Barnes Mansion Public Investigation

Date: July 16, 2016

Address: 813 N. Main St., Rockford, IL 61103

Telephone: 815-965-3433

GRS Members present: Marge Sucha, Chuck Williams and Gregory Kos.

History: 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.

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: Mostly hand-held equipment was used with the exception of the station manned by Suho and Sucha which deployed an IR camera and sound equipment down the hallway. Most other investigators used digital recorders, REM Epod, Ovilus, Ghost Box, dowsing rods, K-II meters, Melmeter, FLIR and digital cameras. This was another public event sponsored by Kathi Kresol and the Haunted Rockford Tours, so our team was simply demonstrating equipment used for paranormal investigations and performing EVP communication sessions. Stations included the basement manned by Sucha while Williams and Kos were on the second and third floors.

Experiments performed: EVP, dowsing rod, Ovilus 5 and Ghost Box sessions were performed at the two stations in the Barnes Mansion which was the basement and the second floor.

Personal experiences:

Marge Sucha: Equipment: FLIR, P-SB-11 Sprit box, Dowsing Rods, EDI Research Device, Rook EMF meter, Olympus Digital Recorder.  

This was a public investigation hosted by Kathi Kresol from Haunted Rockford Paranormal.    

Our group broke off into four groups with each group assigned a location.  I was assigned in the Barnes Mansion basement. 

The Barnes Mansion did not disappoint me as far as personal experiences go.  When I arrived in the basement of Barnes Mansion I first walked around to turn the lights on and checked things out.   As I entered the room I refer to as the creepy room.  (This is the room at the end of the hall on the left)  I had that spider web feeling on my side of my face.  As I wiped my face I immediately felt the web feeling on the other side.  Again I brushed my hand on the other side and immediately felt the spider web feeling on my arm.    Later as I was sharing this with one of the groups several had mentioned they also had the spider web feeling as they entered the basement.

As each group arrived I had the lights on.  Once they had a chance to explore with the lights on I turned off the lights.  At one point when we had the lights off two women were walking around the basement with their equipment.  They were in the main room when you first enter the basement and as they opened one of the doors they both saw what appeared to be a string with a tassel hanging from the ceiling.   When they turned the flashlight on there was nothing there.  They looked all over that closet and could not see anything like that.  

In creepy room one person felt like somebody touched the corner of their eye.   Another time while doing an EVP session in this room four people had to leave this room.  One person kept hearing a noise in the corner. 

A man from one of the groups was in the room next to the creepy room taking pictures.  In one of the pictures he got what appeared to be something trying in manifest.

In between groups I would sit in the main room at the bottom of the stairs and write any notes from the previous group.  While I was writing my notes several times I had the spider web feeling across my hand.    

In one of the groups I left my recorder running in the main room at the bottom of the stairs.  Everyone was in another room.  Later when I listened to my recorder I did capture what sounded like a woman softly humming. 

Chuck Williams: This is a public investigation we were asked to assist on for Haunted Rockford.  We split into four groups and took up stations in either the Barnes or Manny Mansions.  Greg Kos & I were paired together.  We were stationed on the 2nd floor of the Barnes Mansion.  Since he is relatively new to the group, he let me do most of the talking, and put his 2 cents in when he felt comfortable.  As the groups came around, I first assessed their experience levels, and tailored the sessions accordingly.  All groups got a small history of the building, and haunted history before our session began, as well as explanations of the equipment we were using.  Followed by the other half of their time investigating on their own.


Greg- Full Spectrum Camera, K-II

Me- Full Spectrum GoPro, IR Light, Zoom recorder, REM Pod, Ovilus 5

As we began unpacking and setting up, we both heard a female voice say a whole sentence, we couldn’t make it out.  I thought someone had wandered into the lobby, lost.  Greg said it sounded as if it came from right in front of me.  We have nothing to back it up as we were just setting up.  I think from now on, I’m going to have the recorder rolling from the time I cross the threshold. 

It appeared my GoPro experienced battery drain, or camera error, will need to look into this further.

Group 1

This was a group of novices, who seemed to hang on our words, and were eager to learn.  We did an EVP session, followed by an Ovilus 5 session.  Minimal results on Ovilus 5- “There is” & “That’s so” noted.  Nothing remarkable from EVP session. 

