All of us are seated at large, round, wooden tables. The themed hotel conference room is framed by dark heavy beams and wooden floors that are so dark they seem to be burnt black. A paranormal pro paces the room, gives us advice, and a safety talk. He’s wearing jackboots, a military style coat, and a hardhat. I suddenly feel under dressed in my street shoes and leather jacket. We drove almost an hour to get to the Belvoir Winery and Inn and booked the tickets for our Ghost tour months in advance. There was no turning back.
The creepy old limestone and brick buildings we are visiting were originally constructed by the Oddfellows. A mysterious fraternity with an origin story that stretches back to the Roman Empire. Much like the well-known Masons, the group is recognized for their grand lodges, elaborate ceremonies, and odd reputation. Seemingly to prove the point, one of their member’s skeletal remains lies entumed in a glass coffin on the grounds. Be sure to pay your respects to George should you decide to visit.
We hit the spooky night jackpot. A full moon hangs in a slightly hazy sky. The compound is far enough from town for it to be truly dark. The trees are missing most of their leaves. Oh, and just to bump the spooky up a notch it’s also that special see your breath cold outside.
The Winery has been visited by more than one paranormal investigation television show. It is also featured on podcasts, blogs, and several social media feeds. People that believe come to see proof. People that are skeptical come to debunk the very notion. I am here for date night. There are people from all walks of life at the event. From overhearing the conversation my wife is having with our table mates, it seems that some people make a full-time hobby out of ghost hunting. Apparently, there are several serious cash prizes for finding proof of the afterlife.
The group that runs this event hosts at least one session per month and has the operation down pat. Each table of guests is escorted to one of the five haunted buildings by a professional paranormal investigator. They handout ghost hunting gear of various types along the way. EMF detectors, rim-pods, twist-lock flashlights, motion detectors, and curious little boxes they call K2s.
The K2 devices caught my tech guy attention as soon as I saw one. They’re about the size of a Rasbery Pie with two short antennae on the top and a small LCD touchscreen on the front. I immediately gave my wife the “get one of those” look. Once I got my hands on it, I set to work accessing it’s control menus.
The little box had several spooky features. It ran a random word generator. According to the paranormal investigator, ghosts could use their “energy” to alter the word pattern into coherent speech. We were encouraged to shout questions to elicit a response. Ours said some really odd stuff throughout the evening, but it never made sense to me. There was also a ping-sweep function that looked like a small radar screen. Things that reflected its electro-magnetic signals were indicated as blips. A motion detector was also available.
As we entered each building, the guide deployed the gadgets while they told us about the history of the space. The grounds had served as a hospital, an asylum, and a shelter for the downtrodden souls of society. According to the paranormal guide, people that lived challenging lives are more likely to haunt a place after their passing. In some cases, we were told about named entities that were known to harass staff members and guests alike. During one of these stories, standing in what had served as the hospital’s morgue, the lights were turned out to enhance a seance. The various detection gear was triggered in the center of our circle. I used my phone to snap pictures of the dark spaces around us and one of them shows what looks like a person’s shadow. The thing is all members of our group where visible in the circle and I couldn’t see any light source powerful enough to cast a shadow near any of them.
The buildings were all crumbling, dark, cold, smelly, graffitti covered shells. Some of them seemed to be held up by nothing more than spite. If you’re reading this ahead of your own outing, I highly recommend wearing tough boots and a heavy outer jacket. There were nails, broken pieces of glass, sharp concrete edges, and all kinds of building rubble to negotiate in the dark. In certain places on the upper floors I could feel the structure giving way to my weight.
We met some great people. The Oddfellows home was clearly a beautiful place in its day. Time has not been kind to it, but the new owners are renovating. The winery and inn frequently host weddings and serve as photography backdrops. We had a great time, check it out if you’re looking for something a little different to do in the KC area.