It’s a balmy mid-August morning as we pack up our equipment and bid our host’s farewell. The sun is just starting to peek over the horizon while we load the hard cases and cameras into the backs of our waiting SUV. Per our closing tradition we say a short prayer, dab a spot of holy water on each head, and formally uninvite any entities that may wish to tag along home. We’ve just wrapped our third investigation as a team and quite frankly the most terrifying experience of my life.
48 hours prior
We’ve done a second equipment check and packed the trunks. A quick stop for coffee and donuts and we were on the highway heading north towards our destination; New Castle Pennsylvania. The trunks were loaded down with hard cases and back packs full of audio recorders, infrared cameras, camcorders, EVP and EMF readers, multiple spare batteries for each and every device and of course, each of us had a small vial of holy water hidden in our gear bags. Everything was fully charged and all devices switched to the appropriate setting of ‘off’.
We made the five-hour drive in record time and got to the hotel a few hours before our scheduled check in. We do this often; we like to arrive early. This gives us time to get a feel for the town we’re staying in- find the closest Starbucks, best looking breakfast joint, best-priced gas station for re-fueling- and an opportunity to map out our route prior to investigation time. We park at the hotel and pile into our co-founders Jeep.
Krystal sets the GPS and we head off to find the place that sparked our trip. It’s a twenty-minute drive from the hotel; it takes us 40. There is no traffic, we don’t stop to eat or re-fuel, but the GPS has glitched and though we re-set the route it takes us the same way three times. Three trips around a counter clockwise off ramp and back. We are, of course, laughing and poking fun at Krystal- though we are all aware she’s just following the directions given. Once we’ve made it past the off-ramp, we find the building in no time; a quick drive by, grab a bite to eat and it’s back to the hotel to unpack and triple check the gear.
Rusty and I load a cart full of bags and equipment, Krystal and Abriana do the same, and we’re off to our respective rooms. We’ll regroup tomorrow night for dinner before the investigation but until then it is rest, relax, and check equipment again. In our room, Rusty and I unpack everything carefully- laying it out to cover every flat surface and even parts of the floor. Oddly enough we find that almost everything is dead or close to! The K-2 meters; our go to EMF devices, are the only things that don’t seem to be affected by this strange battery drain. Even more strange is that the spare batteries, all of which were charged before being packed, are also low on juice. We find that Krystal has experienced the same; low batteries across the board. We laugh it off, say things like ‘They must have known we were coming’ and set everything up to charge again.
The last thing I check from my set of equipment is the holy water. Now, I don’t believe 100% that in my hands a small vial of blessed liquid is very powerful; I don’t believe my faith to be unwavering or strong enough to ward off evil, but I do believe that it carries some protection. So, I carry it on investigations as a type of comfort item. The vials we possess are beautiful; short squared bottles made of thick clear glass, adorned with silver carved cameos of St. Bernadette. I had them shipped in from Lourdes and gave them to my comrades as a pre-investigation gift before our first ‘hunt’ as an official team.
Mine has its own designated place in my hard case. Surrounded on all sides by 2 inches of thick black foam it is protected from any type of damage typically encountered on a trip. Which is why it was so surprising when I opened the case and found the vial empty. And shattered. There among the foam were small shards of glistening glass, but even upon removing the foam from the case, not a single drop of liquid was found. ‘Odd’ we say. And again, ‘they must have known we were coming’.
12 hours prior.
‘You have arrived at your destination’ the GPS chirps as we circle into the driveway of a building that in the twilight seems far more imposing than the day before. Three wings, four floors, spreading out before us like arms waiting to pull us in. ‘We’ve got a lot of ground to cover and not much time to do it guys; let’s get a move on’ Rusty orders; in spite of us already being in the process of unloading our gear.
We had 12 hours to set up, tour, investigate and gather evidence. All equipment was checked and ready to roll before we left the hotel. All we had to do is turn them on and hit record. 12 hours, 80,000 square feet, 4 people. No problem.
