Every day when I open the door to Chiefswood National Historic Site, I call out “She:kon George,” “She:kon Emily.” I remind them of who I am, why I am there, and who is coming to visit that day.
I sometimes think I am being silly, but I counteract that with “if spirits really are in the house they might like to know what is going on.” By nature I’m a bit of a skeptic, most museum professionals are. It’s hard to get through a tour of a historic site without someone asking if it is haunted. So when I was approached by Six Nations Investigating Paranormal Experiences (SNIPE) to undertake an investigation at Chiefswood, I had my doubts.
After a presentation by SNIPE to the museum board where they outlined their methods as well as expressing their respect for the site and its history I decided that I was being a bit of a history snob. I’ve always believed that history belongs to everyone and if this is one of the ways that people enjoy history I should be open to try it.
Everyone I spoke to about the investigation had a story about the house and to be honest I’ve had my own “experiences” – photos and text panels that have moved or fallen, strange smells, and of course many squeaks and unidentifiable sounds, all of which could be part of any historic house, but something about Chiefswood makes it feel different. So I put my skepticism aside and arranged to have SNIPE come to Chiefswood.
We started our investigation with an overview of Chiefswood’s history; stories about love, family, community and tragedy which intertwine with the ghost stories community members and past employees have shared with me.
People have seen strange lights, heard music coming from the house and have seen what appears to be a woman dressed in black. Following the tour of the house SNIPE set up infrared cameras, sound equipment and a monitoring station in the summer kitchen, our base of operations for the night.
We started with an exercise of “calling out,” introducing ourselves, explaining what we were doing and then asked a series of questions, including who was in the house and why they were there. Throughout the night we repeated this practice while monitoring for sounds, lights or “orbs” and any changes in temperature. We ended the investigation with good thoughts and giving thanks for the experience we had shared together. Leaving the house that night I felt a renewed sense of honour and purpose in caring for Chiefswood and those who have and may still call it home.
Some of the results of the investigation have been posted to our Facebook page and Twitter account and have brought renewed attention to the house and its history. If you would like more information about the site or have a story to share, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heather George is the Acting Cultural Coordinator, Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks and the Cultural Coordinator of the Chiefswood National Historic Site “Where Cultures Meet.”