What better way to spend Valentine’s Day weekend than go on a ghost hunt? This was our intention as we hosted a Sweethearts Ghost Hunt at the Ribeyre Gymnasium in New Harmony, Indiana.
The Ribeyre Gymnasium was used during the filming of the 1992 film A League of their Own (see screenshot on the screen in the photo above) and is home to many of New Harmony’s festivals, including Christmas in New Harmony. It also has a fairly dark history.
After a F-5 tornado swept through the area in 1925 and nearly wiped out the nearby town of Griffin, Indiana, the gymnasium was used as a temporary morgue to hold the bodies. Since that time, strange occurrences have been reported at the gymnasium. Phantom children have been seen racing up the bleachers, footsteps and strange sounds have been heard, just to name a few.
(to learn more about Ribeyre Gymnasium, read my recent blog: A Haunting at Ribeyre Gymnasium)
Our first Sweethearts Ghost Hunt was quite memorable. Every single person in attendance had some sort of strange experience they couldn’t explain. Some of them were quite profound.
After a delicious lasagna dinner and a history presentation by your’s truly, we divided up into two groups to explore the building.
My group consisted of my friends from the Vincennes Animal Shelter in nearby Vincennes, Indiana. My sister Leah works at this shelter and I frequently visit her and paint murals of animals on their walls, so I know the ladies there well. In that group were: Angie Stanley and her husband Bill. Angie’s daughter, Samantha Monroe, her husband Chris, and fellow co-worker Kim Geheb. Shannon DeLap, my local friend who helped me with the event, also joined our group.
The second group was led by Meagan Patterson. Many may recognize Meagan from Community House #2, where she assists Amanda Bryden who is the Site Manager. Meagan and Amanda have co-hosted several events with Haunted New Harmony at their State Sites. Meagan’s group consisted of Eric and Rachel Maurer, who joined us in October at our Community House #2 investigation, and Dina Reid, along with her husband Dustin. Paula Bundy, my lifelong friend who helped me with the event, joined their group, as well.
The Annex Building
My group started in the Annex portion of the building.
The Annex building is connected to the gymnasium but is separated by a wall. It is often used for community events and festivals. It’s always a happy space, filled with laughter and entertainment. It is long and narrow with floors that are tiled in a checkerboard pattern. At the very end of the room is a bar and doorway that leads to the kitchen. Further beyond that are two bathrooms.
We had barely sat down when we heard a strange sound. It almost sounded like something banging into something else. When I reviewed the audio, I realized that the sound also came with an EVP. I can hear a man’s voice saying “I want.”
We brought out the Spirit Box and began getting more responses. When someone asked if we were talking to a boy or a girl, a male voice said, “Jehovah.”
We continued to get strange responses. When someone asked if they were alone, someone said, “Something talk.” When some asked why they were there, we got a response from the same voice said, “Checkpoint.”
I was sitting with my back to the door, facing the bathrooms. As I watched the bathroom doorways, I saw a small head peek out from the doorway and then pop back into the bathroom. It’s so rare to actually see the ghosts; I was amazed to have actually experienced what I was feeling.
I decided to break things up and took a small group up to the second-floor attic area to the left of the stage.
While I was gone, they started realizing that the chairs we vacated began ticking all of a sudden. The sound they made was the same sound the chair makes when someone sits down. They began asking if someone was sitting there.
“Are you here?” someone asked. A voice on the Spirit Box responded, “Right here.”
After a few minutes of silence, Angie said, “Just let us know you’re here.” The same male voice said, “Let me see,” as if he needed to check with someone first.
Angie had a lot of responses to her questions. She’s very easygoing in nature, so this didn’t surprise me. Ghosts usually pick their favorites and Angie was it. When she asked if they had any kids, a male voice said, “There’s more.”
Angie had another strange response to her questions. She asked “What’s your name?” A male voice said, “Repatine.” If anyone knows what this means, please let me know. I looked it up and couldn’t find any information about it.
While Shannon was sitting with the group, she felt someone push her chair. It was enough to propel her forward, almost to the point of pushing her right out of her chair. Everyone in the group witnessed it and was a bit unnerved by the experience.
Not long after that happened, Angie felt someone tap her shoulder several times. She turned, expecting to find someone behind her, but no one was there. As she turned around, she swore she saw something move in the corner, but it disappeared too quickly for her to make it out.
When my group came down from the attic, I immediately noticed the chairs making the same ticking sound, so I started using it to determine if the sound was coincidental or paranormal. You never know when you’re in a haunted building. The ghosts often choose their own methods of communicating.
