The building at 1510 Fairfield Ave. has played host to many things since it was built in 1900.
Owned by Dr. James William Kidd, it first was the location for the JW Kidd Co., a patent medicine manufacturer and mail order business. By 1915, it is reported that it was used by the Boss Manufacturing Co., which made gloves and mittens. That was followed by its usage in the mid-1950s by General Electric, as a warehouse and distribution location for auto parts in the 1960s, a furniture store and then later an antiques mall.
But on Sept. 25, the building will play host to a different endeavor – ghost hunting.
It all goes back to Kidd, whose spirit is said to haunt the 121-year-old building.
That's why the Ghost Hunters Society of Fort Wayne is planning to do a ghost hunt, participating in what is being called the largest worldwide ghost hunt on National Ghost Hunting Day. The group will be among 13 countries and 35 states in the U.S. to conduct such hunts in a 24-hour period.
The story of Kidd is what drew the Ghost Hunters Society to the building.
Actually, it's not really known if Kidd was a real doctor with a medical degree, according to Denise Ghaster, founder of the Ghost Hunters Society of Fort Wayne. What is known is that his company became an epicenter for medical quackery.
Reports about his Elixir of Life that was supposed to cure all ailments were published in newspapers across the country, as well as in Germany and other countries.
A 1902 article in the Daily Journal in Telluride, Colorado, says: “Marvelous Elixir of Life Discovered by Famous Doctor-Scientist That Cures Every Known Ailment. Wonderful Cures Are Effected That Seem Like Miracles Performed – The Secret of Long Life of Olden Times Revived.” The same information appeared in the Age-Herald in Birmingham, Alabama, in December 1901.
Ghaster says Kidd was so convinced of his discovery that he would give it away free to those who would send their name and address to the company. Of course, later, the elixir, as well as Kidd, was found to be a fraud and it is believed he left the city. Where he went, and whether he came back to Fort Wayne is not known, well, at least based on the Ghost Hunters Society's research.
He even wrote a book, “The Ills of Humanity: The Cause and Cure,” which can be found in libraries and in the National Library of Medicine archive.
The group found out about the building and its ghost from the current owner, who says he has gotten used to the loud bangs and noises over the years. The group has been to the building four or five times, starting in February.
I met up with Angelica Ghaster and Stephanie Fromm, who are the daughters of Denise Ghaster, as well as members of the Ghost Hunters Society, at the building this month. Thankfully it was daylight, although I'm told that the ghosts (yes, there are more than one) are pretty active all day long.
The three-story brick building is being used for storage and as a warehouse. As we entered the building, I realized just how big, and old, it was. I had to wonder why Kidd needed so much space and what he actually used it for. Maybe he lived there.
The sisters began to tell me about the ghosts they have encountered in the building. There is a little boy, who apparently in the 1900s was playing on the train tracks behind the building and was killed by a train after falling on the track. According to Angelica, he is friendly and likes to follow the hunters around. He can be found on the second floor and that's where we headed.
I admit I was prepared to hear about the ghost stories. What I wasn't prepared for was the elevator that should have been part of a scene in a Stephen King horror film. It played Christmas music. Not just Christmas music, but the type of holiday music that you would hear in a department store.
The sisters say they have never actually seen any of the ghosts but have heard loud bangs and walking from above. In addition, they have heard male voices even though no one else was in the building.
Kidd is usually found on the third floor.
Those who take the tour Sept. 25 will get to see these locations. Whether they see or hear the ghosts, well, that's never a sure thing.
“It's a different kind of excitement for me,” Fromm says of her ghost hunting. “(There are) different things other than us.”
She says many people tell her to leave the spirits alone because they are at peace, but her response is “they're not at peace. They want someone to talk (to them).”
And for $30, you can try when the group hosts its hunt. Tickets are available through Thriller Events website, nationalghosthuntingday.com or at the Ghost Hunters Society of Fort Wayne's Facebook page. You also can watch other ghost hunts that day by livestream through the Spirit Realm Network.
Denise Ghaster says the proceeds from the event go to the historical preservation of the building.
And the history of Kidd and his elixir company is definitely worth preserving. But honestly, someone needs to change the music in that elevator.
Terri Richardson writes about area residents and happenings that affect their lives in this column that publishes every other week. Email her at email@example.com or call 461-8304.