Ghosts at the Opera House

DSCN3311It didn’t surprise me that the Sterling Opera House in Derby, Connecticut, was haunted. Since opening in 1889, the massive Italianate Victorian theater has hosted many famous guests, including Lionel Barrymore, Harry Houdini, Red Skelton, and Amelia Earhart. It has also functioned as a town hall, with a police substation, complete with six jail cells.

When I was invited to investigate at the opera house with Creepy Places of New England and Rise-up Paranormal, I jumped at the chance. I had the opportunity to tour the building last year when NE POST conducted a paranormal investigation, but I wasn’t able to stay for the investigation due to scheduling conflicts. Getting a second chance seemed like destiny. It was a night I won’t soon forget.DSCN3312

According to Rich DiCarlo, the Chairman of the Derby Cultural Commission, the title “opera house” was a generic term for a theater. “This was a vaudeville and burlesque house more than an opera house. You saw jokes and dancing girls here,” he said during our tour of the building. The theater closed in 1945 and became the town hall until the mid-1960’s. During that time period, there were three confirmed deaths, two heart attacks and a suicide in the jail cell, after a man consumed rat poison, but oddly enough, none of those souls haunt the building.

We started the evening with a full tour of the building. Although the outside of the building was renovated, the interior remains the same as it did when it closed in 1945. The theater seating is still in place, covered in decades of dust. When you stand on the massive stage and look out at the audience seating, compete with two tiers, you feel as though you traveled back in time. Typical of the era, the best seats were on the bottom floor, most of which have been removed. The second tier offered slightly lesser seats, while the third tier seats were only six inches wide. Servants sat at the back of the third tier on folding chairs.

10169174_10203966044250874_8357065243800065571_nThe Lady in White is frequently seen on the second tier balcony, sitting to the right of the second column. No one knows who she was. Although she’s periodically seen, she refuses to provide any clues to her identity. Was she a fan of the theater? Or was she a lovelorn patron, drawn to the building to watch the man she loved perform? No one knows for certain.

Another entity known to haunt the building is the Lady in Green. We know that she was a woman from Brooklyn named Heddy and was in charge of the female troop of dancers. Although she didn’t die in the building, she must have returned after her death, preferring it to a peaceful afterlife somewhere else. According to Rich, she often follows investigators down to the jail cells, warning them to be careful.10292463_10203966044930891_3949798804174449676_n

Andy is another entity who haunts the building. No one knows his story, since there isn’t a documented child’s death in the building or surrounding area, but he has made his presence known to many investigators. He often responds on EVPs, singing and talking. He also enjoys rolling a ball on the stage.

A mysterious stagehand is also seen in the building. No one has recorded his voice on audio, but he’s been witnessed on occasion, wearing an ill-fitting brown suit. As the room grew darker, I snapped a photo of the stage area. After lightening it, one of my eagle-eyed friends commented on the mysterious man in the photo. While there is a real live investigator in the photo, there does appear to be another person there who wasn’t part of the investigation. It’s possible it’s just pareidolia, the human knack for finding faces in random objects, but I’m not ruling it out without further on-site analysis.stage manager

Our group consisted of members from Creepy Places of New England, who also maintain a video blog. Founders, Steven Moreau and Charles Reis, were joined by fellow teammates, Heidi Neuschuez and Cynthia Mattison. Joining us from RiseUp Paranormal was Tara Melendez.

We conducted our first EVP session as a group on the stage. Halfway through the session, I began hearing a tone. Being clairaudient, I hear a sound similar to ear ringing when a ghost is nearby. I followed the sound to the wings of the stage, where I sat down for a moment. The ringing grew louder, as if something was coming closer to me. I just happened to look up in time to see a white mist drift over my head. I was stunned. I’m not the sort of person who often sees ghosts during investigations. In fact, this was only my second time out of more than 200 investigations to see something. I didn’t have time to photograph it before it was gone, but it left a lasting impression.

I moved back to where the group sat. Heidi pulled out her dousing rods, something I’ve always found intriguing. As she asked questions, she began getting very distinct responses. We learned that the Lady in Green was with us, as well as Andy the boy. After a few minutes, we decided to use my SB-7 Spirit Box to see if we could capture any verbal responses.

The Spirit Box scans quickly through the radio stations, allowing the ghosts to use the white noise to generate speech. I don’t post them unless they scan through several channels and are appropriate responses, ruling out stray radio voices. This one scanned through at least four channels. You can click on the links below to hear the recorded responses.

https://soundcloud.com/jonimayhan/arent-people-different

When we asked for their names, this fellow quickly responded:

https://soundcloud.com/jonimayhan/im-michael

Here’s another interesting one:

https://soundcloud.com/jonimayhan/is-that-the-captain

The next one was compelling because the old police station once used the end of the stage as a shooting range. There are bullet holes on the wall. Shortly after we captured this, we heard a siren go past the building, making it even more appropriate.

https://soundcloud.com/jonimayhan/it-was-a-policeman

The last Spirit Box response I’ll share was fairly appropriate, considering where we were. A female voice asked if it was the sixth major. I looked it up online and learned that the sixth major refers to a musical interval. Here’s a link for more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_sixth

https://soundcloud.com/jonimayhan/was-it-sixth-major

We then ventured down a flight of stairs to the area under the stage. The area is divided into two sections: the dressing areas for performers and the old town hall offices. We were drawn to two distinct rooms: the Junkie’s Room and the Casting Office.DSCN3315

The first room we investigated was referred to as the Junkie’s Room by fellow investigators. While the building sat abandoned, derelicts often broke in and used the rooms as shooting galleries. Tara Melendez has investigated at the opera house dozens of times and said that a man was found there passed out from a drug overdose. She felt that he was a twenty-seven year-old male, telling us that her group often gets “crazy responses” in there. The room had a decided heavy feeling.

As we stood there, asking questions, we became aware of a tapping sound. It seemed to correspond with our questions. “Is that you tapping?” one of the investigators asked, and was rewarded with another tap. I asked if he could tap once for “yes” and twice for “no,” and received two taps in response. We decided to continue anyway. I also captured an EVP, which I didn’t realize until later when I reviewed my audio recording.

https://soundcloud.com/jonimayhan/knock-for-usno

The room suddenly seemed to grow even darker as the responses grew clearer. I’ve never experienced tapping responses as clear as these. To hear the two sessions, click the links below:

Part 1: https://soundcloud.com/jonimayhan/knocking-responses

Part 2: https://soundcloud.com/jonimayhan/knocking-part-2

We then headed to the Casting Office. Our first few questions revolved around what happened on the casting couch. We weren’t really expecting an answer. After the heaviness of the Junkie’s Room, we needed to lighten the moment. Apparently, the ghost in residence found our humor amusing. He said “woo” in the middle of a question, something we all heard at the time, making it a disembodied voice.

https://soundcloud.com/jonimayhan/woo

I left shortly afterwards for my two hour drive back home, but the experience will remain with me for a long time. If you’re looking for ghosts, the Sterling Opera House is the place to go. The building is full of them and they are eager to communicate.

 

Joni Mayhan

Joni Mayhan is a paranormal investigator, as well as a free-lance writer. Please check out her paranormal thrillers on Amazon.com and BarnesandNobles.com. For more information about the author, please see her website: Jonimayhan.com

The Soul Collector – The true story of one paranormal investigator’s worst nightmare

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Angels of Ember trilogy – After a devastating virus nearly wipes the world clean of people, 16 year-old Ember Pain grows tired of running and hiding from the bad men who hunt her and her younger sister, Elizabeth. Fighting back becomes a necessity, even if it threatens her very life.

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The Haunting of Slater Mill

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I love investigating historic locations, especially places that nearly vibrate with residual energy. The buildings at the Slater Mill campus in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, fall soundly in this category. The minute I stepped onto the five-acre property, I could feel the layers of history piled upon one another.

Built in 1793, Slater Mill was the brainchild of Englishman, Samuel Slater. At the age of 25, he immigrated to America and recreated the Arkwright system, which used a water-powered mill to spin cotton yarn, turning Slater Mill into the country’s first textile mill. President Andrew Jackson deemed him “The Father of American Industry.” The English call him Slater the Traitor for bringing their English ingenuity to America.

The evening’s events included a tour and ghost hunt of the three buildings on the property, led by Carl Johnson, with assistance from his brother Keith. Most people recognize the brothers from their years on the hit paranormal series Ghost Hunters. Others know them from their vast contribution to the paranormal field. While their presentation of the property’s history and hauntings was educational, their personable delivery made it even more intriguing.

10155900_10203924977064220_8327710243247541266_nSlater Mill

The Slater Mill building stands two stories tall, casting an ominous shadow on the raging Blackstone River behind it. Painted a sunny yellow, the architecture speaks volumes of colonial times, when purpose was more monumental than appearance, especially for a mill that was first of its kind in our country.

