Ghost Hunts and Tours at the Van Horn Mansion Mar 11, 2016 1:19:32 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Mar 11, 2016 1:19:32 GMT -5
Ghost Hunts and Tours at the Van Horn Mansion
BURT, N.Y. – Over the years, the Van Horn Mansion, located at 2165 Lockport-Olcott Road, has gotten a reputation for being a hot spot for paranormal activity and the house has many stories to tell about is almost 200-year-old history.
As the weather warms, activities will begin at the mansion, including the first ghost hunt of the year. Tickets are already sold out for the paranormal event, which will take place March 18 and 19. For those who enjoy the idea of chasing ghosts through dark hallways, but do not have a ticket, there will be several other ghost hunts scheduled throughout the spring and summer, led by Beyond Ghosts, a ghost-hunting organization, according to Rose Schaeffer, trustee of the Newfane Historical Society. The society has been working with Beyond Ghosts for the past several years and proceeds from the “hunts” help with the maintenance and upkeep of the mansion. “Believe me, an almost 200-year-old mansion, there [are] a lot of things going wrong constantly,” Schaeffer says of the care-taking costs.
Each Beyond Ghosts hunt is open to approximately 25 people. Schaeffer says some of those who attend are professionals with their own equipment, while others are first-time ghost hunters. The tours begin in the evening, with representatives from Beyond Ghosts explaining the equipment and showing attendees how and when to use the various gadgets. They discuss what to look for and how to behave during the event. The group then splits up, with groups rotating to different floors every hour. “The smaller the group you have, the more apt you are to hear something, see something,” Schaeffer claims. “I can’t even imagine or tell, after so long being here, when nothing didn’t happen. It always constantly happens.”
The mansion is also available for parties and weddings and can be rented for private ghost hunts throughout the year. According to Schaeffer, the Van Horn Mansion hosts many private ghost hunts, which are popular with pre-teens and teenagers. These events are held during the day with the lights off. “Kids love it,” she says. “Most of them watch Ghost Hunters and everything like that.” The mansion also hosts paranormal teas featuring psychic mediums.
Though the paranormal plays a significant role at the Van Horn, the history of the house is just as important. Schaeffer calls herself a “para-historian” because she deals with both history and the paranormal. As an example, she cites an incident wherein people saw a figure standing in front of the window in the carriage house which they described as a “hooded monk.” After doing some research, Schaeffer learned there was never a monk on the property, but there was a young man who once lived in the upstairs apartment of the carriage house. He was an ex-sailor and also a boxer and boxers often wear robes with hoods. “It’s finding where the paranormal and the history come into play,” she explains. “Connecting things is fascinating. It helps us learn more about the people who lived here in the past.”
According to Schaeffer, the mansion first opened for tours in the mid to late 90s, following the Newfane Historical Society’s restoration of the house. There is a tunnel in the basement that runs from the house to the creek and throughout the building, there are several “hiding cabinets,” which has led Schaeffer to believe the dwelling has connections to the Underground Railroad. The tunnel was sealed off because after a dam was constructed, animals started coming inside. The historical society is in the process of raising money to open the passage and cover the opening with plexiglass so that visitors can see into the tunnel.
As part of the historical celebration, a high tea is held each year and many of those attending wear costumes. This year’s Victorian-themed event will take place from noon to 4 p.m., Saturday, April 16. Imported teas, finger sandwiches, mini-pastries and fresh fruit will be served as someone plays the piano. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children and can be purchased by calling Schaeffer at (716) 727-9816. Also in April, the mansion will resume Sunday tours from 1 to 4 p.m.; those attending are asked to make a $5 donation to the historical society.
Ghosts and Demons. There have been tales of ghosts in the Van Horn Mansion for years and Mason Winfield included the house in his book, Haunted Places of Western New York. “Roofers noted spectral faces looking out of the windows,” Winfield wrote. “Motorists skidded to avoid hitting a little girl who ran from the mansion and then vanished.”
The mansion’s best-known spirit is that of Malinda, the wife of James Van Horn. She is still on the property in more ways than one: the lady is buried behind the mansion and her grave is illuminated by a spooky white light. For years there have been whispers and rumors as to how she died. According to Winfield, Mrs. Van Horn was killed when she was hit by a falling tree limb. Schaeffer believes she was murdered in the attic, and one tour guide insisted Van Horn threw his wife from the second-floor balcony.
During tours, Schaeffer points to a saddle donated to the mansion which has a demon attached to it and it isn’t some minor peon of a demon, according to Schaeffer, it’s a “high-ranking demon.” The house seems to have become something of a magnet for creepy items: a mirror was deemed so “evil” that it was banished to the carriage house.
Sources: Rikki Carson, The Niagara Gazette, March 9, 2016, and Mary Kunz Goldman, The Buffalo News, October 15, 2015.