A New Berlin ghost story
Leaving the lights on keeps visitors, like the lady in red, at bay
New Berlin — On Sunday, retired Marquette University mathematics professor Ken Weston tried sleeping with the lights off for a change, but that was a mistake.
"I tried turning the lights out last night and saw sparks, that means the orbs are back," Weston, 84, said.
And he knows a lot about orbs. When his wife was alive, he saw a lot of them at his New Berlin home on Overlook Drive. The orbs were circles of light of various sizes that looked like they were from LED flashlights. One time he said, several such lights, each only about half the size of a dime and arranged in a circle, moved slowly across his bedspread. He even spotted a round light outside.
But the orbs were nothing compared to the woman in red.
Weston tells the story of about how five years ago he caught sight of a woman in red just after he had descended the stairs to the lower level and turned to go toward his train room. She was carrying white flowers and was still on the stairs. When he turned around, she was gone.
The next day, Weston was going to watch over a former employee who had suffered a major heart attack that left him mentally disabled. He had done this before as a favor to the man's wife who was at work.
The former employee arrived with a friend, but although he had been to the basement before to watch movies, he stood staring at the top of the stairs, refusing to go down. Finally, the friend and Weston got him downstairs but he wouldn't stay. Eventually, they took him to his wife and she made arrangements to care for him.
Calling later to see what was the matter, Weston said the man's wife told him that her husband had been unnerved at the sight of a woman in red staring at him from the top of the stairs.
"That's an independent witness," Weston said.
Another came last spring when Weston finally sought some independent data and brought a couple of amateur ghost hunters into his home.
"I wanted outside witnesses," Weston said.
Using an ordinary camera, Janet Doern, New Berlin, and her son, Joseph, actually photographed a red orb in the basement at the bottom of the stairs where the woman in red had been.
They also did a test that astonished even them.
They placed a flashlight on the arm of a chair with the top twisted just enough for the light to be on, Joseph Doern said. Then they asked that if anyone was there, would they please turn the light out.
"The light flickered and then went dead off," he said. Stunned, they asked if the light could be turned back on. It went on. Again they asked for it to be turned off. Off it went.
"Four times it went on and off on command, so we were communicating with an intelligent being or spirit who was invisible," Joseph said.
He acknowledged that he and his mother walked in skeptical of the flashlight technique that ghost-hunters have used for years.
Frankly he said, "We thought it was malarkey." But they tried it anyway.
"That first time I was petrified," he said. "Not with fear but more like I can't believe this is happening. My heart was beating out of my chest."
Afterward, he experimented to see if he could get the flashlight to wink off by other more nonparanormal means such as shaking the chair.
"It wouldn't go off," he said.
Unfortunately, the flashlight test wouldn't work with Weston in the room. It's hard to explain why, Joseph said. It could be that whatever it was just got tired of what was going on, he said. There was a 10- to 15-minute delay before Weston came in and even that might have changed the dynamics of the evening, he said.
Even more stunning than the flashlight test was something the ghost chasers found in the hallway.
"The real weird evidence we got was the moving figure on the stealth camera," Joseph said.
They had set up an ordinary camera in the hall and it showed a figure moving down the hall and appearing to look back at the camera, he said.
"You can almost make out two white eyes," he said. "I was a little freaked out."
The figure seemed to be male, based on how tall and bulky it was, Joseph said. That also coincides with what is believed to be a male voice in two voice recordings they had made at the house in January. They could just make out a voice that said "Get out" and "stupid," Joseph said.
Based on everything the ghost chasers found, Joseph said, "One-hundred percent, yes, there's something unexplainable going on there."
He and his mother do paranormal investigations for free as a hobby, having formed the WSG (We Seek Ghosts) service. They have basic equipment, which Doern sees as an advantage because the results cannot be enhanced electronically to indicate something that isn't there.
Things are pretty calm now at the Weston house compared with the paranormal happenings that really started picking up in 1992. The trigger seemed to be the night his wife came home from the hospital after brain surgery left her unable to speak, walk, hear or see. She was in a hospital bed in their son's old room, the only place that at the time was sufficiently accessible, Weston said.
Suddenly about 4 a.m., Weston asleep in their bedroom was startled awake by a terrifying booming on the bedroom door.
"It was like a bowling ball," he said. Weston threw open the door only to stare into a dark and empty hall. He checked his wife's room and was horrified to see her choking. She had tried to get out of bed and gotten her head caught in the bars of the bed. He was able to free her and he fixed the bed so that it would never happen again.
But he said, "Who do I thank for notifying me? Who was pounding on my door?"
His wife lived another 12 years, but those years were filled with unexplained phenomena — booming, rods banging behind a bookcase, walls cracking, branches of a Christmas tree in the living room that swayed in the wind as if if were outside, the sensation that something was crawling into bed with him and writing appearing on a tree outside.
"The whole house was fun-o-rama," Weston said.
"I have a hard time believing this stuff," the articulate retired professor acknowledged. "My career was as a scientist." It's frustrating.
"There's no way any scientific theory can explain this crumby thing," he said.
His wife died in 2005 and things have eased. He has learned that having the lights on helps keep things away. And he doesn't want to move from the house that he and his wife built in 1970.
"I enjoy this place, I have good friends living around me. It's my home," he said. The Westons raised their family there and played host to mathematicians from all over the world.
"We had a wonderful time in this house," Weston said.
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