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Anguish, