The Owen County Home & Asylum investigations had drawn to a close, and by the luck of the draw North Central Paranormal (NCP) became the last group under the watchful eye of Tony Abney to spend a chilly Saturday night in September of 2012 poking and probing into its mysteries.
Tony’s lease of the former poor house with the Owen County Commissioners had been abruptly ceased, leaving a perplexed Tony shaking his head. Beneath the surface, apart from the revenue that Tony had generated hosting investigative groups, a “deal” had quietly transacted—selling the old building and surrounding grounds to a local Spencer, Indiana resident who had firm designs on taking up residence there. The new owner had heard all of the “stories” of haunting within its walls, but that appeared not to faze her. She does, after all, have two large dogs! Everything will be fine in the end.
During the group photo session on the front steps NCP member Jim Goodpastor received a jolt when he claimed to catch a quick glimpse through the glass doors of the shimmering figure of a child standing in the interior hallway. The home had occasionally housed entire families…a child on the premises was not out of the ordinary. This, combined with Steve and Sheree Edwards’ experience during the initial walk-around, gave promise towards an interesting evening to come. Jim and I set up a static camera in the corner of the dining room and rejoined the group at the campfire. It was time to begin.
I was with Steve’s group as we sojourned carefully downward through the dark woods to the Franklin cemetery. Being with Steve gave me the opportunity to find out more about the dynamics of NCP.
The group was rather large that night, being comprised of the core NCP members and guests. Steve had broken them into smaller sub-groups, all with specific areas to touch, yet staging them to as not contaminate EVP recordings. NCP has a small select membership, and that is by design. It has been that way since its origin and Steve plans to keep it that way. He says:
Large teams have large egos. A smaller group is generally a tighter knit unit with more unity and more easily holds to the standards of the group. The paranormal requires attention and patience. Smaller groups can maintain both of these better than a larger group. A smaller group has an established leader. Larger groups tend to develop multiple leaders due to their very nature; which in the long run can lead to conflict and division. There is more to a family feel for the small group. The small group members tend to lean on each other and support each other.
The full equinox moon had just started to penetrate the thick tree cover with luminous patches and danced across the few cemetery stones that still stood upright. The small graveyard had a lost, almost forgotten feel, and as with any cemetery at night in the depth of the woods, creepy. There was the feeling of being watched…just beyond the surrounding tree-line. Tony had explained that the original inhabitants of the area, the Franklin family, had chosen this sight for their graveyard. There were also a few of the homes former residents interred there, with ground level markers that were for the most part unreadable.
A few EMF hits occurred almost immediately—coinciding with the mention of former infamous home resident Cowboy (Ray)—but then died off for the rest of our session there. There is no electricity in the graveyard, yet cell phones and radar will set the K2 EMF meter off. Could it have been one of those factors? We chalked it off to “strange” and moved on. The snapping of tree branches in the darkness of the woods caught our attention, as did the wind whipping through the top of the trees sending a constant rain of nuts to the ground around us. Moonlight cast the team’s faces in a pale blue glow as we utilized the flashlight trick.
I have reservations on the validity of using flashlights as a form of communication. It has become a popular mainstay on paranormal television shows, and investigative groups have eagerly adopted it. It rubs me the wrong way. There are too many factors involved when you break that circuit with the battery that can give false positives. However, it is one tool in an arsenal of many. The Ghost Box (Spirit Box) is another topic of debate and subject to interpretation. Many swear by it, many view it as an amusing toy. The mind has a way of hearing what it wants to hear, and the Ghost Box gives that opportunity. And realistically, five minutes of heavy static and garbled voices is irritating. Yet, there are those times when everyone will hear the same exact word or phrase. That’s when it gets interesting.
The Ghost Box did produce some interesting oddities during our session in the cemetery. At one point it seemed to spit out “Rick” and “Steve.” It once mentioned the name “Walter”; Walter was a resident of the cemetery. A child’s voice seemed to say “orbs” as we were discussing the hotbed topic of ghostly orbs.
