Haunted Collector: The Sanitarium/Pueblo Firehouse

John Zaffis and his team didn’t go far from home when they responded to a plea for help from landlady Donna Wagner. Donna’s tenants and family reported a variety of disembodied voices, scratches and apparitions at her residential property in Stratford, Connecticut.

The young daughter of a former tenant in the upstairs apartment had complained to her mother her back hurt. When the mother looked at her daughter’s back she found it heavily scratched, nearly cross hatched in a pattern that looked like it had been made by a weeding hand rake.

At one point Donna had been sleeping on a couch in the front room. Her boyfriend woke in the middle of the night and observed an apparition of a young woman who seemed to be missing her feet. The figure approached Donna’s sleeping form, bent over her and vanished.

John asked Donna if the front room held any significant or older items. She showed him a 1920’s era electric cigarette lighter that had belonged to her grandfather. However he had died before she bought the rental property.

Donna showed John the downstairs bedroom and related a frightening experience. Donna had placed a red glass candle holder on a surface in the room. She suddenly experienced feelings of intense anxiety combined with pressure in her head. As those sensations hit her the glass holder abruptly shattered.  I got the impression one of the male spirits in the house was desperately afraid of fire and destroyed the candlestick to avoid any possibility of fire in the house. I saw he had died of terrible burns.

In the basement Donna told John that things had been reported moving on their own and disembodied voices were frequently heard by different living people in the house. John once again asked if there were any old objects or perhaps items that had an odd history. In response Donna showed him what she said was an antique pool ball set. Apparently it had belonged to the troubled father of a former tenant who spent his life playing pool in the basement of the house. Donna didn’t go into details, but simply said the man had “issues”.

I picked up an unbalanced mental state and a great deal of anguish that seemed to be focused on the need for punishment. This poor soul believed he had been cursed for a past bout of misbehavior. He wasn’t all there and had approached a young woman inappropriately. I don’t think he knew what appropriate behavior was. At the time he thought she was pretty. He was a deeply troubled soul, small wonder his family left his pool balls behind when they moved on. I think they moved on after his death, but that was not confirmed in the episode.

Somehow this beleaguered soul was responsible for the scratches on the back of the little girl who once lived in the upstairs apartment. I asked his ghost why he hurt her. He told me, “She has to be punished. She shouldn’t be here!”

I think one of the reasons this man played pool in the basement was to drown out the voices in his head. Sometimes dark entities will attach themselves to the mentally ill because it is easy to frighten or enrage them. I think something unsavory may have been hitchhiking with this poor man, later tortured ghost.

The upstairs apartment where the young girl had been scratched had a strange statue of a seated man. It was determined to have come from Belize where an on-screen note advised viewers the practice of black magic was common. It was a disjointed interlude as nothing about the statue or possibly iffy practices in Belize were brought up again.

Aimee was sent off to research the land and tenants while the rest of the team did their standard daytime investigation which included an EMF sweep and an EVP session conducted by John and Beth in the basement. Beth showed a distinct lack of enthusiasm as she told John, “I don’t like basements.” If so she may have picked the wrong line of work as lead investigator.

Beth tried to start an EVP session but her DVR was dead. She checked with John who said he had just put new batteries in it. John dug up some replacement batteries, but they only lasted long enough to briefly turn on Beth’s recorder before it went dead again. The second set of fresh batteries tested as drained which didn’t make much sense to John who brought the incident up to tech guru Brian.

Brian said both sets of drained batteries had come from the same package and that sometimes batteries went flat. He issued Beth a different DVR with new batteries from a different package for the night investigation. It didn’t help much. Even with a different recorder and fresh batteries from a new package, once in the basement Beth’s DVR briefly turned on and went dead again. She had better luck when she moved to a different spot in the basement.

Meanwhile Aimee found a helpful local historian who uncovered a listing for 117 King Street in a county ledger from 1927. At the time it was owned by a Beatrice Rutherford and run as a sanitarium. The historian had a friend who had grown up on King Street in the 1930’s.

Todd Lovell told Aimee nothing had been normal about Rutherford Hall Sanitarium. As a child Todd never saw grocery delivery trucks at the house. Neighbors whispered about people who entered the house but never left. Despite this Rutherford Hall operated as a Sanitarium for close to 31 years.

Brian launched the team’s night investigation by focusing cameras on the creepy statue in the upstairs apartment and the old electric cigarette lighter in the front room.

John and Beth started out in the basement. After Beth’s DVR flickered on and died yet again, John looked around and noticed a crawl space. Beth wanted nothing to do with the crawl space so John called Chris and Brian down to the basement and sent Brian into the crawl space to investigate.

At first all Brian saw was a bunch of dirt. He started to sweep aside the top layer with his hands and found a glass bottle stopper. A little more cautious rummaging produced the broken pieces of a bottle that seemed to match the stopper. Right away I got impressions of lethal medicines administered to the vulnerable patients of the Rutherford Sanatorium. I was close.

