When my friend (and second cousin) Jim Stinson suggested we set up a paranormal investigation at his nineteenth-century era rooming house, I didn’t hesitate. After visiting The Old Rooming House numerous times, I knew it was haunted and was eager to explore it.
The Old Rooming House is an Italianate Victorian house built in 1896. While originally a family home, it was established as a classic comfort boarding house in 1949 by Mary Rickens, who charged $3 a week and expected her boarders to be “neat, clean and polite.” Mary ran her business for over 35 years, and then sold it to Jim Stinson, the current proprietor. Jim remodeled the house, adding extra bathrooms and varnishing the hardwood floors. Since then he’s continued to add to the house’s impressive collection of vintage travel memorabilia, antique furniture, and much-loved books.
People who stay there feel a sense of peace and relaxation. For many, the experience of stepping back in time provides them with an opportunity to unwind and recharge themselves. Jim says that many people will check in with the expectation of exploring the town, only to find themselves taking a nap instead.
We decided to try something different. Instead of just hosting a ghost hunt, we required all the attendees to book a room and spend the night. This kept the groups small and gave everyone a chance to explore the haunting as well as enjoy the tranquility the Old Rooming House offers.
For me, it was a chance to explore the history of the building by going directly to the source.
March 30th Investigation
My good friend Deb Burdick came to this event, along with Jim’s next door neighbor, Jessica. Deb has a long history with The Old Rooming House, having helped Jim set it up when he opened it in the 1990’s. Rounding out the rest of the group were two families from Illinois. I knew right away that we would have a good night because the groups quickly bonded with one another. If I liked them, I was fairly certain the ghosts at the Old Rooming House would too.
During the opening session, I turned on my recorder and began explaining how the investigation would work. While I was talking, a woman’s whispery voice said, “I do,” in response to if they understood how to use the flashlight to communicate with us. Thirty seconds later, I felt a touch on my finger. It felt like a fly landed on me but there wasn’t a fly anywhere in the room. I mentioned it to the group and the flashlight came on immediately.
We introduced ourselves and then I passed the dowsing rods around the group. When it was Frank’s turn, his hands were shaking as he held the rods. He apologized for his shaking hands and we received an EVP at that point. The same female voice consoled him, saying “You’re fine.”
During a dowsing rod session, we learned the following information:
- Raised a family in the house – flashlight came on
- Mannie was in the house – both dowsing rods and flashlight
- The fire was intentionally set
- Leora was present – She was born in the house next door and lived there until she died at 99. When the house was 100 years old, she gave it a birthday party. She took care of her family. Since we had a surprise guest, we began asking her questions with the dowsing rods. Here are the responses:
- She had many good memories in the house
- There were many parties held in the house
- She still feels the love that was made in the house
- She was happy we were there – both dowsing rods and flashlight response
I turned on the Spirit Box and we went around the group and asked questions.
Someone asked what their favorite room in the house was. A male voice said “pink,” which was followed by a female saying “up.” We weren’t sure what they meant by that since there aren’t any pink rooms upstairs. Perhaps there used to be a pink room upstairs?
During the Spirit Box session, we heard a knocking sound coming from the floorboards. It started near Deb, knocking twice and then knocked again beside me. We spent a few minutes trying to find a natural reason for it but couldn’t.
We moved upstairs to Room #3 and continued our investigation after a short break. Almost immediately, we heard a knock on the window beside me. It sounded like a knuckle rapping on glass.
We introduced ourselves again in case we were talking to someone new. As I told them we were there to communicate with them and wished them no harm, the flashlight came on quickly.
- There were more than one there
- Someone there studied French
- They all get along
I was running my iOvilus during the EVP session and it said “David, threat, ticket.” That didn’t make sense to any of us, but I’m including this here in case it makes sense later.
We moved to the Spirit Box. It was fairly quiet until Heather began trying to pin down the age of the soul we were talking to. She asked if it was her age or younger and a deep female voice said, “I will be.” It was quiet for several more questions, not speaking until Ed passed when it was his turn. A clear male voice said, “Don’t stop now.”
