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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Haunting at the Old Town Hall

Haunting at the Old Town Hall

By Robin M. Strom-Mackey

In May of 2009 my ghost hunting group was contacted by Sarah Ferguson, Town Clerk at the Felton Town Hall, regarding strange activity in the building. Felton is a small town and the Town Hall houses not only offices, but a meeting room, summer library and police department. The building itself is an older home renovated for the purpose, with offices located in prior bedrooms and the conference table situated in the former parlor. Having stood in the middle of this tiny town for so long, the building has seen many such changes. In the 1800’s it was owned by a doctor who used the building for office visits. Later it was used as a nursing home, and later still it was a bank. In between its business uses, it was a home. A couple owned and lived in the building as late as the 1970’s.

Ferguson and Town Manager, Rebecca Greene, are in accord that there appear to be residents of the old building that haven’t left quite yet. The building was purchased from the bank in 2001, and nearly as soon as the deed was signed, the former residents made their presence known to the newest owners. The bank clerks had already informed the town employees of the unaccountable disturbances in the building– unexplained banging and knocking noises. The very evening of the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Town Hall, one of the Town Councilmen jokingly dared the haunts to do something to prove their existence. Almost at the moment the gentleman laid down his dare, the alarm system at the building went off. The alarm company came to turn off the alarm. Later they notified the Town that they had no explanation for the disturbance.

Activity in the building appears to be centered upstairs, namely in the hallway, bedroom, and on the lovely old staircase –one of the few remaining focal points. In particular, the spirits seem to love discomfiting the police officers. Burly and commanding, Police Chief, Levi Brown doesn’t appear to be an individual easily swayed by ghost stories. However, Brown told our team that he had occasionally been alone in the building on weekends, and had on more than one occasion heard noises for which he could not account. His first floor office lies under a portion of the upstairs hallway and the bathroom. The Chief reported that he would be working at his computer when he would hear what he described as the sounds of feet running, banging and knocking sounds, and what he distinctly said sounded like drawers in a wooden desk being pulled open and closed. When he went upstairs to investigate, invariably he found himself alone. A study of the space directly over the Chief’s office showed that the only set of drawers was in the bathroom. We attempted to manufacture the sound by pulling the drawers open and closed, only to find that the sound wasn’t audible in the office downstairs.

Town employee Michelle Schlimer recounted that her husband, Corporal Joe Schlimer refuses to come into the building at night when he is on duty alone, preferring to do his reports on the long, lonely nights from the relative safety of his squad car. Corporal Joe Schlimer admits that he, like Chief Brown, has heard footsteps in the building overhead and the sound, again, of drawers opening and closing. He admitted he only heard these sounds when he was downstairs, and only when he was alone in the building. A search of the upstairs always turned up the same results, there was no one else in the building. Schlimer also reports that he has had the uncomfortable experience of hearing footfalls following him down the stairs.

When not harassing police officers, the spirits often turn their attention on the office employees. Town Manager, Rebecca Greene, has her office on the second floor across the hall from one of the former bedrooms in the building, a room which seems to be the center of much activity. Greene told us that she hears the sound of a squeaky office chair at least once a week. She described the sound as an old spring chair such as a doctor might have used.

Greene admitted that she had also heard and seen some oddly unexplainable things in the building from time to time. Her office has the building’s security cameras routed to a computer and monitor sitting on her desk. Greene explained how on occasion she had witnessed strange lights in the IR cameras. She spoke of a reddish tinted light she had witnessed in the parking lot a couple of times. And one evening in particular, she was in her office after a Town Hall meeting when she saw a strange light in one of the downstairs rooms. She asked one of the Councilmen to go down to the office to take a look. The councilman stood in the same office with the light, which Green says was still visible on the screen in her office, but said he could see nothing. The unexplainable light lasted for a few minutes more, and has not been seen again.

The staunch Greene seems to take the strange occurrences in stride, finding the odd events more fascinating than frightening, even when one of the spirits decided to play a trick on her. Greene reports that after the initial investigation, activity in the building seemed to increase for awhile, as if someone were agitated by the interest. One evening she was coming downstairs when she distinctly heard the sound of footsteps coming down the stairs behind her. She turned around to see who was there and saw no one, though the footfalls followed her all the way down the stairs.

Investigation Results

The initial investigation of the Old Town Hall yielded some interesting result. In particular investigators in the upstairs “bedroom” reported several odd temperature fluctuations throughout the evening. It was a hot summer night, and yet several times during the evening the temperature in the room went down – even with the AC unit turned off. During one session an investigator managed to get the temperature to go down incrementally with voice commands, from 77 degrees to 70 degrees Fahrenheit at which time the AC unit kicked on!

Looking for the noise of the squeaky chair that Greene had reported didn’t render any results. Upon examination of the room we found no such chair, nor any chair in the room that seemed to duplicate that same spring sound. Greene admitted that she hears this sound a few times a week, leading me to wonder if it isn’t actually something left in the walls that perhaps contracts and expands with the changing temperature conditions in the building thus creating the sound. During the investigation of the building we neither heard nor recorded this sound.

While the team heard no chair sound, they did hear and capture a faint sound like a door opening and closing, in the second floor hallway. Upon questioning it was determined that no investigators were present in the hallway when the sound occurred.

The Town Hall folk feel that at least one of the spirits is a remnant of the building’s nursing home days. It is believed that an elderly woman was simply dropped off at the nursing home, abandoned there when her care became too much for her family. The team caught an EVP that seems to suggest this may be the case. During questioning one of the investigators asked, “Were you so sick that they couldn’t keep any longer?” On the recorder a “yes” response is heard. An EVP is a recording on some type of audio device that wasn’t heard at the time of the questioning, but is audible on the final recording. The “yes” response was not heard by the investigators at the time of the investigation. Not only does it appear to be a legitimate EVP, but it also seems to be in direct response to a question, which is suggestive of an intelligent haunt.

While the investigation did not produce enough evidence to prove or disprove a haunting at the location, it was sufficiently intriguing enough to justify another investigation which the Town Hall will sponsor this winter.

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