Barnes Mansion Investigation

William Fletcher Barnes was the son of Joseph Barnes and Mary Weller and was born on August 6, 1841 in Livingston County, New York. He and his wife, Julia Katherine Gould had four children. The W.F & John Barnes Company of Rockford, Illinois was established in November of 1869 and later incorporated in 1884. The company operated in Rockford until 1964, when it was bought by Babcock-Wilcox.  Fletcher held many patents on his woodworking machines and was quite wealthy.

The William Fletcher Barnes House was built in 1893 during a severe economic depression. It was a showplace in its day with 15 rooms, a turret, two porticos, and hand-carved solid cherry paneling in the foyer, reception area, and the first floor hallway. The craftsmen who carved the paneling were furniture finishers and woodworkers who were paid fifty cents a day for their work. The house cost more than $30,000 dollars to build; a princely sum at the time.

W.F. Barnes died December 28, 1930 at the age of 89. In 1937, Mrs. Amy Lane, one of Barne’s three granddaughters, sold the building to the Rockford Park District for $12,000. Soon after, many of the furnishings were auctioned and the Park District set up its offices on the first floor. In 1942, with the cooperation of the Park District, two natural history collections were moved into the second and third floor of the building. The Beattie family had given one of the collections to the city; Milton Mahlburg of the Nature Study Society developed the other.

On May 24, 1942, funded with W.P.A. money and subsidized by a trust fund established by Harry and Della Burpee – a community spirited couple – Burpee Museum of Natural History opened to the public. The William Fletcher Barnes mansion had taken on an entirely new role as home of the Park District offices and Burpee Museum of Natural History.

When the Park District moved to its new office building in Sinnissippi Park, Burpee was given permission to occupy the first floor of the Barnes residence. And when Harry and Della Burpee Art Gallery moved from the Coleman-Manny-Nelson residence to its new facility in the Riverfront Museum Park, Burpee Museum of Natural History expanded into the old gallery building and called it the South Annex.

Today the Barnes Mansion houses the administration offices of the Burpee Museum and is still owned by the Rockford Park District. The first floor of the mansion and its grounds are used as meeting space and are rented periodically for private and public functions. The specimens and artifacts that once filled this building are now housed in the Solem Wing completed by the museum in 1999.




Located at 813 N. Main St., Rockford, IL 61103  

Phone: 815-965-3433


Hauntings:  Sounds of footsteps coming up and down the secondary stairway, the drapes in the turret room parting on their own and possible sightings of a lady sitting in a chair in the area.


Equipment setup:  Since this was a public event with approximately 50 people, no equipment was set up. Instead, hand-held equipment was used throughout the mansion.

The Ghost Research Society investigated the Barnes Mansion on April 12, 2014. Team members included:  Stan Suho, Kathie Para, Marge Sucha and Dale Kaczmarek and this was a public event sponsored by Kathi Kresol of Haunted Rockford Tours.









Experiments performed: EVP, Ghostbox and Ovilus X sessions were conducted in the basement, vault and upstairs rooms.

Personal experiences:

Dale Kaczmarek: Upon entering an upstairs room where one wall was literally covered by small doors, I felt the distinct impression that someone had touched or stroked the hair on the top of my head. Marge also felt that someone or something had touched her left arm. She compared the sensation to a fly landing on her arm.

I also got a little headache and a slight uncomfortable feeling in the large room in the basement where we conducted our EVP session. One possible explanation for that feeling could have been EMF sensitivity as there were a lot of electrical boxes on the wall and perhaps the natural EMF in the air had caused that sensation.

Kathie Para: Even though this was a public event we were allowed to come early and also stay after everyone had left so we could explore the house, utilize some of our equipment and do some EVP sessions.

Upon our initial walk through Dale was touched on the head as he walked into a room on the third floor. We closed the door to do a quick EVP session during which Marge felt as if she was touched on the arm. The Melmeter was giving significant readings in this room as it would in many areas of the house.

The basement has one room in particular that appeared to have paranormal activity. Upon turning on the Ovilus the words “it hurts you asshole” immediately came through quite clearly. Later, after talking to the two psychics there they confirmed that the room gave the impression that some sort of violence had taken place there. In this same room we then tried the ghost box and we started hearing what sounded like Morse code. Stan knows Morse code and he picked up on this. I don’t know if he’s been able to listen to the recording yet to see if he can make out any words. It was something we had never heard from the ghost box before. We don’t know if there is any connection between the home and Morse code but it was strange.

There is a very large vault in the house. We got very high readings on the Melmeter in there which we couldn’t debunk. Again, one of the psychics had a strong sense of three men arguing about business in there.

Another location that we got high readings and a very heavy feeling and definite sense of paranormal activity was a small room on the second floor, a closet that may have been used as a water closet. This was also confirmed by the psychics, one of whom saw a spirit of a woman and a dark shadow, which they did get a name from and the impression that he wasn’t the friendliest guy.

I really thought the house was amazing. Not only because of the activity but also the beautiful and extravagant woodwork and details that went into the construction over 120 years ago.

In spite of there being many people there for a lot of the time we were there we got more than I had hoped for. It was also nice to work with the psychics Paul and Sara. It brings a whole new dimension to investigating. This is most definitely a place I would love our team to go back and do a private investigation someday.


One last note: The main staircase is a place that children run up and down and play there. This is heard by employees there and the psychics have also noted the children happily play there. This is the only place where I got any orbs in all the pictures I took. One showed several orbs and one in particular was actually pink. I typically don’t take much stock in orbs but I did feel this was noteworthy.


Stan Suho: This was a great old building in Rockford. Three stories and built to last. We were greeted by a gracious hostess who gave us the run of the house. This event was not set up to be a real investigation, more like a High Tech walk through. Because of the large number of people invited no setup was attempted. Instead we made do with Hand-helds and Cameras and we concentrated on EVP sessions. This made me the odd man out. So I switched to taking pictures and chasing the red hat ladies around. I did discover a somewhat out of focus picture in the Basement that was a source of interest to the Group. Upon reflection I think it was a camera malfunction.

I didn't come up with anything conclusively paranormal, but the out of focus picture was interesting because it occurred in the basement room that had some history.  This might be a good place to investigate sometime in the future with our group.

Evidence collected:

It hurts you asshole.MP3 – just as the Ovilus X was turned on in a large room in the basement and before anyone asked a question, the Ovilus in phonetic mode said, “It hurts, you asshole!” (This was a room where psychics Paul Smith and Sara Bowker had both picked up the feeling of violence and saw blood on the floor.)

Upstairs.MP3 – during an Ovilus X session in the basement, a question was asked, “Were you fighting with another man?” The Ovilus responds with, “Upstairs”. (This coincides with psychic Paul Smith had picked up earlier in the vault; an argument between two men)

Yeah barnes.MP3 – during an Ovilus X session in an upstairs room that had many doors on a wall, a question was asked, “Can you touch my head again?” The Ovilus responds with, “Yeah.” (Earlier upon entering this same room, I felt something stroke my hair)

Conclusions: I felt that we got interesting responses on the Ovilus that seem to coincide with psychic impressions of both psychics; Smith and Bowker. I was able to debunk the Melmeter going off in the vault to nothing more than an interaction of the fluorescent lighting in the room. This would be a most interesting location to follow up with a much smaller and quieter group of investigators and it does have a lot of rooms where possible paranormal activity could be gathered on audio, video or still photography. 

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