Barnes and Manny Mansions Public Investigations

Date: November 14, 2015

Location: Manny Mansion, 737 S. Main St., Rockford, IL 61103

Owner: Burpee Museum

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 here, 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, 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 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 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.




The Ghost Research Society investigated Manny Mansion on  November 14, 2015. Team members included: Katherine Meagher and Dale Kaczmarek 









Equipment setup: Mostly hand-held equipment was used throughout this public event sponsored by Kathi Kresol and Haunted Rockford Tours. I deployed the Paracorder 667 to pick up and static electricity and it also acts like an EM Pump, putting out a small amount of EMF for ghosts to feed on, sort to speak. A REM Epod was placed on a long table which unfortunately went off when two-way radios or fluorescent lights were turned on.

I conducted EVP, Ovilus X in both dictionary and phonetic modes and Ghost Box sessions while four groups of people came through my station.

Personal experiences:

Katherine Meagher: I was located in the basement of the Manny Mansion. I cannot say anything really exciting happened in the investigation with the four groups that came through. 


Only two things stood out that were noteworthy. The first group, two names came through the Ovilus, which was repeated in the next station where Dale was located. The last group is when Kathy sat in with us. One woman was using a pendulum which was answering questions as I was using the dowsing rods which verified the responses. In my opinion, when going to events, spirit might be more interested on speaking to familiar people then strangers, or dowsing rods might be picking up an individual’s energy.

Dale Kaczmarek: I personally did not experience anything out of the ordinary and I don’t believe any of the four groups did either. There was however some cross-contamination from the basement which was easily tagged during EVP sessions.

At the end of session #3, I finished the EVP session and told everyone to wander around the upstairs, take pictures and experience the area for themselves. As we walked into the hallway, two people said the door to the restroom moved inwards and made a sound. I just caught the ending of the movement out of the corner of my eye. I don’t believe it was it people walking towards it that caused the door to move as three other groups also explored the same area with no door movement.

Evidence collected:

Ask us manny.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus X session for group #3, the Ovilus said, “Ask us.”

Betty manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session for group #4, a question was asked, “Can you tell us your first name?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Betty.” (This is very unusual; during session#2 the Ovilus X in dictionary mode said, “Betty” and the group, who had come from station #4, said that another Ovilus also said, “Betty.”)

Do it manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session for group #4, the Ghost Box said, “Do it!”

Get out manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session for group #4, a question was asked, “Can you just tell us to leave or get out?” The Ghost Box responds with a faint, deep male voice that says, “Get out!”

God save this manny.MPG - while conducting a Ghost Box session for group#4, the Ghost Box suddenly spits out, “God save this.” (I make the conclusion that the ghost was imploring the people who own the building to “save it” and not tear down or change anymore of the original building.)

Kelly manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session for group#4, a question was asked, “Betty’s here. Is your friend also here? Can you tell us here name?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Kelly.” (During an Ovilus X session for group #2, in dictionary mode, the names, “Betty” and “Kelly” where spoken back to back.)

Rose manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session for group #4, a question was asked, “Who had a baby out of wedlock?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Rose.”

Yes manny.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session for group #1, a question was asked, “Do you like candy?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Yes.”

Ovilus communications in dictionary mode:

During session #1, says, “Coin, dinner.”

During session #2 says, “Book, movie, warrior, stone, eye, inches, Betty and Kelly.”

During session #3 says, “Without, bomb, turning, column, ground, same, frame.”

During session #4 says, “Wood, pond, tide.”

Conclusions: We have been to the Barnes Mansion before but never investigated the Manny Mansion however I believe that it was very active especially with the intelligent responses to questions posed during our Ghost Box sessions and having the names Betty and Kelly come through multiple devices. There are over 4,000 words pre-programmed into the Ovilus X and for those two names to come out in two different Ovilus’ is beyond coincidence and is even stranger when they are both produced using a completely different device, the Ghost Box!

The groups were very quiet and asked a lot of very good questions during our four sessions and even received some interesting responses. This location deserves a thorough investigation with video cameras, more equipment and a longer time period. I believe we can receive more communications from the other side here.



Date: November 14, 2015

Location: Barnes Mansion, 813 N. Main St., Rockford, IL 61103

Phone: 815-965-3433

Owner: Burpee Museum

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,






The Ghost Research Society investigated Barnes Mansion on  November 14, 2015. Team members included: Kathie Para, Marge Sucha, Stan Suho and Michael Wright. 









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 Para and Wright while Suho and Sucha were on the second and third floors.

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

Personal experiences:

Stan Suho: Yet another demonstration of the GRS's advanced Ghost Hunting methods. The museum was another historic old three story Rockford building with a past. The GRS had done this one before with some interesting results. Our group was divided into two units and each assigned different hot spot in the complex. My unit consisted of Marge and myself.

