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Team stages ghostly pursuit of history at Superior mansion

Gloria Doescher (left) shows Chris Julien (center) and Adrian Lee a photo of what her thermal imaging camera picked up during one of the vigils at Fairlawn Mansion and Museum in Superior last weekend. The three investigated the mansion along with other members of the International Paranormal Society, the first time in more than a dozen years that ghost hunters were allowed into the mansion. (Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram)

A team of paranormal investigators assembled last weekend at Fairlawn Museum and Mansion in Superior.

They toured the historic home, taking electrical and thermal readings, photos and audio before turning to the task of busting ghosts. For the International Paranormal Society, it was all in a weekend’s work.

For Scott Kenner of South Range, a member of the nonprofit organization, it was a coup.

“It’s really cool,” he said as he walked out of the basement pool room. “I never thought I’d be here.”

For more than a dozen years, the mansion had been off-limits to paranormal investigation.

“There are ghost hunter organizations in every little town, all calling me up, wanting to go through our house,” said Sara Blanck, executive director of Superior Public Museums. She estimates the board gets about two requests per month.

When Kenner approached them, offering to investigate the SS Meteor and Old Firehouse and Police Museum as well as Fairlawn, Blanck said, they made an exception.

The society had a local connection and a founder, Adrian Lee, who also is an author. Lee, a historian from London who now resides in Windom, Minn., chronicled 13 of the group’s past investigations, including vigils on Duluth’s William A. Irvin freighter, in the 2012 book, “Mysterious Minnesota.”

“We will probably be a chapter in a book,” Blanck said. Lee is working on a sequel, “More Mysterious Minnesota.” He plans to add his Superior experiences to a chapter titled “Over the Edge.”

In April, the Superior Public Museums Board gave its blessing to the spiritual pursuit, jostling to see who would accompany the investigators. Board member Kelly Johnson won and spent 8½ hours with the group, wrapping up the search at 3 a.m. May 24.

“I thought it was a very professional, well-run experience and that it was handled with dignity and respect for what Fairlawn represents,” said Johnson, of Superior.

She came in with an open mind.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” Johnson said. As she prepared to head home, she said her mind was more open than before. Her fiancé, Brad Peterson, agreed.

“I’d do it again,” he said.

In addition to the three museums, the group also held vigils at the Elks Club in Superior and visited Split Rock Lighthouse along the North Shore over the weekend.

For Lee and his ghostbusters, history is the hook.

“I don’t just want to write about history; I want to experience it,” the author wrote in the introduction to “Mysterious Minnesota.”

To do so, Lee heads straight to the source — the spirits of those who saw it unfold.

“We are finding history,” he said. “The dead are telling me their story.”

He researches information gleaned through the on-site vigils to see if it’s factual. As a result, Kenner said, “Mysterious Minnesota” reads more like a history text than a ghost story.

Lee picked his team from all walks of life — farmer Greg Gohr and his wife, Kim, a retired postmaster; English teacher Chris Julien; letter-carrier Heather Morris; Kenner, an air traffic controller; and others. They gather evidence with an array of equipment, spending weeks sifting through the results.

“We don’t know what we’ve got so far,” Lee said as the team packed up early last Sunday morning. “We only scratched 10 percent of the evidence tonight.”

And there was, indeed, evidence. Kenner already had collected an unexplained picture and audio snippet before the Saturday vigils, during a public flashlight tour of the mansion. Over the weekend, the team collected more unusual sounds, sights and experiences for future study. Lee said he experienced things in one area of the mansion that he’d never experienced before in 20 years of investigating.

“Our overriding factor is, we want to prove there’s an afterlife,” Lee said.

They also enjoy the thrill of the hunt.

“It really is exhilarating when something happens,” Kenner said.

Kim Gohr said that, for many of them, the drive to seek spirits derives from childhood experiences. Kenner said he’s been interested in the paranormal since he was a high school student in Duluth. He has actively sought paranormal activity for the past seven years, teaming up with the society about two years ago. Working with Lee and his group has provided Kenner with access to higher-profile sites as well as experts and specialists in the field.

Although the International Paranormal Society got an all-access pass to investigate Fairlawn, it’s now a dead subject. Blanck emphasized that this was an one-time arrangement. The mansion’s “no ghost hunting” policy remains in place.

“The only other exception we would make is a national TV show,” Blanck said.


Find more information about the International Paranormal Society at