This apparent apparition appeared before the photographer’s eyes while taking photos from the stage at the Cresco Opera House. It may look like smoke in blue light, but there was neither smoke nor blue light present at the time of the photo. People in the theatre have reported strange temperature changes and sounds like footsteps in the theatre when no one else was around. (TPD file photo)

Local haunt featured in book of Iowa ghosts

01/26/07 - Cresco Times

CRESCO - A team of ghost hunters believe they have found what goes bump in the night in Iowa.

Wisconsin's Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk spent nearly two years researching reports of hauntings and spirit activity throughout Iowa in order to produce their book, The Iowa Road Guide to Haunted Locations, which was released last week. The book features detailed entries of haunting activity around the state and includes one entry for Cresco - the Cresco Opera House.

“My co-author Terry Fisk and I started investigating Iowa because so many people were contacting us with their stories of haunted places and haunted experiences in Iowa,” Lewis said. “We conducted our on-site research of Iowa off and on during 2005 and 2006. During this time we stayed in hotels, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds - even our cars. We dug up the real history of a place, talked with the witnesses, got detailed directions, set up investigations and spoke with local residents.”

Lewis said that out of over 200 reportedly-haunted locations in Iowa, his book includes 52 haunted sites - many of which are open to the public and are home to recent sightings. Lewis said some of his favorite hauntings, detailed in the book, include Marshalltown: The cursed chair of Riverside Cemetery “where if you are brave enough to sit in the chair in the cemetery, you will be cursed with bad luck”; Fort Dodge: Hawkeye Community Theatre. “Many visitors and staff report seeing ghostly images roaming through the historic building”; Council Bluffs: Union Pacific Museum. “Haunted by several ghosts who refuse to leave the building. Many unsuspecting visitors report seeing objects moving on their own and mysterious sounds.”

Lewis said reports of the Cresco Opera House's haunting are similar to reports of ghosts at other locations.

“Staff have reported that the ghost tampers with the lighting and projection equipment,” he explained. “Mysterious shadowy figures have been spotted lurking around the theatre basement. Strange noises and voices have been heard. Yet, the cause of these noises can not be found. Most of the “ghosts” appear as old-time vaudevillian performers. It is believed that the haunting started with the renovation of the theatre that took place in 1978.”

The ghost hunter said that while he and his crew did not witness a ghost in the theatre, while they were there for one day, a former theatre staff member, who contacted the team, reported witnessing “a strange ghost moving throughout the theatre.”

“We believe, based on the reports of witnesses, that the ghosts may be that of deceased actors from the early 1900s who for some reason have decided to linger in the theatre,” Lewis said.

How do Lewis and Fisk detect spiritual activity?

“On investigations, we like to use 35mm cameras,” Lewis said. “Digital and non digital (four track) audio recorders, digital and High 8 video recorders, electrical magnetic field detectors (EMF), Thermo Scan (temperature reading devices), Geiger counter (radiation), motion detectors, and night vision recorders. We also monitor the body language of a witness, and make sure to conduct an interview without asking leading questions.”

Lewis explained there are several ways Cresco Opera House visitors may detect a spirit's presence.

“Sensation of cold or heat with no apparent cause,” he said. “They may smell the perfume that grandma use to wear or the cigar their father smoked. They may notice that things have been moved around or objects seem to disappear and reappear. Electrical disturbances have been reported. Lights may flicker. Radios and TVs turn on and off. Others do actually see apparitions.

“We feel the haunting in Cresco is a great case with many different witnesses, a long time span, and a unique history,” Lewis continued. “The haunting in Cresco remains unsolved. We do not know who or what is causing the anomalies. We believe that sightings and reports will continue to come from both the staff and those who visit theatre.”

Lewis said, just because a location may be home to a ghost, that does not mean anyone is in danger of the spirit's presence.

“I believe that, due to movies and sensational TV shows, people have the misconception that spirits are dangerous,” he said. “I feel that, if there are such things as spirits, they are of no danger to people. Of course, those who approach the field from a more spiritual angle believe that spirits can be dangerous. In my experience, no one has ever been harmed by a spirit.

The book featuring the Cresco Opera House may be seen online at www.unexplainedresearch.com.  Lewis said anyone with other reports of sightings or personal experiences of the paranormal are encouraged to contact Fisk and him through the website as well.

“Our goals for these books were simple,” Lewis said. “We want to sort fact from fiction. So much of the information about these places is incorrect or exaggerated. We want people to enjoy these cases whether they are actually visiting them or visiting them through the safety of their living rooms.”

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