WOODSTOCK – Numbers on the digital face of an electromagnetic field meter jumped from 0.0 to 9.0 and everywhere in between as Tony Olszewski sat in the upstairs office of his Woodstock home.
“There’s no real explanation for why that would happen, right?” he asks.
Olszewski explained that EMF meters usually pick up on man-made electromagnetic activity, spiking when in front of a microwave or a bad electrical connection.
His office, he said, is void of any such trigger.
Olszewski, who is the founder of the McHenry County Paranormal Group, said that spirits are in his own home, and they likely were setting off the meter.
As part of his work, Olszewski spends time assisting both the living and the dead, helping flesh-and-blood clients and rescuing spirits that have remained on Earth after death.
The retired police officer finds his spirit-world tasks by word of mouth, and he accepts no pay.
His team is composed of 12 people, including four empaths (those who are sensitive to the paranormal), six investigators and two mediums.
When he receives a call, some combination of that number assesses the situation and takes the appropriate steps. Most spirits aren’t the malevolent type a la movies such as “Poltergeist” or “Paranormal Activity,” and even if they are negative, Olszewski said it’s likely they’re just confused.
“Probably 80 percent of our spirits are disconnected – spirits who have a problem or have grown so accustomed to being an unentity that they feel where they are in the afterlife ... is appropriate for them,” he said. “It’s like settling – when a man or woman has been single so long, they settle for whatever is there. They may be comfortable, so it’s not an easy task. Sometimes it’s a battle of the wits.”
What causes spirits to linger, whether at Halloween or any time of year?
“Sometimes it’s sudden and instant death where they don’t even realize they’re deceased,” Olszewski said. “Other times it can be unfinished business.”
Olszewski said he discovered several spirits with such a disconnect at the Fox Lake-Grant Township Area Historical Society building in Ingleside.
The building itself, known as Grant Hall Museum, was built about 1907 and formerly served as Grant Town Hall.
Paul Jakstas, a trustee with the historical society, said strange noises have been heard there.
“Every once in a while we’ll be in a meeting and hear loud thumps,” he said. “One of our volunteers said she was working on a display and the glass part of it kept moving, kept sliding out as if on its own.”
After seeing Olszewski give a presentation of his findings at the Lakes Region Historical Society in Antioch, several members of the Fox Lake-Grant Township Area group decided to enlist him, as well. What he discovered unnerved even Jakstas, who admittedly is a skeptic.
After the investigation was complete, Olszewski held two presentations at the hall showing what he had found. Before these two “reveals,” a private gathering was held for the board of trustees.
Over what Olszewski said was an unaltered photograph of himself during the investigation appeared the face of another, older man.
“I wish I had a camera for when they saw that face,” said Virginia Sayles, a corresponding secretary with the historical society. “They almost fell off their chairs.”
That’s because many of the members of the audience immediately could identify the visage as that of Joe Tancl, a former garage owner, fireman and caretaker of the building that now hosts the historical society.
“There was nothing negative, he was just there, still keeping his post,” Olszewski said. “He had already crossed and come back. He didn’t need our help.”
Other spirits were there, as well, attached to antiques in the building, he said. None of them were negative.
“Evil spirits, they are the minority,” Olszewski said. “Malevolent spirits, negative spirits. You are in the afterlife as you are in life. If you’re a [jerk] in life you are a [jerk] in the afterlife. We don’t say evil. We don’t believe in demons. We believe in Hitler type ‘demons,’ but that’s how Christians define it.”
Olszewski added that the accepted norm is that a spirit is going to come back at the age when he or she was the happiest and represent itself as such. Therefore, if somebody dies at 80, but 21 was his happiest year, he’ll look like he did when he was 21.
“What we see of the spirit is what they represent,” he said. “That’s why sometimes you can’t believe what you see. Negative spirits will play little games a lot, appear as children.”
One of the first times Olszewski remembers experiencing the paranormal was while he still was an officer with the McHenry County Sheriff’s Department and responded to a Wonder Lake home for a criminal trespassing report.
Olszewski happened to know the man who owned the house and described him as a reputable tow truck operator.
The call came in late November, he said. There were 2 inches of snow on the ground.
When Olszewski pulled up to the house it was 6 p.m. and already dark, and the owner of the house was in a rant.
“He said, ‘Every night this woman in white is here by the window, she scares my kids to death,’ ” Olszewski said. “He said she was a nurse, she was dressed in white. So I said, ‘OK, let’s go outside and see what we can see.’ We found a set of footprints by the window. They walked away from the window, behind the house, to the middle of the yard and they stopped. I looked around [with] my flashlight and there was nothing within 40 feet of me – no garage, no buildings.”
“I told him to get a priest out there to bless the house. I got razzed for weeks after that. A priest came out, did a blessing, and it stopped for them. It still didn’t compute in the back of my head. I never noticed there were no footprints leading up to the window, only away. She was just staring at the kids from the window. The kids saw her every day.
To this day they still don’t know if she’s connected to the house.”
That was in 1977. Although that Wonder Lake home stopped experiencing its strange visits, many at the Fox Lake-Grant Township Area Historical Society are fairly certain theirs won’t be over any time soon.
“I think Joe’s still here,” Sayles said. “We talk to him sometimes.”
Need help with a haunting?
To reach Tony Olszewski, founder of the McHenry County Paranormal Group, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 815-236-1692. Learn more at paranormalassist.com.
Origins of Halloween
Halloween's origins date back to the festival of Samhain celebrated by the Celts of ancient Britain and Ireland, occurring just before Nov. 1, which was recognized as the end of summer and the date herds returned from pasture and land tenures were renewed.
The practice of wearing masks back then was a way for people to disguise themselves and avoid being recognized by ghosts. Bonfires also were used to frighten spirits away.
Because of the prevalence of these practices, beings such as witches, hobgoblins, fairies and demons became a part of the Halloween tradition.
When the Romans conquered the Celts in the 1st century, they added their own festivals of Feralia, commemorating the passing of the dead and of Pomona, the goddess of the harvest.
Probably to combat the pagan themes that came to dominate the holiday, in the 7th century, Pope Boniface IV created All Saints’ Day, originally on May 13. He later moved it to Nov. 1, and so the evening before All Saints’ Day became a holy, or hallowed, eve and thus Hallowe'en.
The secular and the sacred days had merged by the end of the Middle Ages. Christianity took a firm stand against the holiday during the Reformation and among early American colonists, although the secular celebration remained popular in Britain and in America, immigrants from many countries brought with them their own unique traditions.
– Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica