Between 2016-2019, Psychic Source Customer Relationship Agent Cheryl conducted several paranormal road trips to haunted sites in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. In this collection of essays, she shares her firsthand experiences sensing and documenting paranormal phenomenon as a member of the Keystone Spirit Seekers.
“My enthusiasm for the paranormal began at the age of 11 while hanging out at a friend’s house. It was here that I had my first, but not last, contact with a spirit. Until 5 years ago my method of ghost hunting was taking ghost tours, then returning to the location to investigate. I’d use a digital recorder to ask questions and a camera to take pictures. I also traveled to different states and visited known paranormal locations. I began going to cemeteries to look at the eclectic head stones and communicate with spirits. Eventually I joined Keystone Spirit Seekers, a local paranormal group and since then have investigated historical sites and private residences. Here are some of the things I’ve encountered as I’ve investigated haunted sites in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.”
Table of Contents:
Getting Started with Ghost Hunting
If your image of ghost hunting is a group of people walking down a long, dark hallway in a dilapidated building, with peeling paint, no electric, heat or running water, and sudden sounds and temperature changes that make your skin crawl, you’re not too far off from reality. But this isn’t the only scenario. Ghost hunting can also happen in modern homes and buildings, and ghost hunting groups can introduce novices to safe and comfortable ways to interact with the paranormal. There are ways to explore haunted sites that work for everyone.
Ready to explore on your own? Here are some tips:
Location, Location, Location…
A good location is an important requirement for a ghost hunt. Locations can be historic sites, private residences, even outdoor locations like woods or cemeteries. Historic sites may charge an admission fee and include guided tours or the freedom to roam.
Proper Equipment is Key to a Successful Ghost Hunt
The equipment you choose for ghost hunting is a personal choice. Some people use gadgets with all the lights and sounds, but they can be expensive. All you need for a basic ghost hunt is a digital recorder, flashlight, and camera. In my earlier days I’d use a 35mm camera that required the film be sent out to get developed; today digital cameras offer the instant gratification of knowing if you did or didn’t capture evidence.
As for the recorder, I ordered mine from eBay for around $20 and it captures great EVPs. EVP stands for Electronic Voice Phenomena which means capturing a voice you did not hear with your own ears while on a paranormal investigation. Many popular ghost hunting TV shows use the K2 meter, but my group uses the ELF Zone meter. They work on the same concept; the K2 is easier to manipulate while asking questions, but it has less filters than an ELF Zone. The ELF Zone runs $10 while a K2 averages around $60.
Your flashlight doesn’t have to be expensive either, just remember to bring extra batteries for your equipment. Spirits are known to drain batteries unexpectedly, so be prepared. Dressing comfortably and in weather appropriate attire is a must. Jeans and sneakers are recommended since heels tapping on floor would interfere with your recordings.
5 Tips to Remember During a Ghost Hunt
1) Never whisper. It can be mistaken for a spirit voice when reviewing the recording.
2) Notate time of any personal experience you have on the recorder.
3) Remember to mention when changing rooms so you know where you were if an EVP occurs.
4) When taking photos, try to take at least 3 shots of the same image to later compare.
5) Finally, capture the time, date, and location at beginning and end of each recording session, as it helps estimate the time length of recording. There are a lot of free download programs to edit your recorder sessions; I use Wave Pad. It’s easy to use, and it offers a time stamp of the entire session.
Ghost Hunting on Television vs. Reality
Popular Ghost Hunting TV shows give you the illusion a hunt lasts only an hour (minus commercials). The truth is… it doesn’t. Due to the magic of editing, footage from start to finish only appears that way. The reality is a typical ghost hunt can last up to 3 hours or longer. And that’s just the actual time on location.
Once you are back home, the review process is a two-part procedure and can be very time consuming. The photo review is simple. By taking multiple shots of the same image, you should look for any differences compared to the other shots you have if possible.
The really time-consuming part of the process is collecting EVPs. For example, if your hunt lasted four hours and two recorders were in use, the total recorded listening time is eight hours. Reviewing recordings can be done in numerous sittings, which I recommend because breaking up the monotony ensures you don’t miss anything. To capture an EVP, listen to an entire recording then crop and paste any findings you have into a clip for review. Once you’ve assembled your evidence, it’s time to share with your friends and decide if it’s good and clear.
Ghost Hunting as a Family Pastime
Whether you're a parent or not, ghost hunting is a fun and fascinating hobby for all ages. Children are especially drawn to the paranormal, and psychic abilities at a young age can be safely explored in the context of this hobby. Studying the paranormal with an open mind teaches children to question the world and explore the unknown with curiosity and respect. Ghost hunting helps develop a child’s intellect, by investigating the unknown and thinking on their own while indulging in imaginative play.