Group 2

This group was mixed, some with minimal experience, some novices.  Nothing remarkable from EVP or Ovilus 5 sessions.  The chandelier over the staircase dimmed, one girl stated she got very nauseated on the 3rd floor, Greg reported feeling heavy and uneasy on 3rd floor.  I went upstairs and felt nothing. 

Group 3

Was made up of amateur Ghost Hunters who brought their own equipment.  After giving them the histories, I sent them off on their own, because they were itching to get started, only one guy stood around to ask questions.  One RUDE couple broke off immediately, and started their own spirit box session.  I let it slide, but in the future I would confront such behavior.  Another couple had to be ushered to the next location, trying to wring some more time out of this location.  No evidence noted from this group.

Group 4

This group was the same consistency as group 2.  Before the first couple went up to the 3rd floor, footsteps were heard, I went to examine this, and no one was there.  The Ovilus 5 went into overdrive during the last 10 minutes.  “Get Out” was the general message coming through, with variations.  When I said we were leaving, the device went silent. 

Greg went to present, as I tore down the station.  I thought with everyone leaving all hell would break loose, but it didn’t.

I want to return and do a full investigation of this location!

Greg Kos: Station #4 2nd floor of Barnes Mansion Chuck and Greg

Tools K-II meter voice recorder IR camera Spirit Box SB-11

There were four groups that came to us on like half hour intervals.

When they came we explained the equipment we were using and a brief explanation of what has been going on at our station and a brief history of activity.

Group one was quiet except of a disembodied voice that said "there is”, “that’s so"

I felt a quizeness on the 3rd floor and had to hold the wall on the way down.

Group 2 the lights on the chandelier dimmed and a girl felt nauseous in the door room

Group 3 a guy had a picture he took to show to Dale...spirit and there were spikes on a Melmeter 3floor and a door shut by itself on the 3rd floor

Group 4 There were footsteps heard by numerous people on the 3rd floor and people gathered at our station as the SB-11 went crazy and would not stop saying Get Out! Get your ass out! Repeats Get the Fu k Out!  


Evidence collected:

Asshole barnes.MPG – the static full spectrum camera positioned in the 2nd floor hallway during Session #3 picked up “Asshole.”

Chuck barnes.MPG – the static full spectrum camera positioned in the 2nd floor hallway during Session #2 picked up the name, “Chuck.”

Get out of here help barnes.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus session on the 2nd floor during Session #4 the Ovilus says, “Get out of here, help.”

Get out of here, help, get out of this place barnes.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus session on the 2nd floor during Session #4, the Ovilus says, “Get out of here, help. Get out of this place.”

Get out of here I hurt you barnes.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus session on the 2nd floor during Session #4, the Ovilus says, “Get out of here, I hurt you.”

Hello1 barnes.MPG – while conducting an EVP session on the 2nd floor during Session #1, a female voice is heard over the talking and says, “Hello.”

Hello2 barnes.MPG – while conducting an EVP session on the 2nd floor during Session #3, a female voice is heard saying, “Hello.”

Humming in the background barnes.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the basement a strange humming is heard in the background.

Hurt you barnes.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus session on the 2nd floor Session #4, the Ovilus says, “Hurt you.”

I’m here barnes.MPG – while conducting an EVP session on the 2nd floor Session #1, a faint male voice is heard saying, “I’m here.”

Mark, I’m afraid, hate you in here barnes.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus session on the 2nd floor Session #4, the Ovilus says, “Mark, I’m afraid. Hate you in here.”

Terrified, scared, get out of this fucking place barnes.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus session 2nd floor Session #4, the Ovilus says, “Terrified, scared. Get out of this fucking place.”

Upstairs barnes.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus session on the 2nd floor Session #4, a comment was made on an Ovilus sentence, “Are in here?” The Ovilus responds with, “Upstairs.”

Voice barnes.MPG – while conducting an EVP session on the 2nd floor Session #1 while Chuck Williams was talking a female voice in heard in the background.

Woo-hoo barnes.MPG – while talking to the group a strange sound is heard in the background and sounds like, “Woo-hoo.”

Wow barnes.MPG – the static full-spectrum camera positioned in the 2nd floor hallway picked up a voice that says, “Wow.”

Yeah barnes.MPG – while conducting an EVP session on the 2nd floor Session #2, a question was asked, “Do you mess with people’s drinks when they leave them on the desk?” A faint whisper replies with, “Yeah.”

You and I up here get help barnes.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus session on the 2nd floor Session #4, the Ovilus says, “You and I up here. Get help.”

