From the front, the Germania Club of Hamilton looks like any other mid-century tavern in an industrial North American city.
Once inside, especially in the pitch-black, stone-cold basement of the reputedly haunted establishment, the feeling is eerily different.
It was my first tag-along with Six Nations Investigates Paranormal Encounters (S.N.I.P.E.) two Saturdays ago and the experience has left me thirsting for more ghost-hunting adventures.
We arrived at the old hall around 9 p.m. Darkness had already set in.
Todd Thomas, one of the founders of S.N.I.P.E., was joined by his colleagues and a medium from North Carolina, along with two Germania Club employees, and members of the Two Row Times to tour the old haunted club.
It took what seemed like hours for Thomas to set up his equipment.
He set up sensors and cameras everywhere.
He showed us some of the newest ghost-hunting toys on the market, including what appears to be a stuffed bear named “Boo Bear” which picks up movements and responds accordingly using a child-like voice that questions any supposed supernatural entities in the vicinity.
The most fascinating piece of equipment was an SLS camera, which picks up infrared activity.
Any figures caught on the camera attached to the machine look like stick figures (described sometimes as ‘humanoid bodies’ in ghost-hunting circles), in varying colours, like pink, yellow and blue.
We set out with all of the equipment to the second floor balcony, where a large and storied ballroom stands in the centre of the building, all facing a large stage.
It looks like something out of an Art Deco or silent film movie set.
The ballroom is surrounded by a second-floor wrap-around balcony that overlooks the ballroom floor.
We were on the second floor for about 10 minutes before I set out to the main floor ballroom with “Little J” holding the SLS camera, leaving the others behind.
No more than one minute after venturing onto the ballroom floor did we come upon dancing stick figures on the SLS camera, sitting in chairs, arms flailing wildly about.
We both loudly called to the team upstairs to check the footage, which showed three different humanoid figures in yellow, blue and pink.
They were wildly active. One of the figures appeared to be dancing up a pole beside a chair before crawling back to its original perch on the chair beside the pole.
They were all dancing.
The team double-checked the footage and agreed the figures were real.
But the medium’s attention was drawn to the stage, where the spirit of a young girl supposedly inhabited.
I didn’t see or hear any evidence of this young girl.
We then made our way into the basement, obviously in pitch blackness.
Only the light of the ghost-hunting equipment showed the way.
The staff told us apparitions have appeared in one particular corner of the room, which functioned as a school room and even hosted some MMA fights, according to staff.
This is the part where the entire team decided I was never to go on a ghost hunt with them again.
It was almost black, but there was still the ever-so-slight ability to see shadows or figures, depending on how good your night vision is.
I was pointing my cellphone camera toward this corner intently for a good five minutes while the others talked about something else.
I screamed at that point, as I saw a dark figure approach me, only to discover a second later it was only Thomas, who was also exploring the area.
The rest of the team, now nice and spooked, screamed along with me before we all shared a good laugh and I apologized profusely for my mistake.
We then checked out the showers, a basement bar, and an upstairs room where a cantankerous old man accused of fraud at the centre really did not want us there.
A tiny hidden library in this section (part of an old house attached to the hall, built circa 1850) also drew our attention. We heard knocking on the other side of a door of the library that could not be explained.
We also visited the main restaurant where a grey-haired, chain-smoking woman in her 40s hung out before going back upstairs for a break.
I scared everyone again coming out of the bathroom and the door slammed loudly behind me.
I called it a night around midnight after a very adventurous night, that S.N.I.P.E. said was a very active night at the old Germania Club compared to other nights they’ve been there.
S.N.I.P.E. is gaining steam right now, with a hot new show on APTN called Ghost Hunters of the Grand River, which started filming last year.
Be sure to catch them on APTN for more ghost-hunting adventures in southern Ontario.