By Paula Hendrickson
Most people in the Rockford area are familiar with the iconic Tinker Swiss Cottage, but not everyone knows the story of how, when and why one-time Rockford Mayor Robert Tinker built his dream house. (If you don’t know, what are you waiting for? Take the tour.) The house is full of relics from Tinker’s days, but could his spirit still be lingering there, too?
Ghost Hunters’ paranormal investigators visited Tinker Cottage this summer to find out. The episode airs tonight (details below), Wednesday, Oct. 24.
Steve Litteral, executive director of Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum & Gardens, first contacted Ghost Hunters’ Rhode Island-based TAPS team (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) a couple of years ago when the cottage started hosting paranormal tours. He was looking for advice on selecting investigation teams.
“I’d say most of the credit would go to a paranormal investigator named Michael Kravchuk, aka, The Ghost Gadget Guy [www.ghostgadgetguy.com],” Litteral said. “He knows someone in the production crew and gave them our contact information. So, I’d say Michael helped us get a spot on the show.”
In July, Litteral got a call saying the show would be in the Chicago area. “[They] asked if we would be open to shooting an episode here, and it went from there,” Litteral said. “Within a few weeks, they were here shooting an episode. It was a little surreal because I’ve watched the show since the first season, so I feel like I know the guys.”
Steve Gonsalves, the show’s TAPS tech manager, said: “Our client [Litteral] was very cool. He listens to a lot of the same music that I do. He was very cool and very in love with the history of the cottage.”
If you’ve ever been inside Tinker Cottage, you know some of the rooms — as grand as they are — are fairly small. That offers advantages and challenges to the investigators.
“Smaller investigation sites are usually easier in terms of set up and the investigation,” Gonsalves said. “We do have to use some different techniques, but mostly just involving the placement in the house, how many teams can go in at once and where we set up our command. In small houses, using a geophone is very helpful because if you get a spiked reading, you can be pretty sure it isn’t some sort of contamination.”
Gonsalves explained that a geophone is a device that measures vibration, sort of like a seismograph would, and converts it into a digital reading.
Considering Ghost Hunters filmed here in July and the episode airs this week, Gonsalves said that’s a pretty quick turnaround for the show. “To film a case and have it air three months later takes a lot of work from the production company,” he said.
It’s not the only investigation in tonight’s episode. But it’s sure to draw more local viewers than any other episode has. Tinker Cottage wasn’t the only Illinois location the TAPS team visited.
“We investigated a few places, one of them being the Rialto Theatre in Joliet [which aired last week], which was definitely one of the most beautiful theaters I’ve ever seen. The woodwork and porcelain and the scroll work is breathtaking,” Gonsalves said. “This trip to Illinois was definitely worth the time, and the hospitality of these towns — we won’t forget it.”
Who knows, maybe we can get Ghost Hunters to check out the Coronado Theatre next time they’re in the area. After all, that’s one local landmark that has sparked a lot of ghost stories over the years.
Ghost Hunters airs on SyFy Wednesdays at 8 p.m.; the episode including the Tinker Swiss Cottage segment airs October 24.
Tinker Swiss Cottage Musuem is at 411 Kent St., Rockford. For more details, go to www.tinkercottage.com.
A public viewing of the episode will be held at Rockford’s Veterans Memorial Hall, 211 N. Main St., Rockford. Doors to the event open at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 24. Two guest speakers will kick off the event. John Borowski, a Chicago filmmaker, will give a presentation about his award-winning documentaries. Then, Jeff Mudgett, author and great-great grandson of Herman Mudgett (a.k.a. Dr. H.H. Holmes — the serial killer made famous by Erik Larson’s book, The Devil in the White City), will speak about new evidence he has discovered about his infamous ancestor. Mudgett will do a book-signing as well. The episode of Ghost Hunters will be viewed after the presentations.
Paula Hendrickson is a regular contributor to Emmy magazine and Variety, and has been published in numerous national publications, including American Bungalow, Television Week and TVGuide. Follow her on Twitter at P_Hendrickson and send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Oct. 24-30, 2012, issue