Two Nights in St. Albans Sanatorium (part 2)
Pee Dee Region Paranormal Group's investigation of St. Albans Sanatorium began as soon as the dark settled in on Friday evening, May 4, 2018. None of us knew what to expect, but we were excited to get started and see what the place had in store for us.
We commenced investigating down in the boiler room, where the man who liked to smoke, listen to Johnny Cash and get touchy-feely with women was said to reside. As I mentioned in my last entry, a collection of cigarettes laid atop the boiler as peace offerings from previous visitors (I did not happen to notice if the smokers in our group contributed to this).
So, like in most PDRPG investigations, we started with an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) session using the Rob Box to get things going. For those unfamiliar, the Rob Box is a bluetooth speaker modified by our co-founder Rob Humphries and connected to a special mobile app, which generates a series of recorded voices played backwards. Ghosts can manipulate the audio feed by forming words and phrases that we can understand, but for the best results we record these sessions with a digital audio recorder and play them back later. This often produces incredible results, including direct responses that we did not hear during the live session. At first I was a bit skeptical of the Rob Box, as it does utilize mobile technology which can easily pick up data from other signals nearby. But the app was created by one of the biggest names in the paranormal tech field (Steve Huff), and we run it from a tablet with no active internet connection. So the chance of audio contamination or other interference is very slim.
This particular EVP session started out fairly quiet, then the activity slowly started to build up. First, we heard a voice from the Rob Box say what sounded like "we serve many", which would continue to come up throughout the investigation. Then our team sensitive, Jenny, noted that the energy in the room was beginning to affect her. I asked if she needed to step out of the room but she indicated she was OK to continue. Finally, Pops asked if it was getting cold in there, and I agreed it felt noticeably colder. This was odd considering there were seven of us moving around in a fairly small room with little air flow. It was about this time that the voices from the Rob Box began to get louder and more frequent. After a few minutes of this, the heightened energy became too much for Jenny to handle, so she decided to step away to recompose herself. Being the gentleman I am, I accompanied her down the dark corridor back to the bowling alley, but she was still feeling overwhelmed so I escorted her outside the building to recuperate. This is just one of the realities of being a sensitive that Jenny is still adjusting to as she continues to hone her abilities.
Later, I returned to the bowling alley with Stephanie while Andy investigated the boiler room next door on his own. I decided to start by conducting an EVP session at the far end of the lanes with my tape recorder and a digital recorder running simultaneously, while Stephanie sat at the other end. Where I was sitting, it was completely dead quiet, so much so that even the most mundane sound stood out to me. This was something I don't think I'd had the opportunity to experience yet on previous investigations. Unfortunately, I placed the tape recorder too far away from me to pick up even my own voice very well, but something stood out when I played back the digital recorder. When I asked if anyone was there who wanted to speak to us, there was a very soft-spoken, multi-syllable response, but neither I nor Stephanie could make out what it said. Rob and Brian confirmed later that something was there, but they couldn't understand it, either. I will provide an update if we can decipher this EVP after further evidence review.
Next, we tried the flashlight method to communicate with any entities present, but with mixed results. This is when the flashlights are adjusted in such a way that the slightest touch or movement will make them turn on. In this case we happened to have two identical Maglites, which was helpful for asking yes or no questions (i.e. left one for yes, right one for no). At first only the left one would turn on/off, but not consistently enough to say it was paranormal. Eventually the right one began to light up, as well, but again it wasn't as responsive to our questions as we hoped. One theory that could debunk this method says that the coils in the flashlights eventually heat up once they are set this way, then they continuously cool down and heat up again, producing the self-lighting effect. This would coincide with the results we got on this particular occasion, but that doesn't disprove the method altogether, as ghosts can still manipulate the lights if they really want to. However we didn't get any spikes with the EMF (electromagnetic field) detector during this process either, so it was time to move on. By then the bowling alley was getting extremely cold anyway, with temperature readings in the mid-forties, which we weren't dressed for. This room was already known for being much colder than any other, though, so the drop was more likely due to it getting darker and cooler outside rather than anything paranormal.
Eventually the team regathered and we all proceeded to the Grand Staircase at the front of the building, where Rob and Brian began another EVP session with the Rob Box. One of the first questions Brian asked was, "Are you the one who serves many?" as a follow up to the boiler room session. This was immediately followed by a voice that said "We serve many" just like before, and it wasn't the last time we would hear this phrase. After a short period of asking questions we decided to pause the session and listen back to the digital recorder for anything we couldn't hear initially. One EVP we captured sounded like it said "Hello Scott", so Rob played it back to be sure, and that's exactly what we heard. As you can imagine, my response was shock and disbelief. Who, or what, that haunted this godforsaken place wanted to communicate with me, and why? This question weighed on my mind as we continued to hear my name spoken a few more times, but the context was unclear. It wasn't until later that night when I spoke to my wife Megan that my mind was put at ease, when she reminded me of something a psychic/medium friend of ours told me a few years back. During a group reading, this friend picked up on my late Grandpa Tomestic, and said that he watches over me every day. So perhaps it was his spirit coming through to let me know he was there to protect me, or maybe the conditions were just right for him to get a message across. This thought allowed me to get some much-needed sleep after a long and fruitful night of investigating.
I didn't get to sleep for very long, however, as the team jumped right back into investigation mode first thing the next morning. Once again we ventured off in search of paranormal activity, this time going to a section of the building that was sealed off for many years. Dean (St. Albans volunteer) pointed out the stairway to this area during our tour the day before, but did not take us down there. Apparently it was concealed so well that he and the other volunteers didn't even know it was there for quite some time. Why it was sealed off remains a mystery, but this piqued our curiosity enough that we couldn't miss the chance to investigate it. The area wasn't so different from the wards found on the floors above, with chipping paint throughout and broken bath fixtures. Shortly after we got down there, though, Jenny realized she had left her phone in her car and went back up to go get it. This took some time, as there were only so many doors we could use to get in or out of the building due to security reasons. The door at the top of the stairs leading to this area was not one of them. But at one point we heard what sounded like someone coming down the stairs from the second floor and then trying to open that door, so we checked to see if it was Jenny but no one was there. A few minutes later Jenny returned with her phone and verified she had not been back through since she left.
After lunch we decided to split up into teams to cover more ground. I was eager to investigate Jacob's room and Donald's room, so I headed up there with Andy and Stephanie. We checked out Jacob's room first and tried to interact with him using the toys around the room. This didn't seem to yield any results, but I did notice that the floor was very uneven, as rolling a ball in any direction did not follow a straight path. Perhaps that is what people experience in this room when they claim to be playing with Jacob? We also did an EVP session with a digital recorder, but nothing stood out on the first playback, so maybe Jacob wasn't in the mood to play with us yet.
We proceeded across the hall to Donald's room and I first did an EMF sweep of the room. Readings spiked between .7 and .9 by the chair in the corner, which suggested a presence could have been there at the time. We followed this with an EVP session and I was quick to point out that we did not mean any harm but simply wanted to learn more about whoever was there with us. Before we got the chance to listen to the recording, though, we got called back to the conference room to regroup. It wasn't until later that I discovered the best place to capture evidence in Donald's room was in the closet, which we did not focus on this time around.
The second night of investigating St. Albans Sanatorium began with a thunderstorm, and the threat of more to come, which helped set the tone for the evening. Rob and Brian decided to head down to the bowling alley again with Andy while they waited for the rest of us to get ready. I said I would join them in a few minutes as I was on the phone with my wife at the time. Before I could end my call, however, the three of them came back up and asked if I had gone down to find them yet. I had not, nor had anyone else, but they claimed to have heard footsteps coming down the stairs toward their location and assumed it was me. They even tried calling me on the walkie-talkie to verify my position, but for some reason the channel on my radio had changed from 1 to 8 without my knowledge, so I couldn't hear them. While an interesting coincidence, I most likely just leaned against something that pushed the channel button enough to change it. Nevertheless, I wished I had been down there to hear what they heard.
Once everyone was ready to go, we all returned to the Grand Staircase in another attempt to catch the elusive "Goatman" who is said to appear in "Peekaboo Hallway" nearby. As I just realized I have not yet made reference to either one of these, some additional context is needed.
First of all, the Goatman is a tall, shadowy figure who reportedly has long horns and legs that bend backwards like those of a goat. Peekaboo Hallway, on the other hand, is a long, dark hallway at the other end of the room behind the Grand Staircase. Its nickname was derived from reports of shadows peering down the hall and then immediately out of sight, as if playing a game of peekaboo.
Rob, Brian and Pops all claim to have seen the Goatman on previous visits to St. Albans, and even have photographic evidence to back up their claims. Unfortunately, I don't have this evidence to present at this time. I do however have an image of Peekaboo Hallway taken on this investigation that some believe shows the makings of a face with glowing eyes above the doorway. Goatman, or just a blurry image? You be the judge.
This was the point in the investigation when the activity really started to ramp up. We wanted to try a new tactic this time, which Dean had suggested to us, as he also happens to be a paranormal investigator. He said that he always wanted to play Pink Floyd's The Wall during an investigation of St. Albans, in an attempt to stir up activity, as the lyrics could be very relatable to the ghosts who remain there. Of course, Pink Floyd being my all-time favorite band, I already had the whole album on my phone. So I connected to the Rob Box and played a few selections from the Wall, loud enough for the whole building to hear. While the music was playing, several of us walked around and took as many pictures as we could. Then we switched over to an EVP session and continued to take pictures of the doorway to Peekaboo Hallway, which is when I believe the circled image above was captured. Rob and Brian decided to go down to the hallway to investigate further and immediately felt threatened, like something was about to attack them. EMF readings by the doorway spiked around 1.2, which is very high considering there are no active electrical components in that part of the building. I don't recall hearing any EVPs during this session that were particularly remarkable, though we did hear "we serve many" a few more times. Things slowly seemed to settle down and the air around us felt lighter, so we decided to move to another location.
The team split up this time, with Rob, Brian and Andy taking Donald's room, while the rest of us went back to Jacob's room. This seemed like a good opportunity for Pops to call his grandson, Gavan, who wanted to be included in the investigation. We hoped that Jacob would be more willing to speak to someone close to his age, so Pops started an EVP session and instructed Gavan to ask questions via video chat. His first question was, "How old are you?" and a child's voice could be heard in response, which Pops interpreted as "Thirteen". Other questions ranged from, "Do you like it here?" to "What kind of sports do you play?" and the child's voice continued to respond, but the answers were difficult to understand. Then something changed, and the voice responding to Gavan's questions suddenly became deep and gravelly, like Jacob wasn't with us anymore but someone else was responding instead. That was when Brian entered the room, asking us all to meet him and Rob outside. So we wrapped up the EVP session and proceeded back down the Grand Staircase and out the front door. That was when Rob told us they had been attacked by something while walking down the stairs. Rob felt the staircase shake like something was trying to force them down, while Brian felt a grip on the back of his neck like he was being choked. Mind you, Brian is a veteran and a pretty tough guy, but I could tell he was visibly shaken by this incident.
After what they had just experienced, it was clear Rob and Brian were being targeted by an entity of some kind. As a precaution, they advised Pops to lead Jenny and Stephanie around the outside of the building and back to the conference room, AKA base camp. Meanwhile, Andy and I would accompany Rob and Brian back to base camp through the inside, in another attempt to draw out the entity. We walked through Peekaboo Hallway, back to the King Center and down the stairs to the lower level without incident. Then, just as we reached the big door to the common area, Rob grabbed his neck in pain and said he felt like he'd been scratched. Sure enough, there was a distinct mark on his neck that appeared to be some kind of scratch. Was this the work of the same entity that attacked him and Brian on the Grand Staircase? The timing suggests it could have been a warning not to come back.
We all met up in the conference room to discuss the series of events that just transpired, and out of an abundance of caution it was decided that we would not go back in to investigate any further. I was ready and waiting to get right back to it, but Rob and Brian did not feel comfortable letting any of the less experienced investigators go in without them under the circumstances. I was a little disappointed by this decision, but I understood their reasons. Since it wasn't too late, though, we ended up investigating the outside of the building instead as we had not yet done so. This didn't seem to yield any results, but it was a good opportunity to get more exterior pictures, and it helped to cap off what had been an incredible weekend.
The next morning, we packed up our gear and drove off in the rain, leaving St. Albans Sanatorium and all its ghostly glory behind us. Overall it was a truly memorable investigation that I don't think any of us will soon forget.