By Abigail Wojcik
On the surface level, the Iron Island Museum at 998 Lovejoy St. in Buffalo, is a small Methodist church built in 1885. However, everyone who works, volunteers, or visits at this building can attest to its haunted nature. It has been featured in three national paranormal TV shows, including Ghost Hunters, Ghost Lab, and My Ghost Story.
The church was converted into a funeral home in the 1950s and then it was donated to Iron Island Preservation Society of LoveJoy, Inc in 2000 to display various railroad items, military uniforms, newspaper clippings, and much more. It was never reported as being haunted, but it was discovered that the building is far from normal.
The curator of the museum, Marge Hastriter, spoke during a tour of the museum about several mysterious experiences she’s had that have gone so far as to make her feel her uncomfortable and unsafe. She admitted that “I don’t look for trouble, it sorta finds me.” She has seen and heard countless ghostly things in her time at the house but the scariest to her are when she sees “The Shadow Man.”
This shadow man is a recurring, all-black, red-eyed figure in the museum that Hastriter claims is evil. Once she felt his presence so close she felt as though he was going to strangle her.
Not everyone working at the museum is frightened by the activity there. Lorraine Wocciak volunteers at Iron Island as a tour guide and she considers the ghosts more like family. Everyone tries to respect anything living amongst them and she said “I don’t believe there is anything negative in this museum whatsoever.”
Wocciak puts her own little twist on any recording or sighting of something that could be perceived as scary, and she makes it fun and light-hearted. She feels extremely comfortable in the museum, including the dimly-lit basement where cans of cremated remains were found.
This isn’t to say she has never felt scared there before. The most exhilarating part of the tour is when all of the tour members pile into the crawl space in the basement to hear about Wocciak’s most frightening experience in Iron Island. The personal stories make the atmosphere there so enjoyable because none of them are unbelievable, and all of them are told with conviction. The house really speaks for itself.
There are abundant fascinating things about this place besides the paranormal, such as the items found hidden in the walls. Dishes were discovered that actually predate the building itself, as well as tools and an oil lantern. They plan on doing further digging in the basement to expand the upstairs display.
One of the craziest coincidences about the building and the people associated with it is Marge Hastreiter’s 7 year old son. Her son Jimmy died at this age from pneumonia when Iron Island was a running funeral home and his body was laid out there.
It seemed strange to Hastreiter that she should have the same building where her son had last been. She was curious to know if his spirit was still there so when Ghost Hunters was there and asked if she wanted anything specific investigated she told them about her son.
They told her that the presence she feel when she firsts enters the building is Jimmy and he goes home with her often. She was glad to know he doesn’t remain in the house with the red-eyed man that to her is evil.
The Iron Island Museum is a beautiful and historic building that brings in people from all over the globe. This hidden gem deserves much more respect from Buffalo because it is “the only city of Buffalo neighborhood museum,” said Linda Hastreiter, President of the museum.
She has requested several grants but has never been approved for one. They’ve struggled for 16 years only making profit off of tours, donations, and merchandise. They bring pride to the people of Iron Island and should be recognized for the attraction they are.
This is a great place to visit on Halloween weekend for a scare, but also for any other weekend. It is a cheap $5 tour and only a fifteen minute drive from Canisius campus. There is really no excuse for not going to Iron Island Museum because you won’t regret it.