Muffled voices in an empty attic, heavy footsteps on a vacant stairwell, silent shadows across a darkened room . . . The spirit world has intrigued Jeff Cole for decades, leading him from a career in archaeology to his passionate work as a paranormal researcher. Going beyond superstition and fantasy, Cole arms himself with cutting-edge technology, in a quest to discover actual scientific evidence of the realm where the souls of the departed continue to dwell—and make contact with the living.
In Ghostly Encounters, Cole explains his techniques and chronicles his journey as he searches sites both famous and little known for signs of the world between life and death. Taking us to wide-ranging places, from Gettysburg to the Ohio State Reformatory, the Villisca Axe Murder house, St. Albans Sanatorium, and more, he shares first-person eyewitness accounts, as well as testimonies by the various paranormal investigative teams he has worked with, in chilling accounts of fascinating discoveries and encounters with the “other side.”
As a bonus, Ghostly Encounters also includes links to video and audio clips, so readers can enjoy a multimedia ghost-hunting experience.
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About the Author
Johnathon Robson has been a death metal musician, music production artist, and bank-fraud-investigator-turned-paranormal-investigator. Robson grew up with an avid interest in the paranormal field, and in 2011 formed C-Bus Paranormal. He resides in Mount Gilead, Ohio.
Read an Excerpt
A Writer's Journey: The Beginning
Whether you're reading this book as a thrill-seeker, an aspiring or experienced paranormal investigator, or simply as a paranormal enthusiast, we all share some common characteristics: a love (okay, a morbid curiosity) of dark, creepy places; an abiding interest in the unknown; and a passion to learn more about, and maybe even to experience, paranormal phenomena. For me, the journey from passive enthusiast to full-fledged investigator began with the explosion of paranormal reality TV and my move to a small rural Ohio town.
Not long after moving from Cleveland's eastern suburbs to the farms and nurseries of Madison, Ohio, I learned of a place just a few miles from my home that was steeped in an odd and mysterious past: the Madison Seminary. More than 170 years old, the Seminary seemed more like a fictional setting for a Stephen King novel than a real historical artifact. From serving as a girls' school to a poorhouse to a home for the mentally impaired, then as a halfway house for Ohio's prison system, the building certainly had plenty of mystery mixed into its blood-red bricks and bleached-bone mortar. Oh — and did I mention that, according to locals, the place is haunted?
I'm a bit of a history geek, a natural offshoot of my formal education, former professions (archaeologist, middle-school teacher), and current vocations (writer and education consultant). So with many questions and few answers, I did what comes naturally to archaeologists: I began digging into the seminary's history. Scouring the shelves of the local and regional libraries and historical societies revealed only a few clues: a document outlining the chain of ownership (paraphrased above), a couple of historical (circa 1910) articles about fund-raising events, and a 1990s article when the building went on the auction block.
Having exhausted my local research avenues, I realized that the real meat I was looking for — the human stories of the residents, occupants, and inmates of the seminary — was in all likelihood locked away within the seminary itself or in some obscure official records facility, far beyond my limited reach. Learning the true stories that took place within the confines of the seminary would require a much more focused and committed effort. Unfortunately for me, the summer was fading and a new school year fast approaching. Researching the Madison Seminary was an activity that would have to wait, at least for the time being.
Of course, putting things on hold only piqued my curiosity. The ghost-hunting programs I watched on TV and their (now para- celebrity) hosts were beginning to investigate equally historic, equally enticing locations, such as boarded-up prisons, hospitals and asylums, forts, and even battlefields. This made the Madison Seminary all the more irresistible. Somehow, some way, I had to get inside and do some paranormal investigating of my own.
Since my research efforts were stymied, I shifted my focus, turning my attention from the traditional avenues of research to the paranormal aspect of the seminary. I learned that the facility had developed a reputation as a hotbed of paranormal activity, making it popular among ghost hunters. I also discovered that the facility was available for overnight investigations for a few hundred dollars and a minimum number of participants. If I truly wanted to get inside, I would need to scrape together the cash and rustle up a group of friends, associates, or like-minded enthusiasts willing to commit to a paranormal adventure.
