Note - the John Dillinger Museum has since moved to Crown Point, Indiana
In early 2014, at our home, the Indiana Welcome Center, I got to experience something unique and sort of chilling - a paranormal investigation.
You may be asking yourself, why would the Indiana Welcome Center, with its "cleanest bathrooms in the state", need to be investigated for ghosts? That story starts with a power outage. Back in September of 2011, the region was hit with a nasty thunder storm and the Welcome Center lost power for a few hours. The next day, as usual following a power outage, we had to reset the AV system in the John Dillinger Museum. After turning the TV's and sound system back on, we did a routine check of our security cameras. Making sure that they all worked, we played back some of the footage. On DilMuCa6, aka Dillinger Museum Camera 6, we spotted something moving in front of a desk. It is hard to describe what we actually saw. It was something that crossed, almost floated, in front of a desk in the Dillinger Museum. Not sure of what this was and knowing that the museum itself can be spooky, we checked the other cameras to see if this "movement" was anywhere else. Unfortunately, we saw nothing.
We sat there looking at the cameras fixated on what it was that we saw. The movement occurred in front of a desk that we had acquired from a bank that John Dillinger had robbed (sorry folks, I hate to burst your bubble, but he was a criminal). We retrieved the footage and we showed it around to our staff and got some opinions (and also terrified some co-workers). Some of our staff thought it was just a reflection (the common argument) while some really thought that it was something legit. For myself, I sort of lean toward the side of skepticism when it comes to paranormal entities and ghostly matters. I believe that it is generally your mind playing tricks on you, but sometimes I wonder if that is just a way to reassure myself and not be scared. With this footage though, I do not buy the reflection theory mainly because I know how video works (having worked in it for almost 10 years) and knowing that there is nothing in the area for it to reflect off of (and reflections DO NOT reflect off of camera lenses in this way). So, long story short, we put this footage on our YouTube channel and let the public decide. Again, we met with mixed results and no general consensus.
In October of 2014, a team of paranormal investigators called "Heartland Hauntings", made a presentation in our theater. Free of charge and open to everyone, the team talked about local areas that were haunted. The team specializes in looking for concrete evidence of paranormal entities before ever calling something haunted. Please understand this is not to say that they don't believe in the paranormal. This is to say that they want solid evidence like all of us. The group is headed by JC Rositas and Len Miller. Both investigators are seasoned and knowledgeable. While chatting with them, I mentioned the video and circumstances and both took a keen interest in our "ghost". Soon, the conversation led to them asking if they could conduct an investigation. We instantly said, yes.
The investigation itself took place on a Saturday night, after hours, in January. The Heartland Hauntings team came armed with machines and gadgets I had never heard of and am afraid I would butcher their proper names if I even tried repeating them. The only things that looked familiar were the cameras (remember - I'm the video guy!). They set up a surveillance system with 4 cameras and created a command center in our theater. It was there they could monitor everything. There was about 9 people total in the group. They broke up into teams of 3-4 that would go into Dillinger at random times. Armed with sound recorders and infrared cameras, they conducted their investigation. Looking at all the variables (air flow from the vents, sounds from outside, etc), they wanted to be thorough and make sure they didn't miss anything.
I was able to witness first hand some real dedication and some possible "incidents". The first incident occurred when one of the teams that went in used what was called a "Frank's Box". A "Frank's Box" is a little machine that is about the size of a cell phone and records audio at different frequencies. The team stopped and asked a question aloud. Apparently they got a response. One investigator asked "Why are you here?" And apparently a recording picked up the response - "I'm dead."
Now, let's not jump to conclusions. Recording that based off of certain frequencies is not a given that a place is haunted. Apparently a number of things can factor into these recordings. It was the second incident that really gave some chills. After doing a walk through the museum following the investigation (to make sure nothing was left behind), myself and JC (one of the team's leaders) were making small talk. Suddenly JC stopped and smacked at his ear. He turned to me and said that something had just grabbed his ear. Okay, wait a minute. What? Yeah, let me explain. See, apparently it is not uncommon to be touched by something paranormal. This was something that both JC and Len had told me about. They both have had numerous experiences like this during paranormal movements. It was this little thing that sort of turned everything upside down. All throughout the night nothing was picked up on the cameras. A small audio clip might have been recorded but this took things in a different direction.
Unfortunately, we didn't have all night to investigate the museum. And, just as things were getting interesting we had to call it a night. This little ear tug, put things into a new perspective. Do you believe in ghosts? If you do, I have news for you, we MIGHT have one in the John Dillinger Museum at the Indiana Welcome Center. It's up to you to come and find out.
The original "ghost" footage -
A recap of the investigation -
Contributing Editor: Andy Collins
Former Video Production Manager with the South Shore CVA.