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Ghost stories: Residents share experiences with the paranormal

Atala Toy owns the Crystal Life shop on Third Street. She is an interdimensional communicator with spirits. She sees the spirit energy of the Rev. Augustus Conant, who served the Unitarian Universalist Church congregation from its inception in 1842 until 1857. He is a spirit of place, Toy says, still looking after his church.
Atala Toy owns the Crystal Life shop on Third Street. She is an interdimensional communicator with spirits. She sees the spirit energy of the Rev. Augustus Conant, who served the Unitarian Universalist Church congregation from its inception in 1842 until 1857. He is a spirit of place, Toy says, still looking after his church.

Telephone repairman Bill Olsen of Sugar Grove was working on phone lines in the basement of a house in Naperville some years ago, and he said he encountered a ghost.

“I heard footsteps come out of the door behind me. I heard heels on the floor. And as I turned to see who it was, they stopped,” Olsen said. “They started again and continued from where they left off. Then I felt somebody breathing on my back. I went back upstairs and told the lady. ‘It’s working OK, see you later.’ ”

Though people enjoy ghost stories – as evidenced by the popularity of ghost tours, books about haunted places and cable shows about paranormal activity – many also have personal ghost stories to tell. Olsen and other readers agreed to talk about these personal paranormal experiences for the Halloween edition of the Kane County Chronicle.

All Hallows E’n – based on the Celtic festival of Samhain – states the door between the worlds opens up and ghosts of the dead visit the living.

Among readers who agreed to share their personal ghost stories was Elburn Trustee Bill Grabarek. It all happened, Grabarek said, in Willow Springs, in a house in which he lived for six months before moving to Elburn in 1978.

“We had all these strange happenings in the house,” Grabarek said. “In one bathroom off our bedroom, voices were coming out of the heating vent. You could hear people talking.”

Another time, when Grabarek’s wife was asleep in bed and he was reading, crystal pendants on the bedside lap began swinging back and forth. He said there was no breeze and everything was quiet except for the persistent and unexplainable clink of the pendants.

But the strangest event was the sighting of a glowing ball floating up the stairs.

“It was a glowing, pulsating ball coming up from the stairs,” Grabarek said. “It was the size of a basketball, reddish-brown-yellowish in color. It floated up and disappeared. ... It was truly, what I considered, a haunted house.”

The house since has been torn down.

“I believe in that stuff,” Grabarek said. “I’m not a ghost hunter or anything. I think it’s almost like there is a plane we are not fully aware of sometimes.”

• • •

Laura Rush, spokeswoman for the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, was close to her mother, who died 10 years ago. She said she always feels like her mother is around, watching her and giving her signs.

“Once in a while, I can smell my mother’s perfume,” Rush said. “It was from France. When my dad would travel for business, he would always bring her a bottle.”

Rush’s mother gave her a pair of diamond earrings for her birthday before she died. Rush said she never took them out. But on her next birthday, one had fallen out, and she did not know where it went.

“I could feel something on my left hand and there, laying on the floor, was the diamond earring,” Rush said. “It was my mom saying, ‘I’m here. It’s your first birthday without me.’ ”

• • •

Atala Toy owns Crystal Life Technologies, a store on Third Street in Geneva that specializes in tools for connecting to all life – called interdimensional communication. The author of “Nature Spirits, Spirit Guides and Ghosts” and “We Are Not Alone,” Toy said she is an experienced ghostbuster – but not as they are portrayed in the movies.

“I help the ghost to go to the light,” Toy said. “A ghost is a human being who is stuck. It’s a service I do. I help the ghost to become unstuck and continue his journey.”

A familiar spirit in downtown Geneva is the Rev. Augustus Conant, the first pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Church, on the corner of South Second and James streets. Conant served the congregation from 1842 until 1857, and Toy said she “met” him during a Geneva History Center ghost tour a few years ago.

“Dave Oberg took us on a ghost walk, and when we were at the Unitarian Church, Rev. Conant came up behind him and put his hand on Dave’s right shoulder as he was talking,” Toy said. Oberg is the former director of the center.

But the late Rev. Conant is a spirit of place, not to be confused with a ghost, Toy said.

“He is a guardian for the church, which is different from a ghost who haunts a place,” Toy said. “A spirit of place could be a human being who crossed over to the light and came back to be of service.”

• • •

Becky Meiners admits she is predisposed to the paranormal. The Geneva resident and her daughter regularly go on ghost tours. But she also has her own ghost stories to tell.

“I work in a nursing home in the area, and we have a system on some of our rooms in the dementia unit where you can control where they go,” Meiners said. “I had had a resident I was close with pass away, and I ended up picking up a midnight shift after she passed.”

The pager went off signaling someone was in the room formerly occupied by that resident.

“The light was on like somebody was in the bathroom – but there was no one in there,” Meiners said. “I flipped [the pager] off and turned the light off.

It happened two more times the same way, she said.

“After the third time, I was coming back down the hallway, and I saw what appeared to be her,” Meiners said. “She was sitting in her old seat in the dining room, with her leg crossed.”

That was seven years ago. Later, Meiners became close to another elderly resident who used a scooter to get around. They were so close, Meiners was called from vacation with news that the 92-year-old woman’s health was declining. Meiners rushed back to the resident’s bedside and stayed with her all night until she left to start her shift at 6 a.m.

“Five minutes after I left her, she passed,” Meiners said. “It was like she waited for me.”

A while later, Meiners saw her again.

“There she was, coming down the hallway,” Meiners said. “I saw her in her electric scooter. By the time I got on the stairs, it hit me that she had passed.”

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