Eastern State Penitentiary - Philadelphia PA
The History of Eastern State Penitentiary
The Eastern State Penitentiary opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on October 25, 1829. Several elements of the building design influenced over 300 prisons worldwide, including the introduction of the "separate incarceration method" which was intended to reform, not punish, the incarcerated through solitary confinement. Each cell offered flushing toilets, heat, and running faucets, which were previously considered luxuries. An aerial view of the building reveals the wagon wheel plan for the cell blocks.
However, by the time the first seven cell blocks were completed the prison was already over-crowded and had to be expanded, a common issue even today. The prison also offered a green house, a ball field for exercise, a beautiful Synagogue, and a medical wing. It closed in 1971 and sat abandoned until 1988 when Mayor Wilson Goode saved it from demolition. In 1994 the prison reopened for public tours, including the popular Terror Behind the Walls haunted house attraction for Halloween.
During the 142 years of operation, its massive stone walls housed many inmates, including the legendary Al Capone. On April 3, 1945, 12 prisoners attempted to escape by digging a 97-foot tunnel under the prison but were recaptured.
My Ghost Hunt with Psychic Raquel
I let Psychic Source Advisor Raquel take the lead. She wore a wrist recorder and had her K-II EMF Meter, and I wore a wrist recorder as well to collect EVP (electronic voice phenomena). As soon as we crossed the entrance with stone gargoyles mounted on either side, the spirits made themselves known to Raquel. The first stop on our tour was a cell block where we discovered a dentist chair. From there, we roamed various cell blocks, stopping at cell block #7 where Raquel saw two guards walking in front of the cell block gates, and the famous black ghost cat.
We peeked into Al Capone’s cell, crossed the ball field, stopped in front of the medical block, stood by the green house, and ended at death row. By this point, we were confident that spirits roam among the thick stone walls but acknowledge that the condition of the building lends itself to this impression as well. Its peeling paint, deteriorating and closed off cellblocks, exposed wood in the walls, and chipped plaster all enhance the feeling of abandonment that those once housed there must have felt. But at the end of the day, we could leave and go about our lives freely, unlike them.
Raquel’s psychic impressions cannot be as easily explained away. Anywhere we went, the feeling of not being alone accompanied us and spirits reached out to speak with Raquel.
Selma Mansion - Norristown PA
The History of the Selma Mansion
In 1794, General Andrew Porter built a house around a structure that had been constructed by Alexander McCammon. Porter raised six children in Selma Mansion with his second wife: five were from his second marriage and a daughter, Elizabeth, was from a previous marriage which left him a widower. They’d be the first of several families to live within these walls.
General Porter was a member of the Continental Marines during the time of the Revolutionary War. He enjoyed friendships with George Washington, Marques de Lafayette, and David Rittenhouse.
Andrew’s daughter Elizabeth was the great-grandmother to an infant girl born to her granddaughter Elizabeth Ann Parker and Robert Smith Todd in 1818. The great-granddaughter was named Mary and married beloved American President Abraham Lincoln November 4, 1842, in Illinois.
Andrew’s other children included the Governor of Michigan Territory appointed by President Andrew Jackson, a grandson who was the personal secretary to Ulysses S Grant, and a son, James Madison Porter who founded Lafayette College in 1826.
In 1844, James Madison Porter narrowly escaped death after serving 9 months as Secretary of War. Shortly after Porter resigned his post, President Tyler was below the deck of USS Princeton during a tour, and Porter’s replacement and others remained above. That decision to stay on deck turned fatal when a cannon exploded killing 6 men including Porter’s replacement.
Porter’s widow sold the property in 1821 to Andrew Knox Jr. and their time at house was full of many highs and lows. Andrew’s son Thomas lived here with wife and four children but during 1846 an illness killed his wife and 3 of their children. Shortly after their deaths, Thomas and his daughter Ellen sold the property to Joseph Fornance Sr.
The Fornance’s raised their own children at Selma and on February 22, 1881, his son Joseph Jr. married Ellen Knox. This reunited their families and returned Ellen to her childhood home. Unfortunately, Joseph Jr. and Ellen’s children would be the last raised within Selma’s walls. Their son Joseph Knox and his wife Ruth never had children. After his death in 1965, Ruth remained at Selma until her own death in 1982 which marked the end Selma being a family residence.
The Knox-Fornance family reported hauntings during their time in the house. These included children’s cabinets on the 3rd floor opening of their own accord. More recent hauntings have included the sound of whispering and the apparition of woman with a distinctive tread walking the 3rd floor, the sound of cats though none are present, an old intercom which goes off periodically despite being disconnected, and the smell of cigar smoke.
After her passing no local or state organization wanted the house, so the furnishings were sold and it was left to the spirits who resided there. Today the location is handled by the Norristown Historic Society, and it is used for public and private events, Halloween storytelling, a haunted house, as well as for private ghost hunts.
Paranormal Investigation of the Selma Mansion
My first investigation at the Selma Mansion was during an overnight ghost hunt. A team member and I stood in a room across from the children’s room. We were standing in front of a window near a closed closet door talking when suddenly there was a knock from within the closet. We looked at each other and I stepped aside while another team member carefully opened the closet door. Nothing appeared to be disrupted inside. Later in the same room, a video camera captured a motion sensor flashing on and off as if someone was walking in front of it, yet the room was empty entire time.
