Hailey Neal is working on a science fair project for school, like everyone in her sixth grade class, but hers is a little different; exploring
Oregon’s past in search of paranormal activity.
Neal is a ghost hunter, accompanied by family, friends and guide John Griffin to provide extensive historic background, she visits old buildings with sometimes macabre stories from the past in search of proof of ghosts.
The family has traveled across the country visiting reportedly haunted locations, including the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colo., Salem, Mass., the Lizzie Borden house in Fall River, Mass., and Point Pleasant, West Va., site of the supposed Mothman Prophecies.
Locally there is plenty to explore as well, like the Lakeview cemetery, the Shirk Ranch, the Charles Thompson cabin, and the Schminck Museum.
On April 11, it is the Heryford Building in downtown Lakeview that Neal is visiting, accompanied by family and friends on a tour provided by owner John Cogar. Built in 1913, it was the height of modern technology in its day, but now is mostly unused except for a few businesses on the first floor. It’s filled with crumbling walls, century-old technology, dusty antiques, odd stories and a fascinating historic past, and rumored to be haunted by several who died on the property.
Odd creepy feelings and unexplainable noises aside, each ghost hunt is an educational walk through time learning about the past, perhaps with a tragic or gruesome story associated, while digging through the dingy, dusty and dark catacombs of the county.
Armed with cameras, microphones, motion sensors and an electro-magnetic field finder, the group is led by Cogar from the top floor to the basement through rooms long since abandoned, learning of the important past the building once had in the development of Lakeview as the site of multiple apartments, several businesses, and the first Elks Lodge in town.
Amidst the rubble and crumbling plaster each floor has items lost to time covered in dust and cobwebs but vital in preserving Lakeview’s history, from antique radios and theater seats once used in the Marius Theater on the second floor to old signs, Elks Lodge artifacts and decades-old prescription bottles buried deep in the basement from the original Howard’s Drugs; every corner of the structure has a story to share that Cogar is all too eager to provide. Rusty junk to some, priceless artifacts to people like Cogar and Griffin.
On this night several EMF fields bring curiosity from items scattered throughout the property that could yield possible paranormal activity, photographs show odd shapes in the shadows, but the real fun is in traversing the long forgotten passageways and silent backrooms full of Lakeview’s history.
In one corner an explorer like Neal might find pieces of the original courthouse clock tower, and in another section an old bowling arcade machine or an antique wheelchair or century-old art deco light fixtures set in storage ages ago by people long gone, perhaps haunted by their spirits.
For Neal it is the love of the hunt that keeps her exploring, while for Cogar it is the preservation of Lakeview’s past that motivates him to do everything to keep the building’s stories alive. Whether a believer in the paranormal or simply fascinated by history, the Heryford provides the perfect backdrop for creepy crawlies and things that go bump in the night. Just one more stop for those intrepid individuals like Neal who eagerly seek out the past in search of answers.