Updated 10/28/2012 05:00 AM
Your Hometown: Haunted Homer
The Cortland County Village of Homer was founded in 1791 and legally incorporated as a village in 1835. That rich history lends to some pretty compelling ghost stories. One building in particular seems to have more supernatural activity than most. In this segment of Your Haunted Hometown, our Katie Gibas takes us to the Center for the Arts of Homer.
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HOMER, N.Y. -- The impressive building on Main Street is filled with music, theatre and arts, But, its past wasn't as cheerful. It used to be an orphanage, a poorhouse and a church. And those who work here today say it's home to many ghosts of the past.
"We had various epidemics over the years of cholera, typhoid, influenza, so there were a lot of children without families, mothers and wives without husbands," said Kim Hubbard, the Center for the Arts of Homer Buildings and Grounds manager.
"Poorhouses are basically very common to every county in New York State. They were made for the people that kind of fell through the cracks," said Stacey Jones, the founder of the CNY Ghost Hunters.
Many people died in the poorhouse. There was even an alleged suicide. In 1899, a 12-year old boy was found dead in the basement.
"Many people have talked about seeing something, something touching them," said Hubbard.
The people who lived in the village were sure it wasn't a suicide and the maintenance man had something to do with the death.
"That person was run out of town because the people here were convinced, but couldn't prove it, that he either molested that child and the child hung himself, or he hung the child to cover up what he had done," said Hubbard.
The CNY Ghost Hunters investigated the Center for the Arts a few times. Once, they used an AM radio that scans frequencies. They say it allows spirits to more easily communicate with the living.
"We had gotten very clear communication through this device. It talked about the boy being hung in the basement. And the device had said that the maintenance man had done it and they didn't have enough evidence and they ran him off. It basically named every investigator that was here. It was an incredible piece of evidence that we stood for 25 minutes and just watched in amazement. And what's interesting is that it never worked like that again," said Jones.
The Center for the Arts of Homer bought the building in 2005. Aside from the music, arts and theatre, the building is also used for a Head Start program that helps children from low-income families prepare for school.
"Our Head Start ladies used to chase children around halls convinced they were part of their group. They'd get around the corner and there'd be nothing," said Daniel Hayes, the Center for the Arts of Homer Executive Director.
Hubbard added, "Well one of the kids said, 'That's Samuel and Clarissa. They live here.' Well, nobody lives here, technically. So what they are is part of history, we've never been able to track those two names specifically."
Those who work in the building say they've had a number of personal experiences with the ghosts that call the Center for the Arts home.
"I had been shampooing the carpets for the weekend, and it's that giant kind of industrial really annoying carpet sound. It had been running for two days. I finally turned it off and said 'Finished!' and immediately after me, I heard, 'Thank you.' I thought I was disturbing somebody. So I said, 'Sorry,' and then I realized, wait there's nobody in here," said Hubbard.
Hayes added, "We have one particular entity, well, I fondly call him Stogie because wherever he goes, there is the smell of very old, very nasty tobacco, and he whistles. We had a big meeting in the theatre one time, several hundred people, and the entire back row had to get up and leave because Stogie had kept walking up and down past them. And they were all just getting overwhelmed by the smell of the tobacco."
Hubbard said, "I'm not 100 percent convinced either. I don't know. I have great respect for the things I don't know, and this stuff, I'm wide open to it. I've seen enough and felt enough and heard enough, there's got to be something there."
Even though the CNY Ghost Hunters didn't get much evidence when they were here, founder Stacey Jones, says the many personal experiences are plenty for her. So is it or isn't it? Well, that's a story for another day.