If the walls of the beautiful Hanchett-Bartlett Homestead could talk, they would have many tales to share. One special group that recently visited yearned to hear them — straight from the source.
A paranormal investigation of the large two-story 1857 limestone home, located at 2149 St. Lawrence Ave., took place on July 26 as a fundraiser for the Beloit Historical Society. Two groups of locals were able to go inside and seek evidence.
“We thought it would be really interesting to see if we could capture some evidence of activity while promoting an interest in history at the same time,” said board member Jennifer Scott.
James Hanchett, a contractor and dam builder, constructed the Hanchett-Bartlett homestead in 1857. The home is made of locally quarried limestone, and Hanchett lived there with his wife and 10 children.
The Herrick Bartlett family moved into the home in 1901. Over 60 years later it was donated to the Beloit Historical Society for preservation. Since that time the home has been cared for as a museum.
Last year a medium, Amber Hawkinson, did a walk through at the Hanchett-Bartlett homestead. She claimed to sense spirits not only in the home, but also outside near the barn.
Recurrent stories of ghosts also piqued the curiosity of historical society board members, pushing them toward really trying to find out if something, or someone, still calls the residence home.
“The ghost hunt is a way to raise funds and show people that history can be fun and interesting,” Beloit Historical Society Director Paul Kerr told the Beloit Daily News. “One of the stories about the Hanchett-Bartlett house is that there is a lady in the dining room who moves things around.”
Docents say they have also heard voices and the sound of children playing in the home when nobody else is there. School kids taking tours have also claimed to see a phantom cat in the upstairs windows.
Although Hawkinson’s reading was shared last fall, this July marked the first time members of the public were invited to seek their own evidence of paranormal activity after-hours at the homestead.
Findings from the paranormal investigation will be revealed on Oct. 24 from 6-9 p.m. during a dinner at the Lincoln Center. Tickets are $40 for the general public to attend.
“I know people are anxious to find out what happened,” said Beloit Historical Society board member Mike King. “Can you imagine seeing that house for the first time in the dark?”
Although many participants at the investigation were “first timers” willing to brave the dark hallways and cavernous basement, The Wisconsin and Illinois Paranormal Investigation Team (WIPIT) were on hand to help.
Based out of Ordfordville, the group brought a handful of researchers to share theories on ghostly activity and teach about the large variety of equipment used during paranormal investigations.
“When our team goes to a location, we are not there to debunk claims of activity,” said WIPIT founder Laura Baker. “We are trying to see if the claims happen while we are there.”
Baker, her husband Mitch, and their crew prepared for the day’s event by wiring cameras and audio equipment to capture footage at the home. They also placed motion detectors in places like the cupola.
A 360-degree evidence collection method is used by WIPIT, meaning that the equipment is deliberately placed in a way which lends itself to cross referencing during film and audio review.
“There is a lot to sort through when doing evidence review and we want to eliminate any kind of contamination,” Baker said. “For this investigation we have about 80 hours of footage.”
WIPIT got down to business at 7 p.m. on July 26, when a group of enthusiastic visitors arrived. The amateurs were briefed on paranormal investigation etiquette and then invited to walk through the home while carrying audio recorders and other devices.
“I really thought that it would be worthwhile to go into the house with these tools to see if we could capture evidence,” King said of the decision to pursue a full paranormal investigation at the homestead.
While the popularity of “ghost hunting” television shows has exploded, Baker said visitors at the Hanchett-Bartlett event were able to see what it is really like to be a paranormal investigator — without any frills or fancy editing.
According to individuals who attended the ghost hunting event, there seemed to be something strange happening at the home at times...but community members will have to attend the reveal dinner to find out the details.
“Sometimes you don’t catch any evidence on an investigation, but when I took a group into the house, we did have a potential personal experience that may have been caught on one of the recorders,” Baker said. “I think the house might have some real surprises.”