Our Other Experiences Include:
- People were touched
- In the basement, a heat spike registered on Mel Meter nearly 100 degrees for no reason (It was not a malfunction)
- I picked up on the word “farmer.” I learned later Thomas Knox was President of the PA Agriculture Society and a successful farmer.
- I felt like bodies were buried behind the house and other paranormal investigators confirmed this.
On my next visit, I experienced the sensation of breezes by my hands. My friend and fellow investigator Cher has a tattoo on her arm and felt someone trying to wipe off her ink.
I stepped into Ruth’s Room from the hallway to find myself in a cold spot. I told a fellow investigator about the cold spot since she was in hallway with me and I said to empty room, “Sorry dude you aren’t going to stop me from entering” and I walked in. We think it was a man known as the Butler who is a tall man seen with white hair and dark suit. He’s known to appear when he wants people gone. Later while alone in same room I believe I caught a quick glimpse of the man himself.
On this visit, I brought a yarn doll with me as gift to children’s spirits. We were sitting in the same room where I’d previously heard a knock on the closet. I placed the doll an old red velvet settee. When we decided to change rooms, another investigator picked up the doll only to find it extremely cold to the touch. Since then, the caretaker has old me that the doll is often cold or it’s been found knocked off the ledge where it is usually placed.
As a result of the investigation, I was able to provide a description of a woman called the Governess and mimic the walking pattern often heard when the attic is empty.
Haldeman Mansion - Bainbridge PA
The History of the Haldeman Mansion
Haldeman Mansion is teeming with history and ghostly activity. The mansion is the birthplace of Samuel S. Haldeman who as a boy collected specimens from nature and Native American artifacts found on or around his family’s property. As an adult he become a world acclaimed scientist, a close friend of Charles Darwin, and Webster even credited him with influencing some material content and structure of his dictionary.
Other historical facts connected with this treasure trove are: At least three different Native American Indian tribes called this land home before the arrival of white settlers. Three of the best-known tribes are Conoy, Shenk’s Ferry, and Susquehannock. The land was part of William Penn’s land grant with ownership going to John Galbraith, Jr. With the Susquehanna River located in their backyard, daily travel to and from Philadelphia was common for the residents as well being a common route used by friends to visit.
The mansion’s exterior was created in 1811 with locally sourced quarry stone and with additions done to building over time, it was transformed from a three-room home to a 13-room mansion. During the 1970’s the property was placed on the National Historic Registry which allowed restoration to begin combating the disrepair of the building. Restoration continues today, supplemented by ghost hunting fees which contribute towards its maintenance and restoration.
Paranormal Investigation of the Haldeman Mansion
My first investigation was in May. A team member and I were in the 2nd floor master bedroom while the rest of the team was in the stone kitchen below, being loud. We both heard a male voice yell “Shut up” from the attic. Sadly, our recorders did not pick it up. However, this experience confirmed what we had been told about a grumpy man who yells if the house gets loud.
As a sensitive, I routinely decline tours of locations prior to the investigation since I’d rather not know the paranormal hot spots and history. While my team took the tour so that they could learn where to place equipment, I did my own solitary walking outside the grounds. An audio review of my walk revealed faint a Native American Indian Flute playing, something I hadn’t heard at the time. I asked the property director if this had been captured by previous investigations before she reported no. Meanwhile, a team member on the tour had the uncanny sensation that her uncle was standing behind her. Turning to speak to him there was nothing; her uncle was nowhere near her during tour.
A few months later, I decided to return with a team to investigate further. We were an all-women’s group this time, and a few of the members reported the sensation of being touched or had their hair pulled. One member saw a phantom black cat wandering the grounds numerous times. Finally, before wrapping up for night, three of the members saw a shadowy figure walking up the steps to the 2nd floor landing and stepping into what was Mr. Haldeman’s former office.
During this investigation, I heard a man’s voice while rest of the group returned from the back of the house. We’ve all seen the shows where investigators get scared, right? I was alone at home base, which was the original stone kitchen of the house. I was doing an EVP session while the rest of the group explored outside. I was asking a series of questions when out of the blue a metallic sound came from nearby. I looked around trying to figure out what happened. Had I tapped a trash bag filled with empty cans nearby? I shook the bag and discovered it was not the sound. Next, I thought maybe the bag had hit one of the metal chairs scattered around the room; again, not the right sound. At this point my instincts told me to leave so I joined the others outside. I kept my recorder on though and upon review heard a man’s voice say “Get her out of here!” just before the strange sound was captured on the recording.
Ghost Hunting in Gettysburg, PA
The Civil War Battle of Gettysburg ensured this town became one of America’s most historically haunted towns. While many places saw battles over the 4-year war, the town of Gettysburg was the only battle to have a civilian killed by sharpshooter’s gunshot. When the battle ceased July 4th, 1863, 20-year-old Jennie Wade was laid to rest. The confederates abandoned Gettysburg and the town was left scarred and in tatters after the military withdraw.