You barnes.MPG – while conducting an EVP session on the 2nd floor Session #1, a question was asked, “Who else is here besides Julia?” A low sounding female whisper says, “You.”

Conclusions: The general consensus was that someone was asking us something, retreated to the 3rd floor, defended it, and finally had enough and went on a tirade to get us out.  Just a theory. It appeared after Chuck and I discussed what went down that whoever was mad because they could not hide and were forced out and voiced their opinions!


Manny Mansion Investigation

Date: July 16, 2016

Address: 737 N. Main St., Rockford, IL 61103

Owner: Burpee Museum

GRS members present: Jim Piscopo, Stan Suho and Dale Kaczmarek.

History: The Manny Mansion was built in 1852 out of native limestone for John Coleman. The grounds were laid out by John Blair, a Scottish landscape gardener, who arrived from Canada. The Coleman’s sold the property in 1864 to John Pells Manny and his family who lived there for many years. The Manny’s were originally from upstate New York, moved to Freeport, Illinois before finally settling down in Rockford, Illinois. John P. Manny is a cousin of John H. Manny who invented a reaper that rivaled the one designed by Cyrus McCormick. It was a great success in a number of contests around the world. John H. Manny was eventually sued by McCormick for patent infringement. The lawsuit was unsuccessful and the verdict was upheld all the way to the Supreme Court; in fact one of his lawyers was a very young Abraham Lincoln! Totally exhausted, Manny died two weeks later from tuberculosis at the age of 30. Mary Dorr Manny took over the company and ran it for many successful years. Robert Tinker was elected as her clerk before they eventually married in 1870.

John P. Manny and John H. Manny both worked in Rockford’s Water Power District and produced cutting blades that kept their sharpness longer than any other. When John H. Manny died, John P. continued with the reaper business until 1880 when financial problems caused him to close the business. The Manny’s then moved into smaller accommodations in 1887 and began to develop a very successful lemonade business; he had invented and patented a popular lemon squeezer.  He was also President of the West Side Cemetery Association and it was there, while working in the cemetery, he succumbed to typhoid from drinking polluted water and died in 1897.

The property was then sold to William and Olivia Nelson in 1889. He married Olivia Olson, who was born on July 20, 1867, and they wed on October 7, 1889. William Nelson was president of the Rockford Drilling Machine Company and of the Forest City Knitting Company. William was born on October 29, 1857 in Sycamore, Illinois, the son of John and Eva C. Nelson who were natives of Sweden. Olivia lived there until her death on January 15, 1905. 

Then Harry Burpee purchased the property in 1905 but all indications are that he never actually lived in the mansion. It was transformed into what later became the Burpee Art Museum.

Formerly the Burpee Art Museum, the house is now attached to the south side of the Solem Wing and houses a museum, classrooms and offices. Originally named after, Robert H. Solem, who was a major benefactor, patron and friend of the museum.

Hauntings: As the interior of this once grand building changed from a marvelous showpiece into office space, much negative energy has been experienced throughout the building. Some believe that negative energy is brought forth from the previous owners who are not happy at the changes to the building.

Psychics visiting this location in the past have encountered the sound of children running around and staff members and others alike complain of hearing the pitter patter of children on the stairs and second floor landing as well as encountering small shadow figures.

In previous investigations, the name Nelly has come through. Nelly was a servant for the Manny family and was thought to be a nanny.

Many grand parties and unfortunately, funerals, have been held in the building in the past and this may account for the sound of music throughout.

The basement is a very active area and was once an apartment. Perhaps the previous occupant again isn’t too happy about changes to the building or people invading his space. Encounters include anxiety attacks, trouble breathing and being touched by something unseen.

This building is also said to have been built on Indian mounds and there may have been some excavation of these in the past, even though accounts are quite vague on this matter. This, of course, can easily cause paranormal phenomena to happen.

Equipment setup: Suho set up the Command Center downstairs in the basement in the room with the soda dispensers. Cameras were placed looking up the stairs as well as the furnace room area. I had the haunted trigger object detector deployed along with an ancient mouth harp and old key from the same period as the building. The SLS X-Cam was used in the conference room upstairs. Suho and Piscopo were stationed in the basement while Kaczmarek took the 2nd floor.

Experiments performed: EVP, Ovilus X and SB-ll ghost box sessions were conducted for the four groups that came through the conference room. The infrasound detector was used in an attempt to pick up low frequency sound that could be caused by EVPs.

