Niagara Gazette — Every house has its own stories. Michelle Kratz helps people discover what those stories are.
As a genealogist at the Lewiston Library, she knows where the answers might lie, what records to check, which books to read and what questions to ask.
But there’s a very interesting detail most of the people who look for her research help in the library are asking about.”It’s inevitable,” she said, “when people come in here asking, ‘Can you tell me the history of my house?’ 90 percent of the time, they want to know because they believe their house is haunted.”
Kratts, who has a degree in English and History from Niagara University, and who is certified in genealogy from the University of Toronto, says that people seek her out looking for answers about noises they hear and images they see in their homes.
“I have people come here in tears, emailing me, texting me in the middle of the night, saying ‘I don’t know what to do …’ “
“Its unbelievable,” she added. “Some of them want to get rid of the spirits, some of them want to understand what’s going on. I think too they want someone to believe them and not think they’re crazy.”
Case in point, a woman on Saunders Settlement Road started hearing noises and seeing images in her home after bringing home some items from a German household. The disembodied voices were speaking in German. She saw faint images of people, and her bed would shake just about the same time nearly every night. Her skeptical husband, pulling out of the driveway one day, saw a man, all dressed in red, heading towards the house. He felt compelled to call his wife and warn her not to answer the door. When the husband came back, no sign of the man could be found.
The woman talked with her priest and he told her to try and learn more about the house. “He told her, ‘you need to have some knowledge. (The spirits) are not always bad.’ “
The woman has since had an exorcism done and the noises and sights have ceased. But the house is up for sale.
“She’s just afraid of the unknown,” said Kratts. “you get to a point and you just don’t know what world you’re in any more.”
Kratts says she often feels like a bridge between two worlds. “In a way I’m kind of a medium between the living and the dead, not in a psychic way, but I’m in between the two worlds,” she said.
The mother of three is also an active volunteer for Oakwood Cemetery and very often her research work begins at the last resting place of more than 20,000 dead, including some of the most important people in the area’s history.
She details the stories of her research on her blog at the cemetery’s website, www.myoakwoodcemetery.com and she hopes to write soon about Cayuga Island, where many ghost stories have been reported.
“I want to do a story called ‘The Island of Lost Souls’ because that’s what I think Cayuga Island is. There have been drownings, murders, boats overturned and weird stories of people hearing cries for help at night from the river, but when they check, there’s no one there.”
Kratts, who recently moved to a house in LaSalle, is anxious to see if she has spirits of her own, as the 100-year-old home is rich with stories about those that lived there before her. In the early ’20s, a former young male resident died in a canoeing expedition after having survived an electrocution the year before. His grandfather, a beekeeper, was driving downtown and drove right into a train.
”They were good decent people,” she said, adding that if she were to see signs from them, “I wouldn’t be afraid.”
With the Halloween season at hand, many people have an even stronger interest in things that go bump in the night, and Kratts has many spine tingling stories to share. But, sometimes, she says, a noise is just a noise, and a weird sight can be explained away by science.
”It seems like a lot of people will tell me they hear things or see things,” she noted, “But I think people would like to think they might have a ghost.”
Personally, Kratts is encouraged by the idea of ghosts, and stories of visitations from those who have departed give her hope of a hereafter. “I think it’s comforting,” she said. “If you could prove there is life after death, then our loved ones don’t ever go away.”
Contact Features Editor Michele DeLuca at 282-2311, ext. 2263.