BATAVIA – Things that go bump in the night were on tap late Feb. 28 at O’Brien’s Pub and Grill in Batavia, as a team of ghost hunters converged on the iconic bar and eatery in search of the paranormal.
Casey O’Brien, who has owned the business for 10 years and the historic building at 12 N. River St. for eight, said stories about strange occurrences have been told for years.
“We’ve had employees and customers who have said they had paranormal experiences,” O’Brien said. “What I’ve seen is slips of paper and a beer glass pushed off a shelf with no wind or anything. I’ve felt moments of chill, where it all of a sudden got cold. ... and a juke box that turns on and off by itself. This is the third time it’s been replaced.”
Perhaps the story with the biggest impact occurred three times to two different employees, and told to him independently as each worked different shifts, O’Brien said.
“There’s a guy at the bar who is asked to leave because it’s past last call – and suddenly the guy disappears,” O’Brien said. “He is described to be like a fur trapper, with a fur hat and coat.”
When O’Brien recently reconnected with a childhood friend, Mark Schwabe of Genoa, via FaceBook, he was intrigued by Schwabe’s ghost hunter hobby and shared the bar’s strange stories.
“We went to fourth grade together,” O’Brien said. “Ten days ago, I had not seem him in 45 years.”
O’Brien said Schwabe persuaded him to let his paranormal research team – Ghost Head Soup – into the bar. So by 9 p.m. Feb. 28, O’Brien imposed an early last call, cleared out the customers and watched as Ghost Head Soup’s team set up the equipment.
In addition to Schwabe, team members were Tim Schmuldt of Elgin, Kristin Dauchy of Batavia, Dean Thompson of Harvard and George Hawrylenko of Sycamore. Hawrylenko is an employee of Shaw Media in DeKalb.
Thompson explained they were using cameras with thermal imaging to record heat signatures, audio and video recorders with infrared capabilities, digital cameras – and Play-Doh – a low-tech way to situate cameras and keep them still.
“And we have a ghost box,” Thompson said. “A radio that’s been hacked up. An ... AM-FM radio that has a tuner ... and we make some slight adjustments and it’s believed the spirits can talk through that. ... We’ll be asking questions ... and sometimes questions are answered through the ghost box.”
The equipment also captures electronic voice phenomena that the team listens to after the session is completed, using Dragon Voice Recognition software to be objective.
“If the program hears the same thing we’re hearing, chances are it’s happening,” Hawrylenko said. “No other hunt teams do that – at least not the ones I’ve seen – because they want to interpret what they’re hearing. The computer doesn’t know it’s on a ghost hunt.”
Schwabe said the team discovered how to capture voices in real time.
“A lot of recordings could not be understood until we reversed them,” Schwabe said. “We record in reverse, and it comes out.”
Hawrylenko credited Thompson with figuring that out.
“Dean captured an [electronic voice phenomena] he could not understand,” Hawrylenko said. “He altered it in any way he could – changing pitch, raise the volume .... And when he played it backwards, it said something. It said, ‘Reckless spiritualists are funny.’ ”
Hawrylenko said when electronic voice phenomena are recorded on paranormal TV shows, they are usually simple words.
“We got words that were complex, multi-syllables and the word ‘spiritualists’ [is] not a brand-new word. Not a word a lot of people use nowadays. They say ‘ghost hunter,’ that sort of thing,” Hawrylenko said. “The ghost that Dean was probably chasing that day in the house was about 100 years old, so it probably hearkened back to the first age of spiritualism, when word spiritualist was common.”
Another reverse electronic voice phenomena, caught by Schmuldt, was of a little girl at another location.
“So we realized that some specimens of EVP come backwards,” Hawrylenko said. “Why? We don’t know. We’re talking about the other side of the mirror.”
Schwabe said the team stayed at O’Brien’s until 3:30 a.m. March 1 and will take the rest of the week to review their tapes.
“We had responses on the equipment when we were doing the questioning – lights would start blinking,” Schwabe said. “We will try to sync up our audio and see if we caught anything. We won’t know what it is until we review it.”
Information about Ghost Head Soup is available online at www.ghostheadsoup.com.