In the ‘spirit’ of science

The Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium in St. Johnsbury, Vermont hosts some of the state’s most fascinating displays of natural history and archaeology — and perhaps a few visitors from the beyond. (Dee Sterett photo)

Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium staff report brushes with the unexplained

The force is no longer with the spectacular creatures that populate the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

Inside this grand old Victorian stone building is a vast cataloged menagerie of mounted birds, mammals, fish and insects, each specimen frozen in time through the wonders of taxidermy — appearing as if they could spring back to life at any moment.

The museum is stunning in its use of interior space to maximize the impact of the displays and architecture. Dee Sterett photo

One visitor recently wondered aloud to a staff member: “Do you think the 117-year-old museum might be haunted?”

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It just might, she responded.

It stands to reason, the visitor thought, as so many people have been involved with the museum over the years.

The museum was founded in 1889 by St. Johnsbury industrialist Franklin Fairbanks. In time Fairbanks’ “cabinet of curiosities” grew to include some of the finest examples of natural science and ancient cultural artifacts from around the world.

How, then, can such an amazing place like the Fairbanks museum fail to entice spirits to gaze once again upon these earthly wonders?

Some of the more spectacular displays of natural history at the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium.

Jennifer D’Agostino, director of Visitor Services, said although she’s been with the museum just five months, stories of “weird things” that happened to other staffers have emerged.

Most of these curious events occurred down in the basement of the museum’s administrative building that in a previous life served as a retirement home.

“When they donated it to us they warned us” about things that might occur in there — inexplicable things — such as the lights flickering on and off, or secured doors opening and closing on their own, D’Agostino said.

Unexplained forces — or perhaps a live wild bat on the loose — have tripped the museum’s motion detectors, she said.

D’Agostino said the first time she went alone into the basement she was met back upstairs by a few surprised staff members. 

“They didn’t tell you about going into the basement by yourself?” she recalled being asked.

Another time — it was at night, after closing hours — a planetarium staff member reported being touched on her shoulder.

When she turned around nobody was there.

D’Agostino said although she has yet to experience anything paranormal, there is a definite sense of “not being alone” in the administration building whenever  she’s in there working alone.

“It’s more of a (creepy) feeling,” she said.



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