When I asked if they were a male, there was no response. When I asked if the ghost was a woman, the chair immediately ticked.
I was elated, but still a bit skeptical. We continued to ask questions and the chair would make the same sound instantly after the question was asked but remained quiet otherwise. We learned that we had two females with us, one was a child and the other was a woman. The child said she went to school in New Harmony and had gym classes in the building. The woman didn’t respond when we asked if she was a parent or teacher. She did tell us she had brothers and sisters but wasn’t married. We asked if they played sports here and the child responded with a tick. When we went through all the sports, she said she played soccer, which was surprising. I didn’t think soccer was popular back then. I will have to check with several town historians to see if this is accurate or if we had a trickster on our hands.
Meagan’s group also saw someone peeking out of the bathroom and kitchen doorways. Nearly everyone in the group witnessed it and was astounded to actually see something paranormal. They played music from the 1920’s era in hopes of getting a response but didn’t have any luck. They also noticed the chairs ticking and thought it was strange, but didn’t attempt to communicate.
I’m always careful to not tell the new group anything that happened to us before they have a chance to experience it for themselves. I’m glad I didn’t because Dina and Dustin also saw the ghost poke its head out of both the bathroom doorway and the kitchen doorway. Both of them were astounded by what they saw. Getting to actually see an apparition isn’t something that usually happens on investigations. I’ve been on hundreds of them and have only had this happen to me four times in total.
They turned on the Spirit Box for a round of questions but had technical difficulties. Unfortunately, I neglected to fully explain the placement of the Spirit Box. It ended up too close to the digital recorder so I couldn’t pull any clear EVPs from the recorded audio. We’ll make sure we get this right the next time. Despite the technical difficulties, the group all had profound experiences in the Annex building.
I brought a small group (Sam, Chris, and Kim) up to the first attic. As soon as we sat down, we started hearing taps on the window. At first, I thought it might just be the wind, so I started testing it.
“If it’s you tapping on the window, can you do it again?” I asked. There was an immediate tap on the window.
The window remained silent until we asked another question. I asked if it was okay for us to be up there and received an immediate response.
The heater clicked on almost as soon as we got started. The sound cut out most other sounds in the small space. Soon after, the other heater clicked on and the sound was almost deafening. If we captured any EVPs during this time, they were washed out by the ambient sounds of the heaters.
Some asked if they could tap on the window again. The window had remained quiet up until that point but we got an immediate tap.
I turned on my iOvilus and after a few minutes, it spit out the word “object.” It had no relevance to what we were talking about, so I dismissed it as being a random word.
Sam asked how many of them were in the building and the iOvilus said, “Legion.” This was a bit startling for me because the word “Legion” typically signifies demons, as referenced in the Bible.
“You can knock that right off,” I said. I knew there weren’t any demons in the attic. Sometimes nasty ghosts will say things like that to scare us but it wasn’t working with me.
“Come,” it said next. Legions come? That sounded a little more frightening than I was comfortable with. It didn’t scare me because I knew there weren’t demons there. Demons feel far different to me than human ghosts, which was what we were dealing with. Was it just random words being spit out by a phone app or was it someone trying to frighten us? I wasn’t sure, but with the heaters on, we weren’t really able to fully communicate anyway, so I ended the session and we returned to the Annex building to rejoin the rest of the group.
I left the recorder running and sat it on a chair. It took the next group several minutes to make their way up to the attic. Nothing was recorded during the absence of investigators except for the heaters.
The next group came up with the Spirit Box to see if they could get any communication. This group was led by Shannon. Angie and Bill joined her. They asked if there was anyone with them and a voice responded, “I’m home!”
Meagan’s group also had some interesting experiences in Attic #1.
As they climbed the short flight of stairs, none of them felt like they could breathe. Several people in the group felt the same way the entire time they were up there. That struck me as interesting because I felt the same way when I was up there. I blamed it on a winter full of inactivity and the fact that I’m out of shape, but others felt the same way. Dina said they actually felt more uncomfortable the longer they were up there. Rachel agreed that it was very difficult to breathe.
Something else happened that was unexplainable. As soon as they sat down, the bare bulb on the ceiling flickered on briefly before turning back off. The light was turned off, so this was a bit surprising for all of them.
They did a Spirit Box session in the attic. Dustin asked if they would tell him their names and a low voice came through. What’s interesting was that the sound wasn’t caught by the digital recorder even though everyone in the room heard it.
As the group was leaving the attic area, Rachel and Eric were in the back of the group. As they reached the first landing, they heard the distinct sound of the chairs continuing to tick. It sounded like someone was sitting in the chair, making it move. They stood at the bottom of the stairs and listened to it. They left a digital recorder on the steps for a few minutes to see if they could capture anything. They will let me know if they do and I’ll post it here.
