The Best Ghost Towns to Visit in Maine

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You’ll find pristine forests, sleepy fisheries, and plenty of history in Maine—but it’s not all early American patriotism and fishing legends. Here are the fascinating and downright creepy stories of ghost towns Perkins, Fort William Henry, Flagstaff, and Riceville. 
Whether you’re looking for a casual day at the beach with a little side of history or a more adventurous excursion, we’ve got you covered with hot spots to visit, traveling tips, and more.
Grab some popcorn and get ready for the best famous and lesser-known ghost towns in Maine, brought to you by the car insurance shopping and broker app Jerry

Perkins (Swan Island)

Wide shot, mist over dark water, boats coming from the mist, multiple colors.
Perkins Cove, Maine

What is the story of Perkins?

Swan Island is thought to be named from the Abanaki Tribe’s term swango, which means “island of eagles.” It was an Abanaki summer hunting ground and the home of European settlers as early as the 1700s. Both Aaron Burr and Benedict Arnold may have touched ground here in their explorations.
The island soon became the home of the town of Perkins, a small farming community of around 100 people. Legend has it that the community was finally abandoned by the 1940s due to pollution of the Kennebec River and difficulties due to the Great Depression.
Whether environmental distress, the unsustainability of farming in the Depression era, or both drove the residents of Perkins from their homes, the abandoned town now sits as quietly as the surrounding forest. 
For a comprehensive history and overview of all the extant buildings, check out this guide from the state of Maine.  

What makes Perkins special?

Swan Island is a state-managed wildlife refuge, with Perkins a well-known ghost town (but not a historical landmark per se) on the island. The area has much to offer any visitor, including:
  • Kayaking or canoeing in the Kennebec River
  • Wildlife watching. Popular species include deer, deer, bald eagles, shortnose sturgeon (which often jump out of the river), and trout
  • Camping—some overnight stayers have reported paranormal activity! 
  • Historical walking tours of the buildings, some of which still have 18th-century furniture
Travelers should also make a stop 20 minutes north in Maine’s capital city Augusta for great food and quaint East coast charm

How to visit Perkins

If traveling from Portland, take I-295 N for about 40 minutes. If traveling from Augusta, take I-295 S for about 20 minutes. Set your destination as Richmond—you can park your car and boat or kayak to the island from there.
Swan Island is only open for exploration from May to October

Fort William Henry

Long shot of Pemaquid Beach, sun high in the sky, few clouds, treeline far off in the distance, sand in the foreground.
Pemaquid Beach, Maine

What is the story of Fort William Henry?

The site of Fort William Henry has a tumultuous history, which isn’t surprising considering the frequent French-British territorial disputes that characterized the colonial era.
The British constructed Abraham Shurte’s fort in 1630, but a British pirate burned it down in 1633. Fort Pemaquid then stood until 1676, when it was destroyed by the French. In 1677, Fort Charles was built, but it was destroyed in 1689 during King William’s War.  
Finally, in 1692 came Fort William Henry proper. Just a few years later Native Americans killed all of the British soldiers stationed there, which led to its abandonment until 1729. The fort did its final service during the French and Indian War from 1755-1757, then was a ghost town until it became part of a state park in the 1900s. 
With all the bloodshed that occurred within its ever-falling walls, the fort is a prime site for speculations into the paranormal. However, the fort and other buildings you’ll see on Pemaquid Beach today are reconstructions from the 1950s and not the originals.

What makes Fort William Henry special?

Fort William Henry stands as a state-managed historic site in Pemaquid. In the area, visitors can:
  • Enjoy the sand at Pemaquid Beach
  • Explore the recreated 1600s architecture, including the tower and colonial fort house
  • Eat great seafood (for example, at Pemaquid Seafood Restaurant)

How to visit Fort William Henry

Fort William Henry is only open to visitors from May through October.
Traveling from Augusta, take ME-27 S, US-1 N, and ME-130 S to Pemaquid Beach.
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Flagstaff

Wide landscape shot over a lake, blue canoe docked at the beach, framed by a treeline and cloudy sky.
Flagstaff Lake, Maine

What is the story of Flagstaff?

Flagstaff is so named because it’s the alleged site where Benedict Arnold laid a flag during the attempted invasion of Quebec. Nothing brought settlers to the town until decades later, however, when the erection of a sawmill drew in workers and their families in the 1840s. 
For a hundred years, Flagstaff grew and became the largest suburban town in the otherwise woodsy Dead River Valley area. The town thrived with happy residents, who were blissfully unaware that everything they knew would literally be flushed away.
In the 1940s, Central Maine Power Co. was steadily buying up the land in Dead River Valley, hoping to build a dam for hydroelectric power. They didn’t stop when they reached Flagstaff, either—they bought the town to flood it (though it’s unclear if all residents were equally compensated for their forced relocation). 
In 1949, Flagstaff residents watched as the land around their town was slashed and burned to make way for the flooding. When it was finally time to wash away their homes in 1950, they threw a final two-day celebration called “Old Home Days,” then departed.
Today, Flagstaff Lake covers the entire area, but you can still see the occasional roof and chimney just beneath the surface. In fact, the best way to get up-close and personal with Flagstaff is to take a glass-bottom boat tour and literally drift over the town. 

What makes Flagstaff special?

The community commemorates Flagstaff with well-kept historical archives. Here are some other opportunities for visitors:

How to visit Flagstaff

From Augusta, take I-95 N, ME 104 N, US 201-A N, and Long Falls Dam Rd to reach Lake Flagstaff.  The drive is about two hours and 20 minutes. 

Riceville

Pink and blue sunset over Bar Harbor, rocky beach on the right, small treeline in background, orange island in the distance.
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine

What is the story of Riceville?

The most mysterious ghost town on our list, the town of Riceville, sprung up when F. Shaw and Brothers built a tannery in the woods. James Rice bought the facility, so the town was named after him.
Riceville’s quiet existence continued at least through 1900—census records indicate 75 people called the unincorporated community home. 
Some say the last communication from Riceville to the world came in 1906—others claim 1908—but by 1910 the town was completely uninhabited. 
It appears that the tannery burned down in 1906, and some believe that the loss of this central component killed the livelihood of the community. Others point to cholera outbreaks in 1908, speculating that the disease ravaged the small population through contaminated water.
Urban legend has it that a curious couple walked into the town after it went silent. They discovered one dead body—then others lying out in the street. They (or others) buried all the bodies and left the town to fade from existence.
What happened in Riceville may always remain a mystery, especially considering you have to drive a ways into the woods to reach it. It can be tricky to find what’s left of Riceville, but it’s worth a try if you’re itching to see real unkempt remains. 

What makes Riceville special?

Riceville isn’t designated by an official marker nor does it have historical landmark status. If you want to visit the town, though, be sure to also try the following: 
  • Hike and sightsee in beautiful Acadia National Park to the south
  • Take a Lulu Lobster boat ride in the coastal area of Bar Harbor

How to visit Riceville

Riceville sits in the woods between Milford and Township 39.
A possible route would be to take Baker Hill Road (Baker Field) west. It will turn into a gravel road (24-06-0)—continue west for 4.0 miles. You should cross a river, which is Buffalo Stream, on whose shores the tannery was built. You’ll come across a walking path that opens up to your left.
Exit your vehicle and follow the path: you can see leftover pieces of hide from the tannery, a rock wall, brick wall segments, a well, and other scattered remains. 

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