Monday, July 05, 2010

Searching for the Ghost Riders at the Chisholm Trail Museum

DodgeCity - A second group of ghost hunters is taking a closer look at Wellington’s Chisholm Trail Museum after they claim to have found evidence of paranormal activity.

Wichita League of Paranormal Investigators Jan Cohee of Wellington and Brendan Brannan converged on the museum, Friday night, setting up night vision cameras, voice recorders and electronic field radiation testers to see if their ghostly lightning might strike twice.

About a year ago, the group was in the museum and says they captured voices, thumps, heaving breathing and responses to questions.

“We had a lot of personal experiences,” said Cohee. “When I was down in the basement, I had my camera in my lap and my legs crossed and it was picked up and put on the other side of my leg,” said Cohee.

“We heard footsteps,” said Brannan. “but it was kind of a cat and mouse game. You’d go in one room and hear it on the other end,”

The two investigators aren’t the only ones who have felt something odd in the museum.

Patty Hatcher, a regular volunteer at the museum claims she saw a man appear in a doorway and then suddenly he was gone.

“I started to say hello and then he was gone - he was just like a tall gentleman,” said Hatcher. “I can hear little footsteps upstairs,”

The two were hoping not only for sounds, but for more visual evidence of spirits in the museum.

As Cohee started her journey into the depths of the basement, she told of her first time in the museum’s lowest level. Traveling to the right of the staircase, Cohee said she not only heard a ghost, but saw one.

“I turned to the right and I had seen something peek around this wall at me and then when I was walking up to it, I heard two taps and I was telling one of the other investigators to come here, that I had seen something around the corner at me and when I went back to listen to the recording, there was a ‘help me’,” said Cohee. “The tapping was a ‘look here’ and you can clearly hear the ‘help me’ - it was a white-looking mass - but you could see the facial features. You could see the eyes and nose, the mouth.”

Feelings of electricity or soft touches are common, Cohee says, and she says she’s experienced some before in the museum, but mostly the spirits come through audio capture.

Brannan related his story from last years hunt as he traveled to the third floor - the former surgical area of the former hospital - in search of ghosts. Near a room filled with old toys, the Wichita man said he got responses to a question asked in the dark.

“I said, is the fire truck your favorite toy, if it is could you please knock loudly twice and then there were two loud bangs in here,” said Brannan. “I was just talking with the people downstairs and they said the guy that owned the santa suit (which is on display in the toy room) was a firefighter, so it’s all coming together now,”

The two ghost hunters traveled in the darkened rooms, asking questions and waiting for responses, all as voice recorders and camera equipment rolled. The two still have to go over footage to make sure they didn’t miss anything, but say more than likely that they will be back.

Museum volunteer Richard Gilfillan of Wellington has seen groups of ghost hunters come to the museum before, but says he wants solid answers.

“People are curious and so am I,” said Gilfillan. “I want to see something, seriously. I want to see something concrete. I want solid evidence that they are here.”

originally posted on 5/6/2009

Night at the Chisholm Trail Museum

As the sky darkened and Wellington residents were settling in for the night Saturday, members of the Wichita Paranormal Research Society started work at the Chisholm Trail Museum readying themselves for a night of spirit searching.

The group was drawn to the museum for it's nearly 100 years of history – not only the building itself, but also for the articles inside it.

“It's got such interesting history that we decided to investigate and see if we find something paranormal there,” said Investigator and Public Relations Manager Sherry Curry. The group investigates every Saturday and focuses on authenticating evidence and documenting the existence of any paranormal activity via audio, video and other electronic means of equipment.

President of the Chisholm Trail Museum Board of Directors Richard Gilfillan says the building is one of Wellington's treasures and he's not surprised the group took interest.

The building was erected in 1916 by Dr. A.R. Hatcher to house the Hatcher Hospital and Clinic. His son, Dr. A.C. Hatcher, also a doctor, joined the staff in 1949 and later took charge of the clinic after his father's retirement. Dr. A.R. Hatcher died at age 75 in 1960. Then four years later, Dr. A.C. Hatcher, only 46, walked into the hospital with chest pains and died. With no one to run the hospital, it eventually closed and became a museum, Gilfillan said.

The former hospital is now home to everything from military mementos and uniforms, to old hospital equipment, farming tools and even some prehistoric fossils and mammoth bones.

Having spent many hours in the museum taking groups through the history of the County, Gilfillan says he's had children say the place is haunted, though he doesn't quite believe it himself.

“I think it's just the mannequins...they are a little creepy,” the former teacher said. Automatic lights also seem to frighten younger visitors as they blame the change on ghosts.

This isn't the first time the society has been to Sumner County, however.

A trip to the Oxford Mill resulted in some spooky results.

“All of a sudden they heard glasses clanging. They had slid and had clanged into each other,” said Curry. A male voice was recorded saying, “Have a seat” when Curry and another investigator walked outside, while she and another were touched on the elbow, Curry said.

The group has even visited the old Oxford High School in an attempt to make contact with spirits that have been left behind.

“The old high school probably more so than any of them. Nothing happened while we were there but we got a ton of audio back,” she said.

Elliott says there is a story of a student who died in a bus accident and on the audio, he says the society picked up a young girl's voice.

“We picked up the voice of a little girl and there was nobody in the building with us, not even the employees,” Elliott said.

After infrared cameras were placed on every floor of the museum and the members got their personal equipment ready - the hunt was on as the group split into teams.

Curry and Bob Gilmer took the third floor, an add-on to the building that was used for operations. Climbing the stairs by the light of their flashlights, the two entered the pitch-black third floor and started work. The pair introduced themselves to any spirits in the room and then started to ask questions and make requests.

“We aren't here to hurt you, we just want to communicate,” Curry said. “If you can see me, move towards my green light.” The light on the electro-magnet meter picks up spikes in electro-magnetic currents, which some believe are caused by the paranormal.

Lori Dewinkler and Conway Springs native Donna Chaffin first took the basement and then moved to the first floor military room, calmly repeating questions and requests.

Board member Brian Ferguson and Gilfillan even got in on the act, with Ferguson going down in the basement with the society members and Gilfillan keeping a watchful eye on the infrared camera feeds.

Though the night seemed quiet, the investigators say there was more going on than meets the eye.

“It stayed quiet with the exception of three different incidents on the second and third floor. We had one person at the end of the hall and you would hear footsteps at the other end of the hall and there was nobody down there,” Elliott said. “I was there one time and heard it myself. It definitely sounded like somebody was walking around at the end of the hallway and there was nobody around.”

That's not the only thing the investigators found. While discussions were taking place in the basement, digital audio recorders were able to pick up sounds the society members couldn't hear.

“They were just talking and weren't really asking questions and you hear a voice in the background say, 'It's all right,'” Elliott said. Another incident occurred under similar circumstances, the investigator said, this time with whispers holding a conversation in the background.

Elliott says it's more common to pick up voices on the recorders than to pick up visuals on still or video camera.

“It happens all the time,” he said.

The museum seems to be one of the more active spirit centers in the County.

“It looks like it's pretty on par with the Oxford Mill,” Elliott said. “Regardless, it doesn't seem to care what anyone's doing, it just does it's own thing,” he said of the spirit caught on the recorder.

More results may come in later as more members of the team go over their audio findings, Elliott said.

Though not a believer himself, Gilfillan says he hopes more people will visit as a result of the ghost hunt.

“Maybe this will bring some attention to the museum. A handful of us work down there for nothing and it's strictly to help and promote the town so anything that brings attention to it is welcome,” he said.

Searching for the Ghost Riders at the Chisholm Trail Museum