Summoning the spirits: Paranormal investigators visit Alexandria building
There has long been talk of a ghost named Martha who haunts the Old Broadway building.
But the new rumor is that the building is haunted by more than 10 spirits, none of them named Martha. This information came as a result of an investigation done by Adrian Lee, a paranormal investigator based in Minnesota.
Once a morgue, the building is now home to the restaurant Bello Cucina, and Lee was brought in by dining room manager Pam Wark due to the amount of paranormal activity she and other employees say they had witnessed there.
In her time working at Bello Cucina, Wark, who has always believed in spirits, has witnessed many inexplicable things, like glasses breaking and lights turning on and off. She has also seen a spirit on camera.
"I was down in the office and heard footsteps through the hallway," she recalled. "I heard the kitchen door open and looked up (at the camera monitor), and there she was standing at the kitchen door at the top of the stairs on the camera, staring at me. It looked like a person in a white gown, but you could kind of see through her."
Wark's young daughter also claims to have seen a ghost.
"I took her down to the basement by the old morgue and she stopped me," Wark said. "She did a double take and said, 'Mommy, I see a ghost.' I had to ask her three times what she said because she is 2. Never have I told her anything about ghosts."
For other employees, who didn't initially believe in spirits, the activity came as more of a shock.
"I didn't really believe the whole thing," said Kenny Diaz, a supervisor and server. "I never really dealt with it until I started closing by myself...Weird things would happen here. Glasses wouldn't just fall, they'd end up across the bar."
One night, when taking the garbage outside, Diaz had a particularly unsettling experience as he looked up at a window to a closet.
"There was a huge beam of light in the window," he said. "It was blue and bright. I looked up and saw this dress and short brown hair. It's interesting in one way, but it definitely can freak you out."
On Saturday, May 13, Lee and his team met Wark and some employees at the restaurant. They stayed there from 8:30 p.m. to 4 a.m., using special equipment Lee says can communicate with and record the spirits present.
The group split into three teams and each took a different floor of the building for the first vigil.
"Everyone on that first vigil had a ton of activity," Wark said. "With us being stuck in the basement, we were totally creeped out because it used to be a morgue. It was really creepy until we started hearing the people talk to us through the ghost box. It's just white noise, AM scanning, and the ghosts can communicate with you that way."
The first spirit to communicate with the group claimed his name was Bob.
"We asked him to show himself and he said no," Wark said. "We took thermal imaging cameras and pointed them and there was a clear shape standing in the doorway.
Wark then asked Bob if he could see the group, to which he replied yes.
"I looked at Adrian (Lee) and was like, 'I almost feel more comfortable now that we can put a name to it. It's not fake anymore, we're not imagining this. They're real people.'"
At some points, server Ari Maras says the employees could physically feel the presence of the spirits.
"When we were downstairs I felt like I was being choked, which is really uncomfortable," she said. "It was kind of like someone was holding my neck the whole time."
Over the course of the investigation, Lee determined that there were at least 10 spirits, including men, women and children. The group says that more than anything, the spirits just seemed curious as to why they were all in the building, which used to be a house.
"I think the biggest thing is they don't know how to communicate and they get frustrated that we can't hear them," Wark said. "So they just do what it takes to get our attention."
In October, Lee and his team will return and do a presentation about their findings from the investigation.
In the meantime, employees say they don't feel threatened by the spirits.
"I don't think it's like an evil thing," Diaz said. "Like it's not demonic at all. But just seeing things like that is unsettling."