(Above) The Ribeyre Gymnasium at dusk. Photo by the author
Doing four public investigations in one month takes its toll on the person organizing it. Beyond the actual event, which is five hours long, there are numerous back-and-forth communications about tickets, marketing and organizing. After the event, there are hours upon hours of audio review and photo analysis. By the time my fourth event of the season rolled around, I was ready to crawl into my bed and not come out until December. All that changed though when I opened the doors to the Ribeyre Gymnasium and saw the faces of the people who had signed up. I knew every one of them from previous investigations and Ghost Walks!
Joining me on the investigation were Amy and Joe, who attended a Ghost Walk earlier in the year, Tina and Eddie who attended my first investigation of the season, and Ali, who attended my second investigation of the season. Traci Hoehn was also there to help me with the event and to take some pretty amazing photographs.
Instead of doing my normal presentation, we just sat in a circle in the gymnasium and talked about the haunting and history of the building for a little while.
(Above) The group doing an EVP session in the gymnasium. Photo by Traci Hoehn
The Ribeyre Gymnasium was only one year old when it was put to use for a very tragic purpose. An F-5 tornado swept through three states and killed 695 people, while injuring thousands. It was known as the Tri-State Tornado and is still on record as the deadliest tornado in history.
It nearly wiped the nearby town of Griffin, Indiana, off the map. Twenty-six souls lost their lives that day, including a bus filled with children. Many of the dead were brought to nearby New Harmony and stored in the basement of the brand new gymnasium. Reports of a haunting came soon afterwards.
As I often tell people, any old building with an immense depth of history is probably going to have a ghost or two, especially in a town like New Harmony where nearly every building is haunted. The tragedy only added to the layers of souls lingering here.
People often see children darting around the gymnasium late at night. I actually saw one myself during an investigation in February. As I sat with the group in the Annex Building, which is attached to the gymnasium, I watched as a head and shoulders popped out of the bathroom door. It happened again later in the night and an additional five people witnessed it.
After I shared my information, we did a quick EVP session in the gymnasium to see if anyone would talk to us. I’ve never had a tremendous amount of luck garnering communication in the gym itself. Usually most of our activity happens in the Annex, the basement and in the two small attics on either side of the stage, but I wanted to give it a shot anyway.
Although the group asked great questions, we didn’t get any EVPs, so I used my Spirit Box. A Spirit Box is basically a radio that has been modified to scan rapidly through the radio stations. The ghosts can use the white noise to communicate. We often get full sentences that answer our questions.
Ali asked if they go to any other buildings in town and a male voice said, “I do.” Shortly after that, a female voice chimed in and said, “I do,” as well.
Eddie asked a few questions and we heard a voice towards the front of the building, but couldn’t hear what he said.
Tina was next and asked if they could tell us their names. As I listen to the audio, the response is faint, but sounds like “Reverend Jack.”
We continued around the group, but didn’t get any further responses. We decided to head down to the basement.
(Above) Joe and Amy in the basement of the gymnasium. Photo by Traci Hoehn
We did our first session in the room at the base of the basement stairs, in the room I think used to be the coach’s office. I asked several questions without getting an answer, so I passed to Ali. She asked if they were male or female and a male voice with a Midwestern twang said, “Not a teacher.”
She followed up by asking if they preferred the darkness and a faint female voice with a distinct foreign accent said, “You came too?”
At that moment, we heard a loud bang come from upstairs. It’s possible it could have been the ice machine that makes frequent sounds, but I needed to check it out anyway. Traci went with me and we searched the entire upstairs but didn’t find any source for the sound. While we were gone, the group continued on with the session.
Joe asked if we were talking to a child. An adult female voice came through, saying, “Very slow.” We went around the room another turn and didn’t get anything we could understand, so we moved onto the dowsing rods.
We’ve had very good results with the dowsing rods. I started us off and then passed them around the group.
- There was a male with us
- He was there in the 1950’s
- No response on his possible jobs (not a coach, student, teacher)
- He lived in New Harmony
- They don’t know where the Fauntleroy Home is
I thought I was seeing movement in the other room, so I set up my laser grid. The net of green lights allows us to see further into the room and notice if something crosses through. We continued on with the dowsing rod session. Suddenly, Eddie jumped, asking his wife if she just touched him. Joe continued with the dowsing rods and then passed them on to Amy.