Meagan’s group spent an hour in the basement. The first thing they noticed was the abrupt temperature change as they came down the stairs. They were thankful they remembered to bring jackets with them.
The basement is divided into four rooms. There is a small room at the base of the stairs that leads to two more rooms of equal size. They are separated by large hanging doors. Jutting off the middle room is the main basement area. We called this the “dirt-floor room” during the investigation because it has a dirt floor. The temperature in that room was substantially warmer too.
The bodies from the Griffin tornado were stored in the dirt-floor room, so we were expecting this to be the most active room in the entire building. While we did have some experiences, it wasn’t as haunted as several other spots in the building, which surprised me.
They did an EVP session in the first room, at the base of the stairs, but didn’t receive any EVP responses. They did have several interesting things happen though. They kept hearing a chirping sound and commented on it several times during the session, even though it wasn’t something that was picked up on the digital recorder. Rachel kept hearing the sound of fabric shifting, which wasn’t caught on the recorder either.
Dustin and Dina kept hearing sounds in the other room. It almost sounded like someone moving around, banging into things, but when they went to look, no one was there. It felt like the ghosts were there, but were hanging back.
After fifteen minutes, they brought out the Spirit Box and began asking questions. They didn’t get a single response, so they moved to another spot in the basement. While they were sitting there, they felt a sudden temperature change. The room suddenly grew substantially colder. Eric measured it on his handheld temperature recorder and confirmed the temperature drop.
They moved into the dirt-floor room. They didn’t get any responses, neither on the Spirit Box nor through EVP. They all felt as though they were being watched the entire time. Several of them thought they saw movement at the other end of the room. At one point, they were being buzzed by an insect, which is interesting since the temperature in the basement was chilly.
Meagan had a laser grid set up so it pointed down into the dark areas of the basement. A laser grid looks like one of those laser cat toys, with the exception that it has dozens of lights instead of just one. The theory behind it as a paranormal device is that it allows investigators to see movement in dark areas. If something walks across it, they will break the light grid and become more visible. As they sat there watching it, they noticed some substantial movement at the far end of the basement.
After an hour in the basement, they came upstairs and joined my group for a quick break.
When our break was over, my group went to the basement to see what we could find. We started out in the room at the base of the stairs, which I think was once used as the coach’s office.
Basements are almost always creepy. The visual effects of cobwebs and open rafters is enough to make most people anxious. In my experience, it’s usually a fairly haunted space. The dead often attempt to retreat from the living and basements provide the perfect spot for hiding.
I pulled out my flashlight to see if we could get any interactions with it. There is some controversy regarding using flashlights for paranormal investigations. The battery can arc and turn the light on randomly, which is why I always use a “cold” flashlight. I also watch the responses. If the flashlight seems to be coming on randomly, I stop using it. In this case, it was clear we were talking to someone. The light only came on after a question was asked.
As we introduced ourselves, the flashlight came on when Chris said his name. We decided to see if it was a response or not. We asked a series of questions and received no responses. When Chris asked if the ghost’s name was Christine, the light came on.
By experimenting with the method, we continued to ask her questions and learned that she was a teacher at the school and that she taught sports. She enjoyed coaching and was married. She was also happy we were there talking to her. We circled back around and asked if we were still talking to Christina and received a positive response.
After a while, we stopped getting responses, so we moved onto another piece of equipment. I pulled out my iOvilus. Normally, I don’t trust phone apps. Most of them simply spit out randomly generated words, but I’ve actually had good results with my iOvilus app.
The first time I used it was in my kitchen in my old house. As I turned it on, my cat George went to the back door and began meowing to get outside. The iOvilus spit out two consecutive words: George beg. I was fairly blown away by the response and have had positive results with it ever since.
I turned it on, but it remained silent for nearly ten minutes. Finally, it spit out the word, “salaran.” I didn’t know what that meant and had to look it up later. It means “drainage.”
After a few minutes, it said, “recuse,” which means to take back.
Then it said, “measure hundred.”
The responses didn’t make sense to me, so I’m not convinced it was paranormal, but wanted to mention it here in case it is relevant to someone who knows the history of the building.
After about twenty minutes, I decided to switch things up. I moved half the group to the big area in the basement with the dirt floor and left the other half of our group in the room right outside the doorway. Neither group received any responses in the room outside the door to the dirt-floor room.
In the dirt-floor room, we did receive several responses on the Spirit Box. When asked if they remembered the sinking of the Titanic, we heard a male voice say, “I did.”
