Searching for spirits

CANBY – Reports of unaccounted-for voices, rattling trash cans and sudden drops in temperature brought a team of paranormal investigators to Canby this past weekend. Adrian Lee and his team arrived Saturday evening to see if they could stir up any spirits at the Canby Theater, the town’s train depot and the historic Lund-Hoel House.

Lee, who hails from London and currently lives in Sauk Centre, is a historian and paranormal investigator. Lee founded the International Paranormal Society and travels throughout Minnesota with a team of investigators. He has written books about his spooky finds, including Mysterious “Minnesota: Digging up the Ghostly Past at 13 Haunted Sites,” which covers investigations of Fort Snelling, Minneapolis City Hall and the S.S. William Irvin in Duluth.

Jan Pederson, with the Lund-Hoel house and museum, and Jerome Clark, from the Depot’s museum board, were on hand to guide the team through their respective buildings and help recount the town’s history. Pederson said she heard voices recently at the house coming from the parlor when no one was there.

“It’s something different,” Pederson said. “It’s nice to have them here in this area. I don’t know what to expect because we’ve never done anything like this before.”

The team encountered the most activity at the old Canby Theater, which is currently being restored and is scheduled to reopen later this fall. Lee said that buildings going through renovations often house a lot of paranormal activity because the construction work sometimes awakens spirits that were once dormant.

“Renovation can kick them up,” Lee said. “Maybe they know you’re bringing (the theater) back.”

Michael Tesch, who worked at the Canby Theater for 18 years, from 1990 to 2008, and will be managing the theater when it reopens, led Lee’s team on a tour of the theater built in the 1930s and told the investigators about instances of strange happenings he has experienced while working.

“There’s been some strange noises and weird things that have happened,” Tesch said. “Weird feelings, sometimes you feel like you’re being shouted at, hearing laughter and things like that.”

Before conducting investigative vigils in a building, the team takes photos to set a baseline for its investigation. Trigger items that can be easily heard when knocked over are set up, and motion sensors are placed in hallways and high-traffic areas.

Lee’s team employs various tools during their vigils.

One such item is a radio receiver that scans through various frequencies called a ghost box. It creates white noise, and it is believed to be a device that can be used as a vehicle for spirits to communicate. The team also uses EMF readers to detect electromagnetic fields, temperature-reading guns to observe changes in the environment and an array of voice and video recording equipment to document its investigation.

After setting up its gear, the team split into three groups and attempted to contact any spirits that may have been present in the building. One group set up in the smaller, second theater. Another sat behind the screen in the main auditorium. Lee’s group went to the furnace room in the basement.

“If there is anyone in here, we’d like to talk to you,” Lee announced to the damp air in the theater’s basement. “We are not here to hurt you or get rid of you. We just want to talk to you.”

After a few minutes of silence, what looked like moving shadows passed through the hallway outside the furnace room, and the EMF reader in the doorway flashed with activity. Lee spoke to whatever might be in the hall and asked yes or no questions that could be answered by setting off the EMF reader.

From the blinking lights on the EMF reader, it appeared that he was talking to a man from the past.

Lee got out his ghost box and asked more questions. Through the clicking of the radio scanning, faint words could be made out. The name William came through a few times. Lee asked if William was also known as Bill, one of the brothers who built the theater. A quick “yes” came over the ghost box.

“Do you like the renovations taking place?” Lee asked. Another quick “yes” from the ghost box.

“Do you have anything you’d like to tell us or any suggestions for the renovations?” Lee asked. The ghost box clicked and a loud “seven” was audible, but no one in the room was sure what it meant.

After the vigil, the groups reunited outside the theater to discuss what they found. The group from the second theater said nothing of note happened during its vigil and the group behind the stage reported a deluge of names and a feeling of resentment toward the renovations going on in the theater.

Lee asked Tesch, the theater manager, if the number seven held any significance.

“We were discussing ticket prices the other day, and seven was a suggestion,” Tesch said.

Lee told the group about talking with William and said that they probably should go with $7, at least to appease the purported ghost of one of the theater’s creators.

Another round of vigils was held, this time two groups split off and went to the projector room and a different room in the basement. Not as much activity as the last vigil turned up, but the groups found it insightful none the less.

“It was very interesting,” Tesch said after the investigation. “I’ve always believed that there’s something going on in there, it’s just a little more focused now.”