The following day John took the brown glass bottle fragments to a local expert who identified the former contents as poison based on a series of raised bumps on the side of the bottle. The lack of a threaded top and a seam placed the bottle in the 1920’s before massive production of such containers. He explained that in an era of poor lighting, the bumps were intentionally placed on bottles of poison so that someone groping around in a cupboard would not mistake it for anything else. I wish the kind of poison had been identified, but instead a general note was flashed on-screen about how poison was commonly used in homes for benign purposes such as disinfectants. No kidding, just like any modern-day household with cleaning supplies. Half the substances we use in our homes are poisonous if ingested. That hasn’t changed since the 1920’s unless a household is carefully and intentionally operated with only non-toxic green products. Even then all bets are off the moment you go looking for motor oil, antifreeze or gas for the lawn mower.

So, the bottle dated from the right era and had been tossed into the crawl space. Sure made one wonder about the people the neighbors saw enter the place but never leave. I wanted to know if patients never left under their own power or if the meat wagon was a frequent visitor, but that wasn’t addressed. If 117 King Street was ever bulldozed, I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if human bones were found. In fact, I was surprised Brian didn’t find any bones in the crawl space. Interestingly Donna’s boyfriend had found old bottles and tools in the crawl space in the past. However at the time she made no connection to anything shady from the junk he found.

After fun and games in the crawl space Chris and Brian headed back upstairs to see if any of the toy cars Brain had placed on the floor and circled in chalk had moved without human assistance. Three of the four toy cars were exactly where Brian had left them. The fourth was some distance way from its chalk circle. Chris reasonably asked if the floor was level. Brian fetched a level and sure enough, the floor slanted. A bit more testing showed that even minor vibration on the floorboards would allow gravity to pull the toy car down the slant of the floor. It was a good, common sense debunk, although I was disappointed they didn’t put a camera on the toy cars, instead relied on the chalk circles to tell them if they had moved. Why not combine “old school” techniques with modern cameras?

Beth obtained an EVP in the basement when she asked any ghosts who might have been around, “Where you a patient here?” The recorded response was a male voice that said, “suffer”.

John handled the evidence review with Donna. He had her listen to Beth’s EVP and told her about the history of the bottle Brian found in the crawl space. Donna was unaware of the properties sanatorium history or the local rumors about the place. It makes me wonder how far back does a seller have to report oddities or defects in a property to potential buyers?

Predictibly Donna asked John to remove the broken bottle fragments from the house. This seemed rather lame to me in light of the previous bottles and tools her boyfriend had found in the crawl space before the Zaffis team was ever called in.

With the number of ghosts crawling through that house I doubted removal of one bottle that might have only contained floor cleaner wasn’t going to do the trick. No way to know if it helped as no follow-up was offered in the episode.

The second location was the Pueblo Historical Museum in Colorado. The museum focused on the history of a local fire station built in 1881 and in service until March of 1979. The Hose Co. 3 Fire Museum had some colorful stories.

As Gary Micheli walked John through the old fire house I sensed the ghosts of two former firemen who had served there. One was a former chief, the other rank and file from a different era. They were both still responding to old fire calls.

Craig first showed John the main ground floor of the station turned museum. He showed John an early Model T fire engine and related the story that in the late 1970’s the old engine had been turned on and run for some time to charge the battery. It was left unattended as the firefighters went upstairs. Suddenly the Model T started down the street on its own, shedding equipment as it trundled down the street unmanned.

The second runaway fire truck was a 1960’s era Seagrave. In 1977 it was still in use when three firefighters sleeping in the upstairs bedroom were rudely awakened to the sound of the Seagrave engine as it started itself and plowed through the front doors of the station.

John noted the old bronze hose nozzles on display on the ground floor and speculated that they might well have been used to respond to house fires where people died.

Craig told John that the fire station had only lost three firemen in the line of duty during its 98-year history. An early fatality was the stations first Chief R.J. Krague. One day in 1891 his horse and buggy had an accident. Chief Krague was thrown headfirst into a rock and died on impact.

Next Craig showed John the Captain’s Office where many people had reported voices coming out of thin air. He noted the station’s call logs dating from the late 1800’s were stored there.

More phantom voices and breathing were reported upstairs in the firefighter’s bedroom. The bunk room was connected to the main floor by a real brass pole. Craig shared a tragic tale of a family who visited the station in the 1960’s. According to Craig their six-year-old-son had fallen down the pole and died of his injuries. Aimee’s research at the local library turned up the incident but it had a happier ending. The boy survived his fall.

During the daytime sweep Brian and Chris found their EMF meters useless due to the heavy power lines outside the building. Brian tried to get around this by using a DC only meter he called a Natural Tri-Meter. The idea being that alternating current was caused by man-made objects and direct current was more likely to be part of the natural environment. Since both AC and DC are used in electrical applications I was uncertain how useful the DC meter would be.

However it did pick up a slight reading from the wooden cabinet.  Chris noted that his father frequently said wood could hold energy.

