity seekers and ghost hunters who don’t want to run the risk of exorbitant trespassing fees. Even if you do not cross paths with any ghosts on the island, the sight of nature slowly reclaiming a once self-sufficient community is awing in its own way.
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