LITTLETON, N.C. — Welcome to the Cryptozoology and Paranormal Museum in Littleton, North Carolina.
“When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. It gives you a haunted house, you start ghost tours,” owner Stephen Barcelo said.
Barcelo’s home dates back to the 1850s. He says it has a life of its own.
“Anyone who’s lived in a haunted house will probably tell you the same thing — it’s just something you get used to. It’s like living next to an airport,” Barcelo said.
The New Yorker doesn’t shy away from any supernatural activity — he welcomes more in.
“Everything in [the museum] was either given to us or we’ve been called in to remove from other locations,” he said.
Some items are so creepy they’re kept out of the public’s reach. For example, a clown that a man got when he was very young.
“It gave him nightmares and night terrors,” Barcelo said.
And if you look closely at this clown’s reflection, Barcelo says the eyes will roll over and look at you.
“Sometimes it will grin at us,” he said.
From possessed dolls to the macabre, Barcelo may be a believer, but he’s an investigator at heart.
“Obviously, I don’t think people are going to believe unless there’s something flesh and blood in front of them,” he said.
The former journalist spends thousands of dollars on equipment for ghost hunting and Bigfoot investigations.
But is it enough to persuade the public?
Margaret Wilkosz, visiting from Pittsburgh, says anything’s possible.
“We’re created from energy, and where does all that energy go?” Wilkosz said.
Another guest, Sephanie Rogers, is bit more skeptical.
“I’m kind of a horror fan. So, it’s not as creepy as I think a lot of people might find the room,” Rogers said.
She’d rather experience something firsthand.
“I wouldn’t say no. As long as it wasn’t dangerous,” she said.
Most visitors hope that the souvenirs they bring home only evoke memories.
“A lot of it’s kind of escapism. Especially in these times after COVID, it’s even more so,” Barcelo said.
Barcelo’s museum is a kind of safe haven for all things unexplained and the people who experience them.
”I’ve had people come in here — it’s a common thing — [and say] I’m going to tell you a story. I’ve been married for 28 years and never even told my wife,” he said.
As for what’s real, Barcelo isn’t here to convince you.
“This isn’t the church of Big Foot. We’re here to show people and tell them the stories,” Barcelo said.