Thursday, October 4, 2012


An Evening with the Ghost Hunters at St. Albans Sanatorium

I attended my first Ghost Hunters event last weekend, March 19, at St. Alban’s Sanatorium in Radford, VA. This event was hosted by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, both are lead investigators with The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) and are currently featured on SyFy’s “Ghost Hunters” paranormal reality show. Also in attendance were John Zaffis, a renowned demonologist, and Bruce Tango, better known as the father of Dave Tango, another cast member of “Ghost Hunters”.
The evenings itinerary was a meet and greet, followed by a lecture from John Zaffis, and a Q & A session with Jason and Grant. After this we were divided into four groups to do a tour/investigation. As I crossed the bridge that takes you over the New River in Virginia, I could see the structure to my left on a hill. It was built in Victorian style and had once been regal, but was now sad and in need of repair. The main structure is over 115 years old. It was built originally to serve as a school for boys, and was used as such from 1892 until 1911. Purchased again in 1915, it was then used for a psychiatric care facility. After 1980 it was no longer used for patients and was later given to the Radford University Foundation in the early 2000′s.
A local man has plans to purchase the property in order to renovate and use the structure for a center for spiritual research and enlightenment. He had been a patient there when he was younger and from the treatment he received for Asperger’s Syndrome, he is now able to be highly functioning and live a full life. 
There were other paranormal investigative groups that were a part of this weekend-long event. Some members acted as security, and others were guides that also manned various areas inside the building.
During the meet and greet I was able to say a quick hello and shake hands with Jason, Grant, John, and Bruce, as well as purchase any memorabilia that ranged from books and DVD’s to photos and clothing. Everyone was very polite and thanking those in line for coming.
After the brief history of St. Alban’s, John Zaffis gave his prepared lecture. This was very professional and full of information on his subject of expertise – demonology. He included many excerpts from various TV shows and real-life exorcisms that he was affiliated with. The sounds from the exorcisms themselves were heart-wrenching and frightening. One that was very emotional for me was the last exorcism that was performed on Emily Rose, of movie fame. She spoke in German in a voice that didn’t seem physically possible to come from a young woman. She passed away during this last exorcism.
Mr. Zaffis took questions from the audience, then Jason and Grant were introduced. A Q & A session followed that found Jason walking up and down the aisle to take questions because the lighting didn’t allow them to see the back of the room. Many different questions were asked, including a lot pertaining to how the show works behind the scenes. Grant and Jason both told a few humorous stories about past and current cast members. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the conversation.
Next we were broken up into four groups to be taken to separate areas of the building where a host would be waiting to assist us in conducting an investigation. Some people brought a lot of investigative equipment, and others had basics or none at all.
Our first stop was with John Zaffis. He employed the use of a Ghost Box and we were all able to hear a voice say “Peter” many times, especially when asked what his name was. Some of the other words were hard for me to make out. Others claimed to hear more phrases and words.
The next stop was with Jason and Grant. There was a room to the side of this floor that had been successful in obtaining EVP’s, so I headed that way. It was carpeted and the door shut tight so there was little, if any, contamination from outside noise. They had also asked the people in our group to be quiet and mindful of others trying to gather evidence.
For me this was easily the best time of the night. I was in the room with two others, one that I was acquainted with on Twitter who was an author with a paranormal book under her belt. She had interviewed both Jason and Grant in depth and had met them on previous occasions.
Jason and Grant both popped in to see how we were doing. After a few pleasantries were exchanged, Grant decided to sit with us and chat for awhile. He was a very kind person and seemed genuinely interested in each of us. We all talked about many subjects and found him to be an easy-going, down-to-earth guy. He did eventually offer to bring us a snack and when he mentioned a Snickers bar, yours truly jumped at the offer. To show you what a generous guy he is, he gave me the remaining half of a King Size Snickers. I was very grateful for the sugar to keep me awake and for his hospitality.
Our next stop was with a local paranormal group. They displayed new equipment they had designed for the ever-expanding field. There seemed to be some activity on this floor. A room named “Jacob’s Room” was said to have a little boy entity that would react to certain people, and a staircase had reports of people having a tug on their ankles as they walked up. Some of the equipment located in different areas of this floor would alert us to possible activity throughout our stay. When we ventured to the attic, there was an oppressive feeling to the atmosphere. A bathroom on this floor had 2 suicides documented. While attempting an EVP session in this area, one person claimed to see a shadow person. The uncomfortable feeling for myself grew in intensity here. Eventually I gave in to it and left the floor. As we walked down to the floor with the equipment mentioned previously, the electronics began reacting again. Make of it what you will, but I know that this area felt differently than the others.
The last stop was in the bowling alley in the basement of the building with Bruce Tango. This was also the area where the electric shock therapy was performed. It was a dark, damp, and very cold area. Bruce offered to head an EVP session in the electric shock therapy room itself. This room was uncomfortable in general and that could be due to knowing what went on in here. About 12 people followed him and stood silently around the perimeter in the darkness. A few K2 meters were set in the floor around us, and some audio recorders. I had brought a K2 and also used it here along with a voice recorder. He explained that the previous night they were getting K2 hits if they talked about southern food. We tried it and found that as soon as people spoke their favorite southern treat, sure enough, K2′s started lighting up. Another couple experimented with asking the entity to lower the temperature and it lowered by 2 degrees in the span of 30 seconds. After they thanked it, the temperature went back up. I stayed in this room the entire time and Bruce told many entertaining stories and a few personal experiences. Being a New Jersey cop for over 20 years, hearing him tell about something that spooked him seemed more profound.
The night was a wonderful experience filled with learning and enjoyment. Since this was my first time attending, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have to say I was surprised by the amount of personal attention we all received.
I highly recommend attending one of these events if you have the opportunity.

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