Long after the regular visitors left the Old Cowtown Museum on Saturday, an odd group of detectives gathered in the employee parking lot and unloaded its high-tech gear.
More than a dozen members of the Wichita Paranormal Research Society carried infrared cameras, thermal imagers and electromagnetic field data loggers into the museum for an overnight hunt.
"What we're looking for is any paranormal activity," Sherrie Curry, one of the investigators, said in an earlier interview. "Apparitions, voices, movement of items. Pretty much anything that we can't explain.
"Mostly what we do is try to catch ghosts."
Group founder Shane Elliott said that on most weekends, the group is invited into a Kansas home or business to see if it can explain unnatural activity.
"I'd say 90 to 95 percent we can explain away," he said.
Often, he said, something as simple as bad electrical wiring can appear to make things go haywire.
But the group, which was formed in 2007 and has twice before conducted overnight hunts at Cowtown, can't explain everything it has found at the museum.
Wind chimes that tinkled for no reason. Stones tossed by people who weren't there. A candle removed from a candelabra.
"The Murdock house has the most paranormal activity," Currie said. "The DeVore Farm — that's where we had the wind chimes. We've had some unexplainable footsteps in the drugstore-dentist area. We've had a couple (of events) in the jail, but there's not a whole lot there. And a little bit in the blacksmith shop. I'd say the most activity is in the Murdock House."
The group will discuss the results of this weekend's hunt when it holds its third annual Historic Haunting at Cowtown event in October.
Elliott said he was a skeptic when he got married, but that his wife was always interested in paranormal activity.
"If she was watching anything (on television) that had to do with UFOs or ghosts, I'd go out in the garage," he said. "Before 2005, I never believed in any of this."
That changed one night that year when he heard a sound on a baby monitor that became a lullaby.
"I got this strange feeling that it was my grandmother, who'd passed away when I was 16."
He said he began paying attention to those shows his wife was watching.
Curry said she had a similar experience while staying at a farmhouse near Lawrence that was rented by an in-law. She said the house gave her the creeps. At one point, she said, she saw what appeared to be a white form floating past a bed. And the settings on an alarm clock in the house kept changing without explanation, she said.
She said she later learned that the former owner had committed suicide in the barn. She said she has since learned that most paranormal activity is attributed to the dead.
"The theory is that people who have passed away can become attached to their house, or to a particular location or to a particular item — say a favorite jewelry box or favorite musical instrument," she said.
Cowtown isn't the only public place where the group has found paranormal activity. The Orpheum Theater also has its share, Currie said.
"We do have recordings of voices there," she said. "Employees who have worked there and people who have come to perform there have had experiences in the dressing room."
Throughout their investigations, the investigators have yet to come across anything evil.
"We haven't actually run into anything that would be considered a demon," Curry said. "There've been some ornery things, but nothing I would consider a demon."