BELFAST, Maine — Thirteen people walked Belfast’s dark streets Saturday night behind their guide, a man who wore a black top hat and carried a swaying lantern as he pointed out the places where horrible crimes have happened over the past two centuries.
And where there’s crime, there are ghosts, Ted Guerry pointed out to the eager tourists and locals who braved the chills of his Belfast Historical Ghost Walks tour.
“If you didn’t believe it, you could not stand out here every night with a straight face and tell all these people ghost stories,” said Guerry, who is a school bus driver and funeral home embalmer as well as the tour’s ‘master ghost host’ since the beginning of the summer.
At least one person that night was hoping to have a personal encounter with the supernatural.
“I like ghosts,” said Kami Cluff of Coatesville, Penn. “I want to take good pictures of them.”
But others were not so sure. Steve and Patricia Madaio of Sutton, Mass., said that they were the group skeptics.
“We just thought it would be interesting to see what happened in Belfast,” Patricia Madaio said.
Guerry led the crowd through a whirlwind version of the darker side of the midcoast city’s history, beginning with a tale of a mass killing at the hands of a disgruntled man named Adrian Jones.
“September 9, 1933, became the most infamous day in this town for murder,” Guerry told his audience.
Jones, who sold maple syrup for a living, snapped after the owners of the maple trees told him they were cutting the grove down, explained the amateur historian. The killer got a shotgun and a pistol and began taking his revenge on Belfast that afternoon at the corner of High and Main streets. By the time he was finished — shot by his own hand in the alley behind what’s now Darby’s Restaurant — four men were dead.
“It became the worst crime day in Belfast history,” Guerry said.
He encouraged the ghost tour attendees to take photographs of the alley, telling them that if they caught small orbs of light in the picture, it would indicate the presence of paranormal energy. Two young boys got the chance to keep an eye on Guerry’s “ghost meter,” a sensor that measures the electromagnetic fields in an area.
The meter jumped around, as he talked about how people have heard, seen and felt mysterious – and unwelcome — things in the alleyway and the nearby barn where several of Jones’ victims died.
“I’m glad I’m in this alley with a big crowd, that’s all I’ve got to say,” one man on the tour said.
Other tour highlights — or lowlights — included the history of the large High Street hotel that burned in 1958, killing six, the tale of the drunkard dockworker who killed his wife then jumped to his death from the Route 1 bridge and the unfortunate demise of the city’s top shoe salesman.
And then there was the story of one of the town’s most notorious residents, Gus Heald.
Guerry’s words caused chills to rise on the spines of some, as he pointed out the Court Street apartment house where Heald allegedly drowned a woman on Jan. 16, 1965, and then shot her sister in the back in the building’s dooryard.
The night sky flickered with flashes of heat lightning as the “master ghost host” talked about how Heald was convicted by an all-male jury of manslaughter and then served only two years for the crime. Then, he was arrested for armed robbery in Brewer and escaped from jail with the help of his sister, who reportedly baked a file in the cake she made for Heald’s birthday.
“It was the largest manhunt in Maine history,” said Guerry.
After his story was done, he told the crowd that a week ago he gave a special edition of the ghost walk tour to 12 of Heald’s relatives, who were visiting from Florida and had heard that he was featured.
Although Guerry was nervous about relating dark deeds to the family, in the end they liked it. “They told me their uncle had never been more real,” he said.
While these stories provided more than enough chills for an evening of walking around downtown Belfast, Guerry said he’s always on the hunt for more, and invited people to call him to fill him in on more spooky crime from the Waldo County shiretown.
“I feel like there’s much room for improvement in the ghostiness of it,” he said.
Belfast Historical Ghost Walks meets nightly through the end of the summer at the corner of Main and High Street at dusk. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12 and Maine residents. For reservations or more information,call 930-5536 or visit the website www.midcoastghostwalks.usa.gg.