ALLEGAN, Mich. — From the outside, Allegan County's Old Jail Museum looks like a typical Victorian-style structure that's stood the test of time.
But inside, many believe the building has more happening than just the curation of artifacts, including the lingering ghostly presence of a little girl who died nearby more than a century ago.
"I like to say we've got about seven permanent residents here in the building," said Scott Kuykendall, who works at the museum and is vice president of the Allegan County Historical Society. "I always make it a point that whenever a paranormal group comes in to let them know to not ask me any questions because I'm not going to tell them what other groups have found."
Kuykendall says ghost hunters claim to have connected with several different spirits while conducting investigations inside the museum, with many of them eerily having a shared experience - that of seeing and hearing a little girl on different floors.
"She's a young girl, about 9 years old, Victorian era," Kuykendall said. "People say she's very mischievous, running around and pulling on clothing."
Kuykendall, along with fellow museum curator Matt Lovett, say they find the common paranormal experiences about the girl very interesting, and believe they could be connected to a donated artifact that's never been made available for public viewing.
"We don't have record of when we received it, but an old Bible was donated to the museum," said Lovett, who is the president of the Allegan County Historical Society. "Unbeknownst to the donator, we found an envelope pressed inside [the Bible] and inside the envelope was a flower and a lock of hair.
"Written on the outside of the envelope is, "'Dear little so-and-so, a flower from her grave.'
"I say 'so-and-so' because we don't give out the girl's name to the paranormal groups who come here and try to find her. Some groups strangely have gotten the name right, and we've confirmed it."
Both Lovett and Kuykendall believe the lock of hair had to belong to the girl and may be why her spirit is lingering within the museum.
According to documentation in the museum's archives, the little girl drowned in an Allegan lake in 1892 and is buried in a nearby cemetery.
13 ON YOUR SIDE wanted to document a paranormal investigation at the museum, so we reached out to Rick Waid who has performed many of them, both locally and around the world.
"I am a Seer," said Waid. "A Seer is a person who connects with the energy of those who have passed away."
On the evening of Wednesday, October 14, Waid, along with a handful of individuals - some paranormal investigators; others just thrill seekers - gathered at the museum to see if they could connect with the little girl.
Waid arrived armed with an Electronic Voice Phenomenon recording device. EVPs are sounds found on recordings that are interpreted as spirit voices that have been either unintentionally recorded or intentionally requested and recorded.
The investigation involved Waid leading the group to specific locations on all four levels of the museum (including the attic) where participants will ask questions while the EVP recorder is recording. When each session concludes, Waid will play back the recording to see if anything unusual and unexplained was picked up.
"I believe the little girl's spirit is here at the museum," Waid said. "When I was doing an investigation here a while back, I took a picture of a cabinet display of old dolls.
"If you look closely at the photo, on the far right, you can see what looks like a girl with long hair with a dress, and she's looking forward.
"It's not the reflection of the male doll to the left of her because he's looking in a different direction."
The museum used to be Allegan County jail and courthouse for many decades until it closed in the 1960s. Waid and the group decided to have their first EVP session in the basement, which used to be where court proceedings were conducted.
Once everybody was settled, Waid started the recording device. Each member in attendance asked a question aloud.
Waid then ended the session, and played back the recording for all to hear. After one of the questions, an unknown voice saying, 'behind you' could clearly be heard. Waid played the recording back for the group several times to make sure everybody heard it.
"You can hear, 'Behind you,' very clearly," said Waid.
The investigation then moved upstairs to a room where many previous paranormal investigators claim to have either seen or captured EVP audio of the little girl.
Once every member of the group had settled into the room, Waid started his EVP recorder again and attendees, again, started asking questions aloud. A few minutes later, Waid stopped the recording and began playing it back for all to hear.
During playback, you can hear one of the individuals asked the question, 'Have you been here a while,' followed immediately by an audio capture that sounds like a voice saying, 'Right here.'
"I can hear the little girl saying, 'Right here,'" said Waid to the group.
Waid then led the group to the attic of the museum for the evening's final EVP session. As you walked in, the smell of old artifacts was overwhelming. Dusty portraits, antique furniture and piles of yellowing newspapers were strewn about.
Waid pressed record and each person in the room again asked a question aloud.
During the session, Waid interrupted and said, "I just heard something; I heard, 'I'm sick.' That doesn't mean it's going to be on the recorder, but I did hear, 'I'm sick.'"
Waid ended the session, and like the other two sessions, he played the recording back for the room of people to hear.
As the recording played, what sounded like a faint voice could be heard, followed by Waid saying to the group, "What did you hear; what did I say; It sounded like, 'I'm sick.'"
Waid played that part of the recording back a few times. Each member of the group was amazed, and any who were skeptics when the night began, left as believers.
"You can't help but have some believe in that stuff," said Lovett, as he was shutting the museum down for the night.
"I've never seen a ghost personally, but several people who visit this museum have, and the majority of them have all seen the same little girl without anybody telling them anything beforehand," said Kuykendall. "All I know is when I leave every night, I make it a point to always say 'goodbye' to all of our residents."
Rick Waid, who hasn't learned the name of the little girl yet, says he plans to do several more paranormal investigations at the museum until he does learn it.
If you'd like to visit Allegan's Old Jail Museum, or schedule a paranormal investigation, call (269) 673-8292 and leave a message. Either Scott Kuykendall or Mark Lovett will respond.
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