About this time every year, as Halloween approaches, a photo circulates social media. It is an image of a family portrait taken at the Historical Center where I work. If you look closely, you will see the image of a little girl’s “spirit” captured in the photograph. The caption usually includes the common urban legend FOAF attribution --- a “friend of a friend’s” family photo – can you believe it?!
No, I can’t. It is photoshopped.
Working in a historic structure means you are going to be asked this question at some point -- “is this place haunted?” Indeed, the Historical Center is listed in the Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Haunted Ohio. Even more, there were times in the past when ghost hunters were allowed to spend the night in the museum! And it continues, recently we have started to get requests from people to rent the museum for paranormal investigations. As the director of a county institution, I did not feel it was an appropriate use of county employee time to supervise this type of activity. While we are happy to have new guests, the attention the hauntings draw to our site led to the need for us to adopt an official paranormal policy.
Here is the policy:
The Wood County Historical Center and Museum is the site of the former County Infirmary, which operated from 1869-1971. After the last of its residents were moved to the new Wood County Nursing Home, the building was slated for destruction, but, with support from the community, the building was repurposed into a Museum, which is managed jointly by the Wood County Commissioners, the Wood County Historical Society, and the Wood County Park District.
As a community organization, the Wood County Historical Society’s mission includes sharing stories of the County Infirmary, while remaining respectful of the individuals who lived and worked there. For this reason, Wood County Historical Society’s Board of Trustees adopted this policy on April 20, 2017.
No special arrangements will be made for paranormal investigations.
Renting out the Center and/or Museum for paranormal investigations is not permitted.
Visitors paying admission during hours the Museum is open may use hand-held recording devices in public areas as long as it is not disruptive to any other visitors or exhibits.
The Society does not authorize photos, videos, audio clips or written posts on websites, blogs, social media, video or any other media source that pertain to paranormal activity at the Wood County Historical Center and Museum
As of January 1, 2017, unsanctioned postings or media brought to the Society’s attention, particularly those of a commercial nature, will be referred to Counsel.
As the site of the former county poorhouse, there is already enough stigma attached to the people who once lived here. Part of our organization’s mission is to share stories about life at the poorhouse, but we also strive to remain respectful of them. There’s a tendency in ghost stories about our site, to put the facility in a bad light.
Even though the stories are part of the county’s folklore, I did not see it as our role to continue to perpetuate them. Over the past several years, we have been moving away from focusing on the supernatural events about the Center at our fall programs and making them more mission-central. Putting a paranormal policy in place is one of the last steps to help guide us in the new direction we want to take our organization.
I never anticipated having to make such a policy; it seems far from the kind of work we do in museums. But, when you work in a historic site, you never know what could happen.