October 22, 2013

Who ya gonna call? — Part I

Ghosts of AB&C 1

Plenty of people have had otherworldly encounters at 819 N. Washington.

Aloysius Butler & Clark has a full house these days. We’ve been steadily adding new clients, which means we’ve been taking on additional employees to handle our ever-increasing workload. So it’s time to kick out a wall or two — we want to keep everyone happy, right? And by everyone, we mean the living and the dead.

Why are we concerned about those who have crossed over? Let’s just say our building has a rich and eerie history. Constructed in 1904, it was originally the Yeatman Funeral Home. On the first floor, coffins were displayed and viewings took place; John and Lynda Yeatman lived on the second floor; and the third floor, which housed Goldey-Beacom college dormitories for a brief period, wound up as apartments. After the funeral home closed in 1990, the building was abandoned until 1998, when AB&C purchased it. And as we learned even before we moved in, the joint is jumpin’ with ghostly apparitions, unexplainable phenomena and mysterious noises.

Evidence of the building’s past is everywhere. The crate we use as an informal mailbox in our lobby originally contained embalming fluid — it’s stenciled on the outside. Our basement has the original coffin lift, which was used to move bodies to the first floor. And, though not confirmed, the basement may also house a crematorium. Oh, and Yeatman left behind two or three (empty) coffins, one of which we’ve used to keep beer on ice for AB&C parties.

Mysterious narrow staircases wind throughout the agency. There’s even one in the basement that runs right into the ceiling — a stairway to nowhere. To top it all off, we found human ashes in the basement when we moved in. Edgar Allan Poe would have a field day in this place. In fact, plenty of people have had otherworldly encounters here.

So we finally called in the Ghostbusters. Actually, we asked the fine folks from Downingtown Area Paranormal Investigators (DAPI) to check out the multitude of ghostly sightings and noises. We also invited a News Journal reporter and photographer to chronicle the ghost hunting.

Ghosts of AB&C 2

Dawn Beck, Downingtown Area Paranormal Investigators

The proceedings started off with a brief tour. DAPI’s Dawn Beck, who led the investigation, felt a presence as soon as she walked in. After the tour, DAPI personnel interviewed AB&C employees who had had ghostly experiences, and set up ghost-detecting equipment at the locations of the sightings. As the sun began to set, the building was slowly shrouded in darkness.

While setting up a video camera, Dawn said she heard something whisper in her ear. The ghost hunters set up audio equipment throughout the agency, tape recorders for EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) and EMF (Electromagnetic Field) detectors to track electromagnetic waves. Once the equipment was set up, it was lights out. The DAPI folks started getting serious.

They started an EVP session in front of the receptionist’s desk, turning on their tape recorders and peppering the building’s spirits with questions, hoping to pick up responses that are inaudible to the human ear. They also set up an EMF device to detect any shadowy presence. Based on the electromagnetic strength that the spirit emits, a row of small green lights on the detector light up one by one. We were hoping to communicate with Old Man Yeatman himself. No such luck.

Stu Thomas has seen a white-haired woman dressed in a brown tweed jacket and a pillbox hat in the Great Room.

Stu Thomas has seen a white-haired woman dressed in a brown tweed jacket and a pillbox hat in the Great Room.

The team moved on to the Great Room, where at least one person claims to have seen a white-haired woman dressed in a brown tweed jacket and a pillbox hat. Stu Thomas, our Digital Media Specialist, saw her three times in two months — in the exact same spot — about five years ago. While heading to the front door at the end of the day, he saw her out of the corner of his eye. She was sitting on the sofa, staring at the wall in front of her. When he turned to look, she was gone. It turns out that the wall she was staring at wasn’t there when the building was a funeral home. The specter was gazing at the space where deceased loved ones were respectfully displayed. Perhaps she’s still in mourning.

On New Year’s Eve in 1998 — before our first round of remodeling was complete, and with no security system yet in place — Creative Director Joe Dawson bravely volunteered to spend the night at AB&C to keep watch over the building. Joe figured he could run security and throw a one-man party all at the same time. But was he really the only one there that night?

Joe dozed off on one of the office sofas on the first floor. At 3 a.m., he woke up with excruciating back pain that practically immobilized him. He knew he had to get to the phone on the chair across from him and call for help. He dropped to the floor and began to crawl. Time slowed down. Finally, Joe managed to knock the handset off the phone, but the base — with the dial — remained on top of the chair. All of a sudden, he heard his wife’s voice on the handset. She had heard the phone ring four times. Remember: Joe never touched the dial. She hopped in her car to rescue Joe — and the car conked out. At that instant, a red Jeep pulled up to her and asked if she needed help. Getting in on the passenger side, she noticed a small bible on her seat. After the Jeep dropped Joe’s wife at our offices, Joe was sent to the hospital. To this day, Joe believes supernatural powers had a hand in his rescue.

Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow, when Paul Pomeroy battles the spirits of the undead and Courtney Rossi encounters some unusual traffic (you might want to pack a spare set of undies).