Ghost Lab delved into decapitation, treason, and mental illness while investigating Hill View Manor of Newcastle, Pennsylvania and the Old Niagara Fort in Youngstown, New York.
Hill View Manor started life as the Lawrence County Home. It opened its doors in 1926 as a place to house and care for the helpless, poor, and both physically and mentally ill. In 1976 it was renamed Hill View Manor and converted into a nursing home that included a major expansion of the premises. It served as a nursing home until it closed its doors in January of 2004.
Past reports of paranormal activity have run the gamut from shadow figures, apparitions, footsteps, and disembodied voices to doors slamming themselves shut.
Gary, a local paranormal investigator showed brothers Brad and Barry Klinge of Everyday Paranormal around the complex.
One hot spot was room 105 where a mentally and physically handicapped woman named Mary Virginia lived for a number of years.
A storage area off the boiler room in the basement was allegedly haunted by the ghost of a grumpy old man known for slamming doors and demanding investigators get out of his space.
Barry and Brad interviewed former Hill View employee Janice who shared her unnerving experience at the third floor nurses station. She had been ready to leave when the doors that lined the hallway suddenly started slamming shut without any human intervention. Janice grabbed her purse, fled and waited downstairs.
Hill View Manor caretaker Candy Braniff revealed a personal attachment to the past residents of the nursing home. She told Ghost Lab that a number of former patients personal items had been left behind. These abandoned belongings stirred Candy’s interest in who they had been. She talked about a number of personal paranormal experiences at Hill View. She said she had been touched by unseen forces, heard disembodied voices and footsteps. The most alarming experience she shared was having seen a large black mass when she was by herself.
Former Activities Director Molly recalled when she started working for Hill View Manor her office had been in the basement. The storage room that allegedly contained the grumpy old man was often a source of voices. When Molly would check the storage room, nobody was there.
Over her 29 year tenure at Hill View Manor, Molly had helped care for Mary Virginia in room 105 and knew her well. She expressed hope that Mary Virginia and all the elderly and vulnerable people she had worked with over the years had found peace after they passed on.
Barry and Brad started the investigation by leaving Katie in the basement by herself in front of the active storage room.
They proceeded upstairs to room 105 and tried to engage the spirit of Mary Virginia. Her ghost was present and paid close attention to everything Barry had to say. Barry started out by politely introducing himself and Brad, sharing that they were from Texas. I heard Mary Virginia’s ghost respond, “I don’t know anybody in Texas…any more.”
Right then Barry felt a disembodied touch at the back of his neck that traveled down his arm into his hand. I saw Mary Virginia’s ghost in a playful, childlike mood, running her fingers across Barry’s neck and down his arm to his hand.
One of Barry’s provoking questions was standard, asking, “Do you like that we’re here?” Apparently not because I heard Mary Virginia turn petulant, asking, “Why do you bother me?”
Meanwhile Katie knew she wasn’t alone in the basement. First she heard a noise on the wall next to where she was seated in an old chair. It sounded like fingernails on the wall beside her and felt a presence near her. She tried some provoking, asking whatever ghosts might have been around to make their presence known.
The stories about the grumpy old man turned out to be true. He disapproved of Katie in true curmudgeon style. He wasn’t about to cooperate with her, as I heard him comment, “I don’t take orders from you missy!” He turned his back on Katie and walked into the storage room pulling the door behind him.
What Katie saw and recorded with her camera was the door banging shut with significant force without any apparent source behind its movement. Katie radioed the Klinge brothers who ran down to her location. They were unable to duplicate the door shutting soundly by itself. Knocking on the wall next to the door, stomping past the door to see if it would move… nothing.
The ghost of the grumpy old man was stooped over in a brown plaid shirt and dark pants. He had a fringe of lanky brown hair turning white. He told me he had run the janitorial department for the nursing home. He groused that there were, “People always puking, pooping, bleeding and making a mess.” He complained that locals would walk their dogs on the grounds leaving him with the task of picking up the crap.
