Female ghost investigators inspired by family experiences

By Josette Keelor

In a haunted house that sits on what their friends call Strasburg’s “haunted hill,” the Lohr house at 343 Banks Fort Road is also home to the Female Paranormal Investigators.

“It’s our curiosity,” said Darlene Lohr, who moved into the house with her husband and two daughters 17 years ago. With everything they’ve seen and heard over the years, she said the house has chased them away plenty of times, but they always came back the next day. They won’t sleep in the bedrooms upstairs, and Lohr’s niece, Strasburg resident Kim Sikora, 33, said the basement freaks her out. But they’re too intrigued to leave.

Most people who come to the house are skeptical of anything strange going on, but according to Alexandra “Alex” Lohr, 26, “The house loves skeptics.”

When they first moved in, they didn’t think much about who might have lived there before. The house dates to 1919, part of a neighborhood built on what used to be Banks Fort during the Civil War.

“I think that’s where a lot of the activity comes from,” Alex Lohr said.

The first paranormal experience her mother remembers was when they were moving in and someone locked her in the basement. None of the family would fess up to doing it.

The experiences escalated to hearing footsteps on the floors, people running on the stairs, children’s voices, banging on the walls, battlefield cannons and rifles being cocked and fired. There are shadowy figures that walk through rooms or hover in doorways, lights as if from a car driving its way across the ceiling and objects thrown across the room.

“We literally watched [their cocker spaniel] Barney being picked up and thrown into the wall. Literally up, bang,” Darlene Lohr said.

“We lose pets,” she said. Barney ran away after his experience, and another dog Petro became sick and died, but they said they still hear the chain he used to wear rattling from time to time.

For awhile they thought they were going crazy, so about 11 years ago, they began researching the paranormal and five years ago Darlene and Alex Lohr started their all-women group with Sikora, her sister Alicia Miller and Darlene Lohr’s sister, whose name they didn’t want shared.

Because most ghost hunting groups are predominantly male, Sikora said, “It’s a fantastic idea that we’re all women.”

Darlene Lohr agreed, “It just worked out this way, we’re all females.”

“We wanted to know how to do it and how to help other people to cope with it,” she said. “This has helped us cope with what’s going on with us.”

“I look for answers,” she said. “Why are you still here? Why don’t you leave?”

If things get too scary or annoying, she’ll take a stand, asking the spirits to stop. Sometimes this works, other times it makes it worse; the spirits get mad if people goad them, she said. Over the years some types of communication have stopped, like a series of three knocks she would hear on the living room wall. But the family never really knows what’s going to happen next.

A day or two could pass without anything odd going on, “but you’re guaranteed on that third day, something’s going to happen,” Darlene Lohr said. It’s enough to make entire groups of people run for the front door during family events or ghost hunting nights.

She said there could be many reasons spirits remain in the house. They don’t realize they’re dead, they need help, they just feel like sticking around or they’re trapped.

Her daughter has experienced what she calls residual hauntings — the shadows of people who just repeat what they used to do while alive.

“It’s just daily life going on and on again,” she said.

But the hauntings are great for free events the women host, like Dinner and a Ghost Hunt, which they’ll have starting at 8 p.m. Tuesdau, and other late night ghost hunts. On Halloween night they’ll host an event from 11 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Everyone is welcome, “If they’re brave enough to come,” said Darlene Lore. “That’s why we’ve had over 1,000 people here.”

They attract visitors and clients mainly by word of mouth and accept invitations to investigate other locations free of charge. She said they pay their own way and bring their own food.

“We don’t charge nothing for nothing,” she said.

“We enjoy it. And we’re out there to help people, that’s what we’re here for.”

According to her daughter, the people they help “just want to know if they’re crazy or not.”

For more information about the Female Paranormal Investigators, call 540-671-9172 or visit m.facebook.com/fpi540.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com