The Historic Howell Theater is haunted, this much the Portal Paranormal Society knows.
Some of us who frequent the wonderful downtown Howell movie house have on occasion bristled as something quickly brushed past the backs of our head, or sensed the presence of people who aren’t visible, or felt something a little out of the ordinary.
What we might interpret as tricks of the eye or misfirings of the mind are actually spirits known as “residents” to Ken Suminski of Brighton, one of the founders of the Portal Paranormal Society, which is making its fourth annual series of public ghost hunts at the Historic Howell Theater Oct. 27 and 28, and Nov. 3 and 4.
The mission of the Society is always to first be skeptical and debunk, and to rule out all reasonable explanations before declaring an experience to be paranormal.
And while the events at the Howell Theater are called ghost hunts, they are in reality is an attempt to get the spirits to “communicate and reach out,” Suminski said.
“We love doing shows at the Howell Theater,” he said. “It’s a decently active site, and we’re familiar with the residents.”
Suminski says the residents are “fairly benign”; that those in Theater 1 can sometimes be a “little grumpy,” while those in Theater 2 produce a lot of shadow activity.
“If you’re on the stage (in Theater 2), looking to the back of the theater, you might notice shadows in the projection room,” Suminski said. “It will completely black out, or you’ll see the outline of a head.”
While those “residents” appear to be those of humans, not all those in the theater are.
Every investigation the organization undertakes involves researching the detailed history of the structure, and whether there were any unusual or violent incidents.
Suminski learned that in the early 1900s, a circus came to town, and during a performance in Howell, one of the performing lions died. The circus didn’t know how to dispose of the carcass, so they buried it in the property just behind the theater.
“As far as we know, the lion’s body is still there,” Suminski said.
During the first Portal event at the theater, Suminski was sitting in the seats and his co-founder, Jen, was on stage, centered on the aisle.
“I noticed something about 4-1/2 -eet long and low move past me,” Suminski said. “I started to yell ‘look out,’ but Jen saw it as it leapt up at her and then vanished.
“The people said it, too. We didn’t hear anything and she didn’t hear anything.”
But when the Portal personnel started up recording equipment later that evening, they heard a sound like “something being dragged or a low growl,” Suminski said. The group couldn’t find a reasonable explanation for the sound.
In addition to recording sounds, Portal also uses devices to record images.
In 2015, Portal found a compelling piece of evidence on DVR. Two Portal investigators sat though Theater 1 watching the video in which an extra person faded in and faded out, a person for whom the presence could not be accounted.
Portal has also investigated the Howell Opera House three times and found evidence of other-worldly residents. This year, for the organization’s fourth at the Howell Theater, it is changing things up a bit to try out different equipment.
“We have just a couple hours,” Suminski said, “and we will show the different experiments we perform to give the audience a good cross-section of what we do.”
The Portal Paranormal Society events at the Historic Howell Theater in downtown Howell run approximately two hours. They are scheduled for 8:30-10:30 p.m. and midnight to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday Oct. 27 and 28, and Nov. 3 and 4. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.
Tickets in advance are available by clicking here.