Sarah Hyatt is looking to peek into the past of some of Iowa’s most historically-significant buildings, and she’s doing it through paranormal investigation.
Like many, Hyatt, of Marion, was intrigued with paranormal investigation TV shows and consumed many books filled with ghost stories.
After taking a class about paranormal investigation at Kirkwood Community College, she decided with her husband in 2012 to start S.E.E. Paranormal, which attempts to find any evidence that the paranormal may exist.
“I took the classes, and I was like, why aren’t we doing this?” Hyatt said.
The group, which has five other members including Hyatt and her husband, has traveled across the Midwest to historic inns, museums and community buildings to do more than 50 investigations.
Hyatt said she didn’t have a childhood encounter to fuel her curiosity and she is not psychic. She doesn’t see those as requisites for someone interested in paranormal investigation.
“I’ve never had one of those experiences whereas a child I saw a ghost at the end of my bed,” she said. “The only way I can talk to any ghost is by using a digital voice recorder. Nobody in our group is psychic or sensitive. I think that’s not the norm anymore. We’ve been really successful without that.”
Typically, Hyatt asks permission to visit a space. The crew brings a “ghost box” — which she explained is a modified radio that scans multiple stations each second — and a digital audio recorder to capture what they call electronic voice phenomena.
Hyatt’s first investigation was overnight at the Farrar School in Central Iowa, which was shuttered in 2002.
“Scary is probably not the right word, but it’s really uncomfortable because you don’t know what’s around you or what to expect, like is it going to be like TV? When it didn’t happen that way, we weren’t disappointed because we had a whole other experience,” she said.
Hyatt said she believes they had an encounter with a paranormal entity. “We had a marble that was thrown at us, and some force stopped it from rolling on the ground,” she said. “A chess piece and a cigarette showed up out of nowhere when everybody had been sitting in a circle. It’s those things that draw a curiosity that makes you continue to want to do it. How are these things showing up? Why are they showing up? The questions keep us going.”
If the group finds any unexplained sounds on audio, Hyatt takes to the books to research the building and any possible inhabitants through historic documents, census data and more. It’s one of the most important pieces to the investigation, Hyatt said.
While at the Wieting Theatre, built in 1912 in Toledo, Hyatt said she heard the name “Emanuel Dvorak” on a digital recorder and someone explaining that his mom’s name was Mary and that he had been to a specific military fort.
While researching, Hyatt said she found that the details corroborated with the life of a man named Emanuel Dvorak.
Hyatt said she understands there are skeptics who will argue that pictures or video can be digitally corrupted.
But it’s hard to argue with historic documents, she said.
S.E.E. Paranormal was invited by the director of the Granger House Victorian Museum in Marion last January to investigate the house. The director encouraged Hyatt to be involved with the museum and even teach a monthly class on how others may begin to their own paranormal investigations.
Hyatt said she appreciates the skeptics who attend because it makes for a dynamic discussion.
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“It makes you think more about what your theory is,” she said. “They’re just as important as the believers. Nothing in this field is a solid fact. Even if their interest in the Granger House is because they think it’s haunted, they’re still getting to appreciate the history that’s there. It kind of brings the local community here.”
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