The spirits at Missouri Town 1855 have always been a lively group.
Yet, it is doubtful these 19th century ghosts would have ever imagined the technology of the 21st century revealing and recording their supernatural exploits and escapades, according to Hector Lugo, founder of 10th Dimension Paranormal Group.
At the second annual Missouri Town 1855 Paranormal Investigation Sept. 15, that’s exactly what visitors say happened. During the collaborative event, dozens of “ghost detectives” interacted with Missouri Town’s ethereal inhabitants through high-tech monitoring and recording devices.
“We want people to learn the history of Missouri Town through experience,” said Lugo, Saturday’s event coordinator.
“This is a combination of both ghost hunting and learning the history of this place,” he said of Missouri Town 1855, a 30-acre outdoor history museum located in Fleming Park in Lee’s Summit. “We’re looking back in time and bringing that to the future. Combining the two is intriguing, and it’s enjoyable and fun.”
The digital equipment used during the investigation records electrical energy. The equipment was set up at several of the village’s main buildings, where people like Lugo have been documenting spirit activity.
In the Blacksmith House, attendees requested spirits to turn on a group of flashlights sitting on a candlelit table. Flashlights turned on and off several times throughout the evening for the mesmerized ghost hunters. At the Squire’s House, a houseful of visitors watched a cabinet door open and close silently.
In the Tavern, 10th Dimension Paranormal Group historical investigator Joseph Mangiaracina asked for the name of a ghost, and a reply, “Jason,” was spoken in a soft child’s voice. The response was recorded on a digital audio device and then played over and over on a loud speaker for the awe-struck investigators.
Not everyone believes the answer to unusual motions and sounds have a ghostly explanation.
“It’s likely that those things happened at Missouri Town, but I would look for alternative explanations besides ghosts,” said Pat Linse, co-founder of the Skeptic Society, a nonprofit scientific and educational organization founded to investigate the paranormal and promote critical thinking. “A lot of people have electrical meters that measure magnetic fields, but who’s to say they really measure ghosts?”
Linse says that the idea of ghosts can, in fact, make history seem more exciting.
“People also suspend their disbelief, because they believe they’re in the presence of an authority and consider what they see as scientifically provable.”
Lugo, who has been in awe of the paranormal since he was a child and always believed what he has seen to be verifiable, had his first ghostly encounter when he was 7. In 1971, he started a paranormal investigation group in Germany and hundreds of paranormal encounters followed over the years.
In 2000, he and his wife, Pam, co-founded the 10th Dimension Paranormal Group in Blue Springs to expand their investigations and share their knowledge with others.
“We would be close-minded to think that this is all there is,” Lugo said. “There has to be more, and I have a lot of questions I would like answered. We are on one of many different dimensions. Forming this group, sharing experiences and gathering knowledge is one way of continuing this journey.”
Lugo says he has never feared ghosts.
“Ghosts are just like people you meet, and most people you meet are good. They don’t want to hurt you and won’t, unless you provoke them.”
Though many of Saturday’s attendees were first-time spirit sleuths, curiosity, not fear, was the big draw.
“It’s intriguing to think there’s something else out there besides what we think of as normal. I’m not afraid, just intrigued,” said J.T. Cornelius of Lee’s Summit.
Katie Fiorani, from Lee’s Summit, recalls some riveting childhood experiences with ghosts, but her fear is in the past.
“When I was young we thought our house was haunted and I was afraid for a while. But I’m not anymore.”
Fiorani ascribes to Vega’s philosophy.
“If you’re not bothering them, why would they bother you?” she said.
Elizabeth Collins of Lee’s Summit grew up watching “Ghost Hunters.”
“It’s naïve to think we’re the only ones here,” she said.
Missouri Town has long been a hotspot for reports of paranormal activity. Jonathan Klusmeyer, superintendent of historic sites for Jackson County Parks and Recreation, said staff members and guests have reported many otherworldly occurrences in the village’s buildings for years. Though most of this spirit activity appears to be benevolent, that has not always been the case, especially in the Squire’s House.
“You do get an uncomfortable feeling in the Squire’s House,” Klusmeyer said. “During one fall festival, a Civil War re-enactor stayed there. He told me something kept pulling on his sleeping bag drawstring while he was trying to sleep, and it nearly choked him. When I asked him if he ever wanted to sleep in there again, he said ‘no, never.’”
However, Klusmeyer noted that most of the Missouri Town spirit activity is simply playful.
“No one has ever been hurt or harmed here,” he said. “Typically, we just have orneriness and playfulness.”