Investigating ghosts in Kennett Square
By Steven Hoffman
Are ghosts haunting buildings on South Union Street in Kennett Square?
Olen Grimes, the owner of Art Works & Metal Works, said that he often hears unexplained noises—the sounds of someone walking on the floor above, rustling noises, or papers being shuffled around in an empty room.
“I always hear walking on the floor,” Grimes explained. “That has happened dozens and dozens of times. I’ll usually hear something at least once or twice a week.”
Grimes was also curious about the buildings at 116 and 112 South Union—the homes of Tribe Hair Salon and My Polished Salon, respectively. There had been sporadic sightings of the spirit of a little girl. So Grimes reached out to the Delaware City Ghost Hunters and arranged for them to send a team to investigate.
“Olen took us through all three buildings that were thought to have paranormal activity,” Wanda explained. She is the director of the Delaware City Ghost Hunters, and has long had the ability to detect spirits. Wanda considers herself to be an empath, which is someone who can sense things in the spirit world.
“I come from a family of gifted people,” she explained.
To understand the work that the Delaware City Ghost Hunters do, you have to set aside everything you’ve learned about ghosts in scary movies. Television shows about ghost-hunting can be misleading, too. The real-life ghost hunters talk about things like orbs and spirit energy levels, and they use scientific equipment to document their investigations.
Wanda was only four or five years old when she started being able to see things that others couldn’t. This was an ability that her sister also had. It wasn’t until they were teenagers that they learned that their mother also had the same ability. As she got a little older, Wanda saw fewer spirits, and for a time she didn’t see any at all. But then, at the age of 25, Wanda had a near-death experience and began to sense things again. She started to embrace the gift, doing research at the library. She learned that a ghost is the spirit of a person who can’t fully move on to the spirit world, and that their “hauntings” are typically harmless to humans.
“They are usually just trying to get us a message,” Wanda explained.
She welcomed the opportunity to join the Delaware City Ghost Hunters. The group was formed in 2011, led by Walter Wisowaty. After about a year, Wisowaty was ready for retirement and wanted to spend his time on other endeavors. At the time, there were only a handful of people, including Wanda, as part of the team.
“We didn’t want to quit,” Wanda explained.
The group continued and flourished. Now, there are approximately 20 members, including Dolly Ziegler, a co-director of the Delaware City Ghost Hunters, who is one of the team members who uses scientific equipment to monitor the buildings that they are investigating. The group’s work has earned them more and more investigations. In the first year that they formed, the Delaware City Ghost Hunters did eight investigations. Last year, that number rose to 15 investigations.
“We do not charge for these investigations,” Wanda explained. “And we try everything that we can to debunk that there is something paranormal going on.”
One of the things that the Delaware Ghost Hunters do before an investigation is to research the property history as much as possible. At 112 South Union Street, Olen and his wife, Roxann, purchased the building in 2013 from James G. and Joan Blaine. The Blaines had owned the property since 1994, when they purchased it from the partnership of Peter Alonzo and James Blaine. The property had also previously been owned by Sara Noznesky, the executor of the estate of Tillie Noznesky. Jacob Noznesky is also associated with the property. Knowing the history of a property can help the investigators as they do their work.
Wanda and Dolly listed some of the things that people might experience if there is a spirit present in a home or business: anomalies in electrical appliances, such as a television shutting on and off on its own or an unplugged appliance suddenly turning on; noises, such as bangs or tappings; hot or cold spots; and certain smells, like a smoky or burning smell, or a certain kind of perfume or cologne that a person used.
The equipment that the group utilizes during investigations includes everything from hand-held digital voice recorders to audio cassette recorders to stationary infrared cameras. They use hand-held digital cameras, laser grids, sensor cells, and OSUN EMF Hunter, which identifies radiation sources and detects invisible fields.
During investigations, the empaths do their work and compare notes with those who are monitoring the scientific equipment.
“We’re a team,” Wanda explained. “Whatever information anybody gets, we share it right away.”
Wanda said that it’s more common for spirits to be present than what people might think, especially in older buildings with long histories.
“Every single investigation that we have done, we have found a spirit,” Wanda said. “The spirits might be lingering, or they may be coming back for a visit.”
Wanda drew a sharp distinction between demonologists and ghost hunters. Demons are pure evil and are not human, and if the investigation team ever senses that they are encountering a demon they will leave immediately.
“Ghosts and spirits are harmless,” Wanda explained. “We have more power over them than they have over us.”
Wanda said that, thanks to the popularity of several television shows about ghost-hunting, more people are willing to believe in ghosts.
“It’s definitely more easily accepted today,” she said.
“People aren’t as afraid of it as they used to be,” Dolly added.
“We love doing this,” Wanda explained. “We love to help people.”
The investigation at the art gallery and neighboring buildings started with a walk-through and an interview with Grimes to find out about some of the reported incidents that had taken place through the years.
Wanda and Dolly both felt cold spots in the art gallery building, especially on the second floor.
When they went to the building at 116 South Union, Wanda tried to detect the spirit of the little girl that people had reported seeing. Soon enough, Wanda felt the little girl’s spirit trying to channel her. The spirit giggled through Wanda and said, “Hi, I am Mary Beth.” Wanda felt very uneasy and went outside to shake off the effects of the interaction with the spirit.
The investigative team utilized toys that are motion activated. At two different times as the team was communicating with the spirits in the basements, the toys were activated. No one was near them to make them go off. Orbs were also visible in photographs that were taken near where the toys were positioned.
Once the initial investigation is completed, the investigative team members analyze the many photographs and hours and hours of video and audio recordings to document the findings for each case. Each piece of evidence is reviewed thoroughly and discussed by the team members so that they can compare notes on whether the scientific evidence corroborates what the empaths found.
For example, in the final report to Grimes, the investigative team said that they were able to document purple orbs through the photos and videos.
“We have seen red, pink, and blue, but never purple,” the report stated. “We did some research and discovered that some experts believe the color of the orb determines the type of spirits that reside in the location. Purple is thought to be a sensitive, wise, intuitive, idealistic spirit seeking spirituality.”
The investigators were also able to record and photograph a mysterious mist outside the buildings that they did not see themselves when they were conducting the investigation. It was a clear night, and there is no explanation for the mist.
Based on all the evidence that they collected, they concluded that the My Polished Salon, in particular, has some mild—but benevolent—activity consisting of several male and female spirits. They believe that they communicated with spirits with names like Robert or Bob, Steven or Stephan, Jennie, and Sally.
If the investigative team comes across a spirit that they believe is trapped, they will get everyone together, form a circle, say a prayer, and let the spirit know that it is okay to pass over.
“Our success rate is about 75 percent on getting them to cross over,” Wanda explained. “But we can’t do anything to make them cross over.”
Overall, the investigators were satisfied with the results of the investigation in Kennett Square, although “we didn’t have as much activity as we had hoped,” Wanda said.
Grimes said that he and his wife were very satisfied with the results.
“My wife and I were both enthralled when they went over the videos and the recordings,” Grimes explained.
He said that he has no problem co-existing with the spirits in the buildings.
“I think it’s neat,” Grimes said. “We’ve been telling some of our clients that there is an ongoing investigation, and I would say that 99 percent of the people are interested and not scared. As long as I don’t bother them, and they don’t bother me, we can live here happily.”