Beth and John tried a daylight EVP session while seated in the cab of the old Seagrave engine but didn’t get anything. (I plan to check and see if the antique fire engine on display at the station in my Dad’s home town is a Seagrave. Fortunately the long-term retired Chief is around. If I ask nicely I can probably convince him to tell me about the engines used under his watch. What can I say, I love old metal.)

Brian and Chris had better luck using a Ghost Box. Not sure of the model they used, but it was a lot less screechy than some. A spirit identified itself as William and then used the Ghost Box to spit out the words “book” and “door”. When Chris asked William’s shade if he wanted to talk to anyone in particular the response was clearly, “John”. In order to made sure they had the right John they asked William if they should bring Zaffis to the room. The answer was, “go”.

John came up to the room and started to ask questions. When he asked for the name of the ghost he was talking to once again the ghost box said, “William”. John asked why the ghost was in the firehouse. The answer was, “blaze”. When John requested to know how many presences were around him, Chris and Brian the response was the somewhat inconclusive word, “ghosts”. Was William trying to say something along the lines of many ghosts?

Aimee’s research turned up the fact that the Model T fire engine vibrated so severely when running in idle it was known to release the parking brake. Zaffis and his team considered the runaway Model T engine debunked.

Chris and Brian noticed a picture on one of the walls that honored the memory of late fire fighter, William A. DeLong. William died in 1949 when in the process of responding to a fire call he crashed into a first aid truck. Was this the William who spoke to the team through the ghost box? I believe so as he had quite a bit more to say.

The nighttime investigation started with John and Beth who attempted an EVP session around the Model T engine. They got nothing and when John asked Beth if she sensed any activity going on around them she said no. It was interesting to me how the show left the question of Beth’s possible psychic sensitivities unanswered. Most of the time they pretend she doesn’t have any until she is asked a direct question that assumes she does. Why sit on the fence about this? Are they afraid of losing credibility by admitting they have a sensitive on the team? If so, they should have never mentioned she had any ability to pick up energy or vibes and let her pass as an everyday Muggle.

In the Captain’s Office Brian and Chris tried to reestablish contact with William via the ghost box but were frustrated by sounds outside the station house. Chris suddenly noticed that the door to the book cabinet was open and asked Brian, “Was that open before?” Brian was almost positive the door to the book cabinet had been closed earlier and noted neither man had heard any noise that might accompany an old book cabinet door as it opened. It was wide open at that point and the old call ledgers were easily seen. Brian speculated that perhaps one of the heavy books had shifted inside the case and pushed open the cabinet door. It would have been interesting to know if the door was heavy enough to swing open once unlatched.

Brian tried his Natural Tri-Meter on the ledgers but didn’t get any sort of reading off them. Chris was rummaging around in the book cabinet and noticed something had become stuck behind the ledgers. He fished out a woman’s brooch decorated with flowers. The brooch did set off the Tri-Meter. Once the brooch was removed the readings ceased.

John took the ladies brooch to jewelry expert Dwayne Hinsler. Dwayne identified it as a Victorian mourning brooch and explained the decorative flowers were fashioned out of human hair.

As Chris and Brian were checking out the book cabinet William’s ghost clearly told me that he wanted the brooch to go to his granddaughter whom he told me lives in the Pueblo area.

John showed Gary the brooch. Gary had never seen it before and was puzzled that the door to the book cabinet had opened as it had been locked for a number of years. Gary asked John to remove the brooch and John happily added it to his collection.

That was not an acceptable ending from William DeLong’s point of view. He wanted that brooch to go to a granddaughter.

One practice John used in adding his latest acquisitions to his museum puzzled me. He placed both the poison bottle fragments and the ladies mourning brooch under glass domes with the explanation the glass would contain the presumably haunted energies in the objects. I have never found any physical material effective in containing energies or entities attached to an object. There is no lead cure for kryptonite in the paranormal world as I have experienced it to date.

Perhaps removing the objects from the locations where they might have picked up haunted energies might help dissipate the paranormal activities of the objects but I doubt it would cleanse the objects completely.

There are a number of schools of thought on how to energetically cleanse physical objects. Some of them even work. Personally I just ask Archangel Michael to blast an energetically contaminated object with Divine /God source cleansing light and that has worked so far.

I have a catch-all cabinet that came out of a home where transients had broken in and set up a satanic altar. It was in the same room as that garbage was going on. I had my guides blast it thoroughly with divine cleansing light and never had a problem with it since. Prior to the Divine light cleansing it only made me feel uncomfortable because I had walked into the room with the altar and was not too thrilled when the person with me who had grown up in the house decided to take it back. It turned out to be a good lesson in how to handle such objects so that they become everyday things again, rather than the focus of fears.

A quick check in an online phone directly showed five listings for DeLong’s in Pueblo. Two of them were women’s names. Of course the desired female could have married and go under a different name these days. I hope John Zaffis will consider honoring William DeLong’s wishes.



I can be reached for private readings via email at: angelzhands@yahoo.com

© 2011 Lynne Olson. All rights reserved.

About Lynne Sutherland Olson

Professional Psychic Medium
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