“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers at night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” —Wolfman movies from circa 1941, starring Lon Chaney Jr.
By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now
NEWTON—This is the time of year when people’s thoughts turn to all things scary, like werewolves portrayed in movies through the decades to Frankenstein’s monster, to pumpkin decorating and ghosts.
It’s quite popular now to go ghost hunting, what with all the TV shows like “Ghost Hunters,” “Ghost Nation,” “Ghost Adventures” and “Fear the Woods,” to name a few. Doors creak, shadows appear in the mist and chandeliers move from an invisible force.
The Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives hosted a couple of ghost investigation groups during the years, with one from the Newton area and the other from Wichita. Their visits were part of museum activities.
Those groups found evidence of otherworldly spooks, one of which is named Joe, who identified himself as being a custodian or handyman, said Kris Schmucker, museum curator.
“They got interesting readings with us,” Schmucker said.
The Newton group learned about Joe with various ghost-hunting devices they had and said Joe hangs out around the boiler room area in the basement.
“At that time, he was looking for a box,” Schmucker said about Joe. “He wanted us to find a box. All of our ghosts are friendly.”
There’s only one place in the museum in which Schmucker and others feel uneasy. That area used to be the men’s bathroom on the lower level. The museum, which was Carnegie Library in the past, has three levels.
“Now, it’s a storage area,” she said about the previous bathroom. “When this was a library, a boy went to the restroom and he came running back and said there was a woman in the restroom.”
Adults checked the restroom and didn’t find a woman.
“That is the oral story that has been told,” Schmucker said, adding that when she was in grad school, college interns didn’t want to even be in the museum at night. “They would just hear things and they would feel very uncomfortable.”
Schmucker’s heard things, too.
“I hear people walking up and down the stairway to the third floor,” she said. “You really can’t explain it when you’re here by yourself and there’s no wind.”
Schmucker’s office is on the first level.
“The weirdest time was there was a father and son,” she said. “I was the only person here—staff. It was close to closing time. They just wanted to look around. They were normal visitors. They were not ghosts. I said, ‘Ok.’ I didn’t hear them leave. I was locking up. I was making sure they still weren’t in here. I just yelled upstairs to the third floor, ‘Is anybody in here,’ and someone answered, ‘Yes we are.’”
Schmucker said it clearly was a male voice. She went upstairs and no one was there.
“I said, ‘Ok, I’m leaving,’” she said.
One time, a museum office manager asked Schmucker if anyone was upstairs because she heard sounds like people up there. Schmucker looked and no one was there. She said noise filters from the third floor to her office.
“We both heard something, and each thought it was the other,” she said.
When the ghost hunters were there, Schmucker said there was more activity in the archives on the third floor with orbs appearing. Some think orbs are spirits.
The second ghost hunt included one participant who felt she was having a conversation with an entity.
“And there were unexplained shadows,” Schmucker said, adding if anyone knows of a handyman or custodian who used to work at the museum named Joe, she’d like them to contact them.