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Tales of strange noises, odd happenings, ghosts reappearing in familiar places

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On the surface, each location might seem inviting and warm.

A staid brick building on Franklin College’s campus serves as the nerve center of the school. A renovated cabaret theater where patrons listen to music, comedy routines and vaudeville shows.

In the middle of a country road near Amity, a small monument has been made around a gravesite that family members refused to have moved.

But each of these places has a haunted history.

A-Hunting We Will Go

When: 7 to 8 p.m. today

Where: Johnson County Public Library White River branch, 1664 Library Blvd., Greenwood

What: Representatives from Hoosier Paranormal Research will discuss past investigations

Cost: Free; open to teens and adults. Register by calling 885-1330.

If you go

What: Ghost Hunting 101

When: 7 to 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Johnson County Museum of History, 135 N. Main St., Franklin

What: Representatives from the Dadsville Ghost Hunters will discuss the basics of their investigations. The program is part of the museum’s Late-Night Genealogy event going on from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Cost: Free, though people are asked to call 346-4500 to reserve a spot in the program.

This Halloween season, check out some of the area’s ghostly past. Reports of unusual sounds, strange appearances and paranormal activity can be found throughout Johnson County.

People have seen ghostly figures in Franklin College’s Old Main building and wailing in Edinburgh’s Pixy Theatre. Strange appearances are common at the infamous Grave in the Middle of the Road, and a woman in white walks the corridors of the Johnson County Museum of History.

“This county has a lot to investigate. A lot of the places that people know, like the museum or the Willard, have stories behind them,” paranormal investigator Sarah Steele said.

Steele, a Franklin resident, has built a hobby out of documenting and investigating the unexplainable. She and her husband, Scott, formed the Dadsville Ghost Hunters in 2010.

Named after the Ohio ghost town where Scott Steele grew up, the group relies on scientific readings such as temperature gauges, video and sound recordings and electromagnetic field detectors.

They focus on historical locations, looking for haunted hot spots in central Indiana by pouring over records and stories of people.

“We try to validate the history of a location, if that is causing a paranormal event, and if the people involved in the story even were real. We want to match that with the paranormal claims that people are making,” she said.

The group has done investigations at the Johnson County Museum of History and the Pixy Theater. Those are only a few of the supposedly haunted places throughout the area.

“We try to look for local hotspots. Every year, we’re adding more and more to our list of places to investigate,” she said.

Old Main

College campuses are notorious for stories of haunting, and Franklin College is no different.

The epicenter of its paranormal activity is the Old Main building, located at the edge of campus. Rising like a Gothic cathedral, it has the look of a haunted house with its pointed spire. A reputation backs it up.

Reports have circulated throughout the years of a ghost named Charlie who lives in the building’s Custer Theater. The theater opened in 1888, originally intended as the library. The space became the college chapel in later years, as well as a performing arts center.

The legend states that Charlie was either a French student or a professor of French, who hung himself in the campus bell tower. While there is no record of anything like this happening, the myth has continued on, said Wanda Lou Willis, author of “Haunted Hoosier Trails.”

Students have reported frightening evidence of Charlie’s existence, though.

One time, a student was practicing the piano on stage when a face appeared in front of him. The face was sneering, causing the student to run out of the theater, Willis said.

Another time, a man was in the theater and felt that he wasn’t alone. A deep voice boomed for him to get out, and the student fled.

But while the stories have persisted, the theater is still used for campus events throughout the year with no incidents.

Boggstown Cabaret

Strange things have been happening at the Boggstown Cabaret Supper Club for decades.

Pianos seem to play themselves. Footsteps boom throughout the theater. Cold spots are felt in the middle of rooms that are otherwise warm.

Stories of the club’s haunted nature have circulated for generations. The building that houses it, located in the tiny town of Boggstown just across the Shelby County line, was built in 1873.

Throughout time, it has housed a men’s club, barber shop, athletic club and general store. The cabaret has operated in it since 1984, with the stories of haunted activity following.

Though people stream in during the weekends for dinner and shows, that hasn’t scared away the supposed spooks that haunt the building.

Staff members often come in contact with something they can’t explain, performer Julie Powers said.

People have felt some kind of apparition come into their dressing rooms. Lights will go on and off without reason. Reports say that people have seen furniture move around by itself.

In the middle of a performance, a heavy glass exploded in front of the audience. The most recent sighting of a full apparition was two years ago, when a woman thought she saw a little boy dressed in 1930s clothing in the theater’s lobby.

When she went to ask him what he was doing, she found the boy had disappeared, Powers said.

But the unusual activity doesn’t affect ticket sales. The cabaret still plays to full houses, ghosts or no ghosts.

For the performers, the activity is just a unique aspect of their jobs.

“It happens so frequently, you don’t really think anything of it,” Powers said.

Museum of History

The mysterious “lady in white” has been said to haunt the third floor of the Johnson County Museum of History for more than 100 years.

Museum employees could hear people walking down the hallway when there was no one there. Different noises will seemingly come out no where.

And a white-clad figure has been spotted on numerous occasions.

“This building was originally built as a Masonic lodge back in 1894. Even dating back then, there were reports of women wearing a white dress appearing,” said Sarah Steele, co-founder of the Dadsville Ghost Hunters.

The Dadsville Ghost Hunters have investigated the museum this year.

From their research, they have found that the building has been used at different times as a meeting place for both the Masons and the Order of the Eastern Star, as well as a facility for the American Red Cross during World War II.

During an on-site visit, the group caught a jumble of voices on digital recorder.

“They were female, some you could hear, and others we couldn’t make out,” Steele said.

The ghost hunters have not found in the historical record what might be the cause of the haunting but plan to continue looking for a restless spirit who might be residing there.

“We’re still doing some homework and doing some digging. It’s an ongoing project for us,” she said.

Pixy Theatre

The investigators from Dadsville Ghost Hunters couldn’t believe what they were hearing.

A loud slamming, metal sound was showing up on their video recordings of the Pixy Theatre in downtown Edinburgh. They had been right there when the recordings were made, but had not heard anything.

But the proof was there on their sound clips.

“We were all there, and we would have noted it when it happened. But we didn’t hear it at the time,” said Sarah Steele, co-founder of the Dadsville Ghost Hunters.

Visitors to the Pixy have often complained of hearing similar sounds themselves. Loud metal clangs and unusual noises have become normal for the people who work and perform in the theater.

The Pixy Theatre, built in 1907, was formerly a Masonic lodge for the town before transitioning into everything from a movie theater to an opera house. Mike Harding bought it in 2008, renovated it and turned it into a community showroom for plays, concerts and other performing arts.

Slamming doors and strange footsteps have persisted in the Pixy. Performers told of one time when they were on stage and a heavy side door flew open with no one behind it, Steele said.

In their initial investigation, the Dadsville Ghost Hunters didn’t uncover anything. But sound recordings had picked up the strange loud noises, Steele said.

They can’t explain why the noises show up and have not uncovered any back story that would indicate why it might be haunted, Steele said.

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