- There was a female with us
- She was below the age of ten
We stopped getting responses so we decided to switch rooms and moved to the second room in the basement. There was a light on in another room that filtered into our room and the group decided they wanted to go completely dark. We then turned out all the lights and sat in complete darkness.
Total darkness is often good for paranormal investigations, but not usually for the reasons people think. Ghosts are prevalent all the time, regardless of the lighting. It does, however, often produce a bit of anxiety in the living, which tends to draw the dead in closer to us. Any heightened emotion provides them with energy and intrigue. They feel it and they come in closer.
We started the session and I realized I hadn’t put my flashlight out. We sometimes can communicate with them using a Mag light set between the on and off position. I always use a flashlight that hasn’t been used recently to prevent battery arcing. As I was looking for it in my equipment bag, someone said, “I’ve got one.” This was clear and made the group laugh. Apparently, we had a helpful ghost with us.
As we started the session, my Mel Meter climbed up to 2.8. A normal reading would be zero unless there is an electrical line running through the area. Because it started out at zero, it was interesting that it suddenly climbed upwards. A Mel Meter measures the EMF levels in a room. A massive fluctuation could indicate that a ghost is nearby. We’ve also seen them use a Mel Meter to communicate with us.
When Ali asked if they were female, we didn’t get a response on the Spirit Box, but the flashlight came on. It was interesting that we were getting male voices on the Spirit Box, but were getting female responses on the dowsing rods and flashlight. Was it possible there were several of them with us and they were using different devices? Traci and I were both feeling male energy with us, so it was hard to say. She asked why they liked it down there and a male voice said what sounds like, “we revoked it” or “we revolted.” She asked if they ever go to the events upstairs and the flashlight came on.
Eddie asked if the little girl from the other room was in the room with us. As he was asking the question, a voice responded, “In here.” I’m always intrigued how they know what we’re going to ask sometimes before we ask it.
(Above) The group investigating the second room in the basement of the gymnasium. Photo by Traci Hoehn
When it was Tina’s turn, she asked if they knew what Halloween was and the flashlight came on. She started to ask another question and a voice came over the Spirit box and said, “Hey Joe.” Joe was next in line to ask questions. She asked if they liked to dress in costumes and the flashlight came on. Ali pointed out that the Mel Meter was at 2.6.
As we sat there, I saw a purple light flash in the doorway. We couldn’t find any explanation for it and it didn’t repeat itself.
When it was Traci’s turn, she asked if there were more than three of them with us. An older person’s voice (difficult to tell if it was male or female) said, “I’m with ya.”
Traci took several pictures of the doorway but didn’t capture anything paranormal. When it was Eddie’s turn, he asked if they’d ever had their picture taken and the flashlight came on. He then followed up with more questions. He asked if they had their picture taken in school here, but didn’t get a response, so he asked if they were too young to go to school here. The same older voice came through and said, “I was.”
They seemed to like Eddie. He said, “I’ve been married a loooong time.” The flashlight came on, which made everyone laugh. He asked if they were married and the light came on again. He asked if they were happily married and the light didn’t come on. He then asked if they had any grandchildren and a voice that sounded female said, “Thirteen.”
Tina’s turn came and she asked a few questions. The only one that got a response was when she asked if they ever coached a basketball team. The flashlight came on. There were a few faint responses on the Spirit Box, but nothing we could make out. We decided to move into the big room in the basement where the bodies were stored after the tornado.
I spent a few moments talking about crossing over into the light. I feel it’s something I should do when I can. Some of them feel as though they’re trapped there and I want them to know they always have free will to move on. I’ve actually crossed over a few souls at investigations and will continue to do so as long as they’re willing to go. While I was talking, the Mel Meter went up to 3.0.
As we started talking, I could feel them drawing in closer. Several people started feeling physical symptoms. One person’s ear started feeling funny and I got a sudden stab of pain in my ankle, as though someone had poked me with a pin. A bit later, someone else felt a tug on their ankle.
