(Above) Our investigation on the stage of Thralls Opera House. Photo courtesy of Traci Hoehn.
Every paranormal investigation is different, even if you explore the same haunted buildings. As we’ve found in New Harmony, Indiana, we can count on the souls from the town’s past to make an appearance, but we’re often visited by others we’ve never met before.
This has been the case in a number of our investigations. Several times, we’ve wondered if someone brought their own ghost to the ghost hunt. Other times, we just have to scratch our heads and wonder, with no easy explanation available.
For our third investigation of the season, we switched up our line-up. Instead of investigating Community House #2 and then moving onto the Fauntleroy Home, we investigated Thralls Opera House for our second half of the night.
We had a small group of eight people, with Traci Hoehn and Rick Schlegelmilch assisting me with the investigation. Due to illness, State Museum Sites Collections Manager, Amanda Bryden was unable to attend. It seemed very strange not to have Amanda there, but we made due.
(Above) Our investigation on the first floor of Community House #2. Photo courtesy of Traci Hoehn.
We settled in on the first floor of Community House #2 and did a quick evp session before moving onto the Spirit Box. Several people asked questions without getting any responses until a woman named Nina asked a question that inspired a response. She asked if they were Democrats or Republicans. Several of us giggled after she asked it, knowing it was a hot topic among the living. Apparently, it was a provocative question for the dead as well. A male voice said, “You call?” Throughout the night, Nina would continue to ask great questions, ones I will be remembering for my next investigations.
We stopped getting responses so I decided to lighten up the mood. Instead of pelting them with one question after another, which might sound like an interrogation to them, we decided to go around the group and share our favorite meals. There wasn’t a response until it was Rick’s turn. “I’d like some blueberry pancakes,” he said. A female voice came across the Spirit Box and said, “Me too!”
(Above) Our investigation on the second floor of Community House #2. Photo courtesy of Traci Hoehn.
The discussion on foods continued. When someone asked if they liked cornbread with their ham and beans, an older raspy female voice said, “potatoes.” Someone else asked if they liked ice cream and a different female voice said, “Blueberry.”
After a few more questions, we moved onto the second floor.
I decided to use the Spirit Box right away to see what we would get. As soon as I turned it on, a female voice asked, “Are you here?” and a male voice answered, “No.” It gave us all a laugh.
Traci shared some interesting information with us. Before we started the investigation, she walked around and took several photos, including ones of the room we were currently in. When our group came upstairs, we found the door to that room locked. Traci said it had been unlocked when she came upstairs earlier.
We began asking questions. Traci asked if there were any children there and the same raspy older woman’s voice came through again and said something that sounded like, “Can I hurt her?” We didn’t catch that at the time, so no one responded.
Someone asked if they were born in New Harmony and a male voice said, “Kind of missed me.” After a few minutes of no responses, I turned the Spirit Box off and we moved to dowsing rods.
During the session, I was putting two people out in the hallway at a time to see if they could see any shadows move, which happens frequently there. The first group saw nothing but the second group heard footsteps behind them.
(Above) The second floor of Community House #2. Photo courtesy of Traci Hoehn.
Dowsing Rod session responses:
- There were more than three women with us.
- They were having a women’s meeting.
- They told the men they couldn’t come in there – this was interesting because men and women were separated during the Harmonist period. Women would have been on one side of the hallway and men on the other. Other sessions have produced the same responses with different people in attendance. We’ve always communicated with women in the room, never men.
- Rick asked if he was going to be in trouble being on the women’s side of the hallway and the rods went to yes.
- They haven’t been in the house all day
- They aren’t dressing up for Halloween
- They haven’t had dinner tonight
- They were married (flashlight came on)
- Christmas is their favorite holiday
- There was a child with us. It was the same child that was responded to her in Key West on a recent vacation.
- The child never lived there.
- There was more than one child there.
- They know someone there.
- She asked for the rods to point to the person they knew and they pointed straight ahead to one of the men in our group.
- They stay there all the time
- A male came into the room
- There are often disagreements in the house
As we’ve discovered over time, some people have better responses with the dowsing rods than others. Some people tend to be better vessels than others. Several people in the group didn’t have any luck with the rods, while others were really good with them.
I was curious about the male that came into the room because we’ve never felt males in that room before, so I turned on the Spirit Box to see if he’d talk to us. I asked him if he was supposed to be on that side or if he was from a different time period when it was okay for women and men to be on either side. A male voice that we’ve heard before said, “It hasn’t been a problem,” which clarified the situation for us. Had we been talking to Harmonists, they would have told us differently.
I tried to pin down the time period he was there by asking relevant questions, but didn’t get any further responses. I asked him if he had anything he wanted to ask us and the same voice said, “What are you up for?” We didn’t get any further responses and moved onto the third floor.
The third floor has always provided us with the most reactions, especially on the Spirit Box. We turned it on and asked a few questions before finally getting an answer. Someone asked if they went to school there and a raspy male voice said, “My girlfriend.”
The third floor was used primarily for dormitory housing but was also the site of New Harmony’s print shop for their newspaper. We’ve communicated with three of the printers who worked there, two of whom fought in the Civil War.
Sometimes the responses aren’t clear. We will think we hear a specific answer but upon review later, it’s clearly not what we thought it was. And sometimes the responses make no sense. Someone asked if they had pets and a male voice said, “That lady.” Someone else asked if they liked the pinwheel and the same male voice said, “A way to go.” Rick Schlegelmilch, who is a New Harmony resident, asked if they see him walk past with his dog, Clutch, but didn’t get a response. Traci asked if they liked to play tricks on Amanda, who works there, and a different male voice said, “Have a smoke.” I have to wonder if they have issues hearing us clearly just like we often have problems hearing them.
After a few more rounds with no responses, we moved into the print shop.
(Above) Our investigation in Community House #2. Photo courtesy of Traci Hoehn.
The print shop is a small room on the third floor that is filled with the old printing presses from the 1800’s. We’ve always gotten a lot of evps in that room, even though we have to pack ourselves in there, sitting shoulder to shoulder. As soon as we turned the Spirit Box on, we began getting responses. Some asked if they liked music and someone said something we couldn’t understand so she asked what kind of music they liked. “That’s a little rough,” was the answer. Too many to pick from, perhaps?
Nina continued to ask great questions, like “Did you carry a gun?” and “Did you ever kill anyone?” but didn’t collect any responses. Finally, someone asked a question that got an answer. She asked if they were alive when Lincoln was president. Shortly after, a young female voice said, “I miss you,” which was followed by an older woman saying, “He had a bow tie.”
Someone else commented that the flashlight came on and a male voice said, “Walking it.” We went around the group again and got a few responses that we couldn’t make out. I was feeling a very strong male in the room but weren’t getting any clear answers. I asked if anyone in the group was feeling anything different and they were. Several people said they felt sudden headaches come on in the last few minutes. Several days after the investigation, Rick Schlegelmilch reported finding strange scratches on his hip. He had to wonder if something followed him home.
I explained to the group that the ghosts aren’t always who we expect. Sometimes people come to the events with something attached to them and essentially bring their own ghost to the ghost hunt. We will hear different voices that we’ve never heard before and then don’t hear again in consecutive investigations. While we always expect to communicate with known people who lived or worked in the buildings we investigate, it’s often not the case. Ghosts come and go and don’t have to die in the building in order to haunt it.
We wound up the session and took a break before venturing down the street to investigate Thrall’s Opera House. My friend, Crystal Folz, who is a psychic medium, joined us for the second part of our evening.
(Above) Thralls Opera House. Photo by the author.
Thrall’s Opera House has an interesting history. Built in 1824, it was originally intended to be used as a dormitory building. After it was built, it looked very similar to Community House #2, but was transformed over the years. After the Harmonists left the town and sold it to Robert Owen, the building was used as a theater for plays and musicals. In 1888, it was turned into an opera house and was given the name Thralls Opera house after one of the main benefactors of the program. It continued on this way until the early 1900’s when it was sold and turned into a gas station and garage. Sixty-four years later, the state purchased the building and turned it back into an Opera House.
Over the years, tour guides and visitors have reported hearing strange sounds in areas that are known to be vacant. Two tour guides once left a note near the door, asking for a sign of their presence. They returned the next day only to discover the note wadded into a ball. The checked the alarm records, only to discover that no one had been in the building after they left the previous evening.
(Above) Our investigation on the stage of Thralls Opera House. Photo #2: Crystal Folz with the other investigators. Photos courtesy of Traci Hoehn.
We started our first session on the stage. It was decisively spooky as we sat there in the shadows. We could feel them swarming around us. We started with an evp session and quickly began hearing a strange tapping sound at the edge of the stage. It almost sounded like someone tapping a cane against a metal pole.
Crystal Folz, who is a psychic medium, joined us for our Thralls portion of the investigation and began feeling a choking sensation in her throat. She wondered if someone there had suffered throat issues. It got so bad, she needed to leave the building for a moment. The sensation abated instantly as soon as she walked outside, but continued again when she walked back in the door. During the session, several other people also began feeling a burning sensation.
We moved onto a dowsing rod session:
- There was someone there who wanted to talk to us
- Someone there was a member of the Golden Family who performed there for years
- Francis Golden was there with us (she was the youngest of the family)
- They don’t always enjoy the performances
- She sometimes visits the Civic Theater in Evansville (Francis founded it and it’s insanely haunted)
- She likes that they still have plays at the Civic Theater
At that moment, I heard the sound of men talking in the front of the building. Several other people caught it too and it was recorded on my digital recorder. We couldn’t’ make out what they said, but the voices were spoken in a conversational tone.
We continued on with the dowsing rod session:
- There was someone up front
- They like the people up front (rods moved slowly to yes)
- They wished they would go away
- They liked us being there
Several members of the group reported seeing shadows moving on the balcony.
- Something was wrong with her throat (KII meter flashed and dowsing rods moved)
- Some of the outfits in the display cases were hers
We stopped getting responses on the dowsing rods, so we moved onto the Spirit Box. I asked if Francis was with us and got a response that I couldn’t make out. I began asking questions about the afterlife. I asked if they’ve ever seen Heaven and didn’t get a response, so I asked if they see a white light when they die and a faint voice said, “I haven’t.”
Someone asked if she liked it there and a female voice said, “We’re meant to be.”
We went around the room for a while. Any responses we got were faint and difficult to hear. I asked if they considered themselves Yankees and a voice said, “Kind of.”
Suddenly, several people began smelling a woman’s perfume. It came on very strong. At the same time, Rick felt someone nudge him. The smell wafted around the stage area and several people smelled it before it abruptly disappeared.
I asked the group what they were feeling and almost everyone had the sensation of being watched. While the vibe at the opera house is usually light, it had a decisively edgy aura about it. We felt as though a group of people were watching us from the balcony.
We decided to move to the balcony. As soon as we sat down, we began hearing the same tapping sound we heard on the stage. It sounded like it was to the right of us, near the stairs. Crystal mentioned that it was interesting because it wasn’t repetitive. It would happen a few times and then stop, only to tap again a few minutes later.
We turned on the spirit box and immediately heard a young girl say, “Evil!” Then, without warning, we began smelling the woman’s perfume again. I jumped up from my seat and ran over to see if I could smell it too. I caught it for several seconds before it disappeared again. It was strong and floral, reminding me of old-fashioned perfume.
Rick asked if anyone could talk to us, that we came up to the cheap seats to see them. A male voice said “You’re a mere presence.” It was spoken quickly and none of us caught it at the time. Even on audio review, I had to listen to it several times to make it out.
Someone asked if we could come back to visit and a voice said, “Evil!” again. It was apparent they didn’t understand why we were there. Perhaps if they were from an earlier time period and weren’t comfortable with our electronic equipment. Or, maybe they were talking about something else. Not long afterwards, someone asked if they were of German descent and a voice said, “I’m evil.”
The vibe on the balcony was so intense; it was almost difficult to remain up there for long. It felt as though we weren’t welcomed and were being surrounded by angry eyes. Everyone in the group felt it and commented on it from time to time during the session. In hindsight, I had to wonder if the intensity had something to do with Amanda’s absence. Were they worried that we weren’t allowed to be there since Amanda wasn’t with us? Also, we were in the balcony area, which is normally off-limits to visitors.
Nina asked if they could make the pinwheel spin and a male answered, “Pretty blond.” There were several pretty blonds in our group so we aren’t certain who he was referring to, but we all laughed when we heard it. Considering the vibe though, it was an uneasy laugh. No one wanted to be the target of his interests.
I often like to lighten up the session by having “the pie conversation.” I go around the room and have everyone tell us their favorite kind of pie. Sometimes this will generate a response from the other side, but not this time. There was one quick “You’re a stick” in the middle of our conversation, which didn’t make much sense. This seemed to be the trend of the night. It was as though we weren’t clearly communicating with one another.
We moved onto dowsing rods, but didn’t get anything after several rounds. Rick suggested we try an experiment and give them a standing ovation. We certainly raised the vibration and the dowsing rods finally moved to a “yes” response when we asked if they enjoyed it.
We decided to move to the basement of the building where the orchestra pit used to reside.
(Above) Our investigation at Thralls Opera House. Photo #2: Nina. Photo #2: Rick Schlegelmilch. Photos courtesy of Traci Hoehn.
As we sat down and I began talking into my recorder to document the location, the flashlight came on. They apparently knew we were down there. We went completely lights out for this session and sat in perfect darkness.
The only light we could see came from the cracks in the floorboards above us on the stage. I asked them if they could walk across the stage above us and block out some of the lights, which caused a protest in the group. “Or not!” someone said, which resulted in a group laugh.
Crystal asked if they could make the same tapping noise we had been hearing before. After a few minutes, we began hearing them in the basement too. I felt someone very strong drift into the room and used the opportunity to ask the group what they felt. Most people felt a male, but several people felt a female. It was possible there were both, but I was feeling a female directly behind us.
I decided to try the Spirit Box to see if they would talk to us. Someone asked if they like the way the Opera House looks today and a voice came through and said, “I like it.” Unfortunately, the response came in the middle of her next question so it’s difficult to hear and not sharable. While we were listening for answers, we heard footsteps directly above us. I turned off the Spirit Box and we just sat and listened for a while, hoping to hear it again. We sat for about ten minutes but didn’t hear it again so I turned the Spirit Box back on.
I was curious if someone from the group brought a ghost with them, so I asked if someone could ask a few questions about it. As soon as I said that, a male voice asked, “Can you hear us?” This really drove home the nagging feeling I’d had all night. We were having communication issues. We couldn’t always hear them and they couldn’t hear us either.
We got a few responses that we couldn’t make out so we turned the box off and just sat and chatted. Someone in the group felt that whoever we were talking to was from the building and hadn’t followed up. She said when I was asking if someone followed us, she could hear “here, here, here” in her ear.
We ended the night soon afterwards, feeling as though we’d truly experienced something amazing. Our communication with the souls residing in the two buildings was sometimes clear and other times confusing, but always intriguing.
Thank you to everyone who came out. Thanks to Rick Schlegelmilch, Traci Hoehn and Crystal Folz for helping me with this investigation.