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Haunted house?

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By Brad Bowman

Every town has a collection of haunted tales hinged on horrific, historical happenings and the buildings that house them. But they don’t all  have a paranormal group actually investigate those places.

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Sight and Sound Paranormal came to the Henry County Courthouse last Friday night and Oct. 16 to investigate claims ranging from disembodied voices, footsteps, doors slamming, objects being thrown down hallways and an elevator that moves on its own .

Traumatic events like hangings, Civil War skirmishes, mob lynching, past courthouse jail inmate fatalities and suicides only add to the building’s macabre past.

Using modern technology including infrared cameras, electromagnetic field meters, real-time recording, historical research and a staff of investigators, Sight and Sound Paranormal looked to objectively prove or disprove those claims.

Claims

The claims and personal accounts come from people who have worked in the courthouse. They include trained law enforcement and courthouse employees who, due to their professions, wished to remain anonymous.

One courthouse employee reported hearing the elevator operating on its own, but only late at night and on Monday evenings.

 “One night I did hear a door shut. We couldn’t figure out where that came from,” the employee said. “I’ve been here with (Sheriff’s Deputy) Lorry (Hansen) when the elevator would move. There was nobody here. Everybody says it was the little girl (young girl hanged at gallows on courthouse grounds in 1868). Anytime anything happened, it was said that it was her. I don’t like to be here at night. It’s eerie.”

Hansen agreed, and has heard the stories.

“They have told me about all of these ghosts,” Hansen said. “I have sat here with (name omitted) we actually heard the elevator go up or come down. That was kind of weird to us. As far as seeing anything, I’ve never seen anything at all.”

But a few other law enforcement officers have.

“I am going to tell you up front that I don’t believe in ghosts,” one officer said, “but one night I was in the sheriff’s office and I heard one of the conduit elbow pieces fall off of one of the lights on the ceiling in the hallway. I looked out there to see if someone was messing with me.

“I went back in to do the paperwork. About three or four minutes later it sounded like (the conduit) was kicked down the hallway.”

That officer thought someone was just playing a trick on him given the lapse in time from the object falling and then being kicked down the hallway.

“I jumped up and looked and no one was out there. The conduit had fallen off of the ceiling and it had gone down the hallway. I thought to myself ‘how did it fall off and end up down by the clock (50 feet away).’ It sounded like someone kicked it because you could hear it shuffle across the floor. I don’t believe in ghosts but I couldn’t explain it.”

Several personal accounts mentioned footsteps, muffled conversations and whistling.

“I refuse to go in there late at night anymore. I ran out of there one night,” one source said. “I had gone there at night to turn in my paperwork. I hadn’t been with the sheriff’s department very long. It sounded like someone whistled at me to get my attention from the back part of the hall as I was going into the office. I ran out of the courthouse it startled me so bad and I refused to go in there anymore at night after that.”

The frequency of late night activity witnessed by another officer over a span of several years convinced them the source of the activity was anything but normal.

“Sitting there so many times (late at night), I would hear noises… footsteps like someone coming down the stairways.”

The source had similar experiences of hearing footsteps, and said doors between the jury chambers, judges’ offices and the courtroom would close. The two sounds didn’t occur together, but sounded like common workday activity.

“We are trained, as law enforcement officers, to look at evidence,” the source said. “We look at what has occurred and for the evidence to back that up… it goes with applying reason. When the only evidence you have are those sounds, you can’t just pass that off as if you didn’t hear it. I would argue with anyone about what I heard.”

The source explained that the courthouse was heated with steam and the pipes would make popping and hissing sounds, but that didn’t explain the sounds during the warmer seasons.

“The pipe sounds aren’t rhythmic like footsteps. I really thought this stuff through because I was convinced someone was getting into the courthouse. I believe with my eyes and my ears — not just sound,” the source said. “I don’t scare easily. I know the story of the little girl and the hanging of those prisoners at Clements’ bridge (a mob took prisoners from the courthouse’s cells and hanged them the same year the present courthouse was built). There was also the Civil War fighting out here by the courthouse…there were also plenty of deaths at the jail. . It could be an entity or an apparition.

“It happened so much that I started to ignore it.”

Investigation protocol

Thomas Hood and Jeff Hinton cofounded Sight and Sound Paranormal. The group keeps client information confidential and doesn’t charge for investigations.

 “We’ll do anything where people feel there is a substantial need to investigate,” Hood said. “We love doing historical buildings. We’ve done several in Shelby County.”

The group researches historic and public records, and does preliminary interviews for personal accounts and client concerns. The investigators like disproving paranormal claims as much as they like proving them.

“We investigated an antique store in Shelbyville. We were getting some return noises upon request during the investigation, or so we thought,” Hood said. “It turned out to be loose joists that Jeff (Hinton) found and we were able to debunk it.”