All and all, flashlights and the Ghost Box on occasion produce eerie coincidences And for those that believe, as I do, that there are no such things as coincidences, it’s an enigma and another tool to place in a paranormal investigator’s toolbox of bells and whistles. Steve commented:
I think there is a need to re-engineer current paranormal equipment. I don’t believe that it is registering a true picture of “ghost” detecting. I believe it is actually catching the after effects. I think if equipment were retooled, the accuracy of what we detect would increase.
Steve gave a blast in the air with a Taser, giving a short burst of electrical energy and inviting any spirits to use that energy to manifest themselves. None took him up on the offer. It did however seem to produce an accelerated burst of gibberish from the Ghost Box.
Steve leaned into a patch of poison ivy and like a madman dug though the ground to produce mud to absorb the oil. It was time to leave and meet up with the other groups at the campfire.
On the narrow roadway that climbed out of the cemetery’s valley Steve suddenly stopped and directed his attention into the trees. He had previously heard a wooden drumming against a tree, but now was certain he had seen movement. We had just been discussing Native Americans who had once lived in the area. We moved on. A short climb later we heard an audible growl from the tree-line to our left. Again we had been talking, this time analyzing a sensitive in the past that had told him he was a “bearer of the light.” Surrealistic to say the least.
At the campfire Tony was rather quiet—melancholy –and fed wood into the fire as we regrouped and broke teams into designated areas. Killdeers squawked in symphony in the field across the road. Usually a quiet bird at night?
The outside holding cells, once used for unruly residents, didn’t produce any noticeable results on the first visit. That would change later. Our group moved into the cellar. It was the right place at the right time! We placed flashlights and EMF detectors at various points in the small room along with digital recorders. Filmmaker JR Kuzma stood silently in the corner with his camera aimed at the group. At several times throughout our session both devices appeared to respond to questioning. When further questioning was directed towards Tony leaving for good and a new owner taking the reigns the equipment almost went spastic. Flashlights flickered on and off on a consistent basis and the glow of pulsating K2 lights illuminated the block walls.
Strange sounds as Saturday night inched towards Sunday morning. Footsteps emanated from overhead; no other group was above us. Various “thumps” and the occasional vocal sounds (gurgles, growls?) seemed to come from around us in the cellar. Steve felt the presence of something “bad” that suddenly appeared, and almost as quickly disappeared. The odor of sulphur engulfed the stairwell where he was seated, but then disappeared. Eerie Radio wanted to join our group…Steve told them to stay put—things were hot and he didn’t want any disruption. Then it all just stopped! Whatever had been there was gone.
We moved upstairs to exit the building, separating as Steve gathered recorders. He reported a series of small flickering lights—like a dusting of glitter in the air—as he made his way down the first floor hallway to the outside. The rest of us exited out of the kitchen, detecting an interesting combination of odors—urine and Scope mouthwash. A loud thump from within the bowels of the building was heard just after stepping outside. It was almost midnight.
I asked Steve about NCP’s saturation of digital recorders to catch EVPs.
NCP has traditionally been good at catching EVPs, it’s our best evidence. Like anything else, when you’re good at something you tend to rely on it. In the beginning we used it all, camera, video, meters. We still do, but concentrate on that which we have the best luck with—EVPs. We still run video and take pictures, but the success ratio is not as good. And looking at other groups, the same seems to be true.
At the campfire Tony sat on a bench and stared into the flames…a sad smile played on his lips as he watched the pyramid of wood collapse upon itself. Sparks drifted lazily into a star filled clear sky. Snacks and drinks sat perched on the picnic table. It was time for debrief.
The cemetery groups all had similar experiences; the parade of nuts falling from the trees…some seemingly directed at the investigators; inconsistent flashlight responses; minor K2 bursts. Some had heard drumming on the trees, far into the depths of the woods. Some experienced equipment battery drain, which could have been attributed to the falling temperatures. Sheree Edwards thought she caught a shadow moving beside her on the cemetery path. Jim caught on audio what initially sounded like an inhuman shriek, but upon playback was determined to be an owl.
