The First Documented Ghost in the U.S.

As legends of haunting go, there are few greater heard or read about in the United States than that of a ghost told among locals in the State of Maine. Easily the first documented ghost sighting in North America, the story of Nelly Butler could be the best account ever of someone wishing to prove to numerous souls that there is life beyond the grave.

First Haunting in the United States: Nellie ButlerThere have been stories written about Nelly Butler, so we'll just stick to the highpoints, allowing you to dig deeper into history if you choose. She was seen and heard for over a year by both strangers as well as those who shared a past with Nelly. Some have come to believe that the manifestations of her spirit along with her messages to those who were aware was Nelly's attempt to prove that an afterlife was real. Over 100 people had heard or seen her in ghost form, and the stories from people who, at that time, described their encounters with the ghost had been validated by corroborrating witnesses and sworn testimony.

The Haunting of Machiasport Begins
The story took place near the coast in Machiasport, Maine. A disembodied, female voice was first heard in August 1799 by Abner Blaisdale in his home and, again, in January 1800. When the ghost was initially heard, the message was a form of announcement that she would be making her presence known; but nothing seemed to occur after the spectral speech, and the event was written off as possibly being just some howling wind. The second time her voice was heard, though, the ghost utterance exclaimed that she was the wife of Captain George Butler and that those who heard her were to send for her father, David Hooper. So, they did.

Upon Mr. Hooper's arrival, he too heard the voice and confirmed it was that of his daughter, Nelly.

Machiasport, Maine Haunting(We should note that Nelly Butler's ghost would eventually validate her existence and identity to her father, husband, friends and strangers, time after time, over the one year period.

This lady ghost would not give up in her attempts to communicate and, even, interfere with lives. On the bright side, her intentions do appear to be well intended.)

The Ghost Goes Wild
Soon after her father confirmed for everyone the integrity of the ghost, Nelly began appearing in various forms, and especially as a recognizable apparition, to some of those in the know, often floating above the ground and appearing very white as if a glowing light. She would eventually make appearances in order to converse with the Blaisdel family (and others curious about this paranormal phenomenon) who gathered in the basement of their home -- the family accommodating the curious and their requests for proof. Those who tried to debunk the ghost would have try to disprove it by investigating the rooms, removing people they thought might be pulling a hoax, etc. And, the ghost, it is said, was more than willing to accommodate their requests, revealing her presence with and without the family present!

First Haunting in the United States: Nellie ButlerNelly Butler's ghost would eventually be seen by so many spectators that she became sort of a celebrity after her death, becoming the talk of the region, making appearances at well attended seances. Perhaps the best description of Nelly Butler came from a graduate of Harvard University, Reverend Abraham Cummings, who initially thought the ghost sightings to be rubbish until he saw the spectre for himself. He described her first looking to him like a white cloud of light that rose from the ground away from him, then instantly appearing near him (as if the ghost saw him and came over in a split-second). The spirit cloud then transformed into a child-size figure that grew into a full-size, adult apparition. Magnificent rays of light were said to emanate from her head, slightly frightening due to the new experience but also very pleasurable. (Rev. Abraham Cummings' pamphlet, "Immortality Proved by the Testimony of Sense," though difficult to find, tells of his encounter as well as his attempt to align it with biblical scriptures - Brown University is said to possess one of the few remaining copies.)

The spirit of Nelly Butler did not leave people afraid (except for some of the younger Blaisdel children) but in awe as she seemed very kind and, perhaps, doting at times. There is one more odd twist to this story. Nellie, who died after giving childbirth suggested that her former husband, Captain Butler, marry Abner Blaisdel's daughter, Lydia. Becoming a phantasmal matchmaker, the ghost eventually got her wish, blessing the union. Nellie is said to have told her former husband to be kind to his new spouse, accurately foretelling of Lydia Blaisdel's premature death -- something that indeed happened (like Nellie) after giving birth to her and the Captain's first child.