When things go bump in the night, more often than not you just ignore it. You chalk it up to the house settling, the cat moving around, or even your imagination. No, that random sound is not an evil clown in my closet waiting to jump out and gut me as I sleep!
But what if it were something else? A ghost, perhaps? The unsettled spirits of a former tenant trying to get your attention? Or perhaps something a little more sinister?
The paranormal seems to be one of those taboo subjects. So many people experience unexplained phenomena, and yet rarely anyone talks about it openly. Even among my friends who have experienced mysterious activities, I have to probe and dig to get them to tell me more about it.
Afterall, when you say you believe in ghosts people will inevitably look at you like you're crazy. [And once upon a time, admitting so would get you committed. No wonder people say mums the word with such situations.]
With that established...I'll come right out and say it. You should go ahead and color me "crazy person."
I've always been open to the prospect of the paranormal and even find myself somewhat fascinated with it. Sure, I think the notion of paranormal activity is legit...but without having ever personally experienced anything...who was I to state for sure?
The CPRS didn't want me to just talk with them. They wanted me to experience their craft up close and in person. And before I could even process the implications of what I could experience and validate for myself, I suddenly found myself thrown into an actual paranormal investigation.
[Insert nerdy paranormal fangirl squeal here...with a wee amount of apprehension.]
The team was scheduled to investigate the Hiram B. Scutt Mansion in Joliet. There's a lot of history to the house, so to keep the background short and sweet, here's what you need to know:
The Hiram B. Scutt Mansion (aka "Barb Villa") was built in 1882 for Hiram Scutt and his wife. Scutt opened the first barbed wire manufacturer in Joliet and held multiple patents for barbed wire fencing. The Mansion rests on top of a hill with the Des Plaines river flowing essentially in its back yard--a fun note as paranormal activity is often found close to bodies of water. Additionally, the mansion has a foundation made of limestone, which is notorious for capturing and holding onto paranormal activity.
After the original owners had passed away, Hiram's son sold the mansion to Daniel Watson who operated a ladies boarding house on the property until the mid-70's. Then in 1977, the mansion was turned into a single residence home, where over time and multiple foreclosures it eventually landed into the Magosky family's hands.
Currently, the Magosky family is working to restore the Scutt Mansion to its former glory and open a historic museum within its walls. The mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Multiple people have passed away in the home and on the property (including the original owners, as well as a football player from the University of St. Francis). And Mr. Magosky, the current owner, said that in recent years, something has always happened to the individual who has tried to occupy the mansion--including his son who met an untimely death at 39, as he passed away from a sudden case of sepsis. Needless to say, the current owner does not live on-site.
I've been wrestling for over a week with how to go about sharing my experiences with you. So rather than do any creative editing, I've decided just to lay it all out on the table and let you draw your own conclusions from my night at the Scutt Mansion. The experiences I'll share with you here are just that...my experiences. I don't necessarily expect you to believe everything that happened to me that night (though my detailed account is the whole truth and nothing but the truth, cross my big ole awesome heart). And I understand there's an inherent level of skepticism when you listen to someone's paranormal tales...and I'm okay with that.
If I were reading an online account of someone's night in an actual haunted house, I'd read everything with a grain of salt, too.
But let's just say if I didn't already believe in the possibility of the paranormal, I would have left Scutt Mansion totally convinced.
Read all about it after the jump...and check out the slide show with photos from the mansion along with the tools used for investigating the paranormal.
Before the investigation began, the Chicago Paranormal Research Society separated everyone into four smaller teams. My group, led by CPRS investigator Jen, included myself, Marty, John, Joy and Karina (and I think I got the names squared away...I'm honestly terrible with remembering names). We were slated to begin our investigation on the second floor, and we would rotate with the other groups every hour. I'm breaking everything down floor by floor...so here we go...
The Second Floor.
Of the four possible rooms on the second floor, we started our evening in the Gentleman's Bedroom as that was the location where several members of our group were extremely drawn to. Upon entering the small bedroom, we did a sweep with the K2 meter (EMF detector) and laser thermometer to gather base readings. Nothing was picked up in regards to EMF and we had a baseline of 65-66 degrees consistently in all areas of the room.
We quickly settled in and began EVP work with the K2 meter held into an open space. And with our first series of questions like "Is there anyone here with us?" and "Did you live in this house?" the K2 meter lit up with activity, acknowledging the fact that there was a presence among us and it seemed eager to interact with our group. After a series of questions, the K2 calmed to a lull and we began to hear soft knocks coming from a trunk in the corner behind Joy and I (surely not a sign of an evil killer clown, right?!).
Then almost instantly, both of us had chills running down our spine...the kind of chills that cause the hair on the back of your neck and arms to stand up on edge--a cold spot was surrounding us. My back had seemingly become freezing to the touch. Something was happening. And it was happening to me.
[And internally...I was freaking out juuuuust a little bit.]
Karina quickly pointed the laser thermometer in the space behind me to take another reading...
...it had dropped to 61 degrees.
We checked everywhere for a draft or air vent and found no reasonable explanation for the phantom cold spot.
With Jen's encouragement, she invited me to talk with the spirit and ask the entity to continue to drop the temperature.
Can you please let us know you're here by making it colder?
Can you get it below 55 degrees?
Can you make it a little bit colder?
...and we hovered here for a little bit. With some additional probing...we were able to clock a low temperature of 53.6 in the space behind me that continuously sent chills up my spine.
In a span of less than 10 minutes, we had a temperature drop of 12-13 degrees--and a drop of that significance is believed to be from spirit activity.
After we wrapped up our EVP session in the Gentleman's bedroom, with me being slightly spooked, our team moved into the library. The side of the room with Jen (the CPRS leader) reported hearing a women say "Hello" within the first few minutes of us being there. Not even five minutes later my side of the room heard a very obvious women's sigh that was not attributed to anyone in our group. In this area we also heard an unexplained knocking as well as a what sounded like a soft instrument playing.
Before it was time to rotate floors, our team returned to the Gentleman's Bedroom for another temperature reading of the area that had dropped on command.
...it had returned to our original baseline temperature of 65 degrees.
The Third Floor.
The third floor consists of two rooms--the Doll Room and the Chapel Room--both aptly named for their decor. The Doll Room is filled with more than a hundred dolls and antiqued marionettes, and at least a dozen doll houses, some dating back to the 1820's. And it's easily creepier than anything you're imagining right now.
The very nature of the doll room leads you to believe you're being watched. I simply attributed this to be the hundred doll eyes piercing at my from every angle. [shudder.] While we were unable to capture anything on film, two members of our group reported seeing a small dark shadow dart from the corner of their eye.
Mind playing tricks on them? Possibly. Hard to say as this didn't happen to me.
The one alarming experience I had in the Doll Room involved our group leader playing a game where she rolled her flashlight back and forth to the group members and we'd roll it back to her, inviting the spirit to come play with us. At one point, she rolled the flashlight my direction and we let it stop short about halfway between us. Jen informed the spirit that she was going to leave her flashlight there and that she hoped she would roll it back to one of us before the night was through. I lined my pen up about a half an inch from the flashlight so we could easily detect if it rolled one direction or the other.
...and with that, we all left the Doll Room and headed into the Chapel Room. [Note, I was the last to leave the doll room and walked nowhere near the flashlight upon leaving, and the first to return to the area, and no one was around me. If you're smart you can probably tell where this is going...]
CPRS team leaders named the open space on the other side of the Doll Room the Chapel Room for its cathedral-esque ceiling and towering dramatic organ that took up an entire wall.
My group quickly went in and we all agreed that this area felt like idle dead space. We all just felt like we needed to be back in the Doll Room.
And so we returned. I was the first one back into the Doll Room and quickly returned to my previous spot...and again to reiterate, no one else came near my area.
Our EVP work in this room continued and at one point, I looked back at the flashlight and my pen. Clearly, the flashlight hadn't rolled. However something definitely was not right. I went back and looked at the photo I took just before we went to into the Chapel Room...and noticed the gap between the two items.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the flashlight and the pen were now butted up against each other, as if they were kissing.