Stepping inside the building is like time traveling to another era. Thanks to the efforts of the Old Slater Mill Associate, which purchased, restored, and preserved the building back in 1921, the mill looks like it did in the 1800’s. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to visualize the machinery roaring to life and the room filling with workers bustling around the various machinery.

We started our tour in this building. Being a sensitive, I immediately detected several ghosts in the building. I felt them lingering at the edges of the room, casually watching us. It almost reminded me of going to the zoo, but in this instance, we were the captive occupants being observed, instead of the other way around. It made for an interesting experience.

As the group paused near the middle of the building, Carl plugged in a plasma ball, which produces a lightning-like current of electricity inside a plastic globe, to increase the energy in the room. He also turned on a black light, explaining that ghosts are often more visible in ultra-violet lighting. He then told us about the children who haunt the building.

Attitudes regarding child labor were far different in the1800’s than they are today. Children were expected to work, whether it was on the family farm or in a factory environment. When Slater Mill first opened, the primary employees compris10246772_10203925068306501_8809772713773532553_ned of entire families, including children as young as seven. They worked long hours, typically from dawn until dusk, for as little as a dollar a week in a hostile environment that was freezing during the winter and sweltering during the summer. While the machines were simple to use, accidents still happened and children were frequently injured, if not killed. The photo to the right was taken at Slater Mills during its heyday.

During our tour, one of the women asked if the little boy was still there. Apparently, she took a tour years ago and saw a small boy run across the second floor. He appeared as real as a live boy. She didn’t think much of it until she realized there weren’t any children on the tour. The staff searched for the illusive boy but never found him. Had she seen a ghost? It’s highly probable. The disembodied voices of children have been heard time and time again at the mill.

Carl asked if anyone would be willing to give the ghost child a hug. In the past, people who have entertained this gesture have felt the distinct sensation of a cold, tingling presence returning the hug. When no one volunteered, he asked if I would try it. I was happy to comply.

At first, I was focused on the people surrounding me, watching me foolishly hug the air, but as I relaxed, I began to feel something else. The air inside my arms grew cooler, and I began getting the sensation of pressure. I had my mouth open to tell them that I was indeed feeling something when someone put a K2 meter near me, which immediately began flashing. K2 meters record high electro-magnetic pulses, often signaling the presence of a ghost. Unfortunately for us, they can also triggered by smart phones or walkie-talkies. I’m normally diligent about turning off my phone prior to investigations, but had forgotten, resulting in the false positive response. By the time I turned my phone off, the moment was lost.

A man is often seen walking through the building as well, by both staff and visitors. People frequently witness him moving through the rooms. Could this be Samuel Slater, overseeing the property that bears his name? Or is it a worker who spent time at the mill? Theories abound, but no one is certain of his identification. It’s one of the mysteries that keep investigators returning to the mill. We spent a few minutes walking around the building before moving to the next building, the Wilkinson Mill.

10155822_10203924977464230_430008164393097845_nThe Wilkinson Mill

After the success of the Slater Mill, the Wilkinson Mill was added in 1810, increasing the factory’s production and improving upon the design. Built of stone to prevent fire, which plagued Slater Mill twice in its history, the Wilkinson Mill is an impressive presence on the banks of the Blackstone River. Substantially larger than its sister mill, the Wilkinson Mill looms over the river as a testament to the once prosperous industry that dominated the area.

The main floor contains a machine shop, stocked with many of the machines used during the era. We were treated to a tour of the basement, where the massive ten-ton waterwheel is located. The room is cavernous, with sounds echoing freely around the granite walls and water pool. Since stone and water are known to absorb energy, It wasn’t difficult to imagine the spirits drifting among us. The ghost of a small boy is often seen here, as well as a mysterious shadow person.DSCN3291

During the tour, Carl invited several people to experience the area at the base of the stone stairs, where the shadow person is often seen. I offered to accompany two groups. As I descended the stairs, I could feel a heaviness in the air. The young women who went with me also felt it, one of them claiming to see the shadow of a person. Using my digital recorder, I invited them to ask questions of the entity, but no responses were captured.

DSCN3223Sylvanus Brown House

If you stare at the windows of the Sylvanus Brown house long enough, you might find a small face in an upstairs window staring back at you. This happened to several observers years ago. Upon notification, the caretakers of the property searched the building, finding the door firmly locked and the building vacant.