Today, former battle sites are government owned parks opened from 6AM-10PM with a road located behind the East Cemetery Hill accessing different sites during a driving tour. By either driving the grounds yourself, or taking a bus tour, you’ll pass monuments erected along the landscape memorializing the battle. If you’re daring, climb to the top of Pennsylvania State Monument for the panoramic view of endless fields that were once witness to a bloody battle complete with men screaming in pain and soldiers burying killed friends.
Paranormal Investigation of Gettyburg
Paranormal activity I encountered alone and with my friends in and around Gettysburg, PA include the tales below:
Antique Mall at Farnsworth Inn
Upon entering this location, my Ovilus (a dictionary loaded device which speaks words selected by spirits to convey messages) which was turned off, turned on in my bag! A friend called out, “Cheryl your bag is talking” I replied laughing, “I know!” I later inquired at the front counter asking if equipment often turned itself on in this location, they confirmed that it did.
Shriver House Museum
Next, we visited the historical home of George Shriver. Back in 1860s, he had converted his cellar into a Saloon and an area of the backyard into a Ten-Pin Alley, aka a bowling alley! The Civil War arrived before his business opened and George enlisted. As Confederates approached the town in June of 1863, his wife Hettie fled with her daughters and Tillie, a neighbors’ daughter, to her parent’s farm outside of town. When the battle ended, they returned to town.
Tillie Pierce reunited with her family and later wrote a memoir about her experience. Hettie returned to discover that their cellar had been used as makeshift hospital by soldiers, and that her father had died at the Andersonville Prison Camp.
Fast forward to the present, and this house was the scene of my next unexplained encounter. As my friend and I entered, the only other person in the room was female. Imagine my shock hearing a male speaking close to us! At first, we wondered if it was just a man’s voice that carried from another room. But then we heard it again behind us near a tree. Unfortunately, we never discovered his purpose, but I’ll attempt contact again in the future.
East Cemetery Hill
Next, I toured East Cemetery Hill, a former battlefield that borders a shared parking lot of the 1863 Inn of Gettysburg, the Jenny Wade House, and a Visitor center. The location offers monuments and stationary cannons. At its highest point, it overlooks a road that travels through the battlefields below.
After our tour, my friend Kym and I were alone, talking near a cannon on the lower level, and I captured an EVP of a male insulting us. EVPs are mysterious things since you never know what you’ll find until leaving the location and reviewing the recording. For the record, being called the name of a female dog isn’t that insulting.
Later, we did a livestream to communicate with spirits. We used a variety of meters, props, and recorders to capture our findings. Kym instructed any spirits present to communicate by touching an item that was light activated. Seeing light would mean Yes and no light would be a No response. Our 20-minute session revealed a male spirit in his mid-30 who survived to have a family and returned to the battlefield after his death.
When answers got slower arriving, we asked, “Do you want us to leave?” We got an immediate yes. We packed up our equipment, using our flashlights to guide our way to the parking lot. During the walk, we felt as if a trooper was following behind us, but obviously there were no men present! The feeling disappeared upon stepping on the parking lot.
I returned to visit again a few months ago with a group of friends this time. We did a ceremonial offering to the spirits before leaving town after our 3-day visit. We had food and drinks and Joni, one of my friends, thanked the spirits of Gettysburg for their interaction. Upon returning home, she later revealed to me she felt that same escort off the property after our ceremony! That sort of validation is why I love what I do!
Jennie Wade House
History of the Jennie Wade House
Authentically furnished from cellar to attic, the Jennie Wade House is a shrine to Jennie and to life during the American Civil War.
On July 3rd, 1863, at the age of 23, Jennie (also known by Ginnie) was kneading dough in the kitchen of her sister Georgia’s home when a rifle bullet pierced two doors and claimed her life.
Seeing Jennie on the floor with her hands covered in dough and flour Mary Ann Wade knew her daughter was dead. With remarkable calm, she walked into parlor to tell Georgia, “Your sister is dead.” Georgia’s scream caused three Union soldiers to knock at the door. Assessing the situation, the soldiers ordered everyone upstairs, but Mrs. Wade refused without Jennie. They wrapped her in a quilt, then everyone moved upstairs, including a soldier carrying Jennie’s limp body. In a war that claimed nearly 50,000 victims, Jennie Wade is the only civilian to have died in the Civil War.
On July 4, 1863, the battle ended, and as entire town stepped outside, no one was prepared for the mass destruction or stench lingering in air. While people celebrated the end of battle, Jennie’s family were making funeral arrangements. She was ultimately buried three times. Her original funeral was only attended by a few soldiers and family members. Then she was moved to the German Reform Church in January 1864, and finally she was placed in Evergreen Cemetery in November 1865. Jennie is only the second woman to have a gravesite perpetual flying flag, the first being Betsy Ross.
