I’m not any easily frightened person. No Freddys creep amongst my dreams, no Jasons stalk my every move. So when I got a Groupon to go ghost hunting in the mail, I was picturing myself in full-on Ghostbusters mode, complete with a proton pack and Dan Aykroyd standing next to me talking about “real wrath of God type stuff,” rather than a scene straight from a Stephen King novel. So I made an appointment to investigate the John Wornall house, an 1800s manor on 61st and Wornall that’s part of the KC Historic Homes Society. Challenge accepted.
After becoming sufficiently paranoid after my “Paranormal Activity” marathon, I arrive at the John Wornall house. It looms above me in the darkness—an umbral, shadowed entity waiting for me to divulge its secrets. I step into the darkness wearing two sweatshirts and a coat, yet shivers still rack my body. I hope it was just the night air.
The last thing I hear is the man at registration calling out, semi-seriously, “If you need a diaper, we take cash or checks.”
An hour passes as I amble around the grounds and examine ghost hunting equipment. I finally meet my fellow ghost hunters: a motley crew of grandmothers, motor-bikers and a few curious stragglers. The leader of the Missouri Paranormal Society (MOPS), Justin, explains his group’s purpose and history behind the John Wornall house. This is the group’s 13th year communicating with the lingering descendants of John Wornall, and they claim that activity has been pretty frequent this year. I would be the judge of that.
Our troupe splits up: half go into the main house, and half remain in the carriage house. I’m sent to the house first, where I’m briefed on the procedure for exploring the house. First, we are to do a sweep of each room checking for spikes in temperature (five-degree difference) and EMF (energy level) readings. If there were spikes in temperature coupled with high EMF readings, then we were to alert the group and try to communicate with the “being.” We would spend 15 minutes in each of the seven rooms in the house.
I have come down from my initial adrenaline high. The most we have accomplished is feeling a few cold spots in various places in the room. No noises. No apparitions. No communication. That is, until we get to the kitchen.
After finding a correlating temperature and EMF spike in the kitchen, our group sits down in a circle. We prepare for communication by taking a simple twist flashlight and setting it to the point where a touch would turn it on or off. Placing it in the middle of the circle, far from any living thing, we sit and wait. Caitlin, our leader and head analyst for MOPS, then calls out in a voice that pierces the dead silence.
“Are there any spirits in this room? If yes, please give the flashlight a tap to turn it on.”
At first, there is nothing but the pitch blackness of the room.
“If we are communicating with a spirit in the room, please just tap the light off.”
This time it’s instantaneous.
“Are we communicating with Eliza [lady of the house]? If yes, please turn on the light. If no, don’t do anything.”
The light remains off. We continue on this way, asking some more questions, yet the light’s flashing becomes sporadic. I knew something strange was going on, even if I wasn’t sure I believed in ghosts. My curiosity is once again intrigued, and we move on to the upstairs landing of the house.
We enter what used to be the room of Mitty, an adopted child the Wornall’s. She is reportedly one of the most contacted spirits of the estate, so I felt hopeful for more signs of supernatural presences. Sitting in a circle once again, we put the flashlight in the middle of the circle. Caitlin begins again.
“Mitty, are you here with us? Please tap the light on if yes.”
Instantaneously the light pops on. I couldn’t believe it was happening again.
“Are you alone?”
The light shuts off abruptly.
“Are you here to play?”
The light flickers on.
We pry into Mitty’s life, trying to figure out why she’s still around. She only reveals that she still wants to play with her corn-husk doll, and refuses to talk unless presented with Oreos. Slowly, Mitty appears to run out of energy, and the light flashes come slower and slower. Soon, the light flickers out completely and the room is still again.
I leave the hunt to try and grab my five hours of sleep for my soccer game later that morning. As I quietly excuse myself, turning to thank Caitlin for the events of the night, I reach out to return my dead flashlight to her.
Suddenly the light flickers in my hand, then returns to black: a ghostly wave goodbye.
While I came out of the ordeal without being inundated in the remains of a 600-pound melted Stay Puft man, I did develop a new appreciation for the spiritually unknown. I may not be entirely convinced of the existence of ghosts – but I’ve locked up all the flashlights in my house in my Hello Kitty safe anyway.