ALBION • At the Haunted Mansions of Albion, people come to get the daylights scared out of them. Chainsaws rip, butcher knife-wielding clowns give chase — all in the name of fun. But when the lights go out at the former Albion State Normal School, there is a different presence that scares off even some of the attraction’s staffers each year.
At the Albion Campus Retreat, the site of the former Normal School, are several spirits “passing through,” said owner Troy Mortensen.
They reveal themselves in the sounds of racing footsteps in an empty building, the smell of dough in a long-unused kitchen or the sight of a long-since deceased woman traveling through darkened rooms.
“We have ghost hunters in here all the time,” Mortensen said.
Since 2007, Mortensen and his wife have owned the property, which comprises several faded brick buildings dating back to the 1890s. It’s used primarily as a family retreat destination but during October, the buildings are used as a haunted house attraction.
It’s during this time when staffers have seen apparitions.
In the “House of Chaos,” people have reported seeing a large black Labrador approaching people only to quickly disappear as soon as they’d turn to look. At Comidge Hall, paranormal investigators have seen the spirit of a black-haired woman named Margaret, who in her lifetime would hide out in the building when she was overwhelmed by her large family.
Throughout the Campus roams a black, bushy cat with slight auburn shades nicknamed “Bones.” Bones lives in the area, surviving off of mice, Mortsensen said. The cat is friendly, and followed a Times-News reporter and photographer into every building — except Bocock Hall.
Known as “Axeline Gymnasium,” Bocock Hall is the site of a ghostly encounter that reportedly got physical.
An employee named Jesse tried to scare his friends, Mortensen said. He hid behind the corner of a stair set and reached for his friends as they walked by. Something in turn grabbed him and pushed him up against the wall.
He never returned to the campus.
“We have workers go in and not come back because they’re so scared,” manager Jeralee Jones said.
Jones doesn’t count herself as a believer in the paranormal. She said she hasn’t seen any spirits in any of the buildings but has seen white lights flashing on floors when there was no noticeable source of light.
Mortensen also didn’t consider himself a believer until earlier this month when he heard a door slam and footsteps racing up the hallway when no one was in the building.
It also took his wife hearing a woman calling for her in one building late at night to convince him.
“One night when we were closing, she heard a voice in here that said ‘wait,’” Mortensen said. “She ran through the whole building and found no one. As she was leaving, she heard ‘come back.’”
Despite all of this, he feels whatever is stuck behind at the campus isn’t malicious. The spirits, he said, are simply there waiting to reconnect with family.