On the second night of their investigation Brad and Barry went back to room 105. This time they brought Molly with them as a trigger person Mary Virginia would have been familiar with. I thought that was a smart idea, a trigger person rather than a trigger object. Hill View Manor’s more recent history was close enough to the present day that people who worked there are alive and well.
Molly was instructed to talk to the ghost of Mary Virginia as if the old woman was still a resident and Molly was going about her daily rounds. Before Molly could get started Mary Virginia’s ghost complained that Molly had often made her eat peas and other foods she didn’t like.
Molly asked Mary Virginia if she wanted to put on some of her pretty jewelry, or watch TV. I heard Mary Virginia respond clearly to Molly’s comments. Mary Virginia had some pieces of costume jewelry she loved to put on, rather like a child playing dress up. There was one particular pair of earrings that had a combination of pearl like beads and shiny plastic disks in the design. They were clip on earrings and had some gold and pearl tones worked into the color scheme.
When Molly asked Mary Virginia if she wanted to watch some TV, Mary Virginia’s ghost shared with me that she liked to watch “Wheel of Fortune”, especially Vanna White whom she called a “…pretty girl…”
Unfortunately Brad, Barry and Molly didn’t hear any of this. Molly told her former charge that she would have to go home soon and then asked, “Are you here?” At that moment Brad heard something and radioed his tech crew to mark that place on his recorder.
Later analysis revealed an EVP. The uncertain voice of an elderly woman was captured saying, “Hello”. Barry and Brad called both Molly and Candy back to the lab to see if they recognized the voice. Molly said it sounded familiar but could not definitively identify it as the voice of Mary Virginia.
Brad and Barry headed for the third floor which at one time had housed patients with behavior and mental problems. The cacophony of voices hit me hard. I heard many voices all at once. I heard screams, crying, moaning, humming and many, many ghosts asking for someone, anyone to help them. Anyone with experience in a modern-day mental ward will recognize the non-stop begging for help as common among the chronically mentally ill. I would call the ghostly voices imprint hauntings. The former patients behind them are stuck in time and uncertainty.
As soon as they reached the third floor Brad saw a solid three-quarter shadow figure down the hall from where the Klinge brothers were standing. They took off after it, but it evaporated. Brad was seriously upset when he discovered that the wire in his head camera had not been connected so he had no footage of the shadow figure he had seen. It happens to the best investigators.
I asked who the shadow figure had been. My guides told me it was the ghost of a former male patient who was always agitated. He didn’t sleep well. As a reward for good behavior during the day he was allowed to pace the hallway of the secured third floor at night until he wore himself out enough to sleep. I couldn’t hear exactly what he said but he was mumbling the same phrase over and over as he paced.
During the reveal the “Hello” EVP in Mary Virginia’s room was shared with Molly and Candy along with the video clip Katie captured of the basement door closing itself with some force. Candy was relived to have some validation of her similar personal experiences as being alone at such times had sometimes lead her to question if she was loosing her mind.
The second location in this episode was Old Fort Niagara overlooking Lake Ontario in Youngstown, New York. French settlers built it in 1726. It saw action in the French & Indian War, the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Over the years France, England and Americans all exchanged custody and use of the fort under a variety of circumstances.
As Brad and Barry walked past the front door they found themselves in front of a well.
Steve Cox told them at one time a man had been decapitated and his body thrown into the well. The ghost of the man was reported to rise out of the well frequently enough to create a legend about it.
The Klinge brothers’ cameras briefly passed over the chapel. It was probably originally a French Catholic chapel due to the modest tabernacle against the back wall. (A tabernacle is where consecrated hosts, usually flat rounds of blessed bread, are stored until use.) It had seen some redecorating because if the cross above the tabernacle had been of French Catholic origin, it would have held the corpus, the body of Jesus crucified, not a plain cross which would suggest English occupation. It always interests to me to see how different faith traditions modify sacred spaces to meet their beliefs and needs.
