Roff House Investigation

The Roff House was built between 1865-1868 on land originally deeded to Vincent Wamsley in 1835 by the US Government. The original 80 acres was eventually split up a few years before the completion of the Roff House. The home sat on a 6.25 acre plot known as “Lot 5.” The people who built the house were spiritualists and communing with the dead was common practice. They practiced séances in the home for over ten years trying to contact the spirit world.

Mary Roff had a very tough life and at six months of age began to have fits that continued every two months. She was born October 8, 1846 and died July 5, 1865. Beginning in 1857 her fits became a daily affair and finally in 1860 Mary is put under a water cure in Peoria, Illinois for 18 months however in 1862 her violent fits increase. In the summer of 1864 Mary begins bleeding herself for relief of “of the lump of pain in my head.” Doctors apply leaches as treatments, and she begins applying to herself at her temples and treats them as pets.

During a very despondent mood on July 16, 1864, Mary secretly takes a knife with her to the back yard and cut her arm terribly, until bleeding excessively, she fainted. Unconscious until 2pm, she then becomes a raving maniac of the most violent kind, in which condition she remains for five days and nights, requiring almost constantly the services of five of the most able-bodied men to hold her on the bed, although her weight was only about 100 pounds, and she had lost nearly all her blood.

Between July 21-25, 1864, Mary enters into a clairvoyant state. As she comes out of the violent episode, she seems to know no one. She has no sense of sight, feeling or hearing in a natural way. She can read while heavily blindfolded and do everything as readily as when in health by her natural sight. While blindfolded, she takes an encyclopedia and scans through the index until resting her finger on the entry for “blood.” She then turns to the page indicated and reads the subject out loud.’

On another occasion, while heavily blindfolded, she takes a box of letters received from friends and sits down, examines each one, and reads them (out loud) without error or hesitation. Father and friends put their own letters in with hers, and while heavily blindfolded, she correctly draws out the intruding letters and examines them. She reads aloud the address and throws violently away every letter not her own.

In August of 1864, Mary returns to good health, but her violent fits increase, and her parents are advised to place her in an asylum; however on July 5, 1865, while her parents are in Peoria, Mary enters into a violent fit and dies.

Now, Lurrany Vennum comes into the picture. She was born July 11, 1864. From April 1, 1871 to the end of summer 1871 the Vennum family lives just about 600 feet from the Roff House. In the fall of 1871 the Vennums move to the house now known as the “Vennum House” on the other side of Watseka by the high school.

The onset of Lurrancy’s strange illness begins in July 1877 around her eighteenth birthday. She begins to have strange experiences while sleeping, which took place over two nights. On July 11, 1877 Lurrany faints, goes into a fit, falling heavily to the floor. “Ma, I feel bad!” she cries. She lays on the floor, apparently dead, every muscle rigid and she’s like this for five hours.

The next day Lurrancy’s rigid state returns. During this episode her mind takes cognizance of two states of being at the same time. Lying as if dead, she speaks freely, telling the family what persons and spirits she can see, describing them and calling some by name.  Among those mentioned are her sister and brother, for she exclaimed, “Oh, mother! Can’t you see little Laura and Bertie? They are so beautiful!” She has many of these trances, describing heaven and the spirits, the angels, as she called them. This lasts until September 1877.

She continues having more vivid and violent episodes from November 1877 to January 1878 until Dr. E.W. Stevens, a spiritualist doctor, intervenes and on January 31, 1878 at around 4pm Mr. Roff and Dr. Stevens formally visit the Vennum house. She comes into communication with a number of spirits until 5:30pm when Lurrancy collapses and goes stiff and rigid when the visitors rise to depart. She finally claims that there is an angel that wants to come and that her name is Mary Roff. The spirit of Mary Roff enters her body and enthusiastically greets her father and on February 11, 1878 she officially moves into the Roff house.

During her stay at the Roff house, Lurrancy showed exceptional knowledge of Mary Roff’s life and exhibits unexplained behavior:

She knows the names and life histories of friends and neighbors from the period of 1852-1865.

She recalls hundreds of incidents that transpired during her natural life.

She predicts the illness of her brother Frank Roff, who the next day takes sick from a congestive chill.

She knows the whereabouts of Dr. Stevens when not at the Roff Home and without prior knowledge of his whereabouts.

She can describe the home, rooms and furniture of Dr. Stevens, although she has never been there and he lives hundreds of miles away.

She knows the private details of the lives of one of the daughters, then deceased, and asks to go home with him for a week to visit the mother and the rest of the family.

She takes part in a séance in the front parlor of the Roff Home, during which time the spirit of Mary Roff jumps into the body of a man next to Lurrancy. She later takes on the spirit and personality of the grandmother of Charlotte, the Roff servant, who is also taking part in the séance. She knows the names, ages and histories of her relatives, both living and dead.