It felt like I'd hit another brick wall at that point. After all, how does one assemble people for a ghost hunt? I need not tell you that ghost hunting and paranormal investigating used to be a rather dubious endeavor and still raises a lot of eyebrows among the general public. Truth be told, I wasn't ready to admit to anything more than passive enthusiasm.
So what do you do — put an ad in the paper or post a message on Craigslist? WANTED: Ghost-hunting enthusiasts to conduct paranormal investigation of haunted building!That seemed like a recipe for disaster. Sure, I'd probably find some reasonably responsible adults, but I'd also have to sift through dozens, if not hundreds, of yahoos to find that handful of serious, like-minded people. Then I thought: Why reinvent the wheel? Surely there must be established paranormal groups already interested in investigating the seminary.
A strategy quickly emerged. Using a two-pronged approach, I first dug into the seminary's Internet footprint and Facebook page where I found their calendar and a list of the paranormal groups scheduled to conduct investigations at the property. At this point I realized that the seminary had, in fact, developed a positive national reputation in the paranormal investigating community. Teams of paranormal investigators literally traveled hundreds of miles to investigate — burning the gas and paying the cash to come to my little town. Very cool!
Of the teams scheduled, only a few were based in Ohio. I contacted all three, explaining my interest and dilemma. Wanting to immediately put to rest any initial concerns they might have about my seriousness, I explained that I was a local teacher, a history buff, etc., interested in observing them conduct their investigation and helping out as best I could where and when they needed me. I further explained that as a paranormal enthusiast without any group affiliations, getting into the seminary, even here in my own backyard, was virtually impossible. Naturally, I would pay my share of the admission fee and carry my weight (their equipment) as needed.
Of the three teams I contacted, all responded in a week or less. All were sympathetic and highly professional. Two explained that they had a full roster of investigators planning on participating, but they would keep me in mind if there were any cancellations. The founder of the third team, a group based out of central Ohio and scheduled to investigate the building in about eight weeks, explained that he would be open to having an outside observer or participant come along. However, he would first need to consult with his team members before extending an invitation.
Now I was getting somewhere.
The second part of my approach to finding a team was a basic Google search of local paranormal groups. Though there were about a dozen teams in my tri-county area, all of which I reached out to, I received only one reply. Bob, the founder of the group that replied, said he was currently looking to add new members to his team, and if I'd fill out an application on the team's website, he would follow up quickly and let me know if there was a possible spot for me. Cool!
Things were falling into place. Rather than putting all my eggs into one basket, I had successfully established contact and started a meaningful dialogue with two groups: one that was already scheduled to investigate the seminary and the other ... well, I wasn't sure what their schedule was. So I filled out the online application, where again I explained my personal interests in the paranormal, provided my background details, and readily admitted to lacking any practical experience in paranormal investigating. I did this to convey my honesty, candor, and sincerity.
I think there are important lessons here for both enthusiasts and investigative teams: (1) following through on even basic research produces results; and (2) communication is fundamental to establishing and maintaining a positive image. Following through on my research got me connected with two groups, and those that didn't return my inquiries left a lasting negative impression of their professionalism.
Not long after completing the application, I heard back from Bob, who invited me on his group's next case — an investigation of a municipal cemetery. He explained that one of the city managers had asked him and his group to investigate claims from nearby residents about strange sounds and sightings at the graveyard. According to Bob, neighbors had seen things, including apparitions and shadowy figures, and often reported shrieks and screams coming from the cemetery at all hours of the night. According to his contact, when police responded to the complaints, nothing was ever found.
