McKinley YMCA Investigation

The Ghost Research Society and Champaign Urbana Paranormal Society were the first paranormal teams to ever investigate this location!

This was originally the home of John P. White which was built in 1858 and fronted on Elm Street and encompassed about 5,000 square feet. The building had a separate power plant. Henrietta Preble was married to J.P. White. He created an addition to the city of Champaign and gave the four-square block area now known as West Side Park to the city. Henrietta’s mother Drusilla and father also lived with them.

In 1862, Drusilla Preble bought the property from J.P. White for $2,000 and White moved to Chicago. About a year later, in 1863, Drusilla Preble sells the home to B.F. Harris, Sr. (1811-1905) for $5,000 and he lives there until his death in 1905. Just prior to his death in 1904, Harris builds another building for his daughter, Rachel (1879-1936) at a cost of $200,000. She marries David Phillipe in 1874.

In 1922 David Phillipe dies and Widow Rachel continues to live in their home until her death in 1936.  In 1938, Senator Wm. McKinley gives the YMCA $200,000 to buy the building and name it for him. The YMCA had privately raised $35,000 and a gym and pool were added. In 1981, a second pool and parking lot were also added.

In 2010, YMCA builds anew in southwest Champaign. They sell the Church Street building to Leon Jeske who is currently restoring the entire property…the apartments in the power house and various parts of the main house. He is operating a Fitness Center; open to the public on a membership basis.


Address: 500 W. Church St., Champaign, IL. 61820

Telephone: 217-202-7305

Owner: Leon Jeske

Hauntings: Leon Jeske told me that a multi-colored basketball has been seen moving around the gymnasium on occasion and that it might be associated with a young boy who liked to play basketball.

Other reports of apparent shadow people, strange sounds and apparitions have been encountered.

Equipment setup: The Ghostcam and Ghostmic were both set up in the gym and cables were run back to a Command Center in a room next to the Olympic-sized pool. I placed an IR camcorder and IR illuminator in the gym along with a shadow detector, REM Epod and Geophone device.







The Ghost Research Society investigated the McKinley YMCA  on February 21, 2015. Team members included: Kathie Para, Stan Suho and Dale Kaczmarek with Bob Davies, Lori Leger, Chris Cochran, Richard Levite and John Isberg from Champaign Urbana Paranormal Society.









Experiments performed: The main experiment was set up in the gymnasium. Since there were reports of these multi-colored basketballs rolling around on their own, I wanted to see if we could capture that motion on cameras. We placed two basketballs at mid-court and used a leveling device to insure that the floor was indeed level and not off kilter. A Geophone was placed near the balls to detect any vibration in the floorboards, a REM Epod was employed to detect any anomalous energy readings near these balls, a shadow detector was set up to see if any shadow figures were seen interacting with them and everything was being recorded by an IR camcorder illuminated by an large external IR light.

EVP, Ghostbox (SB-11) not connected to radio frequencies, Ovilus X and Ghost Radar sessions were held in the gymnasium, the upstairs bedroom areas, attic, and exercise room.

Personal experiences:

Dale Kaczmarek: While conducting experiments and EVP sessions in the gymnasium both Kathie and I heard a loud ruckus coming from the men’s dressing room area which quickly stopped when Stan entered into the gym to check on his equipment. Kathie and I both tried to recreate the sounds we had just experienced and the closest it resembled was the sound of someone trying to open the latch on the metal lockers in the dressing rooms! 

I turned the Ghost Radar on for a few minutes and two words, back to back, came through that were relevant to the situation: “ball” and “horse”. Ball for the two basketballs located about fifteen feet away from us and, horse, is the name of a basketball game.

I twice heard a beeping sound in the exercise room and there were some noises coming from behind the bar upstairs in the attic.

Kathie Para: The building was originally built in 1904 as a private residence of a well to do family in Champaign and eventually was purchased in 1938 by the YMCA. Although through the years, two pools and a gymnasium we added to the building it remains amazingly similar to the original home. Obviously great pains were taken to maintain as much of the original beauty and integrity as possible. The original blueprints and floor plans still remain with the building. In 2010 the YMCA sold the building to the current owner who has kept it as a private fitness center and has also been restoring other areas of the building to its original beauty.

This was a first ever paranormal investigation of this building even though there have been many paranormal occurrences reported over the years.

We focused on four areas: the gym, the attic, the second floor “conference room”, formerly two bedrooms now opened into one large space and the men’s workout room, formerly the kitchen.

A spirit of a boy is reported to make basket balls move in the gym. During our time in this room I saw a shadow move, the words “ball” and “horse” (one right after each other) came from the Ovilus. That is significant since horse is a basketball game. We were getting almost constant responses from the ghost box from what sounded like two different voices. The prevalent one sounded like a pre-teen boy. I also picked up what sounds like a ball bouncing on my audio recorder.

In the attic we heard unexplained noises several times. The ghost box was, once again, was responding. Even though I really couldn’t make out most of it, it was again two voices. In one instance they both said “talk”. I almost got the feeling that they were discussing this machine that was brand new to them and trying to figure out what to do. I only say this because there have been no investigators there before us and the equipment had to be something a spirit was not familiar with. Very clearly, the name “Dale” came out of the ghost box. Dale and I were the only ones in the attic. I also heard some faint whispering on my audio recorder upon reviewing it.

The second floor conference area was fairly quiet but we did get response knocks to “shave and a haircut” not once, but twice.

The old kitchen (now a men’s workout room) was our last session.  At one point I asked ‘what were you doing when we came in? Were you exercising?” and the word “haunting” came through the Ovilus. I also picked up what sounded like a whisper on my recorder.

I would love to go back to investigate again. I feel as though there are spirits there who are anxious to communicate but were unsure how to and were wary of us. I’m hoping we’re invited back!


Stan Suho: Ah another old building that over the years has been converted to a Gymnasium. Our group joined up with Bob's team for a quick investigation. The current owner gave us a first class tour, after which we began our setup. I chose a table in a room just off the main entrance. Since Bob had a larger team he got the jump on us in choosing camera locations. Dale and I both chose to set up our IR Cameras in the Gym downstairs. Since this involved a lot of stair climbing, I chose to leave it at that. The DVR, Monitor, and G.E.I.S.T. laptop were used. The G.E.I.S.T. Computer System was not brought out because of the aforementioned reasons. Our cameras were set up in one corner by the door with Dale's big IR Lamp lighting the whole area.
  Meanwhile back at the ranch, Dale and Kathy prepared for a night of EVPing. I would join them later. The Gym was a difficult place to EVP in because of the echo effect combined with the clanging of the pipes. When everything was up and running I busied myself with a few hand-helds and taking pictures.

  During the evening Dale and Kathy went into the Gym to do an EVP session. This was picked up by my camera and Ghost Microphone. Dale was using a new device that generated white noise. As he was talking over the noise, down in the noise level I could hear a child’s voice apparently talking back. I couldn't make out what was being said, but it seemed to be
responding to Dale's questions. This was also picked up by Kathy's digital recorder. The responses continued throughout the white noise session, about 5 to 10 minutes. I reported this to Dale for further analysis. The rest of the night proceeded uneventful.

  Other than the voices in the white noise nothing unusual showed up on my equipment.


Evidence collected:

Attic bangs.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the Attic, a number of bangs were heard and recorded in the background.

Attic noise.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the Attic, another noise was both heard and recorded in the background.

Attic noises.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the Attic, more noises were heard in the background.

Attic talk.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the Attic, numerous short responses and talk were coming through the device.

Attic whisper.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus X session in the Attic, a whisper can be heard in the background.

Dale ymca.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the Attic, a question was asked, “Who’s the mistress of the house?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Dale.”

Don’t know ymca.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the Attic, a question was asked, “Do you know the master of the house?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Don’t know.”

Gym ball horse.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Radar session in the Gym, the Ghost Radar says two words in succession, “Ball” and “Horse” both relating to the basketballs we placed in the middle of the floor.

Gym ghost box more response.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the Gym, a question was asked, “Are you a boy or a girl?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Boy” and then we begin to hear a very young-sounding boy’s voice coming through towards the end of the clip.

Gym ghost box response.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the Gym, a question was asked, “What is your name?” A number of indistinguishable responses come through, sounding like a child’s voice in some.

Gym ghost box voice.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the Gym, voices of children sound like their trying to say something towards the beginning of the clip.

Hello ymca.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the Gym, a question was asked, “Can you tell us hello?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Hello” twice.

High voice.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the Gym, a high-pitched series of words comes through in a high-sounding voice.

I need help.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the Gym, the Ghost Box says clearly, “I need help.”

Knocks1 ymca.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the upstairs bedroom, we tried the “Shave and a Haircut” routine and received two faint distant knocks in response.

Knocks2 ymca.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the upstairs bedroom, we again tried the “Shave and a Haircut” routine and again received a response.

Loud noises ymca.MPG – while conducting an EVP session in the Gym, suddenly really loud bangs and clanks can be heard in the background. Later when we tried to recreate the sounds, they resembled lockers being opened and slammed shut.

Many ymca.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the Gym, a question was asked, “Are there more than one of you here?” The Ghost Box responds with, “Many.”

Old kitchen haunting.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus X session in the exercise room that used to be the old kitchen area, a question was asked, “What machine should I go to?” The Ovilus X responds with, “Haunting.”

Old kitchen whisper.MPG – while conducting an Ovilus X session in the exercise room, a whisper is recorded that sounds like it’s saying, “God.”

Response ymca.MPG – while conducting a Ghost Box session in the Attic, a question was asked, “You know my partner’s name?” The Ghost Box responds with a full, unrecognizable sentence in a female voice.

Scream ymca.MPG – while conducting an EVP in the Attic, a distant scream can be heard in the background.

Conclusions: This was a great location that had never before been investigated by any other paranormal team. It was steeped in history and even had a few ghost stories told by the owner who was very open to the possibility that this place could indeed be haunted.

We received very clear voices, many times responding to specific questions we asked so I would assume that they were much more than simply residual effects and probably more intelligent entities still hanging around for some undisclosed reason(s). There was no manipulation of the basketballs on the court or any other evidence captured on cameras, a number of good responses on the SB-11 as well as very loud bangs were heard.

There were quite  number of people wandering around the building that evening and even a camera crew doing a documentary, so there was some concern on contamination of EVP, camcorder and shadow detection equipment. It would be wonderful to conduct another more controlled investigation of this location with more equipment, cameras and less intrusions into controlled areas.

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