Suddenly and without warning on May 19, 1878, Lurrancy’s spirit enters her own body while she is at the Roff Home, and she is shocked and scared because she does not know where she is. The following day, Mary Roff says goodbye to her family through Lurrancy one last time and finally on May 21, 1878 at 11am Lurrancy enters her body and the Roff’s escort her back to the Vennum family home where she reinitiates her life. She never had any more strange fits, married a couple of years later, eventually moved to California, had eleven children and lived to the ripe old age of 90.

The house changes hands many times after the Roffs sell it on May 27, 1879 until James Whiteman purchased it on March 30, 2005.

Address: 300 E. Sheridan Rd., Watseka, IL 60970

Phone: 773-949-6650

Owner: John Whitman


Hauntings: A medium who once visited the house claimed that she had a psychic vision that a spirit wanted to push someone out of a window. Sometime later, another paranormal group was conducting an investigation with an Ovilus when they received the words: “push, child, ledge, window, ledge, window, ledge, hate, anger” from the device.

The owner makes no claims that the building is actually haunted however a number of paranormal teams have allegedly collected evidence at the location and others have had experiences in Mary’s room, the kitchen and the basement, which might be the most active room in the house.




The GRS investigated the Roff House on August 3, 2013 and the team included: Kathie Para, Sandy Weber, Stan Suho, Yvonne Zanilah, Joanne Schullo, Jim Piscopo and Dale Kaczmarek.








Equipment setup: The Command Center was set up in the main dining room area on a large table and Stan had a remote camera facing the back yard along with his Ghost Microphone. Sandy had her infrared camera positioned in the basement.

Experiments performed: EVP, Ovilus and Ghost Box sessions were performed in the basement, Mary’s room, the upstairs hallway and the kitchen. I used the EVP Field Processor in the basement.


Personal experiences:

Joanne Schullo:

Weather Conditions:

Fair....mid to high 70's.  Humidity approx 60 percent

 Equipment Used:

Fuji SLR Finepix camera, model S2950

EMF detector supplied by Dale


After setting up the command center, we went upstairs to what had been Mary Roff's bedroom.  Before going up stairs, I had put new batteries in my flashlight but once upstairs, the batteries were dead.  Dale conducted an EVP session with the Ovilus and received several understandable responses, one of which was the word “bitch.”  During this session, the EMF detector that Yvonne was monitoring registered a high number of 14.  After Dale asked if we should leave the room, Yvonne's EMF detector went back to zero.  Earlier in the evening, Jim was recording temperatures in the hallway at the top of the stairs.  A cold spot was detected at a temperature of 55 degrees.  When he checked again while we were upstairs, the cold spot was no longer detected.  I took a total of approximately 50 photos but nothing was detected in these shots.


Kathie Para: GRS Visited the Roff House to do an investigation on Aug. 3, 2013 . Members present were Dale, Stan, Jim Piscopo, Sandy Weber, I and new members Yvonne and Joanne.

After given the history and a brief tour of the home we set up our base camp. Everyone then headed upstairs to Lurancy’s bedroom to do an EVP session.

We used the Ovilus and ghost box to communicate. We also had a Tri-Field Natural EM meter, Melmeter, and FLIR camera and as well as a stationary video camera that was set up in this room for the entire night. There was a window AC unit running and windows open that created quite a bit of noise contamination. There was nothing conclusive in my opinion during much of our thirty minute session, even though I felt I had been touched a couple times and just had the general feeling there was something in the room with us for a time. Towards the end of our session we had been asking if we should leave the room and got a clear response from the Ovilus in phonetic mode of “stay here.” During this same time we had high readings on the Melmeter. I got no EVP’s on my digital audio recorder.

We did a session at the top of the stairs next. Earlier, during our set up, we had a dramatic temperature spike but at this time the temperature remained consistent. Once again with the Ovilus in phonetic mode we got several possibly relevant words. At one point I questioned about a previous owner and remarked that we had heard he wasn’t a very nice man and got “bitch” as a reply. This seemed to be in context.

Sandy, Dale, and I spent some time in the basement next. At one point we heard something in the adjoining room. For the rest of our time in the basement there was too much contamination from other members on the main floor to be able to distinguish where noises were coming from. While we seemed to get many good replies on the ghost box, I didn’t feel they were clear enough from my vantage point to be sure.

We did a short EVP session in the kitchen using two Ovilus’. Once again, we got a few interesting words but nothing I could call conclusive.

I would enjoy going back to this location and spend more time there but with windows closed and no noise contamination to see what we might get.


Jim Piscopo: We arrived about 6:00pm and I took some pictures of the outside of the house. We went inside and got a brief history of the house. I set up my Handycam with Nightshot in Lurancy's bedroom. 

After the equipment was set up I went through the house with my pyrometer to get temp readings. The temps in the house were in the 78-82 degree range but in the middle of Lurancy’s bedroom I had a 64 degree reading. I walked out of the bedroom and at the top of the staircase I had a 58 degree reading.

After the walk through I took more pictures of the inside of the house and later on we did some EVP sessions. During the investigation I did not feel anything out of the unusual.


