Amidst the rich wood paneling and the floral wallpaper at Chaska's Peacock Inn, some say a man sits quietly in a cream upholstered chair on the landing of the stairs. And though many pass by him each day, few notice his presence. Kathy Machowski is one of those few.
That's because the man is not one of the living. He is a spirit and Machowski is a ghost hunter.
Machowski said she has had encounters with the paranormal since she was a little girl. Back then she didn't seek out the encounters, but today, she is among a growing number of people who do.
Machowski, who lives in Jordan, started Minnesota's Beyond the Veil to gather a group of those who, like her, were interested in delving deeper into the possibility of ghosts and using equipment to investigate strange occurrences in houses, churches, prisons, hospital and other older buildings.
Buoyed by interest in television programs like Ghost Hunters and Paranormal State, Machowski said her group is now busier than ever, fielding requests to investigate possible paranormal activity and lead ghost hunting classes.
They recently visited the Peacock Inn and Carver's Treasure Chest Antiques after hearing that people at both businesses had been witness to unexplained phenomena.
"Ghosts are real," said Machowski. "A lot of people co-exist with ghosts and don't even know it."
The Peacock Inn
Joyce Bohn has been well-aware of strange happenings at her business for years.
Guests at the Peacock Inn, located in a historic mansion off of City Square Park, have told her about rocking chairs rocking empty and cats jumping up on their beds in the middle of the night when there are no cats in the house. Flowers have fallen off of the wall for no good reason, and silverware has repeatedly gone missing at meals only to later be found back in the drawer.
"I'm a pretty logical person," said Bohn. "But there are not logical explanations for everything."
This spring, Joyce offered to open up the inn to Minnesota's Beyond the Veil to see what they could uncover.
Using standard ghost-hunting equipment like cameras, tape recorders and EMF (electromagnetic fluctuation) meters, Machowski's crew descended on the nearly 100-year-old building.
"I go in there expecting a ghost," said Machowski. "I expect to hear a ghost, see a ghost. You have to expect the most and if you get nothing, it's not haunted."
A typical session includes a walk through of the building, identifying and examining paranormal hot spots. "You're looking for things that shouldn't be there," said Machowski.
That can include things like unexplained levels of energy, random cold spots and anomalies on photographs. But ghost hunters also use their basic senses - listening for foot steps or watching for mists and shadows.
"Anyone can ghost hunt," she said. "All you really need is a camera and a tape recorder."
Machowski noted that there are several places that are now opening their doors to welcome ghost hunters. Bohn said she is considering letting in classes provided her "spirits" aren't disturbed. Bohn would like to keep her friendly spirits in good spirits.
"I've been to places where you get hit with a 'Get out!' but here you get a welcome feeling," Machowski said, of the Peacock Inn.
Her group got a chance to experience some of the activity Bohn and her guests have talked about. While going through the inn, the ghost hunters picked up some high EMF readings on a bed in one of the guest rooms.
"Half of the bed had a high EMF and half didn't," said Machowski, noting that spikes can often be explained by electrical current, but adding, "I couldn't find an explanation for that."
They captured some photographic anomalies downstairs - several photos taken during the investigation feature strange crescent moon-like images in unexpected places.
"I'm not going to say it's a ghost," said Machowski. "But it's interesting,"
The most exciting part of their investigation took place upstairs, Machowski said, where they experienced an unexplained thump as if something had dropped. They also report picking up EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) on their tape recorders with a man's voice telling them there were two spirits in the room and a little girl's voice saying "yes" when asked if she liked the room.
Some of their findings didn't make sense until after the crew had left though. During their investigation Kathy's psychic in the group said she picked up on a man named Arthur who kept telling her that the Peacock Inn was his house and that he greeted people. Later, Bohn put two and two together as she took down a photo in the foyer of the house's architect. His name was Arthur Klaussen.
"No one could have known that," she said.
After reviewing all of their evidence, Machowski was able to come to a conclusion as to whether or not the Peacock Inn was haunted.
"The spirits that are connected to the house are good," said Machowski. "They are protecting it. So I wouldn't say it's haunted. I would call it a spiritually protected house."
For Bohn, that sounds just about right. "I have always felt safe and secure in that house," she said. "And I've always wondered why.
"I never had answers before," she added. "It's nice to know why and what it is." continued below
Dennis Vogt knows how Bohn feels. In the last nine years that he has run Treasure Chest Antiques in downtown Carver, he has also had experiences he cannot explain.
"I'll be at work on the computer and someone will walk up behind me," he said. "But when I turn around, no one's there."
Vogt also reported hearing someone sneeze when the room is empty. Others in the 141-year-old building have reported things like temperature fluctuations and hearing things rattle.
"We didn't get that much activity there," Machowski reported after her first visit. Her team contacted Vogt about doing an investigation and first came through with their equipment in late April.
"It was different," Vogt said of the ghost hunter experience.
The crew noted a 20-degree temperature difference between rooms in the building and also picked up the sounds of a little girl talking on their tape recorders. But the majority of their experiences were personal ones.
"The team got chills," Machowski said. Most notably, they had consistent problems with their equipment at the store.
"Near the staircase the cameras kept going off like the batteries dried up," she said. "When they went away from the staircase, they worked again."
Machowski is still analyzing the data from their visit, noting that the process can take weeks to complete.
"This is actually research," she said. "It's science. You're exhausted when you're done."
But she hopes to return to the store for a second visit to collect more evidence of paranormal activity. "They do have spiritual activity there, but it's not very active," she concluded.
When asked how she reacts to people who don't believe in ghosts or ghost hunting, Machowski offered little defense and more philosophy.
"I've been criticized for ghost hunting," she acknowledged. "But I'm the one living the adventure."
For Machowski, ghost hunting provides her with proof of an afterlife. "There's always going to be a question of if there's life after death," said Machowski. "Which is exactly how it should be."
"But there's more to it," she continued. "Is this heaven? Is this hell? Are these people in limbo? There's a lot of questions. When I find the answer to one question, I open up the door to 10 more."
"This is my proof," she said. "I know there is life after death. I can't convince everyone but it's my proof. That's what keeps me coming back."
Vogt is still wavering on whether or not he believes in ghosts, but Bohn has come to a similar conclusion as Machowski after having the ghost hunters come through her inn.
"This really has changed how I think about death," she said. "It gives me comfort to believe there is something more.
"Who knows, maybe when I'm dead and gone I'll be here."