Being the smallest building on the property, it was the also the most fascinating for my friend Sandy and me. We immediately felt the presence of several ghostly inhabitants. While we both felt there was a male and a female entity, Sandy also thought there was a female child in residence. Little did we know how accurate we were. Investigators over the years have determined that the property is haunted by a woman, a man, and a girl, reportedly named Becca.

The Brown House, which is the second oldest house in Pawtucket, was built in another area of town, but was relocated to its current location when the highway project threatened its existence. Since Samuel Slater was a guest at the Brown house during his first few days in Rhode Island, moving the house to the Slater Mill property was a logical choice.

The parlor room had a peaceful feeling to it, which is no surprise since it was a room typically used for happy events, like entertaining guests, celebrations, and weddings. Befitting the period, it was probably also used for funerals and wakes, lending it a slight sense of sorrow. After playing haunting music on a music box, to pull Becca into the room, Carl demonstrated the use of dowsing rods. Several of the guests experienced responses to their questions and were delighted with the results.

The evening quickly ended and the property was left to itself once more. As we drove away, I could almost imagine the ghosts drifting to the windows to watch us leave, entertained by our foolish endeavors.

While I didn’t experience any paranormal phenomena or capture any evidence on my audio recorder, I found the three-building location resonating with history as well as a sense of intrigue. I plan to return at some point and rent the facility for a private investigation to uncover more of the property’s hidden past.

Slater Mill offers museum tours, while also offering a gift shop and exhibition gallery space. The Jenks Educational Conference Center and rental hall provides rental space for corporate conferences, special events, and even weddings. The next Mills and Mysteries: A Ghostly Experience paranormal investigation/tour will be held May 17th. For more information, please visit their website at http://www.slatermill.org/

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(L-R) Joni Mayhan, Carl Johnson, Keith Johnson, Sandy MacLeod

 

Joni Mayhan

Joni Mayhan is a paranormal investigator, as well as a free-lance writer. Please check out her paranormal thrillers on Amazon.com and BarnesandNobles.com. For more information about the author, please see her website: Jonimayhan.com

The Soul Collector – The true story of one paranormal investigator’s worst nightmare

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Angels of Ember trilogy – After a devastating virus nearly wipes the world clean of people, 16 year-old Ember Pain grows tired of running and hiding from the bad men who hunt her and her younger sister, Elizabeth. Fighting back becomes a necessity, even if it threatens her very life.

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The Ghost in the Corner

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The ghost hovered in the corner of my room, ever vigilant.

I could feel him standing there watching me. His anger was powerful, radiating from his center like a smoky black aura, filling the room with hostility and rage. If there was ever a time in his life when he was a good man, I couldn’t feel it. All I could detect was the darkness that had leached into his soul like a parasite, turning him into an ever-hating entity.

He didn’t hate me for any particular reason. He hated everyone. He despised the life he’d once lived, and brought his hatred into the afterlife with him, allowing it to consume him whole. And there he was, hovering in my bedroom corner, watching me with narrowed eyes.

I first became aware of him after dining at my favorite restaurant. I don’t know how he came to be there. I don’t think he even knew. He just followed the trail of energy to a place where he could find nourishment before he finally latched onto me.

Being a ghost takes a great deal of energy. Despite popular belief, many people feel that ghosts can’t pull energy from the electricity or batteries we use to power our electronics and machines. They need the kind of energy that only a living being can provide. It’s one of the reasons why you seldom find ghosts at cemeteries. They might stop by to visit their grave and make sure it’s being kept up, but they won’t hang out there for long because it isn’t a good feeding ground. There aren’t enough people around.

Investigators often flock to haunted venues, needlessly paying tremendous amounts of money to hunt for a ghost, while passing several dozen ghosts on their way to the door. Ghosts are everywhere. You’ll find them lurking in places where you find groups of people. Shopping malls and movie theaters are prime locations, as are restaurants, hospitals, and churches. Most of the time the ghosts are happy to remain there, but every occasionally they find one human they feel is worth following. For reasons that escape me, I am very desirable in the spirit realm.

I can’t go anywhere without picking one up. They must see me and consider me as someone who can provide them with constant nourishment. More than likely they recognize me as a sensitive, someone who might provide them with the added bonus of communication, something many of them long for in the spirit realm.

The guy in my corner wasn’t exactly a chatty one, though. He didn’t want to talk to me. He just wanted to use me for as long as he could. Since I had no real means of driving him away, he probably would have stayed for an extended vacation, growing fat and happy off the energy he pulled from me.

