Ghostly encounters

It’s called the vortex, and it is in the corner room of a dark, musty basement in downtown Canal Fulton. Illuminated only by black light, this alleged portal to the spirit world is outlined in fluorescent paint, as a dead body on the sidewalk might be.

Old Canal Fulton warehouse offers an experience with the paranormal

It’s called the vortex, and it is in the corner room of a dark, musty basement in downtown Canal Fulton. Illuminated only by black light, this alleged portal to the spirit world is outlined in fluorescent paint, as a dead body on the sidewalk might be. Already feeling a bit disoriented from the dim and dank atmosphere of the basement, which once was an active mortuary, I reluctantly step onto the vortex and feel the change instantly. I feel weighted down, as if a powerful magnet were holding my legs to the spot. I’m not the kind of person who believes in this stuff, but…

“We’re going to give you a paranormal encounter tonight,” Ken Roberts, proprietor of Canal Fulton’s Warehouse on the Canal, tells the group of friends gathered in the venue’s atmospheric Ghostly Hall for a full evening of dinner, drinks, Celtic music, psychic readings and psychometry, with a ghost tour as the finale.

“It’s not like a scripted walking tour,” he promises. “It takes different tangents.”

“We don’t do seances here, or Ouija boards, or burning of the candles or calling the dead. To us, it is a spiritual experience and also entertainment,” Margarita Roberts, Ken’s Dominican wife, says at the outset.

Brightly, she adds, “I’m a hospice volunteer, and it is OK to die.”

The couple bought the warehouse, which was built in 1906 and formerly housed a carpentry shop, furniture store, hardware store and grocery, in 2002. Their intention was to open a restaurant, called the Let’s Mango Tea Garden; it was in business from 2004 through 2007. What they didn’t expect were the ghostly residents that came with the property.

“When we were here working on the place, we’d hear steps, the elevator opening and closing, all kinds of weird stuff,” Ken says. “Objects would move around, doors would slam. Now, we’ve gotten more used to it.”

After attending a ghost tour in Gettysburg, Pa., which was assembly-line in nature — “there’s one on every corner,” he says — Ken got the idea to launch his own ghost tours in Canal Fulton, utilizing his ghost-infested building and his wife’s cuisine.

“We tried to make ours different within the industry,” Ken says. “It’s not theatrical, it’s not drama. We try to look at the paranormal beyond the fright factor.”

As for tour business, “It’s always been very successful, even in the winter,” he says. “We get people from all over the state and outside the state, even in the winter.”

As for the ghost-tour attendees, he says, “we attract the mysterious and the light-hearted.”

Ham, beans and Ghost Girl

Back to our ghostly evening, which begins with a perfectly enjoyable wake-style seasonal buffet of sliced ham, sweet potatoes, green beans, cucumber salad, rolls and chocolate-dipped strawberries and other sweet treats. Two alcoholic beverages are available: Apple Grog — “what they served at funerals in Victorian days,” Margarita says — and a sweet concoction called Ghost Girl.

Celtic musician Ginger Ackley, a Dallas native recently relocated to Canton, provides dinner music on vocals, auto harp, Irish whistle and bodhran. She tells us that Celtic music can be broken into happy songs composed when drunk, and sad songs written when hung over. One song, titled “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” about a young man heading off to war, is especially lovely and haunting.

Psychic bloodline

Anne Miller, a Canton-based spiritual consultant and hypnotherapist, is up first on the evening’s spiritual menu. She has the ability to take a personal object from someone, concentrate on it, feel emotions and share them. This is known as psychometry, she says.

A man in the crowd has brought a model-train locomotive that once belonged to his grandfather. A woman has brought a small Bible that belonged to her deceased sister. Several women hand Miller their rings.

“You have a grandma figure right behind you, and she’s sorry,” Miller tells one woman, noting that the grandmother is on her mother’s side of the family. (The woman later confirms that this is uncannily true.) “You’re going on a weekend trip — pretty quick!” she tells a man, who is leaving the next day. She tells another woman that she has been having thyroid problems, which is right on the money, she says later.

Psychic abilities are in her blood, Miller believes.

As a girl, “I knew what was going to happen before it happened,” she says. “My grandmother, they used to call her to houses to heal people.”

And the lineage continues: “My granddaughter is doing astral travel, and my grandson is starting to do tarot readings.”

Eerie basement

The action moves downstairs into the warehouse basement, which is dimly lit, funereal by design and caused a distinct physical tightness in this writer’s chest, the kind that accompanies feelings of guilt or dread.

The main room has rows of church pews in front of a stage where a coffin sits, with a mannequin dressed in a widow’s black garb looming above.

Here, Helen Mayor, a Norton-based psychic medium, shares lore about how the dead were prepared for burial in Victorian times, the widow’s yearlong mourning period, and a time when Canal Fulton was so wracked by illness that bodies were hauled away for mass burial in trenches.

The basement is where Lester, the warehouse’s protective and dominant ghost, hangs out, we are told. A woman sometimes is seen in a basement mirror, Mayor says, and the ghost of a little girl named Sunshine tends to be spotted as well.

In the near-darkness, Mayor brightly offers to do a form of North American energy healing on the individuals in our tour group. One of the women who steps forward told me the next day that her nagging back pains lifted with Mayor’s ministrations.

Also in the basement is the aforementioned vortex, and another chamber identified by Mayor as the embalming room. She tells us the room is filled with shadow people whose names she calls out individually.

When she asks if anyone else is seeing them, after she turns off her flashlight, no one replies. The tour concludes in the building’s third floor, oven-like on this August night, where a child-like ghost named Nate reportedly dwells amid a selection of toys spread out on a blanket. At Mayor’s urging, a woman from the group sits on the floor to play patty-cake with Nate, who Mayor says is seated right across from the volunteer. As the child’s game proceeds, Nate’s new playmate says with surprise that she feels cold air at the palms of her hands in this very warm attic.

“I love working here,” Mayor says afterward. “I love to teach people what I know about the other side.”

WAREHOUSE ON THE CANAL
A variety of events are scheduled for October at the Warehouse on the Canal in Canal Fulton.

Ghost Tours will be offered Oct. 16 and 30.Tickets are $20 for the tour only, conducted by psychic medium Helen Mayor, or $38.50 with dinner and dessert.

Psychic Nights will be Oct. 15 and 29.Tickets are $20 for the program, presented by spiritual consultant Anne Meyer, or $38.50 with dinner and dessert.

A Celtic Evening will happen Oct. 23, with Celtic music by Ginger Ackley and a psychic program by Anne Miller. Tickets are $20 for the program or $36.50 with dinner and dessert.

For reservations and more information, call (330) 854-1111. Customized private parties are also available.

REPORTER’S THOUGHTS My take on the evening? While I saw none of the ghosts allegedly lurking, the psychometric psychic was engrossing and on-target, the basement was undeniably creepy, the vortex was memorably magnetic — and dinner was delicious, especially those hand-dipped peppermint patties.