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Investigators look for ghostly happenings at historical museum

Investigators look for ghostly happenings at historical museum

The sound of cards shuffling was recorded at the Turlock Historical Society Museum.

POSTED October 29, 2010 8:15 p.m.

The Turlock Historical Society Museum is not known as a hot spot for paranormal activity, but investigators say they captured an audio recording that might change that.

Investigators first requested to hold a ghost hunt at the museum on Center Street because of its collection of historically significant artifacts. Gaylene Cornell, reverend of the Spiritual Church of Turlock, said that spirits are sometimes associated with specific objects. Cornell and some of her students were the first group to investigate paranormal activity at the museum. What they found sparked further investigations, next time by a larger group from Western Region Paranormal Research.

The WRPR group brought high-tech gadgets designed specifically to capture evidence of a haunting. They were primarily looking for energies attached to museum objects, but what they found suggested to them that the building is still home to a spirit from its past.

The Turlock Historical Society is the most recent tenant of 108 S. Center St., a building that has been witness to 100 years of Turlock history. The building was completed in 1911 as the north side of the Chatom building. Over the years the building has housed many tenants, but it was originally opened as the Palace Market.

The store sold produce and other goods up front, and had a butcher shop in the back. The soda fountain display in the museum is from the same time period as the old soda fountain at the Palace Market, said Thea Harris, museum coordinator and director. According to the Turlock Pioneer, a semi-yearly bulletin of the Turlock Historical Society, the Palace Market portion of the building was sold to William “Frank” Ripley in 1939.

Ripley was the owner of the Rip’s Place, a pool hall at 228 Main St.  Shortly after his purchase of the building, he cut a hole in the wall of the Palace Market building, connecting it to his bar. He turned part of the Palace Market building into a card room, and the hole made an ideal passage from the inside of the bar. The card room was reminiscent of a speakeasy, even though prohibition had ended in 1933. The old passage has since been bricked over, but the outline of the doorway is still clearly evident on the north wall of the museum.

Although no paranormal activity has been reported at the museum, there are old rumors that a man hung himself in the card room. Rob Geiger, a member of the Turlock Historical Society Board of Directors, said that the rumor was not historically substantiated, but he had heard it before.

“I’ve never experienced anything weird in the time I’ve been down here,” Geiger said.

Cornell was one of the two sensitives to take readings on the room. She said that she felt the spirit of a man desperately playing one last card game. She sensed that the man lost the deed to his house in a card game, and hung himself. She also felt the spirit of a woman named Maria, who still deals cards in the old “speakeasy.”

Another medium was asking questions of a female presence that she felt in the room. During the questioning, a flashlight on the floor unexpectedly turned on. Nobody was standing near the flashlight at the time.

After the sensitives had their turn communicating with the spirits, another team from Western Region Paranormal Research went in. This group calls themselves the “debunkers,” and it is their job to differentiate between what can be explained and what cannot. For example, they use electromagnetic frequency meters (EMF) to monitor electronic changes. When one meter went off repeatedly, Julie Schumacher tracked down the source. The EMF meter was sitting next to an old telephone, which had a magnet in the receiver.

Paranormal investigators take hours of voice recordings during each ghost hunt. Afterwards they listen to every minute of the recordings, trying to find unexplainable sounds, called electronic voice phenomenon (EVP).

“I try to listen to things that are not inherent to the environment,” said Fred Schumacher, the team’s EVP expert.

Schumacher estimated that he listened to audio recordings from the Turlock Historical Society Museum for close to nine hours. He said that 95 percent of what people believe are EVPs are actually background noise or road noise from outside the building. From all of those hours of audio Schumacher found only one recording that he could not explain.

“What it sounds like is basically about 1 second of cards shuffling,” Schumacher said.

He described the sound as similar to the sound of a poker dealer shuffling the cards before the next hand.

Whether or not ghostly card games are still being played at the Turlock Historical Museum is anyone’s guess.

To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.

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