The Mistover Tale, which premiered at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center last Saturday, is not meant to be a scary movie. But it has its ghosts: two unexpected apparitions among the sand dunes of the Island’s south shore add a supernatural element to the human tragedy onscreen.

“I was a bit haunted by Island ghosts that prodded me to tell this story as a cautionary tale,” writer-director Harry Tappan Heher told the Gazette this week. “On those southern sand plains, the veil between the living and the dead feels very thin.”

Mr. Heher isn’t alone in feeling the presence of otherworldly beings on Martha’s Vineyard. Elizabeth Balay grew up summering in an old Edgartown house that was said to be haunted by its late former owner, a reputation that terrified the little girl for years.

Albert O. Fischer

“I was scared rigid for most of my childhood, especially at night because the windows would look at you,” Ms. Balay recalled. “I always felt something was watching me wherever I went. The idea of existing in a house with something on another plane watching us — it freaked the bejesus out of me.”

The apparent poltergeist made its debut in the home’s attic in 1969, with an unexplained racket and mysteriously-moving objects that led to a police report. The date was one year after the former owner’s death, leading Ms. Balay’s mother to dub the noisemaker “Mrs. Hillman.”

“I think that was her idea, to make Mrs. Hillman a friendly mascot,” Ms. Balay said. “I didn’t like the idea of a friendly mascot I couldn’t see and whose motivations I couldn’t judge.”

Still, she added, “We made a lot of jokes about Mrs. Hillman over the years, because funny things did happen and the only way to explain them was to say Mrs. Hillman was checking on us.”

Creepy attic footsteps and odd knocking sounds haven’t been heard at the old place — which is still in the family — since Ms. Balay and her siblings grew up. “They say poltergeist activity in a house can be prevalent when there are teenagers there, and we had three,” she said.

Her own two sons — now grown — never had any trouble with ghosts when visiting the Edgartown house while young, Ms. Balay added. Quite the reverse: spotting a “ghost tour” group eyeing the place one night, the two teens wrapped themselves in sheets, ran out and shouted “Boo!”

Albert O. Fischer

Whatever became of the original ghost? “It’s not there any more,” Ms. Balay said. “I’m in the house all the time, so either I grew out of it or the ghost is really gone. But it felt very real.”

“Mrs. Hillman” has likely moved on to another dimension, according to Sarah Nevin, an Edgartown psychic, medium and clairvoyant for more than 40 years. Ghosts linger after death because they need “spiritual resolution” to move on, Ms. Nevin said. “‘Haunted’ means unresolved, unsettled and in pain — unless it’s someone who stays out of love.”

Island farmer Jim Athearn has no personal ghost stories to tell, but he’s not one to scoff at others. Growing up with tales of ghost sightings on a property once owned by his great-great-uncle, Mr. Athearn “was kind of fascinated by the idea,” he recalled. “In junior high and high school we’d have Ouija boards. I remember fooling around with those and wondering what it all meant. ‘You moved it!’ ‘No, you did!’”

Also in high school, Mr. Athearn encountered minister, author and professor of religion, S. Ralph Harlow, who summered in Oak Bluffs until his death in 1979. In his book Life After Death, Mr. Harlow took a Christian approach to paranormal phenomena. Mr. Athearn found it compelling reading.

“He writes about it with such credibility,” Mr. Athearn said. “I was convinced. I’m ready to believe.” But, he added, “I want some evidence.”

Ms. Balay has had all the evidence she needs. “I do believe in ghosts, and I never ever want to see one or feel one or fear that I’m going to, ever, ever again, because I remember how scared I was as a kid,” she said.