Paranormal team investigates old Vito's in Iowa City

BY ERIC MOORE | OCTOBER 31, 2011 7:20 AM

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The building that once housed Vito's has all the physical characteristics of a haunted place: old musty smells, dilapidated walls and floors, all of its contents covered in a thick layer of dust.

The Johnson County Paranormal Team investigated the vacant 118 E. College St. property Sunday in hopes of determining whether the building has the spiritual characteristics of a haunted site as well.

Cat Sinclair, the self-proclaimed "Clairvoyant" of the team, walked gingerly along the broken floor and furniture, hoping to sense "energy." While investigating, she said discovered "at least three aware spirits."

Sinclair described one spirit in detail she believed was named "Joseph" on the second floor.

"He was definitely a heavy drinker… he was disrespected and a bit feared but not necessarily liked," Sinclair said. "I don't know why he's here, but he didn't die here; he's tied here somehow."

Sinclair, who said her ability "becomes easier to use" the more she uses it, also said she sensed there was a rape in the basement and a possible suicide on the second floor. She said her process is "very fatiguing."

This is not the first time someone has reported paranormal activity at the East College Street property.

Bobby Jett of the Moen Group, which owns the property, said one of the interning architects involved in the remodeling approached him a few months ago and said he "was never going back into the building."

"The first time, he felt there air change very rapidly … [he] got the chills. The second time, someone whispered in his ear, 'Go-oooo,' " Jett said. "It totally freaked him out; he ran out of the building."

Jett said he later bought University of Iowa alumnus Vernon Trollinger's recent book, Haunted Iowa City, which includes a chapter on the history of the property that later became Vito's.

Trollinger, who was also a main contributor to the late 1990s satirical paranormal activity zine Third Eye Over Iowa, said the property was owned by the Schneider Brothers and was previously used as a funeral parlor as well as a place to construct cabinets.

He said a bookstore worker in 1990 witnessed an entity that looked like a farmer or cabinet maker walking through the Hall Mall. The story "fits into the methodology of the building" because of the known history of the property, he said.

"They have an experience, and then they try to make sense of it the best way they can," Trollinger said. "Stories are tied to places … as long as you have someone that remembers the story, it will stay tied to that place."

He said local stories vary because of Iowa City's "constantly changing" population.

He said the stories will continue to stick around "until there's no one there to keep the story going."

Joe Mihm, another member of the Johnson County Paranormal Team, said approximately 90 percent of its investigations stem from "word of mouth" stories. He said his goal is to see if something could "communicate back to" him.

"My goal is to see … not necessarily proof for everyone else but proof for myself," Mihm said.

After the investigation was completed, Sinclair drank water and continued looking around the aging brick walls.

"It's very fatiguing at times," she said. "It's the energy it takes them to communicate with me."

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