There were no reports of unusual activity from the holding cells or basement. Activity that had in the past been so dominant in the lower dining room was absent.
Groups on the second floor hallway reported shadow movement with corresponding flashlight activity (responding to Tony’s departure) and a knee-high cold draft. As always, the first room to the left of the stairway (the depository of used and abused mattresses) did not feel right and gave off a bad vibe. Tony could not recall any particular stories regarding that room or former inhabitants.
Cheryl Brown sat glued to the playback screen of her video camera, searching for the shadow movement she had caught in the hallway. Steve stood over her shoulder and waited. Cans of pop were opened…cookies were eaten. Several saw a dark shadow play across a car illuminated by the fire. It had been wearing a hat. September of 2012…we would be here no more and an odd Halloween-ish feel in the air.
Cheryl Brown and Brenda Jablonsky, veteran investigators from Bedford, Indiana, tweaked their equipment and prepared for the next round. As the first official members of the newly formed NCP affiliate group South Central Paranormal (SCP) it was an introduction to the intricacies of working within a group, and in Cheryl’s case, leading a group. Timing is everything, and when things fall into place you move upon it. Putting together a sister group of NCP seemed the next step. Steve commented:
It was time and the time was right. The paranormal world of investigators has no standardization of evidence collecting, presentation of evidence, etc. Every group does it differently. And therefore there is a lack of believability to much of the evidence because of the variation. SPC begins as a group that is on the same page as NCP, with hopes of other groups forming that will encompass the rules and methods NCP uses. Standardizing and sharing of data is the sought after outcome of this affiliation.
The entire group lined the hallway of the second floor, positioning themselves outside the doorway of each room. Steve initiated an era cue (presenting familiar stimuli), creating a “goodnight” scenario where Matt Campbell strolled down the hallway, banging on doors and telling the residents to get into bed. This had garnered past results for NCP, but this time, with the exception of a flickering flashlight, a creaking on the stairs, and a rapid tapping in the end bathroom, was relatively non-dramatic. We stepped up the questioning to be a bit more forceful in nature. Steve stated:
We are mildly provoking in the worst sense. We do not do any provoking in personal residence settings. For the most part we try to be respectful of the spirit world. We tend to get better results.
All was quiet, and the group separated into their final session at the Owen County Home.
Our last visit to the cell block produced different results than the first. In the men’s area with Sheree, Julie Myers and Mike Edwards a flashlight corresponded to a direct line of questioning from Mike. When the same questions were asked in a different order, it gave the same results! Over in the women’s area Steve’s name came through the Ghost Box several times. At one point he heard footsteps move across the wooden walkway outside the cells. Once again, mentioning Tony leaving seemed to be the spark for responses. Steve decided to take Tony down into the cellar and continue this line of questioning.
The events of the previous cellar session did not repeat themselves. It was time to call it a night.
All through the Owen investigation there had been questions directed towards receiving some reaction of Tony leaving for good. These seemed to elicit the most response. A poignant goodbye and fitting farewell manifested as Steve and Tony made their way through the dining room to exit out of the kitchen. Electrical power does run to the building, but is shut off at the exterior wall; the electrical box is padlocked. As Tony took his last steps through the building he had put so much of himself into the past two years he noticed the dining room exit sign glow a cherry red. The light put out a faint muted red haze across the floor and walls. It had not been on throughout the investigation. Tony stated it had not been on the previous night of another group’s investigation. The sign is hard wired into the electrical system…the back-up battery long dormant. Was the building and spirits within saying Goodbye? Exit he did.
There were final goodbyes as equipment was packed and loaded into idling cars. Tony was emotional and the group strangely silent. He glanced back frequently at the building. Steve, with his arm around Tony’s shoulders, whispered…”One door closes, another opens.” NCP drove away into the early morning dawn.
The future is questionable for the Owen County Home. Of course there is speculation about the new owner and her motivations…always speculation, and time will tell if such speculation is founded. But for now the home sits as it has done throughout the years…waiting and watching.
Next: NCP at the Sedamsville Rectory and Steve’s observation of paranormal fame and fortune.