"Sure," I answered enthusiastically. "Sign me up!" Shortly after receiving Bob's invitation to apply, I heard from John, the founder of C-Bus Paranormal, the group scheduled to investigate Madison Seminary. Much to my delight, he too invited me to come along on their investigation. I felt like a kid a week before Christmas! Not only had I scored admission into the seminary, I'd found a local group that was beefing up its membership and actively investigating locations in my area. This result was far better than I had expected. I was totally psyched.
My excitement quickly grew as time slowly passed. I bought a cheapo fifteen dollars digital voice recorder to document these adventures and continued working on my other writing projects. As the date for the cemetery investigation neared, my trepidation also rose. Like most people, I'd been to cemeteries before and had even taken part in the funerals of dearly departed friends and family members. Of course, that was all very different; traditionally, we go to cemeteries to bury the dead and to pay our respects, not to attempt to interact with their spirits and document that interaction. The potential goings-on at a cemetery after the grounds are closed, employees leave, and the gates are locked was fodder for the imagination.
I must confess that as the investigation neared, my imagination toyed with me. All paranormal enthusiasts are familiar with the stories, claims, and — to some extent — the evidence shown on TV of shadowy figures and dark masses that move about their haunts. In my mind, however, a cemetery seemed different, particularly at night. Most of the haunted locations popular among investigators are homes or buildings. Cemeteries, solemn repositories of the deceased, struck me as being in a completely different league ... at least from a paranormal perspective. If there really was something to this paranormal stuff, wouldn't or shouldn't the final resting place of hundreds or even thousands of people be a natural (or even supernatural) nexus for paranormal phenomena? This intrigue, coupled with Bob's reporting, which I assumed was accurate, set the stage for what I was certain would be a remarkable experience.
Mentor Municipal Cemetery
The date for the cemetery investigation arrived at last. Bob had provided specific instructions on when to arrive and where to park. Ironically, pulling into a cemetery after hours had its own peculiar feel. After all, I was running on faith and nerve; I had never met Bob. Though we'd talked on the phone a couple of times before the investigation, I still had no idea who this guy was or if he and his group were legit. As I drove to the location, I kept wondering, What if I'm the only schmuck to show up? What if I'm being punked? What if the cops follow me in and pull me out of my car and start asking reasonable questions like "What the hell are you doing here at this hour of the night? Can't you read the sign; the cemetery is closed!" What if ... what if?
Thankfully, I was the second person to arrive. Now if I got busted, at least I wouldn't be going to the slammer alone. About fifteen minutes later, Bob himself arrived, and over the following thirty minutes, an assortment of twelve other people with flashlights, digital cameras, and voice recorders had gathered at the cemetery's maintenance house.
Bob was a likeable guy and quickly put our minds at rest by explaining that his relationship with the city was ironclad, producing a document (on city letterhead) that acted as a permit, authorizing the investigation. He passed out copies of the document to team leaders in case law enforcement showed up while the groups were separated. This did a lot to calm my nerves, at least about the legal ramifications of being in a municipal cemetery after hours. I have since learned that trespassing on public and private lands for the purpose of ghost hunting is more common than people might think. Though I was indeed very curious about this kind of phenomena, I certainly wasn't keen on spending a night in jail to satisfy that curiosity. At least with Bob's document, I could concentrate without distraction on the real focus of the investigation: to observe, experience, and hopefully capture evidence of paranormal activity.
It was a beautiful late summer night: clear skies, bright moon, warm temperatures, and low humidity — giving the cemetery a serenity I didn't expect. This was neither the macabre landscape my imagination seemed to want nor the cold, austere field of granite markers and tablets I'd expected. Instead, I found myself in a peaceful nocturnal environment. Well-thought-out and maintained, it was organized like a small city with a series of paved parallel roads intersected by wide gravel paths. In the 40-foot x 300-foot rectangular spaces between the paths and pavement lay the neatly manicured gravesites of the interred.
