Paranormal investigators hunt ghosts at Van Buren County Poorhouse Museum

A member of MiPro walks through the long halls of the Van Buren Poorhouse Museum, camera in hand. (WWMT/Will Haenni)

The Van Buren Historical Society building, also known as the Poorhouse Museum, represents the last known standing building of its kind in the state, making it a prime target for ghost hunters.

Open to the public June through September, each room of the building has been turned into different museum exhibits featuring antiques and artifacts all pertaining to the history of Van Buren County.

Due to countless stories of paranormal activity in the poorhouse, a team of investigators called Michigan Paranormal Research Organization (MiPro) who have hosted several ghost hunts in the building.

"We'll never say a place is haunted or not, we just give them the evidence, and play it for them, they get a copy of everything, and they make their own decision." said Carl Wickett, one of the original MiPro members.

Wickett has been a part of more than 80 investigations over the groups nearly 10 year history.

Before the welfare system was around, poorhouses across the state housed individuals who couldn't physically, mentally, or financially take care of themselves. Reasons included everything from alcoholism, hearing impairment, and old age to name a few.

The Van Buren County Poorhouse was built in 1884 and historians estimate there were as many as 60 residents during its max capacity in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"Everybody had to work together and make it work," said Van Buren Historical Society Vice President Tad Moody.

To those who lived and worked in the poorhouse, it was still a home filled with a sense of community up until it closed after World War II.

"If you read the final journals of it all, people were really upset. They didn't want to be dispersed. They didn't want to be by themselves. They wanted to be with all these other people," Moody said.

The poorhouse was unfortunately no stranger to untimely deaths. A fire in the late 1800s required the county to rebuild after it took 14 lives.

According to newspaper clippings from the date of the fire, a 10-year-old girl perished in the fire along with her mother. MiPro believes they have recorded the spirit of that girl in various recordings on their website.

Perhaps the most compelling audio file involves the voice allegedly mentioning Play-Doh. The significance of that reference? Moody told a story involving a jar of hardened Play-Doh volunteers found shattered and piled in the middle of one of the rooms.

Records also document two reported suicides and one murder within the walls.

The MiPro team takes their investigations seriously, using a whole array of audio and video recorders, thermal imaging devices, and several devices that detect changes in the surrounding electromagnetic field.

This investigation was the group's third time at the poorhouse. During the recent ghost hunt, 30 members of the public paid a $20 fee to attend. The group does not profit from the investigation and all proceeds benefit the museum.

The team will sift through hours of recordings post investigation to listen and look for anything out of the ordinary. To learn more about upcoming investigations by MiPro, check out their Facebook Page.

For more information on the Van Buren Historical Museum, follow their Facebook Page.

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