Westfield haunts

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Occurrences in historical sites in Westfield lead some to believe paranormal activity is a reality

The present location of Jan’s Village Pizza and Erica’s used to be one cafeteria, Pickett’s Cafeteria. A few who work in the building or go on Ghost Tours past Union Street claim to have seen ghosts or ghost activity around the area. (Photo by Katy Frantz)

Jan Miller, owner of Jan’s Village Pizza, would like to say that everything that could be considered paranormal activity is coincidental. Yet, it’s hard for her to be sure when the abnormal becomes a normal occurrence in the building housing her Westfield pizzeria at Union Street and U.S. 32.

“I question myself on that sometimes, you know,” Miller said with a sigh. “We’ve just had strange occurrences.”

Jan and her husband, Steve Miller, opened the pizza parlor in downtown Westfield about 12 years ago, as an expansion of their business in Sheridan.

The history of the building is hard to trace. It was thought that before Pickett’s Cafeteria, the building used to be Thunderburg’s Grocery store. It’s a local legend that the upstairs also could have been a brothel or linked with the Underground Railroad.

The building is old. Rafters found in the basement of the corner restaurant were dated to the pre-civil war period. It is still up for question whether the rafters used to be a part of the building or not.

“Whether they were the original rafters put in that building, or used to build a building that came from somewhere else, no one seems to know,” said Miller. “It is old and historic.”

The Millers laugh occurrences off, most of the time. They’ve never felt threatened, and sometimes jokingly blame the happenings on the ghost of the late owner of the Pickett Cafeteria. Yet some things have happened that they can’t ignore.

One Halloween, FOX 59 was doing a program on “spooky things.” The program was filmed, but the real shock came after the videotaping was over.

At the time there was a stubborn door that led upstairs to the storage unit. Miller said it always took a tremendous effort to shut the door. But this time, when all the reporters had filed out through the door, it just slammed shut behind the last reporter.

“There was no way,” she said. “You had to physically push it hard to get it to rub against that sidewalk and make it close; and it just slammed shut. [The reporter] refused to go back up to get her equipment.”

That was just one example of the activity that goes on in the building.

Nicole Kobrowski, who conducts historic ghost walks through Westfield, has talked with young ladies who worked at Jan’s Village Pizza. Some of the girls would be alone in the building and hear fingers snapping or their names being called.

“One girl, I recall, was a target,” said Kobrowski. “She said she would feel someone blowing on her neck or touch her hand.”

Kobrowski, along with her husband, Michael, conducted an investigation on Jan’s Village Pizza several years ago. While they believe in the paranormal, they conduct their research and investigations with a commonsense approach.

Equipped with cameras, heat sensors and other ghost-detecting technology, the Kobrowski team went upstairs and in the basement of the building. Based on their findings, the team thought they had discovered some “real hot spots.”

Kobrowski recently published the book “Ghosts of Westfield.” Miller, who has read the book, says it is a compelling read as it rehearses ghost stories linked with the history of Westfield.

“I believe when we die we go; we’re gone,” she said. “But [the Kobrowskis]say there’s a lot of energy forces that are proving something is there. I don’t know how you explain that. It’s one of those supernatural things.”

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