In the chapel I picked up on the ghost of a condemned French officer who spent his last night on earth praying in front of the altar before his morning execution via decapitation. He was sentenced to death for treasonous acts. His hands were manacled together, but his legs were free. There was a guard in the back of the chapel to make he didn’t make a run for it. He wore a light linen shirt and darker cloth pants. He told me he spent his last night praying for his family, especially his sweetheart who would all be disgraced in society once word of his deeds and death reached France. I suspect he was of noble birth because that kind of accommodation would not have been made for a common soldier.
Barry and Brad headed for the basement of the fort. Brad briefly saw a shadow figure on the wall. I saw it too. The spirit behind the shadow figure was mischievous and laughed as it vanished from Brad’s sight.
The guys chatted with historian Bob Emerson about what life would have been like for a solider stationed at Fort Niagara. Bob said it was a fairly wretched posting because it was both remote and icy cold in the winters due to the winds blowing off Lake Ontario. He characterized the common soldiers experiences as “…long periods of misery punctuated by brief periods of combat.”
Several stories of spooked past investigators and eyewitnesses were shared. Fort employee Tim Shaw recounted the night he was descending the stairs into the sub basement with a jug of cider in each hand. Suddenly he felt an intense burning sensation across his right hand. It was so severe he dropped and shattered the jug in his right hand. Brad talked about Tim having his had slapped hard during that experience, but I got some strange impressions about burning and branding of past prisoners as Tim was telling his story. Was branding ever used as a form of punishment at Old Fort Niagara?
The episode took a brief detour explaining how malicious ghosts or spirits have been known to burn, scratch or push living human beings in other locations. The Sally House was mentioned, where a young woman allegedly died in 1906. Modern owners who took over the property were driven out by experiences of malicious ghost induced bloody scratches and bruising.
Due to the thick walls of the fort “Ghost Lab” set up a technical substation on the first floor. Katie and another investigator were sent to check out the Officer’s Dining Hall. Katie heard an unidentified noise and both felt the temperature in the room drop fast.
The Klinge brothers headed for the chapel. I saw a modest Revolutionary War era wedding going on. The brunette bride was not happy about their untimely interruption of her ceremony. Since the guys didn’t experience anything they went up to a second floor corridor.
Brad was doing the talking as usual and asked any ghosts in the vicinity if they spoke English. He got some sort of response, but wasn’t sure what it was. I saw and heard an English soldier retort, “Do you?” Apparently 21st century English was barely understandable to an Englishman two centuries removed. I got the impression that Brad’s mild Texan accent sounded pretty strange to the ghost of the British solider.
Brad ramped up his provoking, ranting about past soldiers that bayoneted innocent people. He got a faint EVP out of it. The voice sounded like that of a young man who said in English, “We did not do this.” There was some interesting layering going on because as Brad was capturing the EVP I saw the night-capped heads of French women and children poking out from corridor doorways, alarmed and curious about the commotion.
One of my favorite aspects of “Ghost Lab” is their willingness to bring in whomever it takes to get recorded evidence. At Old Fort Niagara they called in French scholar Matthew Anderson. Brad provoked in English and Matthew repeated his words in French. The most effective statement Brad made was, “The battles are over. There are no more wars between France and England!” Two things happened at that moment.
Barry’s flashlight was knocked out of his hand. Barry confirmed he did NOT drop it. I believe him because I saw the ghostly French soldier who knocked it out of Barry’s hand with the wooden butt of his riffle. The blow was hard enough to bruise.
A great EVP was captured in French that translated into English seemed to be a response to Brad’s statement of the end of hostilities, protesting that such a thing was, “A betrayal of France”. During the period Old Fort Niagara was built and passed around England and France exchanged a lot of property up and down the Eastern seaboard, extending up into Canada. Entire generations were raised fighting these wars, being hugely impacted by the ever shifting battles, ownership of forts and military advancements or demotions that were all in play. Emotions ran hot and deep, completely in line with the sentiment of the ghost of the French solider that ceasing hostilities would have been a betrayal of his country.
Well done, “Ghost Lab”. Looking forward to seeing what else you come up with this season.
Lynne Olson can be contacted for private readings via email at: email@example.com
Copyright 2010 Lynne Olson. All rights reserved.