Reports of ghostly children and phantom house cats have haunted the Fairport Harbor Marine Museum and Lighthouse for years, spooking residents and lighthouse volunteers alike.
When others ran scared, Ohio Researchers of Banded Spirits, a group of self-described paranormal investigators, decided to put those rumors to rest.
Armed with night-vision cameras, electronic recorders and other high-tech devices, the team of ghost hunters recently set out to investigate and, team members hoped, confirm reports of spirit activity at the site.
The investigation lasted through the night, with teams of ghost hunters combing the lighthouse for clues and rigging cameras to capture their ghostly quarry on film. Investigators also planted "trigger objects" to get the spirits to react.
The lighthouse, located at 129 Second St. in Fairport Harbor, has long been a part of local ghost stories. Legend holds that several spirits inhabit the lighthouse and museum, including the specter of a 5-year-old boy believed to be the son of an 1800s lighthouse keeper.
The site also is thought to be the haunt of a ghostly house cat. After several sightings of the cat by lighthouse volunteers, workers discovered the body of a mummified feline in the museum building's crawl space in 2001. ORBS investigators believe the spirit of that cat still resides in the museum building.
During the investigation, the ghost hunters spoke aloud in rooms they thought might contain spirits, asking the ghosts questions about their lives. Even if humans can't hear the ghosts respond, the team's electronic voice recorders can pick up the spirits' answers, ORBS co-founder Amy Cobb said.
"We get voices back (on the recording) that weren't there when we were talking," Cobb said.
She said ORBS has recorded the mysterious voices on most of the dozen or so investigations the group has conducted.
Another way investigators said they can speak to the dead is by using a "ghost radio." The device, a modified AM/FM radio, is thought to let spirits speak to the living by manipulating radio signals. Investigators ask questions of spirits they think might be near and listen for a response over the radio.
Because the device can pick up any radio signal, it can produce skewed results, investigators said. Nevertheless, the team considers it a valuable tool. Project Manager Karlo Zuzic said his own name once came across the ghost radio during an investigation and co-founder Chris Page said he once argued with a hostile ghost using the device.
Although ORBS members' goal at the lighthouse was to find ghosts, they made sure to show respect to the spirits and the lighthouse staff, Page said.
Team members spoke gently at the lighthouse to keep from scaring the alleged spirits of the boy and the cat.
Page and Cobb, both of Fremont, founded ORBS in 2007. The team has 18 members and has investigated several sites, including the Agora Theatre in Cleveland and the Willis B. Boyer Museum Ship in Toledo. ORBS is funded by its members and investigates sites for free.
Group leaders said ORBS' unusual work draws mixed responses from the public. While some people are believers, others dismiss ghosts as superstition.
Cobb said she believes in ghosts but is still skeptical.
"It takes a lot for me to be a believer," Cobb said. "Even though I have seen things, and things have happened to me personally, it's hard to believe."
Other members said belief comes with experience.
"You will become a believer when you see it for yourself and not before then," Page said.