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Fishing for a Phantom

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Fishing for a Phantom

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Photo by Elena Fiegen

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I am not sure what to expect when I arrive at the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear. I have passed the museum before, but never thought much of it. But partnering with the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee is what makes this visit truly unique.

I walk into the museum lobby and greet two PIMs. Noah Leigh, the founder and lead investigator of PIM, and Michael Graeve, a senior investigator, stand with several large cases full of unfamiliar gadgets, special cameras and audio recorders. Leigh and Graeve begin to set up cameras on the first, second and third floors. I begin to talk with the curator of the museum, Joel Willems, to learn more of the place’s history and the possible ghosts that haunt the location.

Since 1869, the house has served a number of different purposes, almost all of which have artifacts still in the museum today. The house was home to Daniel Shultz and his family, and before that, a man named Albert Seeboth obtained the house with his family, which included his daughter, Emily. Emily is one of the ghosts rumored to linger on the premises. After the Seeboths moved out, Dr. Joseph J. Eisenberg moved in and ran his clinic out of the house.

Weeks after a museum-goer claims to have seen a young girl in the house, Willems finds a mysterious mini chalkboard with the name Emily written on it.

It is not until 1966 that artifact collector Avrum Chudnow purchases the house.

Chudnow, a 1937 Marquette Law School graduate, used the home for his management company and law office. As his collection of antiques and artifacts expanded, Chudnow began to display some of his items around his office. By the time of his passing in 2005, Chudnow accumulated many one-of-a kind artifacts and his family settled on the house and his old office for the location of the official Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear. The museum did not open until 2012 due to remodeling needs.

While the museum cycles through several exhibits a year, permanent aspects like a first-floor drugstore, train station and a second-floor toy store remain. Even a doctor’s office complete with a life-size mannequin of Dr. Eisenberg sitting at a desk stays as visitors tell Willems they’ve felt uneasy because they swear the mannequin moves.

The third floor is not open to the public.

The PIMs instruct Willem to shut off the power in the house and head home for the evening as soon as the history lesson ends. Marquette Wire videographer Larson Seaver, photographer Elena Fiegen and myself are now alone in a dark museum with Leigh, Graeve and now investigator Brandon Rugzie, who shows up late.

Leigh explains the ground rules for investigating. He tells us how important it is to remain silent and listen for responses from possible ghosts. If any of us accidentally make a noise, like a sneeze or a stomach growl, he instructs us to immediately say in a loud voice, “It was me.” This allows the investigators to label different time stamps of the recording so they won’t misread a normal sound for being paranormal.

Another aspect of paranormal investigating is to have all investigators spread out so it is easier to track the location of a given sound.

Once we all situate ourselves in different locations, we begin with a moment of silence to hear the natural noises of the house. We begin to ask questions in an attempt to communicate with ghosts. Leigh, Graeve and Rugzie ask the majority.

They encourage us to speak, though the PIMs explain we are unlikely to get a response.

It’s unsettling sitting in a supposedly haunted museum in complete silence waiting for any slight noise as a response to questions.

Some questions are simple. “Who are you?” or “How old are you?” Others are a bit more nerve-wracking: “If there is someone in here, tap the shoulder of the person you like the least,” or “Emily, is that you?” “Dr. Eisenberg are you here?” “Do you like what Mr. Joel has done with the place?”

We ask questions and hear a knock or thud, usually coming from a different floor than the one we are on. If the noise wasn’t any of us, the PIMs document and time stamp the sound to review for later.

The floors get scarier as we go up. After a fairly uneventful first floor, we make our way to the set of stairs. The PIMs set up a small table in the doctor’s office. They place two bullets standing upright, a deck of cards with the ace of diamonds face up on top, a pair of dice, a lone cigarette and a cigar still in its plastic wrap on the desk. They say these items are things that can hold sentimental value for people and tie ghosts to the real world. For example, if someone was a smoker when they were alive, they might feel comfort by the sight of a cigarette or cigar. The dice and the bullets are meant to easily track whether movement occurred or not.

I am told to choose between the second-floor doctor’s office or movie theater to settle into. I can’t decide which is scarier, but I choose the comfy theater seat. We then purposely position all the other seats upward in hopes that a ghost will flip one down to take a seat. After five minutes, Rugzie asks a question.

“If there’s someone here, could you take a seat in the theater next to Mackane?”

As we listen for a response, I hear a noise close to me. I ask the other five if it was them, but they deny it. I shine my flashlight, but none of the seats appear to be in a different position.

We try to recreate the creaking noise I heard and when we flip the seats near me, I am positive it’s the same sound. Neither of us are able to make sense of this. Upon more questioning, nothing happens.

The third floor, our final stop, is not open to the pubic. There are more than a dozen doorways on this floor and each room is full of artifacts like old signs, boxes of documents, even a baby carriage and a ventriloquist dummy. Some rooms are too cluttered to enter but PIMs instruct me to sit at the far end of the hall in a doorway of one of the offices.

The PIMs begin asking questions, but this time the questions are much more intense and specific.

“Why did you do it?” Rugzie asks. “Did they do something to make you mad?”

“They never found the seventh body, can you tell us where it is?” Leigh says.

The questions get more intense as the three PIMs all ask about a gruesome murder of seven people. Elena, Larson and I all manage to exchange concerned looks in the dark.

After we finish the third floor, I ask the PIMs if they were trying to scare us with the murder details. They don’t answer and instead, tell us to Google it.

I did. And found nothing.

It’s safe to say that even ghost hunters can appreciate a good prank and a man-made scare. As for any confirmed ghostly presence, the PIMs will continue to examine footage for several more weeks.

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About the Writer
Mackane Vogel, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Mackane Vogel is a junior from Baltimore, Maryland. He is studying journalism and has worked for the Arts & Entertainment desk since his freshman year.

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