Paranormal Investigation of the Jennie Wade House
Some of the common hauntings reported at the Jennie Wade house include the smell of baking bread in the kitchen. Orphans from the Gettysburg Orphanage once played in the parlor and the second floor, and their spirits now like to play with jewelry and tug on coats and people’s pants, a fact to which a friend can personally attest. I was eager to check these out.
I was not alone during my investigation. Attending were my friends Kym, Bart, Joni from Kentucky Ghost Walker, and Maryann from Eastern PA Preservation Society. Maryann used a spirit box in the parlor and captured children’s giggles. While in the parlor, I sat on the floor near an empty rocking chair and Joni stated that the spirit of an older woman was sitting in chair. After questioning the spirit, Maryann and I concluded it was Mary Ann Wade, Jennie’s mother.
We also got EVPs on first floor saying, “Get Out.” Joni felt watched the entire time. Walking downstairs from Georgia’s attic I was rushed by a spirit. I nearly fell but was fine. Lastly, we captured an orb in the cellar.
Initially, Jennie never appeared during the investigation but after later upon returning to our hotel, I felt something next to me and called Joni in. We agreed it was Jennie’s spirit letting us know she’s moved on.
1863 Inn of Gettysburg
The 1863 Inn of Gettysburg was our final stop. The land was formally an open field surrounding the Wade House in 1863 where soldiers camped during war. Today it’s a close neighbor with the Jennie Wade House. Reputed to be haunted, it’s a popular overnight destination for paranormal investigator. I requested haunted rooms while making my reservation. We were not disappointed. We had activity!
My friends Joni and Bart saw a female spirit that they communicated with. In their room a digital clock radio played static without any alarm turning on. Joni turned it off but an hour later, it came back on. While hanging out in Joni’s room I heard noise in empty bathroom. I discovered the faucet was running. I asked Bart, the last person to use it, if he left the water on, and he said no. Shrugging, I couldn’t explain this finding, so I turned off the water and we resumed our conversation.
Joni and Bart stayed at the hotel while the rest of us headed out to Battlefield Paranormal Excursions. As we left the room, a smoke alarm suddenly went off. Joni called the front desk for a maintenance worker, who checked the alarm and was unable to explain what set it off. He also shared that he had been receiving a series of calls like our all evening, along with strange static on his walkie-talkie. Not convinced it wasn’t something important, Joni mentioned the bathroom faucet to the gentleman. He told us “Oh, that’s just George” which led us to ask, “Who is George?” He answered, “We didn’t have a name for him, so we picked George, he’s active around the hotel.” Well, there you have it, the water in the bathroom sink was a sign after all. Nice to meet you, George.
The events my friends and I experienced are just a few of the many reasons why investigators near and far continue to return to Gettysburg, PA to observe its rich history and famous paranormal activity.
Ohio State Reformatory - Mansfield, OH
I had heard about the Ohio State Reformatory on paranormal TV shows and from the famous movie The Shawshank Redemption, but I didn’t know how physically imposing the location was until I arrived. Completed in 1886, the building invokes the feeling of arriving at an ancestral English estate with its stone façade covered porch, turrets towering in the sky, and multiple stories. It finally registers as a prison when you see wings extending out of the center building.
I met up with Psychic Source Advisor Moira for this ghost hunt. Spending time with Moira was like hanging out with an old friend. After introductions we entered via antique wooden doors which transported us to an old bank lobby, complete with teller booths for collecting admission. Beyond the lobby is starting point of a self-guided tour of the administrative wing. This wing features exhibits of prison artifacts and showcases an elegant staircase leading to all floors. The top floor is employee living quarters and offered a surprise, a stairway leading into solid wall! I assume a 2nd doorway was sacrificed to provide one-way access.
The living quarter’s hallway offers a timeless elegance despite its current condition. The rooms are in different degrees of decay from peeling paint to exposed brick or wood. I ignored this and thought about the families who once lived within these walls. Just because it’s a prison doesn’t mean they never laughed, loved, or experienced happiness and sorrow like everyone else.
History of the Ohio State Reformatory
Arthur L. Glattke was superintendent from 1935 to 1959 and was married with two sons Arthur Jr. and Ted. Sadly in 1950 while retrieving her jewelry box from a closet, his wife Helen accidently disturbed a hidden gun and a bullet lodged in her left lung. She died three days later in a local hospital. Her sons, both under 12 years old, along with husband remained after her death until Arthur Sr. suffered a heart attack 9 years later in his office and died. Visitors report voices on this floor and Helen’s pink bathroom often smells of roses or flowers.
Paranormal Investigation of the Ohio State Reformatory
After the living quarters we proceeded to former school rooms dating back to when the intent was to train and rehab 150 first time male offenders between ages 16 and 21. The plan was to teach farming or wood shop but required them to build the sewer system, a 25 ft stone property wall, and the cells they’d call home. Moira picked up a psychic impression of terrified and illiterate boys crying between ages of 14 or 15 years old. Given their circumstances it’s understandable they’d feel scared and emotional considering they were expected to do manual labor and get a basic education. A decade after opening, the prison moved away from its original intent to focus on more hardened criminals.