Personal experiences:

Jim Piscopo: We were let into the mansion about 6:30 pm and started setting up equipment. I was teamed up with Stan in the basement. I set up my Sony camcorder with night vision in the furnace room for the first session then moved to the break room for the next session. We did EVP sessions using a P-SB7 Spirit Box. I have to review my discs to check for responses.

Stan Suho: This time I was stationed at the Manny Mansion. A big old building next to the Barnes mansion. I chose to set up at the foot of the staircase. This was an area where children's voices and footsteps were heard, and besides it was a dark area so I could use my IR camera in the demonstration. I focused the camera up the stairs. Along with the camera I set up a microphone, both of which were cabled back to a make shift command post in the next room.

The four groups’ came through one by one and were given a short demonstration on IR cameras as well as the video monitoring system at the command post. After that they were turned over to Jim for a short how to on doing EVP. Then a brief question and answer session followed during which Kathi would ring the bell, and everyone would rotate. After the four groups came through we all met in the big room for a feedback session and cookies.

Conclusion; Because of the constant back and forth of the groups, I did not do any live recording, so nothing paranormal to report, however several interesting questions were discussed and everyone came much smarter in the field of the paranormal.

Dale Kaczmarek: Music was heard in the background for both sessions #1 and #2 but was debunked as coming from outside and not paranormal. There was some mild contamination due to the fact that the other group in the basement and just down the stairs had decided to set up in the room at the bottom of the stairs instead of in the actual furnace room. This was due in part for the chairs that were available in that room and none were in the furnace room.

No artifacts were disturbed while using the HTO (Haunted Trigger Object) detector and nothing was detected using the SLS X-Cam. Other pieces of equipment were interfering with the infrasound detector so it wasn’t used much.

Some thought they heard either creaking floorboards or someone moving at the head of the stairs however no real person was there causing those disturbances.  It was, in fact, very quiet for the four sessions at my station on the 2nd floor.

Evidence collected:

Cat meow manny.MPG – while setting up for Session #2  in the basement, a strange cat-like meow was heard and recorded.

Clint hello manny.MPG – while conducting an Ghost Box session Piscopo’s static camera in the basement  Session #1 picked up what sounds like, “Clint” followed by “Hello.”

Hello1 manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box experiment on the 2nd floor Session #1, a question was asked, “Or better yet, can you just say hello?” Immediately a high-pitched female voice responds with, “Hello.”

Hello2 manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box experiment in the basement Session #1, a female voice says, “Hello.”

Help manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box experiment on the 2nd floor Session #4, “help” was heard and recorded.

Ike manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box experiment in the basement Session #3, a question was asked, “Can you tell us who the president is?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Ike.”

Me manny.MPG – while conducting an EVP experiment on the 2nd floor Session #1, a question was asked, “How many people are in this room?” A high-pitched female voice responds with, “…me.”

Neither manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the basement Session #4, a question was asked, “Did you live in this house or the one next door?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Neither.”

Ray manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the basement Session #4, a question was asked, “Did you used to work in the mansion?” The Ghost Box responds with a clear name, “Ray.”

Till August manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the basement Session #1, a question was asked, “How long did you live here?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Till August.”

Twelve no manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the basement Session #4, a question was asked, “How many are in this room?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Twelve.” A follow-up question was asked, “Can you see us?” The Ghost Box responds with, “No.”

Up your ass manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the basement Session #1, the Ghost Box says, “Up your ass.”

Words spoken by the Ovilus X: Session #1 – sip and allow; Session #2 – soccer and seek; Session #3 – happy and real and Session #4 – book and attitude.



Conclusions: Both mansions had their share of interesting responses and many made a lot of sense. There are a couple of names that will have to be researched by Kresol to see if they actually figure into either mansions past history. The Ovilus was very vulgar and in numerous instances told the group in Session #4 to leave or get out. Obviously someone wasn’t too happy about the last session or perhaps was getting agitated or tired of the numerous questions and/or intrusions into its space. Luckily that was the last session for the evening. It would have been interesting if those remarks and expulsive comments had continued for another session there.

There was a bit of minor cross contamination between stations however what was heard was usually easily identifiable as coming from living persons and not spirits. When both groups were using the Ghost Box at the same time that was less noticeable due to the noise generated by the devices while scanning radio frequencies.  

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