October 26, 2021

Tour taps into things that go bump in the night

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Psychic Anne Knight is shown Friday discussing previous alleged paranormal events linked to the 1890 House Museum in Cortland. Knight was conducting the annual ‘Spirits in the Castle’ tour at the 126-year-old mansion, which is said to be haunted.

About 15 minutes into a tour Friday night of the 1890 House Museum, a lone flashlight set in the middle of the basement flickered on like magic.

The unusual occurrence happened during the annual ‘Spirits in the Castle’ tour at the 126-year-old building, which is said to be haunted.

The tour, also hosted Saturday night, drew about 30 people Friday and was led by Cortland native and psychic, Anne Knight. Knight has been hosting the tour at the house since 2009, she said.

Before the tour, Knight said that past experiences have led her and others to believe that spirits of certain members of the Wickwire family, who built and lived in the mansion for generations, still call the museum home. “They (the spirits) are pretty friendly,” Knight said.

In recent years, Knight and the museum staff have experienced poltergeist activity while in the building, she said. She cited instances of chairs moving around, doors opening and closing by themselves and lights turning on and off by themselves.

Meg Hutchins, director of the museum, who started her job at the 1890 House in April, said she too experienced unexplained phenomenon. “About a week into being here, I was in my office on the third floor when all the windows (in the office) flew open.”

This year’s tour took the group through six rooms of the house known to be activity hotspots, with the first stop in the basement.

With the use of a spirit box — a machine which filters rapidly through radio waves allowing spirits to stop the signal to produce sounds as well as words — Knight apparently communicated with at least one supposed spirit in the room during the tour. Knight asked, “Can you please turn on the flashlight in the room?” she asked.

After seconds of silence and darkness, a flashlight placed on the floor of the room flickered on and that was only the beginning of the night’s activity.

While the group stood in the library with lights off, Steve Bui, a member of the group, had his own experience. “I thought I heard, … no, I know I heard someone whisper, ‘hello’ in my ear.”

But there was nobody behind Bui, where the voice came from.

After the group made its way through other hotspots, including the master bedroom and two servants quarters, they finally ended in the third-floor ballroom.

The room had a history of being Chester Wickwire’s “man cave,” Knight said. In the left-hand side of the room sat the original pool table, which belonged to Wickwire himself.

While in the ballroom, a few guests played a couple of hands of poker, making sure to deal in Chester’s ghost, and from there it wasn’t long until the spirit box had words coming from it once again.

During the first hand of cards, a man’s voice could reportedly be heard saying “three,” in response to the dealer asking each player how many cards they wished to swap out.

Even though a full body apparition was not seen during the nighttime tour, all other activity had made a good impression on guests.

“It was fun and interesting,” said Danielle Tracy of Cortland.

Tracy recalled taking a tour of the museum on a school field trip as a little girl.

“This was a good experience to see it (the house) from a different point of view,” she said.

As far as believing in the paranormal, Tracy said before coming into the house she was a believer and the experience reinforced that belief.