We were met at the doors by our hosts; all masked up and waiting for us. We introduced ourselves as we were led to the staging room where we dropped our gear and prepared for the tour. The only gear that accompanied us on our first walk through the wings was an EMF reader with an audible alarm that I keep in my back pocket on all tours. This will let us know if there is a pre-existing point of electro/magnetic activity such as exposed or faulty wires, radio waves, or even radiation. On this particular tour we were only alerted to one such area; a corner on the 3rd floor where the alarm went off and then quickly faded. Though we were unable to pinpoint where the EMF was coming from, we still noted the location. This way, if we came back to this spot later and had similar results, we wouldn’t contribute it to activity.
The tour took a little over an hour during which Krystal and I made note of certain areas that carried… heavier feelings. Another half an hour to strap on our gear (go-pros, camcorder rigs, and syncing up the voice recording watches that Krystal and Abriana had worn) check battery levels; which had surprisingly, drained again. We loaded a gear bag with the spares and set on our way to explore the dark hallways. The sun had set and outside of the lower-level entrance rooms there was no electricity. Our path was lit with flashlights and infrared beams.
Starting on the lower level we began going room to room, getting a generalized feel for each before moving on. Now and again, we would stop to ask a few questions to the empty rooms. One side of the main building to the other until we came to the exit door at the east end of the building. It was then we realized we had skipped the lower level of the west wing and resolved to return to that location before nights end. We wouldn’t make it back there. We took the exit door and made our way to the bunker hidden in the empty field behind the building.
This field is rumored to be the final resting place of hundreds of souls lost in the days that Hill View Manor was operated as a poor-house and later a home for the ailing and elderly. The bunker was now empty save a shopping cart and a single chair. Pitch black inside with only the moon and stars to cast light upon us as we entered. We introduced ourselves to the empty metal rooms and asked our usual introductory questions. ‘Is there anyone here who would like to speak with us?’, ‘What is your name?’, ‘Why are you still here?’, ‘Is there something we can do to help you?’. More often than not our questions go unanswered. But tonight, we earned a name. Arthur Snead. No amount of pleading would garner us another response. We moved on.
Back inside we ascended to the second floor. And though Krystal and I wanted to start in the east wing, we turned towards the west and stopped at the entrance of a small hallway leading to a pair of rooms where something truly diabolical was rumored to have taken place. The rape and murder of a young nurse by a particularly deranged resident of the facility. I had felt the thick darkness surrounding that hallway on our tour, before our guides relayed the tale of the poor departed woman. Standing there now, our recorders in hand we looked at each other. I could see in her eyes she didn’t want to walk down that corridor, but we had come here for the purpose of proving the existence of ‘nearly’ departed souls.
Again, we begin with an introduction and our usual questions. No response. Before moving to the next location, I feel called to speak openly to the air around us. ‘I don’t know if you are here, but if so, I want to tell you I am so sorry for what happened to you. No one deserves what was done to you.’ We exit the room and suddenly the hair on the back of my neck is standing on end- a quick chill darts down my spine and at the exact moment Krystal turns and locks eyes with me. I nod. She felt it too. Later, upon EVP review, a laugh is heard in our recordings. We move on.
Room after room this goes. Until we are at the end of the west wing hall. We decide this is a good location to set up for a more at length discussion with the potential spirits we are seeking to communicate with. The cameras are stationed and we pull up our chairs and begin again with our questions.
This time we’ve set up the spirit box; a device that rapidly shuffles AM/FM stations (in our case backwards) to allow spirits the ability to project through its speakers. At first, we are met with only a few short whistles but once we begin to speak, we almost immediately hear the voice of a child responding and delve into more personal questions.
‘Jeffrey is that you?’, Rusty asks, referencing the story of a young, baseball loving boy who lived and died in the wing.
‘Hi!’, the clear response echoes from the spirit box.
