Normal for Patrick Korellis? That’s his day job at Walgreens in market planning and research, managing projects such as the Walgreens Flu Index, our weekly tracker at the height of flu season each fall and winter.
Paranormal? That’s what he does on the side.
Korellis has a hobby that’s especially apropos in the lead-up to Halloween: investigating the otherworldly. He’s a member of Shadow Hunters Paranormal Investigations and Events, a five-person team started by a childhood friend that inspects allegedly haunted sites in (and sometimes far outside) the Chicago area – houses, cemeteries, asylums, hospitals, old theaters, theme parks and more.
The crew includes a psychic medium and has an array of special equipment for detecting and communicating with ghosts – namely a “spirit box,” a device that quickly sweeps radio frequencies to capture voices. Korellis, whose professional specialties are geographic systems and meteorology, handles the group’s maps and tracks temperatures with a laser thermometer. (“Spirits like colder weather, and the temperature will drop when they’re nearby,” he says. “The colder it is, the more activity there is.”)
He joined the group in 2009, a year after the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Northern Illinois University, during which he was struck in the head and arm by shotgun pellets.
“Ever since that day, I’ve had different paranormal experiences,” he says. “I wasn’t really a skeptic before – I felt like I did believe in spirits and ghosts. But I had never encountered anything personally until death was around me.”
Oh, the strange encounters in the 12 years since. Where to start? There was Korellis’ first major “whoa” moment during an investigation at the historic Coronado Theatre in Rockford, Ill.
“They gave us the whole night to investigate, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.,” Korellis says. “The original owner had hanged himself in the rafters, and the caretaker told us she would sometimes see him walking around up there wearing a top hat. He and his wife, who was known for wearing a particular perfume, had a little apartment that they’d lived in above the theater. When the caretaker went up there, sometimes she could smell the perfume.
“We were told they didn’t like people in their apartment. So when we went up there, we used the spirit box, and right away we heard, ‘GET OUT!’ Then our motion detector went off by the door, and we smelled the perfume. I said, ‘We need to get out of here – they do not want us in this apartment.’ Later, we were in the basement, just sitting in a room, and the door slammed. It was a very haunted place.”
Another piece of equipment, the REM-Pod, lights up and makes noise when its antenna is physically touched.
“It’s gone off by itself numerous times during visits,” Korellis says. “We’ve said to spirits, ‘If you’re here with us, can you touch the antenna on this REM-Pod?’ And it goes crazy.”
Once, in someone’s basement, a baseball flew off a shelf at the team from across a room.
“There are moments like that where you might start to panic, but then you have to calm down and remember you’re there to investigate,” Korellis says. “We say to potential spirits at the beginning of each visit, ‘We’re not here to mock you or anything – we’re just here to communicate.’ We also do a ceremony – not exactly a séance, more like a prayer – where we tell them not to follow us home. You don’t want them coming with you and haunting you in your home.”
The team records its investigations and shares excerpts on its YouTube channel and Facebook page, inviting fans to try to explain or debunk the spooky happenings. It also holds an annual event for paranormal enthusiasts, “Spirits in the Spring,” with proceeds benefitting local nonprofit groups, and occasionally has contests where the winners can come along on a ghost investigation.
Do Korellis’ Walgreens co-workers know about his spirited side work?
“Some of them do, yeah,” he says, laughing. “Sometimes they’ll say, ‘You know, I think I may have a ghost in my house.’ I’ll offer to have the group investigate, but they usually don’t want us to. They don’t know if they really want to know.”
If that’s the case, they probably won’t want to know about this: Korellis has had paranormal experiences at Walgreens.
“I was working late one night in the office,” he says. “I started hearing noises and footsteps. The lights turned off, and I had to go turn them back on. Then one of the garbage cans fell over on the other side of the room. I walked around to be sure I was the only one there, and I was. It only happened that one time.
“Maybe my team should do some investigating to see what’s around our corporate campus,” he adds. “Could just be a friendly spirit that loves Walgreens.”
A few more Walgreens ghost stories
If Patrick Korellis is looking for some additional investigative leads, he might start with these:
“A few weeks before Thanksgiving last year, I was the overnight shift lead at my previous 24-hour store. We had seven or eight of these little plush UFO toys that spun, made noise and flashed lights when you pushed the button on them. At about 3 in the morning, my cashier was on break, and the only other person in the store was the pharmacist, who I knew was in the pharmacy because I could hear her talking to a patient in drive-thru. Suddenly, all those little UFOs went off one by one, like someone had gone and pushed all the buttons. I was thoroughly spooked. I triple-checked every aisle to make sure it wasn't someone playing a prank on me, but there was no one else on the sales floor. The next morning, I told the store manager about it and asked him if I could bring an Ouija board to ask the ghosts their opinions on our sales patterns.”
– Brian Gadberry, shift lead, Jonesboro, Ark.
“I had an experience nobody could explain during my first holiday season at the store. There was a display for photo cards and stationary at the photo counter. It had a heavy wooden base, and was even stuck onto the counter with adhesive. I was the opening cashier, and when the manager and I went in that morning, the display was on the floor and broken, about 2 to 3 feet from the counter. She was appalled that the closing manager would leave a mess like that, so she pulled video before confronting him. Turns out, it wasn’t like that when the store closed. Just before 5 a.m., with the store completely empty and dark, you could see this display start to wobble on its own, and then it was like something just pushed it off the counter. Nobody would have believed it if we didn't all see the footage ourselves.”
– Kauwela Upchurch, beauty consultant, Bartlesville, Okla.
“My first store had a ghost. Yes, I’m serious. I worked overnights at the time. We had only a male pharmacist working, but my manager saw a woman in a pharmacist’s coat. Later, I saw her, too, and when I described her, my manager said it was the exact same description of whom she’d seen. We sometimes would hear product moving in our cooler, but no one would be in there. There also would be times when, right after you’d walk past products in an aisle, something would fall onto the floor, even if it had been sitting properly on the shelf behind a retainer. We named the ghost Emily.”
– Ben Chadwick, shift lead, Colleyville, Texas