Tuesday, May 6, 2008

It's that one about ghosthunting... part 2

The Lincoln Theater in Decatur, Illinois

One of the final ghost hunting trips I went on was a 100+ year old theater in Decatur. This was the first trip I realized that Illinois had nothing except Chicago. Decatur is just a smidgen east of Springfield and is one of those towns that you see on post cards or in old movies, and you just know the town is ripe with hauntings. If you don't believe me check out Troy Taylor's book Haunted Decatur. Its 200 pages of the history and hauntings of this small town.

Speaking of Troy Taylor, I need to explain the man and myth that is the T squared. This man is largely the reason for the Midwest Ghost Hunting Society is an organization and is the reason these planned ghost hunts happen. He's written more books about the paranormal than I think anyone else, but they aren't the normal campfire stories. He is one type of ghost hunter, the type that I largely consider myself, the historian. Once something is said to be haunted and he decides to investigate it, he tries to figure out how, why, and where the hauntings take place. His books read more like a history textbook than anything else.

Back to the Lincoln Theater now. The building is largely invisible in the town. Every building in the downtown area of Decatur looks like it could be a haunted theater, and since the theater was under heavy restoration at the time, their sign wasn't up. It took about 40 minutes of driving around in the cold before I finally got out of the car, started walking in a random direction, and eventually asking two drunk guys where the theater was. After they smartly remarked that "The theater is closed, its 10 o'clock at night" they pointed directly behind me.

We entered the theater, sat in the rather comfortable (for theater chairs) seats. Troy Taylor, being the gracious host he is started on his rant about the history of this gorgeous place. Thousands of people performed on stage including Harry Houdini. Troy Taylor likes to spice up his rants with family friendly (kinda) jokes. My friend and I sat in the back of the theater away from everyone else so we could in turn, makes jokes at the expense of the fellow ghost hunters. (I'll tell you more about that later) Troy made a somewhat funny comment (I don't remember what it was) and my friend and I both turned to each other with a look of confusion. AT the time I didn't know what she looked at me for, but I had the likely feeling that like me, she heard light laughter right in her ear. I looked around and found no one behind us still and looked above me and saw no one in the balcony. After Troy was done speaking and we split into groups, we both confirmed that yes, we heard a voice that was right in our ears. Literally sounded like a person was in our ears and laughing.

I peed myself just a smidgen.

The night was mostly filled with a bunch of false evidence and people jumping the gun on explanations. Now to explain most the ghost hunters on this trip. There were four groups roaming the theater that night. Each group had one couple of normalish people, at least as normal as people that hunt ghosts can be. I designated myself that in my group, BTW. Then there was usually one person that had seen one too many shows, one person that just tagged along, a couple that had been on way too many "investigations" and spent most the time reliving their most terrifying moments, and then there were a half dozen wanting so bad to believe people that they spent god awful amounts of money on equipment they didn't know how to use and would write everything off as a haunting.

For instance, our group started in the basement where all the green rooms where and a trap door Mr. Houdini had built into the stage for a trick. Supposedly, as the story goes, one nightly performer from the 1930s died and haunted the green room. I found zero evidence downstairs, but at one point a woman started freaking out saying she heard music that wasn't on when we came downstairs. I heard this music too, but instead of feeling phantom chills and snapping hundreds of pictures, I tried to find the source. It took three minutes for me to find a small speaker system, suspended above where everyone was freaking out. IF this was a haunting, the ghost loved top 40 music. Although, in validation of these people, it was newer Cher, which is haunting in itself.

Only fifteen minutes after the top 40 incident we all heard a piano. Again everyone went into freak out mode, and I peaked my head up to the stage, and merely said, "hey dude, can you please stop playing that. You're throwing off our investigation." Surprisingly the mystery of the haunted piano ended there and no one besides me knew why. It was later that I briefly caught these people on break discussing how the ghost in the green rooms loves to play with music and to be on the look out for it.

The second place our group visited was the stage and catwalk area. The stage itself didn't interest me much because besides someone falling through Houdini's trap door and breaking some bones, not much violence had happened there. However, the catwalk had the very cliche story of some theater manager falling to his death, hanging himself on one of the sandbags, ect. The stairs to the catwalk and part of the catwalk is where this supposed haunting existed. Out of my entire group, I was the only one to have the balls to ascend the three stories of tightly wound, steep spiraling steps. Someone let me borrow their EMF detector and my long climb began. About twenty or so feet up my meter went from the normal two or three rating and hiked up to beyond ten, which was the highest rating on the meter. Everyone below me gasped and the flashing lit up the room. Swallowing my Adam's apple and yet again peeing myself I continued up the stairs to find that the meter didn't do it again. I continued taking readings on my descent I found that the same spot that the meter spiked the first time, it spiked again. This was a curious phenomena to me, but my fellow ghost hunters had already run off to tell everyone about it. Now either this was the laziest haunting in the world, or for some reason a 100 year old theater might have had old wiring that was releasing more than healthy radiation. I'm going to let you guess after a minute of investigating with a flashlight.

We took a 45 minute break where we could get something to eat or investigate on our own. I decided it was time to investigate without all these other chumps. Although the theater was creepy and beautiful in all its own right, I found no evidence that the place was haunted. There are hundreds of documented reports (even one supposedly on the Decatur evening news) saying that the place was/is haunted, I found nothing of the sort. Therefore being a natural skeptic, I have to conclude, based solely on my evidence, that the Lincoln Theater is not haunted. I still haven't been able to explain that sound which is mildly unsettling, but I can't 100% say that a place is haunted based on a sound I have no evidence or recording of.

The next investigation I'll discuss will be McPike Mansion in Alton Illinois.

As a side note, I just wanted to say that I will never sign up for Twitter or Tweet anyone an update.