For Dr. Nancy “Hawk” Horvath, professional ghost hunting “is all about the evidence, more than the experience.” Horvath explains that while paranormal experiences—such as seeing a shut door opening for no reason in a supposedly haunted building—are fun, the focus for her and her Paranormal After Hours Investigations team is documenting the evidence. And it is this that makes it all worthwhile. “You never know what you’re going to catch!” Horvath says.
Starting with a location’s history
Before obtaining evidence, Horvath says her team does “lots of research to create a contextual analysis,” learning about the site’s history, past events, previous residents and the time period they lived, belief systems and customs.
The team also looks for “trigger” objects. “A trigger object is anything relatable or has a connection to those who lived in the building,” says Horvath. These objects can improve communication with ghosts. Paranormal After Hours Investigations brings cat treats for the ghost cat at Mantorville’s Historic Opera House and a baby doll for Ellen,
a ghost that reportedly searches endlessly for her lost child. Cigars and card games are used to entice Dr. David Franklin Powell’s spirit at Mrs. B’s Historic Lanesboro Inn. He was a medical practitioner who caroused around town often in the late 1800s with Buffalo Bill Cody.
Getting evidence proving ghostly existence
Horvath’s team uses an array of equipment to help document sounds and images, from digital voice recorders to infrared camcorders. Horvath says there are four haunting types: residual (energy that doesn’t communicate), intelligent (entity responds to questions with action or sound), dimensional (pockets of different time periods that intersect), and visitors (spirits that stop in once in awhile to observe and then leave).
After the site visit, Horvath says team members “cut and clip together everything we think is evidence and then hold a debunking session where we watch and listen together and verify what is seen and heard.” Every minute recorded needs evaluation and Horvath’s team records several hours during each site visit. An average debunking session takes six to seven hours, but hopefully by session’s end Horvath’s team has the evidence they are searching for.
Haunted locales around Rochester
Two famous haunted landmarks are Mantorville’s Opera House and Lanesboro’s Mrs. B’s. However, there are many other locations where Horvath has documented paranormal evidence: various private homes, several abandoned cemeteries, the Plummer House and Stoppel Farmstead. Ghostly voices have been heard and recorded at Canvas & Chardonnay (317 South Broadway) and at Rochester Civic Theatre. Theatre staff members have also reported a physical apparition: a man dressed in green pants sitting in the theater’s front row; he vanishes when someone says, “Show’s over.”
Fall paranormal opportunities
Intrigued? Horvath offers ghost hunting community education classes. GH101 is an introductory class; GH201 offers more in-depth information, including a look at the darker side of some haunted sites and advice on safe and effective paranormal investigations. After completing the first two courses, students can enroll in GH301 and participate in a ghost hunt outing to a local site.
Another option: Rochester Trolley & Tour Company’s Haunted Trolley Tour. Horvath is the host. With GH301 and the trolley tour, Horvath hopes “to attract people who want [paranormal] experiences” but acknowledges she can’t guarantee these experiences. Why? Well, ghosts are unpredictable. However, what can be guaranteed is a unique educational experience that may make participants believe there’s a possibility that ghosts do coexist with the living.
Amy Hahn is a freelance writer and published romance author. She has a master’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and is pursuing a certificate in historic preservation.