‘Was that you that whistled?’… no response…. ‘Do you like whistling?’…. nothing. ‘You like to whistle at the ladies, don’t you?’ We take turns asking.
‘WOOOPPT, WOOOPT, WOOOPT’ a series of three short whistles sounds; one for each lady in the group I assume.
‘What happened to you?’… silence.
We repeat… more silence and then a new voice. A deep, clearly male tone erupts from the speakers.
We ask who is speaking now. No answer; instead, we are met with the sound of heavy footsteps overhead, coming from the third floor. They sound above the room we sit outside of, and slowly move directly overhead.
‘We can hear you there, come talk to us’ we plead.
The voice drifts in and out, offering no reasonable responses to our next questions. Suddenly a ball rolls slowly across the other end of the hall… this annoys me, which is odd because normally I would be elated at the contact, but I am annoyed… and emboldened. Usually, I am the last to toe the line between respectful questioning and provocation of the dead, but it feels as if this entity has scared away the child we were conversing with just to toy with us.
I get more direct- ‘You know, we’ve heard a lot of stories about this place. About you. About how you like to scare people; to make noise and talk and let them know you’re here. But so far I’m unimpressed’.
The air around us is immediately filled with the same male voice yelling a single word…
Krystal and I just look at each other and smile as I tell the entity that it’s not nice to call a lady that.
‘Yes, it is’. The response the response comes through the speakers.
‘No’ Krystal laughs, ‘it’s not’.
It seems our line of questioning has offended our resident and our communication is cut. No more responses are given. We continue trying for a few minutes before deciding to move to the next spot; we will revisit this area later. As we gather our things the footsteps return, this time RUNNING from the pitch-black end of the hall directly towards us and ending with a thundering BANG from inside the room beside us.
We, of course, check the room for whatever caused the racket but find it disturbingly empty. There is no furniture, no stones or bits of crumbled drywall, just nothingness. Absolutely nothing that could have fallen or been knocked over or thrown against a wall or window. Complete and utter nothingness.
We move to the third level… nothing to really report, other than the realization that the third floor only exists in the central wing. We considered that maybe one of the caretakers had run down the third-floor hallway above us, only now we know, there is no hallway to run down over the east or west wings and the footsteps we heard truly had no origin.
We are unloading the majority of our equipment; the batteries and spares burned through in record time. Taking only our EVP and infrared camera with us to the basement. Abriana decides to take a break at this point- a heaviness on the third floor has sapped a bit of her energy. Before we depart, she and Krystal make sure their EVP watches are in sync and tell her we’ll be back in half an hour.
Down the stairwell we go, setting the camera up in a position where it can monitor all movement from any of the several doors we’ll be passing through. We spend around 15 minutes asking questions and trying to lure the janitors’ ghost from his place of hiding. Nothing. Time to call it. We leave the camera set up and will return for it before the end of our investigation. A disappointing end to the basement.
Back upstairs we are met with an upset team member. As soon as we reach the staging room, she tells us she was about to ask one of the caretakers (who have both been in their office across the hall since we left) to help her come look for us. We laugh and ask what happened and she tells us we’ve been gone for over an hour…
We check the clock on the wall- an hour and 15 minutes have passed. We check all devices; and all of them had stopped recording at ~15 minutes. The EVP watches are no longer in sync; Abriana’s is roughly 45 minutes later than Krystal’s. I check my phone; still on airplane mode as to not interfere with the EMF readers…45 minutes later than the gear. We’d lost almost an entire hour of time!? I slip my phone back into my back pocket. At the end of the night, we find that even the infrared camera had stopped recording at ~15 minutes in spite of still having plenty of battery life stored.
We have little more than an hour left before our investigation comes to a close and decide to ask the caretakers for some assistance; they have a repour with the building, and with the entities that reside within. They are happy to take us on another trip- to the chapel, where we spent the least amount of time previously. While we arrange our gear we ask if anyone has reported lost time in the building and are told that several teams have reported the same phenomenon- always in the basement, and that we are lucky it was only an hour as some have reported as many as four hours being lost. Time-slips are fairly normal here and no, we haven’t lost our collective minds.