The group’s most compelling evidence has been audio.

“What people refer to as EVPs, which are electronic voice phenomena, those occur when you capture what seems to be an other-worldly voice or even human sounding voice on a recording device while your investigating and conducting interviews,” Hood said. “You may not have heard it with your own ears in real time. We don’t know how those voices are captured on tape or if they were produced with frequencies we couldn’t hear at the time… we’ve had male and female sounding voices that have answered direct questions and added to our own statements during a conversation.”

The group uses stationary and hand-held audio recorders during an investigation. At the end of an investigation, the group will put the audio data onto a laptop and immediately copy the evidence for the client and individual investigators to ensure the evidence is not corrupted before leaving the site.

Sight and Sound also sweeps rooms with electromagnetic meters and digital thermometers. Where a client may experience nausea, nervousness or hallucinations, the cause may be not paranormal but something as mundane as exposure to large amounts of electricity.

Digital thermometers monitor  shifts in temperature in a confined area that may be due to paranormal activity. Investigators could find a draft responsible for the discomfort.

The group reviews several hours of audio and video material sifting through what may be compelling evidence that either supports a client’s claims or disproves them.

“A couple of us are responsible for reviewing the audio,” Hood said. “We use software with compression, noise reduction, hard limiting and amplification for bringing out subtle or low-level EVPs so we can discern them.”

The group uses a minimal amount of software to not color the sound.

Courthouse findings

The group investigated the courthouse on two separate nights as late as 3:30 a.m. to collect evidence.

A stationary infrared camera was placed in the front entrance hallway where footsteps and moving objects have been reported.

An infrared camera was placed in the basement, where in the 1800s, cells were located from which a mob once pulled members of the marauder gang from and hanged them on a bridge on KY 146. A camera was placed by the elevator to check the claims of it moving on its own.

Video documentation of the active investigation included the courtroom, the grand jury chamber and the old jail where several deaths occurred .

Investigators reviewed more than six hours of audio and video and had several personal experiences. The group also gave a copy of the audio evidence to the Local.

Footsteps and muffled conversations were heard in the grand jury chambers, the courtroom and the hallway in between the rooms. A stationary audio recorder in the connecting hallway caught several inconclusive sounds — sounds that couldn’t be accounted for as voices, floor noises or doors and their origin couldn’t be discerned.

During the courtroom investigation, Hood listened to audio captured in real time on his laptop.

“Is there anyone in here in the courtroom with us,” Hood asked. “State your name.”

When several members heard what they thought was a response, Hood examined the audio just captured.

“After I ask the question, there is a response,” Hood said. “What sounds like it could be a male voice says, ‘I’m here.”

The group continued to catch unexplainable audio evidence.

A whistle, similar to a personal account, was captured in the courtroom on Friday night. Unintelligible whispers were caught on a recorder in the women’s bathroom. A disembodied male voice in the men’s section of the jail replied on a recorder with the single word, ‘mommy.’

“We were in the basement where the old cells were,” Hood said. “We were having the conversation about them and a voice was captured saying, ‘holding cage’ while we were discussing it. It’s very clear.”

But one claim has been soundly debunked.

Tim Rose, general manager of Oracle Elevator, services the courthouse elevator.

“It does have features that would actually allow it to move on its own to readjust on or ‘homeland’ where is it will rest at a certain floor,” Rose said. “A certain amount of time you will hear the elevator, typically because of that or temperature. Oil condenses in certain temperatures and the elevator will readjust itself.”

Anomalies like white noise blasts across one of the group’s walkie-talkies when they were asking questions couldn’t be explained. Jeff Hinton said his personal experience and the captured evidence compels him to conclude the courthouse has paranormal activity.

“There is definite activity and everyone I believe experienced something there,” Hinton said. “For me personally, I heard more voices Saturday morning than I have on any other investigation. While we did not experience near the claims that come from the staff at the courthouse, we were only able to debunk a few of their experiences. I was not able, in my mind, to debunk as much there as I had hoped to.”

Hood concurred, given the personal experiences during the investigation and the verifiable evidence the group caught. The activity didn’t seem malicious but not necessarily timid.

“We caught compelling evidence,” Hood said. “I don’t like to use the word ‘haunted’ but would say there is paranormal activity there and some of the voices we captured wanted to be heard.”

Hood will make the courthouse audio clips available on the group’s website and looks forward to the next investigation.

“I believe a common thread runs through all of our members. We are believers at heart but skeptics in practice. We seek evidence of the paranormal and often find it. It’s the thrill of those finds that fuels our passion to continue hunting in the dark together.”

 

For more information about the group, investigation or to contact them visit : www.sspweb.wix.com/1