We asked quite a few more questions without hearing any responses, so Angie asked if they were shy. The same male voice said, “yes.”
When someone asked if they liked horses, the same male voice said, “I do.” After a few more minutes, the clocktower bells rang, signaling the end of our basement session. We gladly made our way up the stairs to warm up.
After another brief break, we moved to the gymnasium. I had set up several divination methods at various stations around the room for everyone to try. Divination tools have been used for centuries to communicate with spirits and spirit guides. Included in my collection were pendulums, Runestones, and a scrying mirror.
While everyone branched off to experiment with the Divination tools, I had several smaller groups investigate the stage, while others investigated the second attic area.
The second attic is located to the right of the stage and is used for storage. I wasn’t even aware the room existed until the night of the investigation and was eager to explore it. Like basements, attics are often the places where the ghosts retreat to in order to get away from the living. We weren’t disappointed by what we found.
The first group brought the Spirit Box up with them. The digital recorder was placed too close to the Spirit Box, so it was difficult for me to hear the questions that were asked (as a note: always keep the digital recorder six feet away from the Spirit Box).
Some of what I was able to make out:
- They were talking to a male who liked basketball.
- He didn’t have kids
- When they asked if he liked being there, he said, “I do.”
- They asked if there was a kid up there. He responded “Just me.”
- Someone doubled back and asked if he liked basketball again. “Yes,” he said.
- Someone asked if he liked candy. He said, “Yes.”
- They asked how old he was and he said, “fifteen.”
- When they asked if he had a girlfriend, he said, “sure.”
Another group went to the second attic in a team led by Shannon Delap. They had some interesting interactions that went along with the same responses as the first team. When Shannon asked if there was anyone there, a male voice said, “I’m home.” Angie seemed to get the most responses. She asked if it was okay for them to talk to them and a male said, “I would let you” or “I’m gonna get you.” Listen to the recording below and tell me what you hear.
She followed up by asking him if he liked basketball and he said “yes.” When it was Shannon’s turn again, she asked if he liked being there and he said, “I do.”
For the last thirty minutes, we sat in a circle in the middle of the gymnasium and conducted a group session. I turned on the Spirit Box and we went around the room and asked questions. Some of the responses were funny.
I told them they could walk around the room and show themselves if they wanted to. A male’s voice said, “no,” in a way that made us all laugh.
I asked him if he could tell us his name and he didn’t respond. This is typical of a normal investigation. It seems to be the favorite question for investigators to ask but is one that usually goes unanswered. I’ve often wondered about this. Are they not supposed to tell us their names? Or have they been gone so long they’ve forgotten?
As these thoughts were going through my mind, someone else asked the same question again (we were all getting tired at this point) and a man’s voice said, “I’m Herman.” It was warbled and not as clear as I would like to hear, but it was understandable. Who was Herman? Was he a student there or just someone who wandered in from somewhere else?
Someone asked what he did for a living. A woman responded, “living.”
I turned off the Spirit Box, mostly because the noise becomes grating after a while. We set up several EMF detectors and a flashlight in the middle of the room, but they wouldn’t touch them. I added a pinwheel to the mix, but they didn’t touch it either.
It was clear that the ghosts were growing tired, but I still had a half hour with the group and didn’t want to just sit around and stare at each other. I decided to move one of the helium balloons that were used for table decorations into the center of the circle. It definitely moved and began spinning in a slow circle, but it was difficult to determine if it was paranormal or just normal. The ceiling fans were spinning and the air current was moving around the room fairly steadily. The other balloons that were still on the tables were moving too, but not as erratically as the one in the middle.
I told them if they could make the balloon drop to the ground, they would probably cause a few of us to pee our pants. As soon as I said that, the flashlight came on, making everyone laugh.
We did another round of questions but didn’t receive any responses on the gadgets I had in the middle of the floor, so I pulled the Spirit Box back out.
Several people asked questions that went unanswered. Then, Angie asked if they ever went to dances at the gym. A female voice said, “I’m coming.”
After a few more minutes, I turned it back off and asked everyone to tell me their most interesting moments of the night. Everyone had something to contribute.
Most of them agreed that the most active areas were the Annex building, Attic #1 and the first room at the base of the stairs in the basement.
The bell went off at midnight and we all jumped, even though we should have expected it after hearing it mark the hours all night. The evening was over but the memories will remain with us for a long time.
I want to thank everyone who came out to the event. Special thanks goes to Meagan Patterson, who led a group, and to Paula Bundy and Shannon DeLap, who helped me throughout the event.