The former Williamson Funeral Home, now home to the Jacksonville Theatre Guild. The building was first known as the Proffit Boarding House in the early 1900s and played host to scores of touring actors and actresses who performed at the nearby Strawn Opera House on Jacksonville's downtown square. For 55 years, it then served as the Williamson Funeral Home, where thousands of people were prepared for death and where mourning families may have left remnants of their grief behind. There were apartments upstairs and their motto was “There’s always someone home at the Williamson Funeral Home.” In 1999, the Jacksonville Theatre Guild took over the buildings and not long after, reports of a haunting began to surface. Who are the ghosts who linger here? The kitchen today is what used to be the embalming room and they still have one of the original sinks still in use today. Many of the original ledgers, receipts and records from the funeral home are still in the basement of the building to this day.
Located at 210 W. College Ave., Jacksonville, IL. 62650, 217-245-1402
Hauntings: No one can say if they are the spirits of those who made their last earthly appearance here in the viewing rooms of the funeral home, grieving family members who refused to let go, or perhaps even the spirits of performers long past, still hoping to put on a show! Strange happenings have included ghostly voices, slamming doors, moving objects and even a woman in white, wearing a dress from the vaudeville era!
Other reports include that of a strange visual effect seen to drift on the 3rd floor and into the hat room. Odd pictures have been taken in the theater area near the organ by another paranormal group. Sounds of voices or whispers in the far corner of the 3rd floor. Other paranormal groups have reported activity in the wedding gown room and the room across the hall.
A worker, Patty, had weird feelings in the hat room. In the middle of the afternoon while going to the 3rd floor, halfway up the stairs she saw what looked like a reflection of a car going across the room from the right to the left and disappear into the hat room. After she gathered her wits, she realized that this wasn’t possible because of the time of day it was but also due to the position of the windows on the 3rd floor. The night before this event happened, she and another person had driven by and were going to go inside to do something but saw an eerie blue light emanating from the 3rd floor and decided not to go in.
The Ghost Research Society investigated the Jacksonville Theater Guild on February 19, 2011. Team members included: Stan Suho and Dale Kaczmarek with help by the group PRISM and group members: Michael & Jeanne Chilton and Susan Hearty.
Equipment setup: The Command Center was set up downstairs in a large room adjacent to the theater. G.E.I.S.T. was employed and was deployed in 2nd floor along with Stan’s digital IR camera using category five cable and a small monitor. A large IR illuminator was placed in that room and in the hallway I set up the full spectrum camera to film the wedding gown room. A static IR camera was deployed on the 3rd floor facing the area where the voices and sounds have been heard in the past along with a large IR illuminator.
Experiment performed: Several EVP sessions were conducted including the small room adjacent to the wedding gown room due to a number of strange shuffling sounds and noises that were heard in real time at the CC. Additional EVP sessions were conducted on the 3rd floor outside the hat room and in the kitchen, the former embalming room. The EM Vortex was used for the first time here and experiments with the Ovilus PX in the small room on the 2nd floor were also conducted. Digital trap and IR pictures were taken as well as full spectrum pictures and hand held IR camcorder.
Personal experiences: While at the Command Center at several different times, several researchers heard clear sounds and noises apparently coming from the upstairs small room where Stan had his digital IR camera. While we probably debunked the majority of these sounds as coming from outside sources there were a few sounds that could not be dispelled including the shuffling of feet on the carpeted floor and apparent movement of something in that room. These sounds were definitely coming from inside the room or very close by and not from outside sources.
While conducting an EVP session in that small room Susan had the distinct feeling of static electricity on her hair or someone stroking it. It was verified using the Paracorder 667. The lithium batteries in the Ovilus PX were completely drained while conducting an EVP session in this room as well.
Upon entering the attic for the very first time while we were being given a walk through of the building and the hauntings, I got a pounding sensation in my head and felt uncomfortable. It passed quickly and wasn’t felt again when an EVP session was conducted later in the evening.
Stan Suho: We arrived in late afternoon to a big multi-storied building that used to be a Funeral Home and is now a Theater. After joining up with the Missouri group, we were given a walk through by the owners. The second and third floors were used for costumes and for storage. These were the rooms that were reported to be the most active.
Dale and I were both traveling (light) so our equipment setup was minimal. Dale set up an unmonitored camera on the third floor, and I set up G.E.I.S.T. in a second floor prop room. The Ghost Camera was facing across the hall to another prop room. The G.E.I.S.T. setup was pretty much standard.
When everything was setup and running, I made several walk throughs with a 35mm camera, a Sony Night Shot camera, and the IR Night Shot Viewer, pausing in each room to let the dust settle. Later I joined the group in some EVP experiments taking pictures.
The G.E.I.S.T. was unusually quiet that night with very few hits. I did capture one strange ORB on my Sony camera, but other than that I found nothing unexpected on my other Media. Depending on what the other folks come up with it may warrant a follow up investigation.
Small Room EVP session:
Whoop.MPG is during an EVP session in the small room. A question is asked, “Can you make those noises for us that we just heard?” A whoop is heard in the background. We can’t be absolutely sure though that this sound didn’t come from outdoors.
Hat.MPG during that same EVP session. A question is asked, “Were you laid to rest…?” Jeanne is interrupted by the Ovilus PX in phonetic mode saying, “Hat.” (Is this referring to the Hat Room upstairs?)
Static.mpg – Another researcher, Susan’s hair was clinging to her face due to an abundance of static electricity in the air. Jeanne points it out to me and the Ovilus PX says, “Static” at the 42 second mark.
Spirit.mpg – An orb is suddenly seen to float towards the right where the high static charge was felt and the Ovilus PX says, “The spirit passed (or pass).”
During the first minute of placing the static IR camcorder in the attic a weird click and sound is heard.
Attic.MPG a strange gasp or voice is heard near the end of the clip.
Hellno.MPG During a later EVP session a question was asked, “Did you open the doors in the office...” (A whispered voice is heard on the digital recorder saying, “Hell no” and then the question continues, “when Kathy kept closing them?” You then hear the same whispered voice again answer, “No, no.”
Sneeze.MPG is the sound of a female sneeze on the static IR camcorder in the attic. Not 100% sure it wasn’t one of us.
Voice.MPG is a voice that was captured in the attic. Need headphones to hear this one.
Woohoo.MPG is the sound of someone going woohoo and it sounds very close to the camera yet muffled.
2nd Floor Full Spectrum
Movement.mpg - you will see what looks like a robe with two tie strings hanging down suddenly begin to swing back and forth by itself and nobody is upstairs at the time. Several different times, it was also observed moving with no explainable reason.
From the video and audio evidence and limited interaction of the Ovilus PX, battery drainage of several devices including the Ovilus, Jeanne’s full spectrum camera and the sounds we all clearly heard of muffled footsteps and objects being moved or dropped, it is my opinion that the Jacksonville Theater Guild may indeed have some ghostly visitors that refuse to move on or come back to drop in from time to time. Nothing much was experienced or felt in the theater or basement but the 2nd and 3rd floors seemed to be the most active locations. The physical movement of the strings of a robe in the gown room definitely shows that they are capable of physical manipulation of objects.
I believe a more thorough investigation of this theater is warranted under controlled conditions.
Ghost Research Society (www.ghostresearch.org)
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