Though John Koerner is a non-fiction writer and professor of American History, his passion transcends the pedantic. “I believe in a lot of it,” said Koerner of the stories he tells on his paranormal walks.
Otherworldly apparitions, demonic possessions and untimely deaths are just some of the spine-tingling stories one will hear about on a “paranormal walk.”
Paranormal Walks, LLC, founded and led by Hamburg resident John Koerner, offers haunted but historically accurate tours of Lockport and Buffalo’s Elmwood area.
“For about 10 years, I was a member of Haunted History Ghost Walks,” said Koerner about the popular company that leads haunted tours in the Buffalo area. “They are primarily about ghosts….I just wanted to explore the whole range of the paranormal.”
According to Koerner, the paranormal is not limited to ghosts, but includes mysterious sea creatures, miracles, secret societies, demons and conspiracies theories, all of which are discussed on Koerner’s walks.
His tours also use ghost-hunting equipment, such as electronic voice phenomena recorders, motion detectors, and a Gauss meter to measure electromagnetic fields.
“I know it sounds crazy, but the spot on the tour where President McKinley died, we often get a lot of high (energy) spikes at that spot,” Koerner said.
He also passes around mandrake root (which is used during séances) and sacred relics of the late Father Nelson Baker.
“Some of the (Nardin Academy) nuns witnessed (Father Baker) calming a storm,” said Koerner, who discusses this legendary miracle on his Elmwood walk. Other stops on the tour include the grounds at Nardin where many nuns are interred, the burial grounds for War of 1812 victims and Canisius High School.
“There are a lot of aggressive ghosts there,” Koerner said about Canisius.
Shown here is Canisius High School, the location where President William McKinley died in 1901 and the site of a War of 1812 burial ground, moved in the 1880s. The high school is said to be a site where aggressive ghosts reside, and the spirits have been known to trip and push students and visitors. Koerner said his Gauss meter often experiences high energy spikes at this stop during his Paranormal Elmwood tour, a possible sign of a spiritual presence.
On the Lockport walk, Koerner takes tourists along the canal district, stopping at the site where an opera house met an eerie and sudden end.
“There was a séance there on Feb. 28, 1882, and then on the same date, Feb. 28, 1928, it burned down,” he said.
Koerner also takes his tour to the site where, in 1867, a family suffered from demonic attacks.
“A demon attacked the house and the place where they did business, tore their clothes to shreds...glasses shattered, just a whole bunch of horrible things,” he said.
The site is now home to a DMV, or as Koerner joked, “demonic motor vehicles.”
While Koerner’s tales are bizarre bordering on the inconceivable, they are certainly well-researched.
An American history professor at Erie and Niagara community colleges, as well as the author of “The Mysteries of Father Baker,” “The Father Baker Code,” “Supernatural Power” and “The Secret Plot to Kill McKinley: Conspiracy, Curses and Ghosts in Western New York,” Koerner strives to have accurate facts and up-to-date research.
“It’s essential to me, because I teach U.S. history, I want to make sure everything has the historical background to it,” he said. “Then people can just judge for themselves whether they want to believe it or not.”
Koerner added that he never makes up or embellishes the stories he tells. “If you stick to the historical facts, they wow on their own,” he said.
Upcoming Paranormal Elmwood walks will be held on Friday Oct. 12, Oct. 19 and Oct. 26. The Paranormal Lockport walks will be held on Saturday, Oct. 13, Oct. 20 and Oct. 27. Tours are $10 per person, and a $1 off coupon can be printed off the webiste at www.paranormalwalks.com. Children under age 7 are free to attend.
Koerner said the tours are fun for the whole family.
“It’s not really gory, and I have a lot of jokes I try to work in,” he said.
The last walks of the season will be a trick-or-treat walk, with candy provided for children. Free refreshments are included after all the walks.
A portion of the proceeds from Paranormal Walks are donated to the Ronald McDonald House in Buffalo and the Wyndham Family Home for Children in Lockport.
Though attending a paranormal walk is certainly a fun activity for the Halloween season, Koerner does not take his history lessons lightly.
“Many people say ‘I’ve lived in Buffalo (or) I’ve lived in Lockport for years and had no idea all this stuff had gone on,’” said Koerner. “I try to enlighten people about how special our local history really is, it’s quite amazing.”
For more information on Paranormal Walks, LLC and upcoming tours, visit www.paranormalwalks.com.