Besides teaching a work ethic, the prison required inmates to follow a righteousness path, so a chapel was built. Paint peels from the chapel’s towering columns and contrasts with pews hewn of dark wood. While its current state resembles living quarters, it maintains the peacefulness of a religious sanctuary. While enjoying the silence of chapel, a screen fell from a window with nobody standing near it, scaring another tourist. Spirit-related or coincidence? Hard to tell.
A set of corroded door offers a glimpse of the area beyond. I was unprepared for the reality of walking through. I found myself in world’s largest free-standing steel cell block, 6 stories high! Each level holds a dozen cells, designed for 1 to 2 people, yet during its time as a prison (1886-1990) there were over 100,000 inmates housed there. This meant cell-occupation doubled over the years.
The cell block has a metal link wall on one side and cells on the other with a narrow aisle between. During one part of the tour, I bypassed the haunted cell where a man burnt to death. Moira, who was unaware of this event, said she felt overheated and burning when passing the cell.
An Unexplained Guest
Moira and I split up and I waited for her on the second level which had served as a hospital. Here I explored the large dusty, debris-laden and decaying area and its adjacent rooms. I received the impression prisoners were given minimal care and exposed to inmates suffering from tuberculosis to pneumonia, not mention victims of prison violence. Starvation was an issue for healthier patients who often stole a weaker person’s meal. While walking in a back area, an older man clearly asked, “Can you help me?” Before you ask, yes I was alone, and the only other people present were women exploring the entrance. My fully charged digital camera and Moira’s cell phone quickly drained, but not before capturing a shadowy figure by the entrance.
The first-floor west cell block was next. I walked into the immense shower area which accommodated the prison population. This area left me feeling uncomfortable so after a quick walk through, I left. My research later turned up that a man was hung here.
Solitary Confinement or the “Hole” was designed with 20 cells, making it ill-equipped to handle the general population which averaged in the thousands. The energy is thick with anger and despair. The area was infested with rats and insects. There was a hanging, Officer Frank Hanger (yes, that was really his name) died here in 1932 after being beaten to death by a prisoner, and two men went into a cell but only one left. The other was found dead under the bunk.
In 1957, 120 inmates were sentenced to 30 days in the Hole. Tempers ran hot, and there was more violence. You could feel this legacy with every step.
Other haunted areas we investigated were the guard tower, where it is reputed that a ghost pushes people up or down steep and rickety steps. We also learned more about the basement, which while off limits, has activity dating back to 1886 when guards tortured and/or beat prisoners there. We also observed a pond by the gates which is said to be haunted by two brawling male spirits.
The prison was ordered closed after inmates sued citing inhumane conditions and overcrowding. They won, and the judge ordered the prison empty by December 1986. This was delayed due to constructions of a new prison, but it officially closed in 1990. The Reform Preservation Society created a tourist program to preserve prison thru proceeds. They offer day tours as well as paranormal tour for those brave enough be in this haunted location after dark.
Bellaire House - Bellaire, OH
While there are countless haunted locations worldwide, the Bellaire House stands out because of its location, a paranormal powder keg waiting to explode! Here’s why.
- Iroquois and Shawnee inhabited the area and the property has a scared Native American burial cave located in back of the house which holds the remains of tribal shaman, chiefs, and healers.
- Previous religious ceremonies were performed leaving lingering energy.
- Mines under the property contain coal as well as quartz and other minerals which are spiritual conductors.
- Geographical ley lines are present on the property providing an electrical charged atmosphere, enhancing spiritual activity
History of the Bellaire House
The Bellaire House’s well-known legacy begins with the immigration of an English family named Heatherington in 1830. Unlike today, during the 19th century education was not accessible for every social class and the wealthy were traditionally the only people who attended college. When the Heatherington’s arrived, they were most likely illiterate, though they were said to be a musically talented family. The boys worked in the mines with their father, John Sr., while Mary Ann stayed at home with her mother Rebecca.
When their son Jacob was 18, he went to work for John Fink, a river boat captain who owned the mine under Bellaire House. Over time the men developed a strong working business relationship. One of the first transactions between Fink and Jacob was the purchase of the land Bellaire House sits on with credit. They became family when Jacob married John’s cousin Eliza Armstrong in 1835. The pair remained married until Eliza’s death in 1896. During their 61 years of marriage, Jacob and Eliza went from struggling to financial success.
In beginning of their marriage, Eliza and Jacob worked as team at the mine under the house. Jacob collected and carried coal to the surface and Eliza transported it to the river barge in a wheelbarrow. In time, Jacob acquired a mule called Jack to assist with the transport of coal and they became beloved friends. Their relationship inspired “The House that Jack Built,” and after the completion of his dream brick home Jack the Mule was given a personal tour of the location. Upon his death, Jack was buried on the property of the new home, so even though the home was demolished years later Jack’s remains stayed. The corner stone created in his image is on display in the Bellaire Public Library.
