By Michele DeLuca
Niagara Gazette — The 150-year-old Echo Club will have its moment in the national spotlight tonight, when paranormal investigators from the cable TV show, "Haunted Collector," feature their November visit to the historic Portage Road mansion.
Once owned by a former state assemblyman, Thomas Vincent Welch, and later a Polish community club, the Echo is so steeped in history that it surely seems a likely candidate for otherworldly experiences, even after a couple years of renovations by new owner Deborah Sirianni and her team. The place still feels as if it's been frozen in time, an attribute which Sirianni clearly believes is part of its charm, with ghostly sightings, strange happenings, simply adding more character.
"There's always chaos in the Echo," said Sirianni with a laugh, describing odd sounds, rooms shaking and weird, ghostly, inexplicable events. "People love it."
Sirianni, who plans to reopen the building for the season on Thursday, describes events such as a plate pulling off the wall and landing without breaking in the center of a room several different times, or a little girl spotted in a washroom by a patron during a local high school reunion. The ghostly girl disappeared when others came to check out why she was alone.
The television show, which will air at 9 p.m. tonight on the SyFy channel, features a "demonologist," named John Zaffis, his daughter Aimee, and a small team of paranormal investigators, who checked out the Echo for its spirited energy.
"He believes that spirits attach themselves to articles, and there are over a thousand antiques in the Echo," Sirianni said. She can't say what the episode is about. But, she said host Zaffis confirmed that the spirits in the Echo are likely well intentioned, according to Sirianni.
"His personal opinion was that there are no evil spirits in the Echo," she said.
Also interviewed for the show was local historian Paul Gromosiak, who talked with producers about another former owner of the Echo, a banker who was said to keep cells in the basement for those who didn't pay their debts to him. The historian said the little girl ghost seen at the Echo by several people is thought to be the daughter of a worker who may have died in the building. Gromosiak, who loves and documents local history as a life mission, keeps an open mind about the ghosts. "Who knows," he said of the possibilities.
Another local woman interviewed for the show has seen orbs and experienced odd ghostly presences each of the six times she's been to the Echo. "You never know what you're going to get when you go there," she said, adding that she believes the spirits mean no harm. "There's a lot of history there," she said of the Echo, adding of the ghosts, "I think they just want recognition."
On Thursday Sirianni plans to reopen event space on all three floors of the Echo for private parties, events and banquets. She said there will be a restaurant open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. In addition, she plans to soon have food vendors and live music outside the mansion as well as many events for locals inside the mansion such as bands, karaoke, comedy nights and local theater productions. There will also be historical haunted tours throughout the day seven days a week, she said, with the assistance of Tony Burtis, founder of Western Door Paranormal. Burtis considers the Echo his home base for paranormal research.
"The Echo Club is definitely haunted," Burtis said. "It's saturated with spirits, no question."
For more information about the Echo Club, located at 341 Portage Road near Niagara Street, call Sirianni at 282-3246.