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Lewiston – historic or haunted?

LEWISTON – Is Lewiston haunted?

It depends on who you ask.

Michelle A. Kratts, the author of a new book, “Haunted,” said she has certainly met enough people who believe strongly that their houses are haunted.

“I can’t do what I do without touching on the paranormal world because I basically deal with dead people,” said Kratts, who is also the head of genealogy for the Lewiston Library. “I’m kind of a medium between the two worlds.”

She tells 16 of these never-heard-before stories about real people and their real stories in “Haunted,” which will go on sale at a book signing and Halloween program at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Lewiston Opera Hall, 732 Center St. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.

The program features both Kratts sharing snippets of stories, and Niagara Falls Paranormal, who have worked with Kratts, presenting findings from its research on local hauntings.

Photos for “Haunted,” and Kratts’ first book, “The Missed,” were done by Michelle Petrazzoulo, the director of the Niagara Falls Library.

This past year Kratts worked with a group of authors from the Italian Research Group at the Lewiston Public Library to publish “Buon Appetito,” about Niagara’s early Italian-American culinary traditions, which was published earlier this year.

Kratts, 43, and her husband, Mike, have three children, ages 18, 14 and nine.

What is your job here at the Lewiston Library?

I basically do genealogy, which in Lewiston is a very big deal.

Why is this known as such a historic community?

It’s economic. Since it has stressed it, it has become known for that. People come here and enjoy that. Nearby in Niagara Falls, which is where I live, history is not as important. So much has been torn down. In Lewiston, every little piece they save and relish.

What kinds of records do you have here?

I’ve been doing this since 2007, and we didn’t have much at the time. But we have a lot of local cemetery records. We have hundreds of family files. Whenever someone comes to me and I help them, they give me things and I save it here. We have a computer data base and a volunteer who put every single census, from the very beginning, into it, and has made it into family trees. We have a database of obituaries from the Niagara Gazette going back to the 1850s. And I keep a blog, which has a lot of local history. We have an Italian Research Group and we just wrote a book on local Italian culinary histories of Niagara Falls, which has been very successful.

There is a strong Italian ethnic heritage in Niagara Falls, isn’t there?

Oh yes, myself included. I am half Italian. Actually Macri’s (an Italian restaurant in Lewiston) did a benefit for us last year, and they handed all the money to the genealogy department, so we decided to make a book. We realized the Italian heritage is such a culinary heritage. My family included – which started Fortuna’s restaurant – which is still in the family on 19th Street. A lot of these immigrants brought these traditions to Niagara Falls. This has been so successful that we are working on part two and we are asking for family pictures. I think people think this is their book. It’s not a dry history, it’s family history. We have 60 recipes in it, because you couldn’t do it without recipes.

Was this your first book?

Actually,. I did “The Missed” last year with (photographer) Michelle Petrazoullo. We both kind of have a dark side to us. I worked on the stories for years and Michelle takes beautiful pictures, one for each chapter.

What is “The Missed” about?

There are three different parts to it. There’s a history of spiritualism in Niagara Falls because, believe it or not, Niagara Falls has a very strong history of people drawn to it. I actually wrote the stories first for a blog. Then I did some ghost stories based on different events. And then I did death sketches – macabre stories of people’s last moment’s in Niagara Falls. Some are suicides.

Is this historical?

Yes. Some are the daredevils of Niagara Falls.

So this started as a blog?

Yes, but I started to be asked for it so much that I thought I should put it into some type of a book, then I have it all together.

How do you hear about these stories?

People will come to me and say, ‘I’m looking for my grandmother’ or stuff like that. And the strangest things will happen when you find these people. An example: Years ago I was helping with a cemetery project in Lewiston. It was the craziest day. There was a storm brewing, and I just had a few minutes. We were transcribing what was on the gravestones and I went to this one gravestone, right by the church and it said, ‘Edward Maybe.’ It was such an odd last name. Then it began thundering and lightning, and started to sprinkle, so I left and went back to work. I got there and the girls said a couple were looking for me. They said, “I wonder if you could help us?” They were Canadian and said they were looking for their ancestor, his name is “Edward Maybe.” I said, “I was just with him.” That creeped me out a bit. But there are other weird things.

So do you believe in spiritualism or hauntings?

I don’t know what I believe. I really don’t. I haven’t had a real experience myself that has made me totally sure of it. I want to, because I’ve had so many dear people that have passed, and I hope there is more, but I just don’t know. I think that’s why I do this. I really want to explore it.

Your recent book, “Haunted,” what is that about?

Another part of my job. People will come in here and they’ll say, “I want to know the history of my house” and “It’s an old house.” And they will want to know about the earth that it’s on. I can tell by the way that they are acting that they think it is haunted and they want to know the history.

So this is part of your job, finding ghosts?

I can’t do my job without encountering this. I first met Niagara Falls Paranormal, a “Ghostbusters”-type group. We had some weird occurrences in the library. Our library would be closed and when the director came in, the chairs would be moved, books would be rearranged.

Did they share their stories with you?

We kind of worked together. We have this symbiotic relationship. They will have a haunted house they are investigating and ask me to find the history. I’ve been on a few (ghost hunts) with them. They record voices. I’ve been there and when you go back and listen, you hear voices that will answer the questions you ask.

Does it take a certain type of person to believe in this?

I don’t know what’s on the other side. I’ve had some things that make me wonder, even in my own house. We have an 1880s house, and I wanted it to be haunted so bad. My kids have had things happen. There’s been little things, but it’s not enough to make me say I really believe. Children are more receptive. We always tell children not to make things up, so we stop telling the stories. We stop believing maybe. But my friend who works at Fort Niagara says the people who experience more things are the people who are more skeptical.

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Kratts’ books will be on sale at the book signing at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Lewiston Opera Hall, 732 Center St., or can be purchased at the Book Corner, 1801 Main St., Niagara Falls or on Amazon.

Know a Niagara County resident who would make an interesting question-and-answer column? Write to: Niagara Weekend Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email niagaranews@buffnews.com. email: nfischer@Buffnews.com