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Will ghosts haunt Aurora house tour?

Updated: October 3, 2012 10:26PM

On Sunday the Aurora Historical Society will provide you with a rare opportunity to tour the homes and gardens of some unique Aurora places. These structures are beautiful examples of various types of architecture, spanning our city’s 150-year history. But did you know some may be haunted?

When I asked Mary Clark Ormond, president of the society, about strange phenomena, she laughed and said, “Indeed — mysterious and peculiar things!”

Ormond mentioned a secret dining room compartment in the Poss home (there is a prize for finding it on the tour), doors in the backs of closets, and stories of strange occurrences.

Lynn Armbruster bought a house on West Downer when her children were young. They soon attributed the creaks and groans of this older home to a friendly ghost they called “Dupont.” Armbruster was pleased that the children had fun and remained unperturbed by the old house’s oddities.

There were, however, a couple events that gave her pause. One day she and her husband had walked outside to bid farewell to some guests, closing the front door behind them. When they turned to go back inside, the door opened of its own accord!

On another occasion, the door apparently opened to let the dogs out when no one in the family was there to do it. Neighbors alerted her to the dogs unexpectedly romping in the lawn.

She also found it strange when she turned off her daughter’s radio and it refused to turn off. She unplugged it and still it played on! She says these things must certainly have some logical explanation, though it does make one wonder.

Our Savior’s church and parish house have also had their share of strange happenings. As described in the book Haunted Aurora (on sale at the Pierce Art and Historical Center), police were called on a stormy night many years ago when the church’s alarm sounded. Finding nothing, they blamed the storm and left. Late into the night the alarm sounded again. Six officers responded, searched again, then met in the parish house. All heard the clear sound of a man’s heavy footsteps thumping across the second story floor. They blocked the intruder’s exit, but discovered no one.

Footsteps across the upstairs floor, even wet footprints in the dust, and lights randomly flickering are now accepted there as normal. Pastor Jeff Mikyska’s wife, Gail, has felt a presence, heard footsteps, and seen doors open of their own accord. “You just get the feeling someone is here,” said Mikyska. “It’s not uncomfortable, but it’s undeniable.”

Leah Morsch, the parish manager, knows the phantom footsteps well. It was far more disturbing when she heard a voice in distress, calling her name from the church office. She rushed in to find the office empty.

I asked Ormond if she had any idea whose spirits might haunt any of these beloved structures. She learned from John Jaros, the historical society’s executive director, that Albert Mighell (rhymes with mile) died at 513 W. Downer in 1895. “I think we can assume he died in the house and was waked there because at that time there would really have been no other options. There were undertakers, but they prepared the body in the house,” said Ormond. “They drained it of blood then pumped in formaldehyde in the kitchen before the body was laid out in the parlor.”

So if doors open randomly or phantom footsteps are heard during Sunday’s House and Garden Walk, don’t be startled, it’s probably just “Dupont” or one of the other Aurora ghosts who watch over these beautiful old places. And if Sunday doesn’t provide you with quite enough ghost hunting, tickets go on sale Wednesday for the annual Tanner House Halloween tour: “Death Comes to the Tanner House,” Oct. 25-30. For more information, visit or call 630-906-0650.

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