Upon his death in 1904 Jacob’s inheritance to his surviving children and their offspring included 677 acres of coal and farmland, 110 acres of woodlands, and 30 homes. His granddaughter, Eliza Lyde, daughter of deceased son Alexander, took over the business and resided at home with younger brother Edwin until her death in 1947. After her passing Edwin had some issues regarding home ownership and was initially forced out but eventually lived there until his death in 1962.
During his residence he’d bring psychic mediums from around the world to reunite with his departed sister. At Edwin’s death his nephew John Alexander Dubois took over the property and it remained in their family for nearly a century before being sold in 1986.
Current owner Kristin Lee purchased the Bellaire House as what she hoped would be her forever home for her and family with an insurance check from a flood that left them homeless; sadly, the dream was shattered not long after moving in. While she still owns today, she has chosen to elsewhere due to its paranormal activity. Today Bellaire House is a paranormal airbnb of sorts; teams can rent for a day or weekend investigation. While I didn’t stay overnight, I got to tour for a few hours and it was awesome!
Kristin wrote a book about living at Bellaire House titled, 1699 Belmont Street: A Portal to Hell which I read after my visit and soon a DVD will be released of it! Her experiences were featured on Paranormal Lockdown and TLC, Lifetime; A&E all aired the episode of “My Ghost Story.” In it she describes waking up after falling asleep on couch when she felt someone sitting on the cushion. She opened her eyes and saw a gray shade of a man sitting and looking at her. She asked, “Who are you?” Instead of answering he stood up and walked away. It’s believed the ghosts of the Heatherington’s still visit today. Her beloved dog Bella often stood guard, barked, or refused to go in a room alerting her of a spirit near. Once, Bella was thrown by an unseen force but survived.
Paranormal Investigation of the Bellaire House
In one room, I witnessed a dark shadow crawling on the floor by the side of the bed near a wall (larger than an animal). After seeing this I commented, “You’re going to have to do more to scare me” then turned to face the fireplace. Not long after I saw a head pop down from inside the fireplace and back in, so I repeated my previous statement. Upon review of the recording, between seeing a crawling creature and the fireplace, I had captured a male voice saying, “Prove it”.
While in the dining room, I captured EVP of a child crying which I had also heard with my own ears as well as being verified on my recorder too!
Lake Shawnee Amusement Park - Rock, WV
Have you ever wanted to explore an amusement park after hours? All you have to do is go to Lake Shawnee in West Virginia for this experience. I made an appointment to tour the property. Considering the only other way to see the place is from behind locked gates, the $30 admission price is worth it. Lake Shawnee offers all who visit a place steeped in tragic and haunting history.
Lake Shawnee's Dark Past
Its earliest known residents were the Native American’s and archeological digs over the years have discovered artifacts of their time there. The first white settlers were where named Mitchell and Phoebe Clay. The pair had at least nine children during their marriage. In August 1783 while Mitchell was away from home, Shawnee Indians attacked his home and murdered two of his older children, Tabitha, and Bartley. A third son, Ezekiel, was taken prisoner and later murdered at different location by the Shawnee.
Conley Snidow bought the land in 1926 and created Lake Shawnee Amusement Park. It had rides, paddle boats, concession stands, swimming ponds, even a dance hall. It operated until 1966 when two children tragically died, and the park closed. One death was a little girl who died on swing and the other was a little boy who drowned in the lake.
Paranormal Investigation of Lake Shawnee Amusement Park
I walked the property after touring via car and found the place to be overgrown and areas that once had been a lake were now drained. In fact, I had to walk one of the many dry lake beds, which is now overgrown with grass and wildflowers, to see the stone placed in memory of the Clay children. The abandoned rides, buildings, playground equipment, and even a bus left on the property all enhance the paranormal appeal. The Ferris wheel is nearly overgrown, but you can still see the upper cars and the shape of the wheel itself. The swings where the little girl died still hang, while the middle of the ride has otherwise been claimed by nature.
There’s a tale about an abandoned bus on the property. The story goes that a Boy Scout troop was at the park and the Scout Master knew there were 21 boys on the bus, yet his final count was 22. It’s often reported that a little boy can be seen on the bus today.
Moundsville Penitentiary - Moundsville, WV
The Moundsville Penitentiary is an amazing place rich in history and the paranormal. The prison began construction in 1876 using the very prisoners who would be living within its walls once complete. The first section to be finished was the North Wagon Gate and over time and with government funding the prison grew to its present size.
Moundsville’s Haunted Past
By the time Moundsville closed its doors there had been 36 homicides and a prison escape by 15 inmates in 1979 (they were recaptured.) In addition, a riot took place on January 1, 1986, where five officers and a member of the kitchen staff were held captive in the cafeteria for two days, then released relatively unharmed. A total of 94 men were executed between 1899-1959. Hangings were a public event until 1931 when Frank Hyer’s execution was botched. This event led to hangings being by invitation only.
