By Deb Everts
About a dozen people gathered at the Ellicottville gazebo on the evening of Oct. 4 to search for ghosts and paranormal happenings at some of the village’s historic sites.
This was the third annual Ghost Walk hosted by the Ellicottville Historical Society with proceeds benefiting the organization. Led by John Koerner and Rob deGuehery, of Paranormal Walks, it’s an evening of paranormal investigation and storytelling, inside and outside some of Ellicottville’s oldest buildings and the Jefferson Street Cemetery.
Some of the most haunted locations within walking distance of the gazebo showed paranormal activity including the United Church of Ellicottville, the town hall, Ellicottville Historical Society Museum and the Jefferson Street Cemetery, which had the most history and potential ghost activity.
The first stop was at the town hall, constructed in 1929. The building replaced a log courthouse and jail, built in 1820, that once served as the center for government for Cattaraugus County.
Ellen Frank, vice president of the Ellicottville Historical Society, said the group was discussing some hangings that supposedly took place in front of the town hall years ago. When they asked the paranormal app on Koerner’s phone if a person was hung there, one of the words that came up was “record.”
“John asked me if I knew of any record, which I did not, and Dawn [Westfall, president of the historical society] told me there were no hangings in Ellicottville that she knew of,” she said. “Another word that came up on the app was ‘Anastasia,’ and Dawn is looking that up. My thing was I’m going to Anastasia, the musical, next year.”
According to Frank, they had never picked up any paranormal activity in the town hall until this year when they found some at the lockers on the second floor. She said Koerner and deGuehery used a device to detect paranormal readings with little numbers that would spike and change colors, depending on the intensity of the paranormal activity.
One of the most interesting stops was at the United Church of Ellicottville where some very unusual things happened. Frank said most of the people on the tour were sitting in the pews, while the rest were looking at the coat hangers to see if they were moving.
“Last year, we had three coat hangers that started moving while we were at the church and they wouldn’t stop. This year, they were moving on the opposite side, but not as much,” she said. “We were trying to figure that out when, all of a sudden, we turned and this door started to close and nobody was near it. It had a doorstop and the floor is carpeted, so it wasn’t like it could move easily.”
AT THE MUSEUM, the group found a lot of paranormal energy from several objects in the room including a student desk, a bell and a black dress. Frank said the device would turn red as deGuehery was talking about a story told by his grandmother where kids had desks like that and boys would put the girls’ ponytails in the inkwells.
Constructed in 1853, the current museum site has been the location of the County Clerk’s Office, a bank, a German Protestant Lutheran Church and a millinery shop. In 1894, a belfry was added and the brick structure became a firehouse for the volunteer fire department meetings. Since then, this structure has served as a school and a public library. The hundreds of old artifacts there gave off plenty of paranormal activity for the hunters to detect.
According to Frank, some really weird things happened at the cemetery. Established in 1817, the Jefferson Street Cemetery was the first to serve the village. The burial ground has over 400 burials dating from 1817 to 2003.
The group started out at the gravesite of Beals Litchfield, a farmer and a spiritualist who helped start Lilydale. Frank said a face came up on Koerner’s phone, but it was so quick he wasn’t sure who it was.
“When we got back to the museum where we have a picture of Litchfield, John said that was the face on his phone,” she said.
The group also visited the gravesite of Peter Henaford who was of German descent and had a furniture factory where Ellicottville Brewing Company now stands.
While they were near Henaford’s grave, some ghost hunters could smell smoke as if there was a campfire close by. Frank said the app on deGuehery’s phone looked like smoke or mist was coming up from the ground. About two minutes later, they couldn’t smell any smoke.
A few days later, Frank and her husband decided to take a look at the video she shot at the dark cemetery during the Ghost Walk. What they saw was eerie and mysterious.
“I was filming toward the street from the back of the cemetery and panning to the right, just to see what I would get. Then I panned back to a tall, oblong marker,” she said. “When the video first starts, there’s this glowing ball on top of a grave. Then, I saw this blue streak go through, which I thought was very weird.”
She emailed the video to Koerner and asked him to look at it. He said a cellphone usually doesn’t give off much color, so the blue light meant something. He called it an orb.
Frank said this paranormal experience was interesting and a lot of fun but, out of the three past years, this year had the most unusual things they’ve gotten yet.
The Ellicottville Historical Society is planning another Ghost Walk for next year and could possibly host two.