In the chapel we take our time listening to the caretakers’ questions, waiting on responses we won’t receive. Other than a door opening behind us we note no activity. Back up we go to pack up and end the night. But the building has other plans.
All gear is loaded, bags are packed, and we are just hanging out swapping stories with our hosts; they enjoy our interactions with the second story ‘creeper’ as they’ve nicknamed the entity with a penchant for name-calling and naughty words. I joke that I would have liked more time with him before we thank them and start to head towards the exit. I reach to change my phone over to active status and am surprised to find it missing from my pocket.
Shit. I unpack my bags and gear cases and find nothing. Looks like we are heading back to the chapel; taking the same route as before to be sure it hadn’t fallen on the stairwell or in a hallway. We take only our flashlights. The investigation is over; this is just a simple search and rescue mission! We scour the lower levels; nothing. Check the staging room and gear bags again; nothing.
In spite of knowing there is no way it could be on the second floor I let Rusty convince me to check there just in case. Krystal agrees to come along, though reluctantly as we both dread crossing the intersection where the nurse met her reported demise. We trudge slowly up the stairs and round the corner where we two pause while Rusty walks ahead; the heaviness of that area does not seem to impact him the same way. He is about 15 feet ahead of us when we start to step, in sync in the same direction. At the intersection we stop and shine our lights down the small hall to the left; nothing. We turn to the right and move our beams to the far wall. At the far end of the dark hallway, climbing quickly up the wall, lit by nothing but the beams of our flashlights was a… shadow figure? No, that doesn’t fit. A ghost? Still not right. I cannot justly describe the thing which we have seen; but I will try.
I see it. So does she. A thick, black mass of tendrils and ooze. A symbiote type creature darker than a moonless night sky. It lifted itself out of the floor before slithering up the wall. Looking at this creature even for a moment was like staring into the deepest abyss, in that moment it was as if all hope and light and good had been sucked out of the world and replaced with deep, longing, lonely, hopelessness. It was as if a mass of decaying human entrails had been brought to life just to digest every sliver of joy in the world. Time had ended and we were frozen there, waiting to be devoured. Just as quickly as it appeared it as gone, slipping into the ceiling and disappearing from sight. It was only then that we had been able to draw breath, to scream, to run.
We say nothing to each other as a synchronous scream of terror erupts from deep within us both and for a moment, I believe we become one person with a singular goal; escape. I grab onto her and she onto me and we RUN towards Rusty as he asks what’s happened and why we scared the life out of him by screaming. I say nothing but look to her. She does the same. And simultaneously we blurt out what we have seen. He of course tries to find evidence of this… being. He wanders down the hallway that Krystal and I now refuse to enter and notes sounds of scratching behind the wall, which stops and is replaced with running footsteps towards him. Another loud crash echoes through the halls from the same room as before. We continue our search.
My phone is not on the second, or third floor, and we decide to call it a loss- the caretakers will eventually find it and can ship it back. I want to leave this place as quickly as possible. Krystal agrees. And so, we go. Back to our bags; as I open my gear case to replace my flashlight my phone tumbles from behind the thick foam encasing the gear. We all laugh nervously as I put it back in my pocket. We bid our hosts goodbye again and walk out the door without a glance backwards.
A short prayer. A drop of holy water. A polite request that any tag-alongs please remain here where they belong. The investigation is over.
It took me several weeks to even consider beginning evidence review- my stomach turned at the thought of seeing ‘the creeper’ skulking in the shadows behind us. Of course, there is no sign of him in the footage. Even now, 18 months later, my body breaks out in goosebumps and a shiver shoots up my spine whenever I think about him. I believe now that the entity we saw that night was in fact of demonic origin; nothing else could possibly feel so…. Evil.
We’re booking another investigation at Hill View Manor later this year; with a little luck maybe I’ll be able to prove this story to you.