Being short of time, I chose a second floor long dark hallway to set up my IR Camera and Microphone. The cables were run down the hallway to a small room at the far end which became our command post. As the public group rotated through the buildings, I would give them a demonstration of the operation of the Camera/Microphone system, then down the hall to the monitor and Laptop system at the command post. After this Marge would take the group up to the attic for an EVP demonstration. This usually terminated with a lively Q&A session which everyone participated in.
Then Kathy would give a nod and the public would rotate stations.

Since this was a short notice setup no recording equipment was installed. Based on the number and type of questions, I would say there are a number of potential Ghost Hunters in the Rockford area. A good time was had by all.

Kathie Para: This was a Haunted Rockford public event which GRS was involved in, with members of the group at each of two stations to help the public with questions and also to demonstrate paranormal investigating techniques.  Members of our group present were Stan, Marge, Mike and I. I was teamed up with Mike and we were stationed in the basement. There were two areas we spent time in, the main room and a room in the back of the basement that some say creeps them out.

Equipment we used included: digital camera, digital recorders, dowsing rods, REM pod, K-II meter, Ovilus and Melmeter.

We got some interesting responses from the Ovilus during each session and also from the dowsing rods.

During first session we heard knocking noises twice after we asked any spirit present to make a sound. I was able to catch these on my audio recorder and will include them with this report.

Session #2 was pretty quiet, other than a few interesting Ovilus and dowsing rod responses. However, someone thought they saw a shadow move in the basement hallway during the EVP session.

Session #3 had a little more activity with both the dowsing rods and the Ovilus. Also the hall lights turned off. I must note that the lights were on a timer but that was the only time during the night that they shut themselves off. Most likely not paranormal, but interesting.

Session #4 went pretty much like the others. One man from the group left the back room to wander around and claimed he distinctly heard a dogs nail clicking on the tile floor in the main room.

The back room made many in the groups uncomfortable during the night, ranging from headache, trouble breathing to a creepy feeling. There is a high EMF reading in there by an electrical panel which certainly would contribute to that feeling. However, our last time there a psychic did not want to go in that room and said she saw a lot of blood in there.

We kept getting an Indian connection come through but I haven’t confirmed if any American Indians tribes settled near there in the past. We also got references to hunting and fishing more than once.

The groups that came that night were lots of fun!

Marge Sucha: Equipment: FLIR, SB-7 Sprit box, Dowsing Rods, Olympus Digital Recorder.  

This was a public event. They were broken off into two groups approximately 10 people per group. We were assigned to a station.  I was teamed up with Stan Suho.  We were assigned to the 2nd & 3rd floors in the Barnes Mansion.

One person in the first group was using the FLIR.   While scanning the room they had a heat image on the table.   The only thing on the table was papers.  We moved the papers around but could not see anything that would cause this.  I picked the papers up and when I put them down the spot spread.  We were able to see the heat from where my hands touched the papers, but it was not part what we were seeing on the table.  We were unable to debunk it.  Using the FLIR we did take a picture.  When the next group came in I was unable to duplicate this. 

We did have couple of people in one of the groups that was coming up with some names on the 3rd floor; Annabel and Miss Lilly; Possibly caretaker of the children.

Overall it was fairly quiet that night.   

Mike Wright: There were four separate stations, two in each building. My station was in the basement of the Barnes mansion with Kathie Para.

Four groups of people came through the building, we did EVP sessions with each group using the Ovilus and dowsing rods.

In the last group that went through I was using the dowsing rods and they were responding to questions regarding the history of the land before the mansions were built. At the same time the Ovilus was responding to questions Kathie was asking, as a different person than the person I was communicating with. The rods were answering yes and no questions with distinct movements stating that the person I was communicating with was a Native American man that lived in the area before the mansion was built. There were some whispers that my recorder picked up but I am not sure if it was from the people that there for the event. Wish I had a little extra time in the basement to investigate because of the way the dowsing rods were responding.

Evidence collected:

Basement knock group1 barnes.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the basement, Para makes a comment, “My ears are just ringing here.” This is followed by a loud knock that no one made.

Basement noise group1 barnes.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the basement question was asked, “Can you get our attention? Make noise?” A faint noise is heard in the background.

Conclusions: This was a much quieter evening than our previous investigation in 2014; however we only received a couple more responses then. In my personal opinion, the Manny Mansion made be more haunted than the Barnes Mansion in just comparing the amount of communications we received on the Ovilus and Ghost Box.

It does appear that all the people involved were very quiet during EVP sessions and did ask some thought-provoking questions. While there weren’t any EVPs captured in the Barnes Mansion during the four sessions, some interesting sounds and noises were captured.

Perhaps the spirits just did not wish to communicate with us that particular evening.  

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