Do ghosts haunt the store room of a Fort Madison salon?

As we were preparing for the Halloween edition of The Hawk Eye, I thought it would be fun to embark on a ghost hunting trip with a local paranormal group, so I called Burlington Paranormal, and they graciously invited me to join in an investigation.

The Funky Cowgirl and Studio 61 are on Avenue G in downtown Fort Madison. The two stores share a building and have a loft above them.

Before I get too far into this column, I must say I generally do not believe in ghosts. I distinctly remember watching episodes of ghost hunting shows with my mom and thinking it was all fake. But more recently, I have learned to enjoy the show “BuzzFeed Unsolved” which, for the most part, tries to debunk ghost and demon sightings.

So I embarked on a ghost hunting adventure.

If I’ve learned anything from years of watching ghost shows, it’s important to talk about the history of the building and its haunting. According to records from the Lee County Assessor’s office, the building was built in 1880, with a new addition being built on the back of the building in the 1940s.

Darla Farrell bought the building in 1996 and renovated it into a beauty shop and clothing store. She said it didn’t take long for her to start noticing strange happenings like things flying off shelves, etc.

After suspecting she had something supernatural happening in her store, she began allowing ghost hunters and paranormal investigation teams to come into her buildings. She learned there could be as many 12 ghosts in the building, but she believes them to be friendly.

The Burlington Paranormal crew showed up to the building sometime before 6 p.m. and began setting up for the event. The crew had three night vision cameras, special radio scanners — often called spirit boxes — that are believed to pick up ghosts talking as they scan through channels, and a host of other equipment. The pieces of equipment are owned by individual team members, most of whom consider it to be group equipment.

Farrell gave me a tour of her businesses. She said that through investigations, she learned her building once was a country store and that a ghost named Paul takes up residence in a storage closet. According to Farrell, the closet, which was part of the addition, was once a horse stable.

As Farrell showed me the supposedly haunted closet, I heard a footstep behind me. I thought either Josh Vandervoot or Kelsi Stogdill, both of whom are with Burlington Paranormal, was moving equipment, but they were both on the other side of the room setting up equipment. No one else was in the room, which left me wondering, who or what made that sound?

After all parties had arrived and introductions were made, the groups set off to explore the building, including the loft upstairs.

The first group to go into the closet said they spoke with Paul and Tina, a spirit Ferrell had never heard from before. So I was excited to go in with the second group.

The closet was pitch-black and while I did have a camera, I couldn’t see much, which meant that I was (mostly) taking blind photos. Nothing interesting seemed to happen. One of the instruments did light up quite a bit, and while there were some noises from the spirit box, none sounded like ghosts trying to communicate with us.

It was upon returning to the rest of the building that I realized I hadn’t just captured photos of people standing in cosets, but of a shiny spot on Christmas tree in the back of the room. Nothing else was lit or shiny in the photo. Was this a ghost? Or was it the reflection of something on the tree?

Convinced that the photo was not supernatural, Stodsgill led me back into the closet to attempt to recreate the photo. I took five photos, but none of them came out with the bright spot.

Without definitive proof of anything supernatural, another spirit box session was tried, but again, nothing happened. We tried to record into the silence, but the stirring outside of the room made it impossible. Finally, we just sat in silence and asked the ghost to make themselves known. Stodsgill said she had a tap on her shoulder, and I immediately felt pressure on my head. That was enough for me to feel creeped out.

And with that, I decided it was time to take my leave. I will say the headache did not go away until I was well into Burlington.

After a lot of thinking and taking a very unofficial straw poll I think there might, just maybe, be a ghost haunting Studio 61.

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