Paranormal researcher John Zaffis received approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals to use McBride Funeral home as a museum to house his haunted artifacts.
The Connecticut native has been collecting so-called "haunted artifacts" for 40 years. He also runs the Paranormal and Demonology Research Society of New England, which he founded in 1998.
Zaffis' show "Haunted Collector" aired for three seasons on the Syfy channel, from 2011 to 2013. On the show, Zaffis and his crew investigated haunted areas and searched for an item linked to the haunting.
Zaffis said these are the items he would like to display in the former funeral home.
"A haunted item can be a statue, a piece of furniture, it can be jewelry, and it can be anything across the board. I have thousands of items in my barn that have been removed from many different investigations I have been involved with over the years," Zaffis said. "Basically, I have been collecting this stuff for 42 years and I have quite the collection of things that have been removed."
Zaffis said he would like to use the main building of the Liberty Street property to rotate a display of his artifacts and provide tours.
"I have collected a lot of things worldwide so there are things from all different kinds of environments, and the way I would want to structure it is to walk through it like the regular museum environment and be able to tell the different stories about the items," he said.
He said he plans to return the second level to its original use, an embalming room. He said it would be optimal for "ghost hunts" the public could take part in.
The first floor of the second building would be used as a lecture hall for guest speakers and the capacity for 30-50 people and the upper level will be used as an apartment for him to stay when he is in town.
He added that the small building off the second building will be used as a gift shop.
McBride's closed nearly three years ago with the retirement of funeral director Anthony McBride, ending three generations of a family business.
Zaffis said he often receives request from people who want to see the collection. He said he has been looking for a better location to have an actual museum and Adams seems to be the perfect place
"I have been looking around at different buildings and this is a good spot because I wouldn't have to change much of the structure of it," he said. "It's the perfect environment. A nice small New England-type setting … It's a quiet community, and this looks like something that would fit within the area."
Zaffis' representative Mark Tetlow said paranormal television programs have become very popular. He said they have heard from thousands of people worldwide who are interested in the collection and that the museum will draw traffic into town.
"We drive a lot of tourism no matter where we go with these lectures," Tetlow said. "We bring in people that are on TV week in and week out and people come from other countries to see them. People will come and they will come quick."
Tetlow said people that visit will have to stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants.
Board member Michael Mach agreed with Tetlow and said he feels the museum will only be good for Adams.
"Anytime we can get anything to come into this town it’s got to be a good thing," Mach said. "Anything that draws people into town is good."
Zaffis came to the board looking for a variance to have his museum in a R-4 residential district.
Chairman Peter West stepped away from the board because he represents the McBride family in the sale of the property.
He said the north side of the building had acted as the rectory for the nearby church (now the Masonic Lodge) and was in a residential zone until 1984. The McBride family started operating the funeral home there in the 1920s before any zoning existed.
Board member Peter Gutmann said he felt Zaffis should seek a special permit instead of a variance because the museum is a business. He said this would also allow the board to add regulations to the permit.
Building Commissioner Don Fitzgerald said because the primary function of the building will be a museum and the gift shop is secondary, a variance is the correct method of action.
"From the building code point of view, I could look at this and say there is absolutely no difference in how the building is being used," Fitzgerald said. "Whether it is a paranormal museum or a funeral home, the use is exactly the same from the outside."
Fitzgerald said the town has nothing in its zoning bylaws about museums so the case enters a "gray area."
He did say, however, if the museum becomes disruptive, the variance could be revoked.
But the board felt the hours of operation Zaffis proposed would not conflict with the few residents in the area.
The hours would be between 4 p.m. and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Zaffis said there will be paranormal investigations, paranormal educational lessons, and paranormal equipment demonstrations.
He added that the paranormal community tend to be a quiet bunch.
"It’s not a very rowdy crowd," he said. "They aren’t people that fall off the Richter scale. They are more interested in hearing the lectures and seeing the artifacts. … I have never been at any event where there has been any sort of a chaotic environment."
He said he may also hold special lectures on Thursday and Sunday afternoons.
Fitzgerald said the district may be residential, but looks like a commercial district with McDonalds, C.T. Plunkett School, the Elks Lodge and the Mason Lodge all in the area. Big Y Supermarket is also across the street.
He noted that some of these establishments operate until 2 in the morning anyway, and the lodges serve alcohol.
Zaffis said he has no intention of serving alcohol at his establishment because he is "interested in the other kinds of spirits."
"This is something I have always wanted to do, and at this point in my life, I am looking for an area where I can get it set up so it can continue after I am gone," he said. "That’s my big motive."
The few residents in the district were all notified of the meeting. None came to speak out against the museum.