news-herald - With cameras, computer equipment and mics, area ghost hunters participated Friday in the first Paranormal Exploration of the Lake County History Center in Painesville Township.
Down in the depths of the structure, built in 1875 as a county home, organizer Cathi Weber talked about gathering evidence to prove the existence of the paranormal while in the background shadows played across a decades-old prison section.
"We're looking for evidence that there is something else out there; that's more than ghost busting," said Weber, who runs a historic/ghost tour of downtown Willoughby.
"We're not trying to get rid of ghosts. We like the fact that they're there."
Weber chose Friday because of the superstition and bad omens associated with Friday the 13th.
"Friday the 13th is a superstition. Ghosts — are they a superstition or are they real? We're going to find out," Weber said.
The exploration was launched in conjunction with the Lake County Historical Society, which bought the building in 2006.
The home was completely renovated and includes several furniture pieces from the 19th century.
Historical Society member Dave Kranz helped renovate the building when it was first purchased.
Having spent the night in the house by himself, Kranz said he is aware of a few paranormal experiences.
"Folks, walking up the stairway, get part of the way up (but) can't go any further. It's like you're being tugged or pulled, not in a vicious way, but something seems to be — they don't want you up those steps," Kranz said.
The former vice president of the Historical Society even remembers a time when he left the toilet seat up in a bathroom when he was the only one there. After leaving for a brief period, he came back and the toilet seat was down.
"It was the lady's room," Kranz said. "I tried it many times after — men's and women's. It never happened again. But yeah, I got a chill on that one."
Although she is a skeptic, Pam Kolnekker of Mentor joined the Willoughby Area Paranormal and Research Society (WAPERS) because of her interest in the unexplained.
"I don't think most people that ghost hunt are in it to get scared," Kolnekker said. "I think they're more interested in the history of the places they're going to, the stories about the people that actually were there and actually looking for proof that there's something there."
Skeptics consider the study of the paranormal an unproven science, or theory.
To provide some proof, Weber said they use an electro magnetic field detector, which is supposed to indicate the presence of the paranormal. Other tools include digital recorders that pick up "electronic voice phenomenon" that are normally not heard by the human ear.
Despite the equipment, Kolnekker admits proof is hard to find.
"Ghosts aren't circus performers. Just because you go there one time doesn't necessarily mean you'll find something," Kolnekker said. "It's not like the TV shows, where every time you go, you're going to get something."
As a frequent guest on the ghost-hunting show "Paranormal State" on A&E, psychic medium Michelle Belanger did not talk about ghosts, but why people believe in them.
"Belief has electrified people from the dawn of time. It's about the quest to understand and know," Belanger said. "If you don't believe that's fine. But I prefer a world with doors open that still need to be explored."
THE LAKE COUNTY HISTORY CENTER
In 2007, the Society worked with the Riverside Local School District towards the purchase of the former County Home in Painesville Township. The District owned the Home as part of a purchase of land from the County. The sale was completed and the Society owned its first home, a 30,000 square foot building and several out buildings on eight acres of land. Currently, the Society is in the process of refurbishing the building to create a Victorian showcase area, Education/Exhibit Wing, Library/Research Wing, office space, community meeting rooms, and reception hall.
The new Lake County History Center occupies a building constructed in 1876 by the Lake County Commissioners. The building replaced the former “Lake County Infirmary,” earlier known as the County Poor House, that had occupied the property since 1852 when the County bought a farm house and 110 acres from the Pettingel family. Benjamin F. Morse was hired to design the new structure and Col. Arthur McAllister of Cleveland was named as builder. McAllister had built a reputation through construction of homes on Millionaires Row and the Soldiers and Sailors monument on Public Square in Cleveland.
The Lake County Poor House used to have a cemetery where the salt bins are now, but there is no trace of it. They also had a section at Evergreen cemetery in Painesville. I suspect most of the people at the infirmary burying ground were moved there after Evergreen opened in 1860. There are very early records of this home transcribed at Morley Library. The continuation of the records are still at the home in the care of the superintendent.
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