The Union Hotel in Corfu was built in 1828 and was once a stagecoach stop for travelers. It looms near the main junction in the village and was recently painted charcoal.
Shayne Poodry bought the hotel at an auction last fall and has been busy sprucing it up. It already had a popular bar and bowling alley inside. Now it has a restaurant and a banquet room, too.
Upstairs there’s a dance hall and the owner’s quarters. He’s had workers helping him with renovations and at least one unseen “guest,” maybe more.
People say it’s haunted. It certainly looks like it could be. Poodry just knows weird things happen at his place.
He remembers hearing stories about it growing up, but that was neither here nor there when the opportunity came along to buy it.
He soon found out his TV could turn on by itself. Once he got out of bed in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, and when he came back to bed, the television in the corner of his office was on.
“I never leave the TV on,” he said. “I was taught that -- you know when you’re growing up and the ol’ man says ‘turn off the lights, you’re wasting money.’ So I always make sure it’s turned off.”
Maybe even he could leave the TV on once -- but twice, no way.
“I was watching TV in bed one night, and just as soon as the lady says ‘Jay Leno is next,' and they start playing the music, when he does his monologue, the TV in the office turns on,” he recalled.
It was unsettling, made him think “What’s going on here?”
Another time, he was doing renovation work with a young helper and both of them heard a door slam mighty hard.
“Like the guy was mad at his ol’ lady and got up and slammed the door shut,” Poodry said.
Through a friend, he found out about a group of paranormal researchers in Buffalo who team up with a guy named John Crocitto to scout out strange phenomena. Crocitto has a radio program “Beyond Ghosts,” which is described as an “interactive paranormal radio show."
A Web production of paranormal happenings at the Union Hotel is in production. It will be unveiled Saturday, April 10, during a paranormal exploration event at the hotel with Beyond Ghosts. All are welcome.
Not long ago, Crocitto was invited to the Union Hotel with a couple of his colleagues to explain what he does at places like the Union and why. As for Poodry, he’s ambivalent about the whole ghost thing, but does see some marketing opportunities!
Crocitto’s cool with that, but he’s more interested in seeing “if there’s really an afterlife.” He thinks the universe to so complex, that anything is possible, including inexplicable fluctuations of electromagnetic fields and happenings that transcend or defy our limited understanding.
On a tour of the hotel, we climbed the creaky staircase and peered into all the little rooms and then went into the huge ballroom. That’s where they keep remodeling hardware for the time being. It was poorly lit and none too welcoming, but there were no odd occurrences. And least not upstairs.
A whoosh, BLAM is heard downstairs. The bartender rushes to close the front door, which is seldom used because most people enter at the side door, where the bar is.
“The door just opened and slammed by itself!” she exclaims, shaking her head. “I’m telling you, strange things happen here.”
Crocitto proceeds to educate us about the paranormal, which simply means “outside of normal.” He says:
Things don’t have to be old or dead to be haunted; objects can contain the spiritual energy of the person who owned it.
Some ghosts are “residual,” they are like a “looped tape” that keeps playing over and over whether you are there to see it or not. Like a woman who walks across the room, she just keeps repeating the same action nonstop.
Some instances are known as "intelligent haunting," like a TV turning itself on, in which a paranormal occurrence seems to be specifically aimed at someone.
There is no set of rules or scientific proof in researching the paranormal. Most people who take it seriously don’t claim to know what’s it all about or why strange things happen, nor do they necessarily care.
They simply enjoy the hunt and the process of capturing clues with infrared cameras and high-tech tape recorders, etc., afforded nowadays.
Ghost hunters, for lack of a better term, don’t try to “convince” people that such things are paranormal. They are sincere and serious about checking out reports of paranormal activity. It wouldn’t be fun or interesting to fake this stuff, they said. Just like deep-sea exploring for sunken treasure, they do it for the thrill of the hunt and, just maybe, the find.
“We were in the Buffalo train station, which is definitely haunted,” Crocitto said. “I was sitting down and all of a sudden my lap got cold and I heard a child’s voice say ‘hello.’ It gives me chills just thinking about it.”
He played the audio recording. It sounded cavernous, tinny, picking up the sounds of nothing but fidgeting. Then a breathy, whispery child’s voice utters “hello.”
Later we sat at a table in the banquet room, described as “ground zero” for odd occurrences at the Union Hotel. With only the glow of computer screens for light Crocitto, his cohort, Ryan Willard, and techie Brandon Bristow show a video.
It was shot in complete darkness with a stationary infrared camera focused on of the end of a hallway near a staircase. If you look very carefully, you see a shapeless, shadowy mass dart across from right to left.
In a still picture, shot at a mansion in WNY, Willard shows the transparent image of a young boy with a Dutch Boy haircut dressed in old-fashioned clothes standing in front of a tall window.
“It isn’t voodoo,” Crocitto said, in answer to a question about dabbling in the occult. “And I don’t see it conflicting with my spiritual beliefs. I’m Roman Catholic. I don’t think the paranormal is occult, of the Devil. But I’m not afraid of the Devil anyway … bring it on. The Lord protects me.”
This from a man who is a trained scientist, a biologist (who’s seen his share of ghoulish sights in the laboratory and the morgue).
“Most scientists I know believe in God,” Crocitto said.
“It would be really depressing if they didn’t,” Willard said.