The national media spotlight is about to fall on Liberty.
In recent years Lee’s Summit was put on the world map by the documentary “Jesus Camp,” then Blue Springs bathed in the reflected glory of its “American Idol” winner David Cook. On Wednesday, June 26, the Syfy channel’s paranormal reality show, “Ghost Hunters,” will feature Liberty’s Belvoir Winery.
I’m a part-time bartender at Belvoir, and my colleagues and I are looking forward to the upcoming broadcast.
The explorers of the spirit world spent seven days investigating and filming at the winery off Missouri Highway 291. The property, run for more than a century by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, includes a former orphanage, nursing home, hospital and cemetery set on 170 acres.
The call from Hollywood — the show’s producers, Pilgrim Studios — came several months ago. The manager of the winery and function center, Jesse Leimkuehler, remembers the moment: “They called and said, ‘Hey listen, we’ve received a lot of requests and comments about your place from some of your guests and other individuals, and we were calling to see if you might have any interest in doing an investigation and what things you might want us to investigate if we came out.’”
The answer was “yes” and “a lot.” So the seven investigator-presenters of “Ghost Hunters,” including leader Jason Hawes and a crew of more than 20 others, made their way to Liberty.
“They were very nice, very approachable,” said Leimkuehler, who was interviewed — together with events coordinator Rachel Shirk and local Belvoir ghost tour leader Nick Spantgos — about his paranormal experiences during five years at the winery. “They actually were very complimentary of the Midwest. They said that people were very nice, very welcoming, not too pushy if they wanted to say ‘Hi.’”
However, not many people got the chance to say “hi” to the stars. A “Ghost Hunters” visit is kept top secret so that mobs of fans do not scare off the ghosts or disrupt the filming.
“They focused on some of the same areas where we’ve had activity before just to try and validate or not validate it,” Leimkuehler said. “Like the main floor of the winery, the second and third floors of the winery as well. Then they went into some the hallways in the Old Folks Home and then the nursing home.”
Of course, one person’s evidence of the paranormal is another person’s random creak. A novelty of bar tending at Belvoir is listening to colleagues retelling their possibly paranormal experiences to the delight of countless customers. I suppose there could be something going on, but is it really ghosts?
Once upon a time, Leimkuehler, an upstanding former accountant and local political contender, was a skeptic. However, he said over time there were too many events he could not explain. Perhaps the most unusual one occurred in the early morning when he was setting up tables. Two-year-old daughter Giselle engaged a local phantom in conversation. Leimkuehler heard an adult voice say the words, “Well, hello, little one,” and he found Giselle face-to-face with thin air.
Hopefully that phantom co-operated with “Ghost Hunters,” or we could be left with the dramatic antics of the presenters as they interpret coincidental noises, smudged photos and electromagnetic pulses.
Leimkuehler insists the “Ghost Hunters” crew is a credible unit.
“They’re a much more scientific-based group than a lot of the other ones,” he said.
But for some, not quite scientific enough.
Benjamin Radford, deputy editor of the science magazine Skeptical Inquirer has said that after watching the Syfy program, “it quickly becomes clear to anyone with a background in science that the methods used are both illogical and unscientific.”
But how can a paranormal investigation really be scientific? Whatever is revealed when the “Ghost Hunters” Belvoir Winery investigation goes to air, those who know and love the winery will be watching with interest.
Belvoir Winery will be screening the show at 8 p.m. June 26.
Visit www.belvoirwinery.com for more details.