Like most cats, the ghost-kittens haunting Dwell Local boutique in Rochester move about in stealth. Until it’s time to bat something off a shelf.
That’s how Paul Bennett, lover of cats and owner of Dwell, first realized he shares real estate with spirit-pets.
Paranormal-ish happenings began shortly after he moved into the building in 2014.
“I would come in in the morning and there’d be things knocked down. But like at really low levels usually or off tabletops,” says Bennett. “One night I was there working really late and I hear something in the back. I go back and I just felt a brush against my leg, kind of. And there had been stuff knocked off a tabletop.”
To Bennett, who lives with four cats of his own, the mess bore the hallmarks of a meandering trail of disorder that follows a cat on the move.
“You could see where it ran through the door, up on a short bookcase, onto a table, and then back down to the floor,” says Bennett.
Animal occupants since 1954
The idea that his store might be haunted snapped into focus when a spiritual empath friend visited the store and refused to enter one of the shop’s rooms, saying she felt like she couldn’t.
Weeks later she asked Bennett what had occupied the building before Dwell. When he told her, she revealed that she’d felt animals and death, which made sense, she said, if euthanizations had been performed there.
“That building, that was built as a veterinary hospital back in 1954,” says Dr. Mark Wenner of VCA Cascade Animal Medical Center and Inn, who bought the building and hospital in 1991.
According to Wenner, euthanizations would have taken place in one of four areas: a small treatment area near the center of the building and three exam rooms on the east side.
The room Bennett’s empathic friend refused to enter? The back room in the shop’s east corner. An original Cascade technician named Lyle worked for Wenner until the hospital moved in 2012.
“Lyle had lots of good stories, but he never told me any stories like that,” says Dr. Wenner.
Paws and Claws Humane Society then occupied the building until Dwell. Bennett says ex-volunteers of the organization have told him that, at times, they could hear running in the ceiling. However, current staff reported a ghost-free environment.
“I remember when we were at that building,” says Josie Stoeckel, Paws and Claws cat adoption counselor. “And I checked with a few people that remembered that building, and none of us remembered having any experiences with spirits.”
Happy to host
After Bennett’s empath friend gave the building a spiritual cleanse, she told him that any spirits remaining there were right where they wanted to be, because it had been a good place for them. The cleanse left the shop feeling happier, according to Bennett, and he reports one or two visitations a month now, typically in a rear-center room of the shop.
“Now for me it’s like, they’re out playing. It’s a good thing,” says Bennett.
He says he knows there is more than one cat spirit visiting, but he has trouble sensing anything more specific. The ghost cats have yet to break or spill anything.
“Not yet, but if they do, they do,” says Bennett.
The spirits couldn’t have picked a better new steward of their spirit house.
“My whole life is about making places better for cats,” he jokes. At home, he and his partner live with four cats: Ella, Walter, Percy and Cora.
They treat their cats like their kids, he says, part of the family. Relationships like that allow humans to glimpse the subtle, mysterious personalities of the felines around them. That embrace could explain why Paul senses cats of yesteryear in Dwell, and why they continue to goof off in his shop at night.
As far as what to do if you find yourself hosting ghost cats?
“My advice is just to embrace them. It sounds weird, but just to enjoy them,” says Bennett.
In memory of Maxwell
Ghost-cats aren’t the only ones benefiting from Bennett’s caring nature. In the past Dwell has raised funds for both Paws and Claws and Camp Companion, but a more personal collection is being taken up at the counter at present.
Weeks ago, a young couple in Bennett’s neighborhood found an injured kitten but couldn’t afford to take him to the emergency vet. So Bennett took him, but there was nothing that could be done. Bennett named him Maxwell.
“So, I spent the night with him and then we euthanized him. So I’m just doing a little remembrance for him,” says Bennett, choking up.
Bryan Lund is a writer, ghostwriter and skier living in Rochester.