Seances held at local hotel to contact ghosts

Photo Illustration by Josh Birnbaum and Amelia Moore Josh Birnbaum The Daily Illini

Photo Illustration by Josh Birnbaum and Amelia Moore Josh Birnbaum The Daily Illini

By Jenette Sturges

In a fit of anger on the night of Fri., Nov. 17, Luis Alanzo Parceguela threw a framed painting across the dining hall during an unscheduled appearance at the Camelot room of the Historic Lincoln Hotel in downtown Urbana.

He caused no major damage, and nobody seemed particularly upset by the incident. The only problem was this: Parceguela has been dead for 400 years.

According to legend, the young missionary died of heartbreak in 1720 on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean. But Parceguela’s spirit is still alive and pining for his lover, a young, shapely coquette named Annabelle Chambeau. His ghost was the subject of Friday night’s seance at the Lincoln Hotel.

“Talking to the dead is easy; anyone can do it,” explained Jace Quinlin Yates, medium to the spirit world, to an intimate gathering of diners. “What takes talent is getting them to talk back.”

The Stefan Alexxis and J. Quinlin Yates Seance Dinner Theatre promises “a ride through history, mind reading, theatrical storytelling, an 18th century curse, a few laughs and a happy handful of chills,” according to the event’s Web site, The performance is accompanied by a beef sirloin dinner in the mood-setting, historic hotel.

A timeless setting

“It’s all a matter of setting the mood,” said Alexxis. He said his fellow mentalists, specialists in parapsychological activity, have expressed jealousy over the prime location, complete with turn-of-the-century woodwork and tapestries, cutlets hanging above a lit fireplace and suits of armor guarding the doorways. High-back chairs and gilded chandeliers create an intimate gathering for welcoming otherworldly guests, and rumor has it that the inn may even play host to its own resident spirit.

“Working here, I believe in ghosts,” said Jordan Biggers, a waiter serving in the Camelot room on the night of the seance. “We’ve heard books move when no one was in the library. We’ve never actually seen anything, but we hear things all the time.”

Your hosts for the evening

Yates and Alexxis do not just insist on the authenticity of contacting the spirit world but also the value of their work. Often, Alexxis said, participants in his seances are looking to make contact with specific lovers or relatives.

“We don’t do the kind of seance where bodies physically manifest,” Alexxis said. “If you want the seance where you can ask Aunt Agnes where she hid the money, I don’t do that. It’s just usually not a good idea.”

What he does offer is something he calls a “gentle seance,” which provides a chance to connect with loved ones who have died. He said the experiences reinforce very personal bonds between the living and the dead, often providing advice or insight for the participants.

“You don’t become omniscient just because you had a heart attack,” Alexxis said. “But you do get a different viewpoint.”

He also offers home performances that range from serious contacts with the deceased to pure entertainment.

At 53, Alexxis sports a graying beard and wire-rimmed glasses and often sports a suit and fedora. His day job is as a ghostwriter, no pun intended. Yates, 27, never wears a tie and works at Radio Shack.

More importantly, the two host events together because of their interdependent otherworldly skills. Alexxis boasts no particular psychic aptitude other than the skill to draw out the abilities and insights of audience members. During a performance, he acts as a storyteller, providing the audience with the history of communing with the dead and separating fact from superstition. Yates sits in a high-backed chair on stage, flooded in light in the otherwise dark dining room. He claims to be the medium through which spirits speak and act.

Yates and Alexxis said things have been stranger than Parceguela’s outburst Friday night.

“We’ve seen things move before,” Alexxis said. “That’s why we try to clear off the tables prior to each performance.”

As for the concern that disrupting the peace of the dead may be dangerous or, at the very least, impolite, Yates said, “In my mind, we’re not doing anything wrong. We’re just helping to free up the lines of communication.”

Ghostly encounters

Biggers and the other employees of the Lincoln Hotel are not the only ones to have an encounter. Many guests of the Nov. 17 seance had their own stories to share. Debbie Kraybill, a Champaign resident and University employee, recounted memories of her childhood ghost encounter as “a diffuse light, with only a few clear details, like buttons down the front of what it wore.”

Her husband, Dan Kraybill, expressed skepticism. Yates claimed to be quick to detect Kraybill’s disbelief in part of a demonstration to the audience. After lining up five participants and receiving their wedding rings in envelopes and mixed up, he was able to easily identify the ring belonging to Kraybill, saying that the skepticism was a strong indicator.

“Wedding rings have so much natural energy within them,” Yates told the audience, then matching each of the rings to their respective owners with his eyes closed.

While the Kraybills were split over whether spiritual contact was likely, guests at another table agreed that encounters with ghosts were entirely possible.

“Definitely,” said Sherri Rauch, a Champaign resident, nodding her head. “I’ve experienced a ghost.”

Rauch said she was unsure about the authenticity of Yates’ contact with his spirit guide, a 19th century priest named Father Louis DuMont, but was impressed with the night’s performance.

“Jace is very good,” she said of his entertainment.

Still, the antics of Luis Parceguela and his living contacts were not enough to convince Dan Kraybill. Following the ceremony, his disbelief remained unshaken, though he still had compliments for Alexxis and Yates.

“It was a good bit of theater,” he said.

To see Alexxis and Yates in action, visit the Historic Lincoln Hotel Wed. Dec 13 at 7 p.m. Call (217) 384-8800 for reservations.