No, the floor was not on an angle. No, nobody else had come anywhere near this area of the floor. No, there was nobody outside of our group on the floor when this happened. And no, we unfortunately did not have a video camera monitoring the area while we were out of the room.
I have absolutely no explanation for how it moved. All I know is that an object that had no reason to move...moved. And moved in an unnatural fashion (pushed together versus rolling).
[And so, my internal excited freakout continues. This night was slowly getting cooler and cooler. And all this changed when it was time to move to the basement...because as we all know, basements are notoriously scary places.]
Of all the rooms, the basement was arguably the area with the least amount of activity for our group as a whole. And for me personally, it was the area of the house that made me incredibly uneasy. In the Scutt Mansion's former glory, the basement housed the kitchen, dining area, servant's entrance and living quarters. Currently, the kitchen and dining area has been converted into a bar, but the servant's quarters remains the same, complete with the original animal-skin throw.
When we first get situated in the old dining and kitchen area, John and I hear a very bizarre low-lying growl on more than one occasion coming from the space in between us by the fireplace. Could it have been an animal outside? Possibly. Something more sinister? Your guess is as good as mine. But all I know is it made me extremely uneasy.
After a little bit, some group members moved into the servant's quarters, but my instinct wanted absolutely nothing to do with that room. Point blank, it creeped me out, so I elected to stay in the bar area. After some reservation, Jen encourages me to stand behind the bar to see if I experience anything.
Almost immediately, I become even more uncomfortable than I already was. I felt like someone (or something?) was staring at my from the open pantry to the left of the bar. And seemingly from out of nowhere, I begin to feel like I'm going to have panic attack. As an endurance athlete, I'm very much in tune with my heart rate. I have a reasonably low resting heart rate as it is, but when I was standing behind the bar area I honestly felt as if my heart was going to beat right out of my chest.
I stayed behind the bar area as long as I could tolerate it, sweaty hands and all, and finally surrendered back to the old dining side when I really felt like I needed to sit back down.
Thankfully, I was able to escape the basement area shortly thereafter, and as soon as I was walking up the stairs, the heaviness that I felt was lifted.
Oh sweet, sweet relief.
The First Floor.
Finally, our last stop on the investigation was the first floor. Our group got situated in the double parlor area by the piano. Jen had strategically placed Marty and John in specific locations in the room. I sat on the couch opposite of the grand piano, which was the same spot
that an earlier group had a dark anomaly show up in one of their photos [you can see the photo included in the slideshow].
In the corner above the piano I continue to see a glowing light come in and out of focus against the curtain, but with a bit of investigation, we're able to debunk it as there was a motion sensor light from a neighbors house that was being set off from branches blowing in the wind.
Then, about 20 minutes into our investigation of the parlor room, Marty lets everyone know that he was just touched on his back. He reported that it felt like he had backed into a coat rack or something tall, but there was absolutely nothing around him when it happened. For me personally, this room was a bust. Though knowing a fellow investigator had been touched was very exciting, making me a tiny bit jealous.
By the time we wrapped up, it was close to 4am and I was one exhausted bird with a long drive home....
But little did I know the work had really just begun. You see, once you wrap up from an investigation, you then have HOURS and HOURS and HOURS of footage to go through with a fine tooth comb. And right now, the CPRS team is still hard at work scouring through the DVR footage from the night and listening to the EVP sessions to draw additional evidence to add to everyone's personal experiences. As EVPs and video footage becomes available, I'll be sure to share them here.
Experiencing a paranormal investigation first hand was truly an awesome experience, and I have plans to join them again in the near future along with my other half. If you're interested in experiencing a CPRS investigation, you're in luck. The CPRS team runs a meetup group which invites paranormal enthusiasts and those who are simply curious to come learn more about ghost hunting and try their hand on various techniques like EVPs and dowsing rods.
All in all, I have to say the night was truly a success...at least it was for me. We experienced disembodied voices. Temperature drops. K2 meter hits. Unexplained objects moving. Knocks. Touchy-feely spirits. I mean...what else could you ask for?
So perhaps next time I'm trying to fall asleep and hear a bump in the night, I'll jump out of bed with my digital recorder and conduct my own investigation...rather than curl up under the covers and try to ignore that evil clown lurking in my closet.