We began doing a dowsing rod session:
- It’s always quiet down there
- They like the quiet down there
We weren’t getting any further responses, so we moved to Spirit Box. Traci asked a question that finally got them going. “Are you Republican or Democrat?” she asked. We all laughed afterwards because the question was asked the night before at the Opera House and generated some conversations, between the living and the dead. The dead had something to say this time too. “Very particular!” he said.
She decided to expand on the conversation and asked a few more political questions with no responses. It wasn’t until she said, “I’ll stop talking politics. It probably isn’t polite,” that a voice said, “I want it.” It sounded like a child’s voice, so perhaps she didn’t fully understand what we were talking about.
The conversation moved onto the construction that’s being done in the basement. Ali asked if the noise bothered them and didn’t get an answer. “Are the workers really loud?” she asked and this was followed by a clear child’s voice that said, “Did you get that?” I feel like the answer wasn’t in response to the question. I think he was trying to break through the veil to talk to us and wanted to know if we heard him. None of us caught it at the time.
Traci felt like someone was sitting beside her, so I told her to take a photo of me and I’d take a picture of her. My picture was too dark and the one she took of me was normal. It was getting close to break time, so I suggested we go around the room and ask one question each. As I was explaining this, a male voice chimed in, “Say something!” he said.
We started going around the room asking questions, the Mel Meter jumped up to 3.0. This was kind of interesting to me because it usually doesn’t register anything in the basement. Traci asked them if they’ve been afraid to talk to us and a male voice said, “Am still.”
(Above) Ali holding the Mel Meter as the numbers climbed in the basement of the gymnasium. Photo by Traci Hoehn
This got me wondering. Do they realize they’re dead? Is this a bit like the movie “The Others” where the ghosts think the living are ghosts? We’ve often asked qualifying questions to see if they can see us. Sometimes they’ll give a correct answer, but most of the time they don’t. Another thing they seldom do is give their names or the year they were there. It’s completely possible that some of them have been down there for so long without having anyone use their names that they’ve forgotten altogether. A hundred years is a long time, even to the dead.
(Above) Traci Hoehn in the basement of the gymnasium. Photo by the author
I turned the Spirit Box off and we just sat for a few minutes and watched the room. It wasn’t long before we started seeing things moving around in the darkness. Nothing was clear to us. It was just fluid movement, like watching fish swim past from the bottom of a lake. As we sat there, my digital recorder caught a faint EVP. A woman said, “That’s too easy.” I don’t know what she was referring to, but it was fascinating to hear.
After a quick break, we resumed the investigation in the Annex building. We started off with dowsing rods.
We asked them about the Multi-cultural Festival that was held there earlier in the day.
- They really didn’t like the music
- I asked them if the food smelled good and didn’t get a response, so I asked if they can smell and the dowsing rods indicated no.
- I asked a few follow up questions about whether they can feel hot and cold but didn’t get a response.
- Eddie asked if they could see him holding the rods and got a no response, which made us all laugh. How could they answer him without seeing him?
- They don’t always stay in the Annex.
- They like to play tricks on people
- They like to play with the clock on the wall
(Above) Our group investigating the Annex. Photo by Traci Hoehn
Traci asked if he was the one I saw peeking out of the bathroom. The dowsing rods crossed to yes and we captured an EVP at the same moment that said, “yes.” The only problem with the EVP is that the voice doesn’t sound like a child, which is what I saw.
She stopped getting responses on the dowsing rods, but did get the chair to tick. We’ve had this happen in the Annex many times before. One time, we asked for it to tick once for yes and twice for no and held a long conversation. The chair only ticked the one time this time. She asked if they could point the dowsing rods into the direction where he was standing and it pointed towards the bathrooms.
At that time, Traci took two people up to the first attic to investigate. I turned on the Spirit Box for the rest of the group, but didn’t get a single response. We decided to move into the gymnasium again and see if we could find the ghosts.
We ended up sitting on the stairs leading up to the balcony to do an evp session. It was quiet up there but we did enjoy startling Traci’s first group as they came down from the attic and couldn’t find us in the Annex. Two others went to join Traci and the others came to join us on the stairs. We were in for a surprise when the bell chimed the hour. We all nearly jumped out of our skin. We weren’t feeling anything, so we moved to the stage.
It was almost as though all the ghosts had gone to bed. It just became incredibly quiet. Crystal Folz had joined us for part of a session, but had to leave due to an issue at home. We wondered if the ghosts went home with her.
Several of us were feeling something with us on the stage. We switched out Traci’s group in the attic. Eddie and Tina rejoined us while Amy and Joe went up to the attic. We turned on the Spirit Box. I asked if there was anything they’d miss and a male voice said, “tobacco.” There were a few other responses that weren’t clear until a male voice came through and said, “They broke it.”
Traci’s last group came back downstairs so we decided to check out the second attic as a group. It was a tight squeeze and there was nowhere to sit, so we only lasted about fifteen minutes. We turned on the Spirit Box and began asking questions.
A voice immediately said something that vaguely sounded like hello. I recognized the voice from earlier sessions and asked if he’s been following us. A male voice came through and said, “I’m Bobby,” and then another voice said, “Tony Goldwyn.” I wasn’t sure what to make of this.
I asked if anyone was there with us and got several responses that we couldn’t make out what they were saying. At one point, it sounded like a female voice said, “Are you going?” and an older person answered them, saying, “I’m sleeping.”
Traci then asked, “How many fingers am I holding up?” A deep male voice said, “Eight dozens.” At least the ghosts have a sense of humor.
Ali asked if they could tell us their age and a female said, “The brown head group.”
So much of what we were getting was garbled and difficult to interpret. When Eddie asked if there was anything buried in the dirt in the basement, we got several strange responses. A female voice said, “mangle” which was followed by something I can’t make out. Then, a different male voice said, “dream sickle.”
Joe asked if he was a Harmonist. A male voice said, “maybe.”
I asked if they knew what town we were in and a gruff male voice said, “New Harmony.” Normally, I would jump for joy for a response like this, however, this one wasn’t very clear. I can hear it with headphones on, but others might not be able to make it out.
We were getting tired and the voices coming through the Spirit Box were difficult at best to make out, so we ended the session.
Traci’s Attic Investigations
Traci took small groups of people up to the attic to the left of the stage. The room is filled with Christmas decorations and boxes of old photos from New Harmony’s School. First up was Ali. They did a dowsing rod session:
- There was someone up there with them
- No response on if they hide up there – they probably wouldn’t admit it
- Ali didn’t scare them when she suddenly stood up
- It bothers them that the attic is filled with boxes
- His/her picture isn’t up there in the boxes
- She is a female
- My group downstairs was being too noisy (they heard my group scream when the bell rang)
- She taught at the school
(Above) Ali using the dowsing rods in the attic. Photo by Traci Hoehn
Next up were Eddie and Tina. They spent some time talking with Traci and then moved to using the dowsing rods.
- They lived in New Harmony
- They had a child
- Their child went to New Harmony high school
- Their child played basketball
- Their child is in one of the photos in the attic
- Their child that played basketball was a girl
They picked up one of the pictures from the top of the pile.
- Their daughter was in the photo
- Their daughter was in the back row and was blond
- She didn’t have glasses
They began trying to narrow it down by asking which row the child was in and then pointed the flashlight at each person until the rods indicated one specific person. Unfortunately, the ghosts were playing pranks on them though. When I came up to check on them, I actually knew the girl they were referring to and both of her parents and grandparents are still alive.
Amy and Joe came upstairs for their turn. They also spent time exploring the attic. Everyone was curious about the boxes of pictures up there. No EVPs were captured during any of the attic investigations, but everyone had fun exploring.
We ended the investigation shortly afterwards. It was a fun night, overall. We not only got to explore an intriguing New Harmony landmark and chat with the ghosts, but we also had a lot of laughs. It was a great mix of people and I probably enjoyed it more than any of the other investigations we did this season.
(Above) Joni, Traci and Crystal. Photo by the author
Thanks to everyone who attended and to Traci Hoehn for assisting me once again and taking some amazing photos. Appreciation goes to Crystal Folz for running my Ghost Walk and stopping by to sit in on a session with us. Thanks also to Chris Laughbaum for providing the space for us to investigate, despite the low turnout.