The last hanging occurred in 1949, to be replaced by an electric chair nicknamed Old Sparky built by Paul Glenn. Ironically Paul was an inmate himself at Moundsville. Old Sparky’s last execution took place 1965 but during the time it was in use, nine men lost their lives. On the night before an execution the entire town’s electricity would flicker, a signal that Old Sparky was being readied.
The prison closed in 1995 due to poor living conditions for prisoners, terrible plumbing, over-crowding in cells, and of course the presence of insects and rodents, not to mention its reputation for violence within the prison system. The place where inmates went for recreation was called the Sugar Shack and it had a reputation for physical violence and gambling. It’s a popular paranormal hot spot during ghost hunts at this prison. One more interesting fact about Moundsville is Charles Manson requested to be transferred here, but he was denied.
Paranormal Investigation of the Moundsville Penitentiary
I had no expectation of anything paranormal happening during the tour but kept an open mind to possibilities. I was surprised to experience activity, including hearing a male voice in my ear during the tour. I’d been standing some distance apart from the men on the tour, so I knew it was not them. I also experienced the sensation of being choked in the same corner that I’d heard the voice.
Besides the paranormal happenings I saw the amazing art the talented inmates created on various walls throughout the prison as well as a church built by inmates enabling them to hold services in their various religious faiths. I stood on the same side of the fence enclosure as an inmate for the exercise yard. Standing there I was grateful I could leave at the end of the tour, which was something the inmates couldn’t at the end of their day.
Trans Allegheny Lunatic Asylum - Weston, WV
I was eager to visit the Trans Allegheny Asylum, which has a history of apparition sightings, voices, and paranormal activity vetted by professional ghost hunters on national TV.
After driving through the front gate, the first thing that struck me was how formal and imposing the building is. Its elegant design lends it an air of an English Estate rather than an American Asylum. Over 900 windows dot the building’s stone façade, because it was believed that fresh air and sunshine cured mental illness.
The Trans Allegheny Asylum’s Difficult Past
Construction began on the building in 1858 and was completed around 1881 due to delays caused by the Civil War. In fact, one of the original buildings was used as Confederate Headquarters for a short time.
When patients began to arrive, they’d be placed inside a cage and driven through the gates on the back of wagon. Over time the method changed to a more genteel arrival in seated carriages. The Asylum was intended to house 250 people, yet during the 1950s the population reached 2400. The doors closed in the 1990s due to poor living conditions for the patients.
Several tours are offered and discuss the history of the place, how residents lived, and the horrors they endured. During my tour it was mentioned doctors would handpick residents for lobotomies; in many cases they were neither necessary nor consensual, but nobody questioned the doctor’s decision. A majority of patents were women, often admitted because their husbands wanted to be rid of her or even his entire family. This allowed him to replace his wife with a “newer model” or have a mistress move in. One of my friends traveling with me was born with cerebral palsy and stated if she’d been born in West Virginia instead of Pennsylvania the year she was born; Trans Allegheny might have been her home.
My visit to the Trans Allegheny Asylum
As I walked into lobby, I felt like I was stepping back in time or on a movie set. The walls are white, the wood stained dark, and the staff wears old fashioned nurse uniforms. What struck me as ironic was that they presented a stunning lobby for the people who came there, yet the patient who was admitted was unaware that unless the person who signed them in later signed them out, Trans Allegheny was their new forever home.
The tour of the first level goes inside as well as outside and lasts 90 minutes. We passed the criminally insane dorms, the medical unit, and the back of the building where bars are on all three floors of the windows. Trans Allegheny had its own farm, a cemetery where you were buried by number not by name, and residents worked there until the 1970s when the state required payment for their services. Nurses while employed and resided received an education and housing two nurses were assigned to a room. A current guide was also a former nurse there in 1970s her name is Miss Sue. They’ve restored a wing so you can compare how it once looked than to how it is now in its present state.
While I was not able to detect paranormal activity on my first visit, I hope to return to take a closer look.
Additional Resources for Would-Be Ghost Hunters
Every fall, paranormal teams all around the world celebrate National Ghost Hunting Day by participating in the World’s Largest Ghost Hunting event. Teams are linked by satellites enabling them to connect to headquarters while investigating various locations all over the world in unison using equipment like EVPs and an Olivous. It’s a great way for new and experienced paranormal investigators to link up with likeminded cohorts and have fun. The idea for the day originated from Maria Schmidt, aka Geister Reise, who is also founder of Haunted Travelers application. The purpose of the event is to kick off the season of haunted attractions while encouraging enthusiasts of the paranormal to activity pursue their interests.
Our psychics are also a great resource for paranormal activities and events. Many are avid ghost hunters as well as psychic mediums. I encourage everyone with an interest in the paranormal to find others – on this site and in their local communities, to explore the fascinating world of spirit.