Sandy Weber: Date: August 3, 2013   Time: approximately 7:00 p.m. – 10:30 a.m.

Investigator: Sandra Weber

Location: Roff House, 300 E. Sheridan Street, Watseka, Illinois

Weather: outside: approximately 70 - 75° F, partly cloudy, low humidity

Other Investigators Present: Dale Kaczmarek, Stan Suho, Kathie Para, Marge Sucha, new investigators Joanne Schullo and Yvonne Zanilah.

Equipment: Sony camcorder set on night shot with very sensitive microphone

Thermometer: Infrared: FLIR


Phenomena witnessed by investigator

Time:  approximately 7:00 p.m. – 10:30 a.m.

 Before setting up, we were given a brief tour of the house and discussion of its history.  After the presentation, we set up our equipment in the house.  My camera was positioned in the basement storage room focused on the doorway leading to the steps to the first floor.  There was quite a lot of contamination from walking and talking among investigators on the first floor.  From my review of footage, I did not hear or see anything out of the ordinary.  

I walked the house with my FLIR, but saw nothing out of the ordinary.  I used the FLIR during EVP sessions throughout the house.  I saw nothing out of the ordinary.   I participated in the EVP sessions, but the recorder was not mine, and I did not review the evidence.  

I did not walk throughout the house taking readings with my Tri-Field Natural EM Meter, as I usually do because I spent too much time on this limited investigation trying to rig my camera to my computer at the command center.  

Final Record

Rolls of film used:  NA

Audio tapes used:   NA

Video tapes used:   NA

Number of Psychic Photos:  None, but unidentified FLIR reading.

Number of EVP recorded:  None heard on camcorder with very sensitive microphone

Phenomena captured in photos:  None

Summation:  I made no paranormal findings.  

Investigator initials: SJW


Stan Suho: Well another old (very) big 2 story house with a long history of paranormal happenings. The proprietor gave us the first class tour and we set to work. Because we were under some time constraints, my G.E.I.S.T. setup was cut back somewhat. Due to some occurrences in the back yard Dale and I decided to set up my Ghost Camera and my Ghost Microphone there.

Good for Video but the Crickets and Locusts brought along all their backup singers with them. Since Audio recording was out of the question, I concentrated on video and taking IR Photos with the help of Dale's big IR Light.

When not busy in the back yard I followed the ace EVP team taking IR pictures and watching them using all the latest Ghost gadgets. I think that one of these days one of those gadgets will lead to a paranormal breakthrough. The evening ended quite early and we headed back to Chicago.  

Conclusions: Sorry to report no paranormal breakthroughs this time.


Evidence collected:

A lot.MPG while conducting a Ghost Box session in Mary’s Room, a question was asked, “How many spirits are in the house?” The Ghost Box responds with, “A lot.”

Bitch.MPG while conducting an Ovilus session in the upstairs hallway and questioning about a previous owner, the Ovilus says, “Bitch.”

Come through.MPG while conducting an Ovilus session in Mary’s Room, a question was asked, “Should we stay or should we go?” The Ovilus responds with, “Come through _______”

Edward.MPG while conducting an EVP session in Mary’s Room, a question was asked, “Who are we speaking with?” The Ghost Radar responds with, “Edward.”

Light.MPG a static IR camera set up in Mary Roff’s room captures a strange light on the wall.

Stay here.MPG while conducting an Ovilus session in Mary’s Room, Joanne began picking up EMF fluctuations on the Melmeter near one doorway and then the Ovilus says clearing in phonetic mode, “Stay here.”

Stop.MPG while conducting an Ovilus session in Mary’s Room, a researcher was adjusting the Tri-Field Natural EM Meter and says, “Turn it to where it just stops…” The Ovilus talks right over her saying “Stop.”

Strange sound.MPG while conducting an EVP session in the basement, a question was asked, “We heard you communicate with other people. Don’t you like us?” In the background, a few seconds later you heard a strange sound possibly a response.

Whispered response.MPG while conducting an EVP session in the basement, a question was asked, “You have a lot of people that come into this house to try to make you talk. Does that make you mad?” Several seconds later a whispered response is heard; either two words or a two-syllable word.


Conclusions: I thought the Roff House was a unique location to investigate. While the owner doesn’t brag about the locale being haunted, many others have had experiences within the building during their investigations. It was a very small building and sound did travel very easily throughout the location so keeping the noise down to avoid possible contamination was always foremost on my mind. Lots of katydids outside that were chirping loudly and because the floors were made of wood, sound was easily transferred from place to place.

Our host was delightful and very knowledgeable about the past history and open to paranormal investigations. He allowed us full access to the building even though he had somewhere to be that particular evening and came back about the time we were packing up to leave. I can see why the owner states on his website that the smaller the group, the better for investigations. The noise problem can be a real problem when conducting EVP sessions or later trying to determine which sounds were natural or possibly supernatural. I did have a great time there and would recommend this location to any smaller group looking for an interesting location to investigate.

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