Deb asked if she liked the work she did and a female voice said what sounds like, “I ironed.”
I decided to lighten things up a bit and asked everyone to go around the circle and tell us what their favorite pie is. The responses were mouth-watering, even to the souls residing there. After Corey said, “pumpkin,” a female voice piped up and said, “Chocolate.”
We then moved onto the dowsing rods. Since Jessica seemed to have the best responses when she used them, I asked her to hold the rods while everyone asked questions.
- They were happy we were there
- There were three of them there
- They like music
- Some of them are musicians and have played music together
- There were three spirits there (confirming this for the second time)
- They didn’t mind if we did another investigation (slow yes)
- She bought the house in the 1930’s (Mannie bought it in 1947-49)
- Richard family owned it before her. It was a residence
- Guests were expected to be well behaved
- She’s the one who encourages Jim to make hospital corners when making beds
- She wishes Jim would paint the exterior
- She had a lot of friends in New Harmony
- They wanted us to leave the room and move to another room (the rods actually pointed to the door)
We moved to Room #4 and continued with the dowsing rods.
- Confirmed she bought the house in the 1930’s
- One of them was a female
- There are three of them
- At least one of them is a musician (confirming a previous response)
- One of them followed us from another room
- One of them played music at dances in town
- One of them played at the dance hall in town
- At least one of them went to church
- At least one of them was married
- One of the people we were talking to was Mannie
- She likes the way New Harmony is now
- She sometimes leaves the house to visit other locations in town
- She likes to go to the Labyrinth
- She used to have picnics
- No response when I asked if she belonged to a Women’s club
- There were men’s clubs in town
- One of them went to dances on the second floor of the Oddfellows Building
- None of them knew of anyone practicing séances, table tipping sessions or spiritual gatherings
- One of them knew Homer Fauntleroy and Mary Emily Fauntleroy
- One of them went to the Fauntleroy Home on a tour
- One of them went to the Opera House
Lisa asked if someone could knock on something to show us they were truly there. There was an immediate knocking sound in the hallway behind us. She continued with the dowsing rods.
- One of them didn’t think of us as friends, but considered us guests
- One of them was originally from New Harmony
- One of them ventured outside of New Harmony
- One of them plays the piano
- No one plays the guitar
- One of them sings a lot (the rods began spinning after the “yes” response
- One of them sang in church
- None of them listened to Elvis Presley but did listen to music on the radio
- Tennessee Ernie Ford wasn’t popular then
- One of them liked going down to the Wabash River and liked to fish
- One of them knew Jane Owen
- Some of them try to communicate with guests at the Old Rooming House
- Some of them think about leaving and going somewhere else
- None of them have lived outside the United States
We moved onto Spirit Box and had several clear responses. I asked who we were talking to and a voice came through very clearly. He said, “I’m Nick.” The response really took us back because it was so loud and clear. We began asking him other questions, but he wouldn’t respond to them. Someone asked if he’d been downstairs and he said, “Who me?” someone asked the same question again (we were getting tired at this point) and he said, “You talking to me?”
One of the guests had been to Antique Emporium earlier in the day and talked to the shop owner, Paula, about her resident ghost Bebe. The woman began asking if the ghosts at the Old Rooming House knew Bebe. The responses were inconclusive. We thought we heard something different than what was actually said in many cases. Someone asked if they’d gone fishing with Bebe and a voice said, “We didn’t.” It’s highly possible they didn’t know the ghost from Antique Emporium when she was alive. The time periods could have been vastly different and they might not have recognized her name. We aren’t even certain her name is Bebe. That’s just a nickname they gave her at the shop.
Since the majority of my group was from Illinois, someone asked if the ghosts had ever been to Illinois. Two voices responded. One said, “No,” and the other said, “I didn’t.”
Someone asked if we had been in their room before, earlier in the evening, and a female voice said, “We talkin’.” The same question was asked again a few minutes later (again, we were getting tired) and the ghosts cut us some slack. “You talking to me?” one of them said.
Perhaps the best response we received all night came when someone asked if any of them played the banjo. “Mannie,” was the response. This is interesting because the former owner, Mary Rickert’s nickname was Mannie.
It was getting late, so we moved downstairs to Room #1.
We did a Spirit Box session, but it was clear they were getting as tired as we were. We didn’t get a single response on the Spirit Box so we moved back to the dowsing rods.
- They didn’t like the noisy box (Spirit Box)
- There were two females and a male there
- One of the females was Mannie
- Leora doesn’t stay there but popped in to say hi
- No response when we asked if the man’s name was Nick
- I asked if I got Nick’s name wrong and it said “yes” and the flashlight came on
- The other female is quiet and doesn’t wish to communicate
- The three of them aren’t related
- They have frequent ghost visitors from other houses
- Bebe is one of those visitors
- One of them was born in the 1900’s
- One of them was born in the 1800’s
We were amused to see the rods begin pointing to the next person, as though they were prompting us to move it along. We passed the rods and began asking more questions.
- There is something valuable hidden in the house
- They would gladly share with us
- At least one of them drank illegally during prohibition
- There were some speak easies in New Harmony
- One of them likes rum
- The Old Rooming House was never a speak easy
- The person upstairs was Richard or “Dick” for short, not Nick
- He was from Illinois
- He liked to sing
After we finished that session, it was clear that everyone was tired. We concluded our investigation by thanking the residents for allowing us in their space and everyone went to bed. As expected, they all slept soundly.
Evidence Review 3-31-18
I returned for the second investigation the following day. The second group was smaller than the first. We had two groups from the Evansville area attend. One was an experienced paranormal investigator named Donna, who attended with her friend, sister and her mother. The other group was a woman and her 13 year-old-daughter, Zoey.
We started out in the sitting room and did a quick EVP session. I like to do a burst session to start things off. A burst session is when you go around the group and ask just a few questions while recording it on a digital recorder. You then listen to the recording to see if anyone responded. Even though we got a response during my Friday night investigation, we didn’t get anything this time.
We then moved onto dowsing rods. I demonstrated how to use them and then passed them around the group, inviting everyone to try them. Not everyone is adept at dowsing. Some people are just a natural conduit, while others are not.
- There was someone there with us
- The person was a female
- She was happy I came back again
- There wasn’t anything we did the previous night that they didn’t like
- She watches over the guests and makes sure they are okay
- Her name was Mannie
- She had trouble with some guests over her time there
- She liked to plant flowers
- She liked her guests to be comfortable
- She liked roses
- She loved New Harmony
- She has ridden in a horse and buggy
I then went to Spirit Box.
I told them that they are going to fix the old Harmony Way bridge and asked if she knew that. A voice came through and said, “You can watch me.”
We started out with a dowsing rod session. I was curious to see if Leora was there with us and received a “no” response. I continued on.
- Manny was friends with Leora
- I asked if Manny was married and got a very slow no response (her husband died before she did)
- She said she did not have children
- She liked her guests to be polite, neat and clean
- We got a slow “yes” response when asked if she fed her guests. (she fed the ones who stayed with her for long periods)
- She had an automobile
- It’s okay for them to come back and visit again
- She had people there to clean for her – Mannie did most of it herself
- She had trouble with guests before
- We asked about the fire. It damaged the home but no one was hurt.
We didn’t know it at the time, but we actually recorded a ghost voice responding to the question just after the dowsing rods crossed. It said, “no.”
- The building was repaired quickly after the fire (it actually sat empty for a year)
- The fire was set intentionally
- It was the only major fire they had there (we asked more questions about the fire and who set it but the person is still alive, so I don’t want to disclose this information publicly)
- They played board games there
- Mannie liked children
- She had many favorite guests who returned again and again
- Someone has tried to break in before
- A guest died there and is still there – died of natural causes (heart attack)
- She allowed pets to be there, but only certain animals
- She liked dogs more than cats
- Women were treated equal when she owned the rooming house
- She’s happy that Jim keeps the place neat and clean
- She knew they were coming before they got there
- She liked all color roses
- She had a garden
- She had chickens at one time
- She loved animals
- She visits places around town, including shops, churches and restaurants
- She comes and goes as she pleases
- People see a white light when they pass
- Passing is much easier than what people think
- There is an afterlife
- It’s a continuous circle
We then moved to Spirit Box. We didn’t get a tremendous amount of responses, but the ones we did receive were intelligent.
Someone asked if there was anyone on the staircase. “To the right,” was the response. It was enough to make us go out into the hallway to look. We didn’t see anything, but it was still an interesting response.
Since we felt we had been talking to Mannie for most of the evening, we frequently checked in to make sure she was still with us. When someone asked if Manny was still there, a voice said “Manny.” It wasn’t necessarily confirmation of her presence, but it was validation that the ghosts in the house could hear us and respond clearly.
Someone asked if Nick was still there and a female voice said, “Nick’s escaped.” This was a bit alarming to me on several accounts. It was a very clear intelligent response…and I had a new ghost in my house. I felt it earlier that morning when I woke up. Was it possible that Nick followed me home?
At least ten minutes went past without getting a single blip on the Spirit Box. Someone asked who owns the rooming house and a voice said something that sounded vaguely like “Jimmy,” came through, followed by “old coat.” I asked the owner about this and he said that a man named Bob often came to the Rooming House and died several years ago (not on the premises). Jim went to a yard sale some time later and bought one of Bob’s old coats.
We took a break and resumed our investigation in Room 4.
We started out with the Spirit Box but didn’t get anything clear so we moved to dowsing rods.
- Nick was married
- He had children
- He lived out of state
- He stayed there often (slow yes)
- He liked Manny
- Room 4 was the room he often stayed in
- They were allowed to bring women up to their rooms
- They asked if he was married and this time got a “no”
- We began to wonder if we were talking to two different ghosts and the answer was yes.
- Nick was a businessman
- He knew about the fire but wasn’t staying there when it happened
- He had a dog who sometimes stayed with him
- He stayed there for long periods of time
- The other female who is there wasn’t there when Nick was there
I began asking questions about afterlife and the rest of the group joined in.
- They’d never been to Heaven
- They do see a while light when they die and can decide whether to go into it or not
- She didn’t leave because she didn’t want to leave the house
- There isn’t a hell
- When people die, they never go to a bad place
- Everybody is welcome in Heaven
- Every person has spirit guides
- Some people have more than one
- It said that I had three, which surprised me because I thought I only had two. Then I remembered my grandma Nanny who has been with me all my life. They confirmed this.
- Everyone went around the room and asked about their spirit guides. Nearly everyone had more than one and many had relatives watching over them.
- We choose to come back and live new lives (reincarnation)
- We make contracts when we come back
- If people choose not to go through the light, they can cross over later
We talked for a bit and then did a Spirit Box session. After nearly ten minutes without receiving a single response, we turned it off. I played a few songs from their time period to see if I could generate any activity, but it was apparent the ghosts were getting as tired as we were. We ended up having a long conversation about pendulums. One of the members of the group had one, so she pulled it out and we demonstrated how to use it.
We didn’t receive any more responses, so we called it a night.
All in all, it was a great experience for everyone involved. It wasn’t a scary ghost hunt. It was a way to connect directly with the people who created the history of the property. We were honored for the chance to communicate with them.
Thank you to Jim Stinson at the Old Rooming House for his hospitality. Like many of the buildings in New Harmony, I felt that the building was gently haunted. A former owner and a guest or two loved it so much they decided to stick around. Most people wouldn’t even know about it unless they pursued it like we did.
For more information about the Old Rooming House: http://www.oldroominghouse.com/