Strange things began happening to me during this time. At first, I just thought I was having a spell of horrible luck, but as it went on, I grew suspicious. My son’s truck broke, putting us down a vehicle, something that caused us both undue stress as he worried over fixing it. Then, my car registration was suddenly revoked, due to the insurance bills that somehow never made it to my mailbox. Household appliances stopped working without explanation.  I became clumsy, stubbing my toes into every corner, banging my elbow against my desk as I rose, bruising myself on the corner of a table so frequently it became painful. Then the worst possible thing happened. My elderly cat went into seizures and had to be euthanized.

My friend Sandy, who is also a sensitive, came to pick me up for a movie several days later. Just before we left, I asked her to go upstairs and see if she felt anything. I didn’t tell her anything about the haunting, but from prior experience being my friend, she knew what she was looking for. She came down a few minutes later, pale and drawn.

“You have a really bad one up there. He’s really strong,” she told me.

It confirmed what I already suspected.

Over the course of the week, I worked with my mentor, trying everything she suggested. I burned sage and used salt around the doorways and windows. I took a cleansing salt bath every night. I worked on building a strong shield around myself, but nothing seemed to work. As soon as I drifted off to sleep, I felt him move towards me, blanketing me with his energy. I would then feel a palpitation, almost as if my bed was vibrating beneath me. I came to realize that this sensation was probably him pulling energy from me.

After Sandy’s visit, something strange happened. He began bouncing back and forth between the two of us. While we found it to be anything but amusing, we began documenting the bounces. As soon as I felt him come back, I marked the time and did the same thing when I felt him leave. Sandy did the same thing. When we compared notes after a few days, the times matched up perfectly.

I needed to get rid of him. I was getting only a few hours of sleep each night. Every time I started to drift asleep, he’d jump on me, waking me up. I contacted my mentor, begging for help, and she agreed to see us.

We got in my car and made the three hour drive to Maine to see her. During the drive, Sandy told me a little about our ghost. She saw him as 50’s era. He was a tough guy, kind of like James Dean with a bad attitude. When we got to Maine our mentor, confirmed this.

“1953 is the year I’m getting,” Barbara told us. She also saw him as a person who wasn’t very nice in life. “Okay, let’s cross him over,” she suggested.

We stood in a circle, like we always do. Barbara opened up a white light, where he could safely pass through to the other side of the veil. While I’ve experienced this many times, it still takes my breath away. It’s a powerful moment, filled with velocity and emotion. In some ways, it’s almost like giving birth, except it feels more like freedom and release.

I felt him slip up and through it the second the white light was opened. A cold chill started at my ankles and worked its way up my body and through the top of my head, signalling his release. And then it was all over, leaving me breathless in the wake.

“That was fast,” I remarked.

“Yes. He was ready to go,” Barbara confirmed.

We held the circle for another minute and to our surprise, another soul crossed through. I had no idea where this one came from, but I was happy to comply. Every soul deserves the right to cross over to the next realm.

My house grew quiet again for several days until the next one came along.

This one is a female. She wants help, but won’t cross over. Something holds her back.

Like the male, she waits until I am nearly asleep before she pounces on me.

I’m not ready to make another trip to Maine, but am working on keeping her at bay. Even though these earth-bound souls are draining, I always learn something in the process. With her, I’ve learned to push energy in her direction. It’s not an easy thing to maneuver, considering it’s an invisible and not always reliable solution, but it seems to be working. If nothing else, perhaps she’ll eventually tire of the battle and move onto greener pastures.

Insomnia has become a way of life for me, but I’m still thankful. There might be a ghost in my corner, but at least it’s not the same hateful entity who had once been there. This one just wants help.

I just need to learn how to give it to her without losing a piece of my own soul in the process.

 

Joni Mayhan

Joni Mayhan is a paranormal investigator, as well as a free-lance writer. Please check out her paranormal thrillers on Amazon.com and BarnesandNobles.com. For more information about the author, please see her website: Jonimayhan.com

The Soul Collector – The true story of one paranormal investigator’s worst nightmare

http://www.amazon.com/The-Soul-Collector-ebook/dp/B00EIHG90Q/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1381464557&sr=1-1&keywords=joni+mayhan

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Angels of Ember trilogy – After a devastating virus nearly wipes the world clean of people, 16 year-old Ember Pain grows tired of running and hiding from the bad men who hunt her and her younger sister, Elizabeth. Fighting back becomes a necessity, even if it threatens her very life.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=angels+of+ember+trilogy&rh=n%3A133140011%2Ck%3Aangels+of+ember+trilogy

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