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By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Long rumoured to be haunted, Vintage Petals owners Noreen Radford and Julie Puchala decided to get an expert opinion on the historical building that houses their business. But finding a ghost isn’t like locating a leaking pipe – you don’t just find paranormal investigators in the phone book like you do a plumber.
Fortunately, Edmonton-based Entity Seeker, a paranormal investigative group, was only too happy to check out the historical house on the corner of 100 Avenue and 100 Street. The group sent three investigators May 9 to learn about the history of the house and to give it a look through expert eyes.
Prior to their examination, Vintage Petals co-owner Noreen Radford told the investigators the property had originally been deeded to Father Jean Baptiste Morin, the man whom Morinville is named after. Over the early years of the 1900s the property fell into different hands, ownership eventually resting in the hands of Celestine Desautels, a woman whom Radford said is rumoured to have tried to burn the house down after having no success in selling it. Radford said the house was eventually purchased by Joseph Heppler, a well-known businessman, town auditor, realtor and a dabbler in Liberal politics.
Doug Bewick, one of the Entity Seekers, said he had felt a presence upon entering the house, the sense of a man in his mid-50s – a heavy set man of about six foot in height who was well groomed and wearing a dark suit. Radford said it did not fit the description of the man who once owned the house, at least not to her understanding.
But Heppler had married at the age of 54 and had four children, one of whom died from Typhoid fever while in her teens. That girl slept in a room that overlooks the four corners on Main Street. Radford said many people visiting the tea house recall the Hepplers and have fond memories of visiting the family.
But while there seem to be no skeletons in the closet, trappings that one would expect as material to back a good ghost story, both Vintage Petals owners have experienced unusual feelings and happenings, situations that lead them to seek an answer to what some of their customers believe is a honest to goodness haunted house.
Radford said her business partner would often get a strange feeling when she was working in the Yellow Room overlooking the corner of 100 and 100 – a feeling of being watched or just an uncomfortable feeling. Although feelings can often be explained away, missing objects are a little harder for the business owners to settle in their minds. First it was paper objects, mostly labels that went missing without explanation. Then plastic objects began to vanish without explanation – lids, bowls and other items.
The crew of investigators put both experiences to the test during their visit, approaching both with the scepticism that typifies the Entity Seeker group.
“When we do any investigation, we must take the point of view of the sceptic because when we present a piece of evidence to the world at large, there’s going to be people who analyze it and analyze it with a fine tooth comb to try and find the problems,” Bewick said. “So we’ve got to take the sceptic’s point of view and try and disprove it before we can present it.”
Fellow Entity Seeker Cathy Knudsen said her group tries to recreate the phenomena being experienced in the venue they are investigating. “If somebody has been reporting a glass has been falling off the table and it’s been sitting in the middle of the table – we try and recreate scenarios that might have occurred to knock that glass off the table,” she said.
Prior to investigating any spirits or paranormal activity in the tea house, Entity Seeker set to work with a number of electronic devices used to detect electromagnetic fields. Bewick said electromagnetic fields or EMF are found in electric appliances and can replicate the sense of a haunting.
“The reason we do this is because EMF affects the frontal lobe of the brain [and] gives people feelings of anxiety, vertigo, feelings of being watched,” Bewick explained. “It makes them sick. Some people are more prone to it than others, but it can often be confused with symptoms of a haunting.”
As such, Entity Seeker look to rule out the normal before entertaining the idea of the paranormal. The group’s investigation of the former Heppler house found particularly large EMF readings in the Yellow Room, the exact room where the owners of Vintage Petals were getting the strange feelings. The culprit turned out to be the compressor of the businesses flower cooler, which was emitting high EMF readings.
One mystery solved, another to be determined
But while the strange feelings the owners were getting in one room of their business was able to be attributed to normal means, the group continued to investigate, determined to see if there was a normal or paranormal explanation to the missing items.
After placing a plastic lid in the kitchen as a trigger device, Entity Seeker Morgan Knudsen set up some recording equipment to have a listen for anything paranormal. For nearly 20 minutes the paranormal investigator worked to try and invited any spirits who might have decided to take up residence in the former Heppler house to make their presence known. In the end, no meters moved, no signs were seen, no voices were heard.
But the lack of a visible or audible signs Monday night is not the end of the investigation. The group will analyze the recordings to see if there is anything that was not heard in the room.
The missing paper and plastic remains a local tea house mystery, one the owners will record as the paranormal investigation continues.
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