Chesterton Tribune



Duneland Paranormal seeks answers from beyond

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Wherever we think there may be ghosts, we can be certain there is history, and that history is worth knowing about.

I’ll start by addressing the skeptics--I went on a paranormal investigation last week. It was nothing like TV, and it wasn’t a waste of my time. It was an exciting and enlightening Friday night, to say the least.

I accompanied Russ Erwin and Stepha Perz of the Porter-based group Duneland Paranormal and several others on an investigation where I was given permission to write about my experience, provided I don’t reveal the location. The subject of the investigation was a home in Northwest Indiana that was built before 1900, and, as all homes of that age do, it has a storied history--inevitably some of which no one who is still living knows about.

I confess I watch paranormal and monster hunting shows. Most are clearly staged and dramatic and great for a laugh, but in others, I find genuine intrigue. I have an obsession, a fanaticism really, with whatever happened where I’m standing--whatever secrets land, lakes, rivers, historical sites, and ordinary places alike hold. They contain multitudes of I-don’t-know-what that I’ve been trying to uncover since I was a kid. I am after all still the eight-year-old who marched into my local library one day demanding whatever atlas had the most detailed map of the Pacific Ocean to aid in my search for Amelia Earhart.

So, I went into this investigation with journalistic skepticism, but also the belief that If we define ghosts as untapped history, we can be sure ghosts are real and in limitless supply all around us.

Going forward, I will mention Erwin and Perz, but all other names have been changed.

While observing the investigation, I had to “tag” any sound I made by fessing up that it was me immediately after the fact. I regretted wearing my leather boots, which seem to squeak louder in a direct correlation with the age of the floors on which I’m sitting. At least I had the presence of mind not to bring a clicking pen.

I followed Erwin with my expectant reporter squint as he placed infrared, motion-sensing cameras about the size of a bottle cap at points of interest around the house. Erwin said he’s been into paranormal investigation for about a decade, but, “I’ve always had kind of a sense, if you will.”

The group split into two teams lead by Erwin and Perz. Perz was armed with a pair of L-shaped copper divining rods (commonly used in water witching, also called dowsing) with the short ends housed in cylindrical casings. The idea is the long ends of the rods are moved by nearby energy while the movements are not influenced by the person holding the casings. Erwin said the rods are an easy way to interact with spirits.

I found from trying them out myself that it’s nearly impossible to control where the rods point. The method of talking to the dead with them involves holding them still and parallel to the floor and asking yes or no questions. The rods crossing indicated “yes” in our investigation.

I went with Perz and her group to the bedroom where the Lady of the House (wife to the family Patriarch who built the home) died decades ago. There, we got into a conversation with the Patriarch. He correctly answered every question from the others in the group, who are well-versed in the home’s history. They mostly asked questions Perz didn’t know the answers to, which Perz said she likes because it shows she isn’t influencing the outcome.

I volunteered to hold the rods next, wanting to feel what the others describe as a magnetic pull when an entity moves them. There’s a trick to holding the divining rods--I may not have gotten it right, or maybe I’m just not popular with ghosts. When I passed the rods to the next person, the Patriarch reluctantly rejoined the conversation.

Someone asked if he likes having visitors in his home. Given I was the only one in the group who had never been to the house before, I asked, “Are you weary of new people who come to the house?” The rods crossed. That’s fair, I thought. I wouldn’t want to talk to me, either.

After I failed to connect with the entity, I asked Perz for her advice on what to do if I want to invite something to happen. “Just try to be open,” she said, adding that a meditative state of mind can sometimes help, though introverts like myself may subconsciously have a harder time leaving the lines open for a connection.

Next, we visited a room reserved for house staff. As we milled about and peered into the room’s three large, odd closets, the door to the hallway creaked open a bit wider by itself, and everyone took notice.

Another entity soon told us it was her who came through the door, and she used to live in the room as a Maid to the family that owned the house. This checked out with Rob, a historian in the group who asked a series of exclusionary questions to identify the Maid from three who were known to have worked at the house based on Census records.

“Were you from Sweden?” The rods diverted.

“Did you live in this room in 1910?” The rods crossed.

“Is your name [blank]?” The rods crossed.

Perz was holding the rods throughout this conversation. “I have the chills going from my scalp all the way down to my feet right now,” she said. Then, the rods began to move in a way that surprised even Perz. “She’s saying something, I have no idea whatÉ”

“Do you have something you want us to figure out?”, Sara asked. The rods crossed.

“Is it something in this room?”, Rob asked. The rods diverted.

Rob then asked if it was about a couple who lived in the house in the early 1900s, specifically about the husband, whom “nobody liked.” The Maid, who said she didn’t like the Husband either, said it was about him.

“Was it something he did?” The rods crossed.

“Did he hurt someone?” Another yes.

“Did he hurt you?” No. I, and I believe the whole group, became suspicious of the same thing at the same time. The energy in the room shifted.

Rob and Sara took turns inquiring. “Did he hurt his wife?” “Did it happen when he was drinking?” “Did he hit her?” “Did he hit her because of money?” “Did he have a gun?” “Did he threaten her with it?” The Maid answered yes for all. “Every question, I’m getting chills,” Perz said, then Perz asked, “Did he do more than just beat her?” The Maid again said yes.

Perz was almost overcome with emotion at this point. She took a deep breath, and asked only one more question. The answer was “Yes” again, and we thanked the Maid for telling us her story.

An undeniable truth about this encounter is that the six of us were all in or near tears at this point. There we all were, reaching back in time with empathy for these women who we know were once real.

The Maid’s accusations make sense historically, according to Rob, and she correctly answered each of his test questions. I personally don’t believe we imagined anything that happened Friday, but it also doesn’t matter to me if the Maid was real or if we did all have a joint hallucination. The pain the Maid disclosed to us is real for so many women. It persists and transcends time.

We later found the Patriarch’s wife, the Lady of the House, in a downstairs room. She bragged to us about a luxurious buffet and painting she bought that were still in the parlor in a lively conversation that lasted a full 30 minutes. We also talked to another Maid, who told us about losing her child and hiding its death. Rob said there is a mystifying record of an infant’s death associated with the house. Until Friday, he had no idea who’s child it was, but now he has a lead in digging for the truth.

Erwin said he’s always loved history, which informs his research into sites he investigates and led him to get involved with the Duneland Historical Society, where I met him. He also works with a noted Chicago-based historian and author who writes about the paranormal.

These are my type of people: curious minds. In fact, I think writers, historians, and paranormal investigators are quite alike. When writers look inside themselves, paranormal investigators look around themselves, and historians look into the past, we make remarkably similar discoveries. We’re all in search of the same thing--a new story--an amorphous truth about the world around us.

Are we really not ghost hunting when we visit museums and battle sites--or even flip through old photo albums? Aren’t we likewise trying to connect with whatever we know or think we know of the past?

Next time you visit a new place, I suggest you stop and wonder what happened where you are standing, and try just being open. It keeps both life and death more interesting.



Posted 3/11/2020




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