There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
- "Hamlet," by William Shakespeare
Don't call John B. Kachuba a ghost hunter. He describes himself as a "regular Joe," albeit one interested in all things paranormal, including some in northwest Ohio.
The Athens, Ohio, resident and adjunct English professor at Ohio University is one of the most sought-after speakers during this Halloween season. He has two ghost-hunting books under his belt about haunted places in Ohio and Illinois. And he's working on a third work of nonfiction about national haunted digs and the entire cottage industry of ghosts and ghost-hunting, scheduled to be released by Emmis Books next fall.
Mr. Kachuba's books are part of the publisher's Haunted Heartland series.
He travels the country in search of the supernatural, investigating inns, libraries, cemeteries, museums, historic homes, forts, restaurants, and other locales.
Still, he's not a ghost hunter. So what gives?
"I met Ed and Lorraine Warren, two of the premier ghost hunters. They were the team allowed to enter [and investigate] the Amityville Horror home. I got to know them and it piqued my interest in things paranormal," said Mr. Kachuba, author of Ghosthunting Ohio (Emmis Books, 2004).
His book includes northwest Ohio locations said to be haunted such as the Collingwood Arts Center in Toledo, the Columbian House in Waterville, Fort Meigs in Perrysburg, and the Isaac Ludwig Mill in Grand Rapids.
"I'm not a psychic. I'm not a ghost hunter. I'm just a writer. But, I'm totally open to all of this stuff," he said.
While Mr. Kachuba said he relies more on other people's tales, he admits to being "a little anxious" and experiencing a unique sensation when he visited the Collingwood Arts Center, 2413 Collingwood Blvd.
The mansion with elaborate brickwork and climbing vines was first used by the Roman Catholic Ursuline sisters as a school in 1905, and served as Mary Manse College. It later was the nuns' convalescent and retirement center and today houses residential space and art and music studios.
"I got a strong sensation in their basement. It was one of the first places I visited in Ohio," Mr. Kachuba said. "The artists there say there's a black shadowy figure that they call Shadow Man who moves through the basement, which is a long warren of corridors ...
"I was walking down this dark hall and I sort of hit a patch of air that felt very thick. When that happened, I got this overwhelming sense of anxiety and depression. I just kept walking and pushed through it, but when I got five or six feet away I asked myself, 'What was that?' " Mr. Kachuba recalled. In the book, he states, "It was as though I had walked through a cloud of negative energy."
He reported that a nun visiting the center several years ago who used to live there said she believed the figure to be the ghost of Sister Angelique, a nun who was said to have hanged herself in the basement during the 1950s.
Mr. Kachuba added that some of the residents have reported seeing nuns in the center's theater. He took photographs of the dimly lit area and said two orbs appeared in several of his photos. Many seasoned photographers believe orbs, or the transparent balls of light that appear in photographs, to be energy transferred from other sources such as a power line or furnace. Others believe orbs to be dust.
"There might be logical explanations," Mr. Kachuba said. "However, they weren't visible when I was taking the shots, and the director of the center said where the orbs were showing on the picture is the same place where people say they see two or three nuns sitting there," he said.
At Fort Meigs, 29100 West River Rd. in Perrysburg, a structure from the War of 1812, Mr. Kachuba said staffers and volunteers told him of many experiences such as the account of three Canadian women who visited the fort in the wee hours of the morning and said they witnessed an entire battery in action.
"Other volunteers say they've seen a [Native American] face, or heard sounds. When I visited, I could really sense the gravity of what happened there. Some of the soldiers are buried there on the grounds in unmarked graves. I think places like that carry a certain energy," he said.
Mr. Kachuba said his explorations have opened his mind to the idea of supernatural experiences.
"I get tongue-tied because there could be an explanation to all of this, but I'm very open to the idea of spirits. In some way, we go on after we die. We are creatures of energy, and we most likely transform to something else. There's some essence of us that goes on. So to my mind, it's totally conceivable that those on Earth can make contact with, or accidentally encounter, someone who has gone on ... it's all possible," he said.
His wife, Mary A. Newman, an environmental health scientist, always has a logical explanation for his sources' ghost theories, and she sometimes accompanies Mr. Kachuba on his explorations.
"When it comes to Halloween, my wife says to me, 'That's when your people are out,' " Mr. Kachuba said with a laugh.
Contact Rhonda B. Sewell at: email@example.com