Unlike the Jewish cemeteries I was accustomed to, where wreaths and mementos are not permitted, this cemetery allowed loved ones to place arrangements, artifacts, and vigil lights — small wax candles or solar-powered lights — beside the headstones. Unfamiliar with this custom, I found the vigils really nice, comforting reminders of a lost loved one.
It was finally time to begin the investigation. We broke up into small groups with an experienced team leader in each group. I was fortunate to be partnered with Danielle, who had investigated the cemetery with Bob's group once before. Along with two other newbies, we set off down one of the roads into the cemetery. Moving away from the blazing mercury-vapor-lighted maintenance house, our eyes quickly adjusted to the silvery moonlight and ambient quiet of the summer night.
As we walked down the road toward the farther reaches of the cemetery, Danielle told us about her first experience investigating the cemetery — of hearing whispered voices, disembodied moans and screams, and shadows that seemed to dart out from behind gravestones. As a single mother to a child with serious medical issues, she mentioned her affinity to the children who were buried there. She was, in fact, leading us to the gravesite of one child: little Lisa, who had died at the age of six in the early 1980s. During the previous investigation, Danielle heard a child's laugh at Lisa's gravesite, and she wanted to pay a quick visit to see if her spirit was still around.
The experience had clearly made a profound impression on Danielle. Like a family member expertly weaving around the markers, she knew exactly where she was going and brought our small group to Lisa's final resting place — where a delicate porcelain angel held a twinkling LED light. After placing a small silk flower beside the headstone, Danielle attempted to engage the spirit of Lisa, warmly greeting her and reminding her of their last visit. Danielle introduced us as friends and began a short EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) session, gently encouraging the little girl to laugh or say hello or tell us anything she wanted to. We heard nothing, and upon review of the audio, I detected nothing.
Over the next four hours, I toured the grounds with Danielle and several other group members. Quickly overcoming the creep factor of being in the moonlit cemetery and gaining confidence, I even managed a couple of solo excursions, stopping in secluded areas and running my own EVP sessions. Overall, it was a neat, unique experience. Though there were a couple of times when we heard strange scream-like sounds, it was impossible to say whether the noises were paranormal. Since we were situated in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, the sounds could easily be attributed to cats, possums, or any of an entire cadre of natural causes.
Though the walk was a strange and memorable experience, my initial impressions were of disappointment. For all the hype and anticipation I fed into my own excitement, I found nothing of the experience to be out of the ordinary ... besides being in a graveyard in the wee hours of the morning. There was nothing that my logical mind perceived as extraordinary and certainly nothing I would deem paranormal.
That is, until I reviewed my audio.
Between all the coffee and excitement, getting to sleep that morning was no easy feat. In retrospect, I didn't appreciate how much physical and emotional energy these adventures can take out of you. Your senses are cranked to hear every little noise, feel every sensation. Then, of course, there was the walking: an "easy" five to eight miles of weaving, strolling, and wandering ... constantly looking over your shoulder because you feel like you're being followed, or taking a second look because you think you saw a shadow. It's quite draining, which is why I waited a couple of days before returning to the audio recordings I made that night. I wanted to be fully awake, refreshed, and running on all cylinders.
Excerpted from "Ghostly Encounters"
Copyright © 2015 Jeff Scott Cole and Johnathon Robson.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. A Writer's Journey: The Beginning,
Mentor Municipal Cemetery,
The Madison Seminary,
2. Technical Stuff: Keeping It Real, Keeping It Basic,
3. Getting Smart in the Deepening Dark,
"Mentor's Most Haunted",
A Windy Night in Painesville,
Crash and Burn at the Tanning Salon,
Prospect Place Manor,
Ohio State Reformatory,
4. Gizmos and Gadgets: A Cautionary Tale,
Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Meter:,
Electromagnetic (EM) Pump,
The Spirit Box,
Thermal Imaging Device,
5. Houses of Horror,
The Villisca Axe Murder House,
The Bell Nursing Home,
St. Albans Sanatorium,
Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum,