Local haunts: Paranormal group investigates downtown restaurant
By Shannon McCarthy
Most of the time, Dan Jungles said, it's like watching paint dry. Often, Jungles and his team members can spend hours, even overnight at a location and still get nothing. But sometimes, they'll catch something. A recorded voice that can't be explained. A photo of someone who wasn't there. You could sit for eight hours and get nothing, said group member Tom Wilson. But that one or two seconds you get on a recorder makes everything worth it. What Jungles and his colleagues are looking for is evidence of the paranormal.
Founder of the Will County Ghost Hunters Society, Jungles spends most of his weekends conducting investigations into reports of ghostly activity at private homes, businesses and cemeteries. Jungles said the group is booked solid every weekend through April. The past six months, it's been all homes and private businesses, he said. Armed with temperature gauges, EMF (electromagnetic field) detectors, cameras, audio recorders and video recorders, the group investigates
reported hauntings from a scientific perspective. We never accept anything right off as paranormal, Jungles said, explaining the investigators attempt to debunk hauntings by looking for other explanations for the phenomena.
On Feb. 23, the ghost hunters conducted their second investigation of Baci Ristorante in downtown Plainfield. The outing is one of three investigations that will be part of a special featured on WYJS-62, which broadcasts throughout Chicagoland, this spring. The second investigation came after a Dec. 8, 2007, visit to Baci yielded two interesting findings. Audio recordings taken by investigators turned up two voices, or EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), the ghost hunters couldn't explain. The voice of a female was recorded in a banquet room, while in another room, a man's vocie could be heard saying, Follow me, Jungles said. EVPs are the most common evidence gathered by paranormal investigators. Voices are the easiest thing to pick up, because it takes the least amount of energy, Jungles said. Typically, investigators do not hear the voices at the time a recording is made. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, you never hear anything, Jungles said. It's afterward, when you're reviewing (evidence).
The ghost hunters society investigated Baci after a team member, who previously worked there as a bartender and waitress, said staff have reported some strange goings-on. Catherine Costello said bartenders and staff have reported voices and even apparitions in the restaurant, built in 1868 by the Unitarian Church. Costello has worked at the restaurant on and off for years, she said. There's a lot of things that have happened, Costello said, including a radio that seemed to play of its own volition even when it was unplugged. I'd unplug it, and it would come on anyway, she said. Costello said staff members have also reported hearing an apparently mischievous voice calling their names. In the back bar, there's something that will call your name when you're busy, she said. Other staff members have reported seeing the apparition of a man in a pin-striped suit. During a bartending shift, Costello herself saw something strange. A couple sitting at the upstairs bar asked Costello to take their photograph with a digital camera. I took the picture, and there were three people in it, she said. Even more startling, she said, was that the man in the photo appeared to be intentionally posing with the couple. Costello also believes she once conversed with a ghost, whom she mistook for Baci owner John Perri. I saw this man standing there, and I thought it was John, she said. After chatting with the man for several minutes and getting no response, Costello said she looked up to find no one was there.
As for Perri, he was somewhat more skeptical of the reported ghostly goings-on at his restaurant. I don't know if they're going to find anything or not, Perri said of the investigation. I've been here alone, and I've never seen anything. Perri did acknowledge hearing things he couldn't explain. When we first opened up, we didn't have a radio system in here, he said. An employee brought in an old-fashioned clock radio. It played eight-track tapes, and it had to be plugged in, he said.
One morning, Perri arrived at work to hear music playing. I thought (a waitress) must have put the music on, he said. She thought I must have put it on. When it was time to open, it wasn't playing anymore. Perri went to check the radio, only to find that it was not plugged in but the radio dial was still lit. It wasn't plugged in, but the numbers were still working, he said. So I just took it down, he said, laughing. I really didn't want it in the building. Over the years, Perri said, staff members have reported hearing voices and getting the chills in an area of the building that is believed to be located above what used to be a walkway between the old church and the rectory. Still, Perri is unconvinced that the building is haunted. I haven't really seen anything, he said.
As with any investigation, Jungles said, his group researched the building's history before beginning. While it has been known as Baci for nearly two decades, the building originally was a Unitarian church. In 1920, Costello said, it was sold to the Catholic Church and until the late 1960s was the original home of St. Mary Immaculate Parish. Since then, the building has housed restaurants, first The Sanctuary and then Mandy's steakhouse before becoming Baci. Jungles said it could take weeks for investigators to go through all the findings from their visit to Baci. Members will have to review all the video and audio recordings before they know if they caught any activity. It takes us about two weeks to review everything, he said.
With up to eight cameras and recorders, that could mean sitting through 64 hours of video and audio. For the most part, ghost hunting is really boring, Jungles said. Most of the time, you don't get anything.
Even so, Jungles remains dedicated to investigating the paranormal. My wife doesn't like this quote, he said, but I tell people, It's not a job, it's not a hobby it's an obsession. It doesn't end after we leave (an investigation). Jungles became interested in ghost hunting after moving into his Shorewood home six years ago. I've always been interested in the paranormal, he said. But after moving into the home with his wife and infant son, he said, weird things started happening. Baby toys would start going off on their own, sometimes with no batteries in them. After looking into the history of his own home and researching the paranormal, Jungles began investigating local cemeteries. Soon, friends and family became interested in his findings. So I started the Web site, he said. Jungles launched www. aghostpage.com and began taking friends and family members on investigations. I started the group in 2004, and we started getting contacted by more businesses and homes to come and do investigations, he said. The Will County Ghost Hunters Society now has about 300 members, 25 of whom are active investigators. Members come from throughout the area, including Shorewood, Joliet, Lyons and as far away as Zion.
Plainfield resident Todd Boreham is relatively new to the team. The Feb. 23 investigation was his fifth time out, said Boreham. Like Jungles, Boreham got involved in the group due to a longtime fascination with the paranormal. I've had some experiences, he said, but it's always been something that interested me. After researching area ghost tours and paranormal Web sites, Borehamfound the Will County Ghost Hunters Society and e-mailed Jungles. Soon, he was going on investigations. Jill Boreham, his wife, is supportive of her husband's hobby, but admitted that she worries when he's out investigating. Our house looks like an airport landing strip, she joked, saying she leaves all the lights on when her husband is on overnight investigations.Admitting that she's easily spooked when it comes to the paranormal, Jill said her curiosity often gets the better of her. As soon as he comes home, I'm (saying), What did you find? she said.
Ghost hunting isn't a money-making hobby for Jungles and his team.Everything we do is free, he said. It's just time consuming, and it takes a lot out of you. Even so, the investigators main priority is to help the families and business owners who come to them. Often, homeowners are reluctant to contact the investigators. For every 10 leads, it's probably down to three or four (investigations) that we actually do, Jungles said. There's a lot of situations where one or two people in the house experience things and others don't, said Wilson, a Shorewood resident. In those cases, homeowners are reluctant to report activity for fear of being labeled crazy. We can help those people and help the others in the household understand that there's something there, Wilson said. In other cases, it's the fear of the unknown that stops homeowners from calling. Most people, when they hear the word ghost, think of the movies, and it's nothing like that at all, he said, adding he frequently reassures homeowners that there is nothing to fear. They're usually not scared for themselves, they're scared for their kids, Jungles said. Most of the time, clients are happy with the findings. The vast majority are relieved after we come, Jungles said. Their questions have been answered, he said.
The Baci investigation will be part of a special that will likely air on WYJS-62 in late spring. The show will also feature an investigation of the P. Seth Magosky Museum of Victorian Life at Joliet's Hiram B. Scutt Mansion, as well as a private residence that was once a local funeral home.For more information on the Will County Ghost Hunters Society, visit www.aghostpage.com.