Steve Litteral is a native of Rockford, Illinois and he is currently the Executive Director of Tinker Swiss Cottage Museum. He spent two enlistments in the US Army as an airborne infantryman (paratrooper) until he started his academic career in 2000. Currently, Steve has earned an A.A., B.A. in history, and an M.A. in military history. Tinker Swiss Cottage was recently featured in an episode of the SyFy Channel show Ghost Hunters.
When (and why) did you first contact TAPS about coming to Tinker Swiss Cottage and what was their initial response?
I had called TAPS many years ago to get some advice, but I never thought we would be on their television program. Thanks to Michael Kravchuk (The Ghost Gadget Guy) who knew they were in the Chicago area, and he told them they should check out the museum while they were in the area. I soon received a call from the producer of ‘Ghost Hunters’ who asked if TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society) could film an episode at the museum, and of course, I said, “yes.”
Tell our readers a little about what Tinker Cottage is and why it is a Rockford landmark.
The museum, which is actually a Victorian mansion, was built in 1865 by a gentleman named Robert H. Tinker. Robert was a former mayor of Rockford and he was also one of the founders of the Rockford Park District. The museum also contains all of the Tinker’s original artwork, furniture, journals, and books. It is not only important to local history, but Victorian American history as well since it is a time capsule to contemporary visitors. When you walk through the mansion, it looks like they just left for the afternoon. We also have a Native American burial mound near the mansion and the first buildings in Rockford were built on the site in 1834.
Have you or other staff members experienced anything unusual while working at the museum? What are some of the most “active” areas?
We have been hearing things for years, and it is one of the reasons why we wanted TAPS to investigate the museum. When I first started working at the museum, it would sound like someone was walking around on a different floor, but I knew I was alone in the museum. I would say the two most “active” rooms in the house are the Red Room (Maid’s Quarters) and the library.
What has been some of the most compelling evidence of paranormal activity captured at Tinker Cottage to date?
There have been dozens of great EVPs captured at the museum, but one that was particularly compelling was the voice of a young girl saying, “I don’t like trains…I don’t like trains…trains bring death.” That voice still gives me chills. Luckily, TAPS captured one of the things that has happened there a few times in the recent past. They captured the rocking chair moving, which it has done of several occasions during regular public tours without anyone near the chair. It will rock hard for several minutes by itself.
What did you think of the experience of having TAPS come and investigate the museum? Are you happy with the results? Would you recommend them to others?
I had a great experience with TAPS. They are very professional and everything we claimed historically (i.e. a funeral happened on a certain date), they wanted evidence of the event. They were also very respectful to the museum, which is always a concern to the museum staff. I am very happy with the results, and I would recommend them to anyone who would need their services.
How can our readers contact you if they would like more information about touring Tinker Swiss Cottage or attending its paranormal-related events?
The best way to stay informed about the museum is to visit our website: www.tinkercottage.com. We continually update our tours and one can buy tickets to our events at a discount online. We look forward to sharing our experiences with the public and we hope to see you here!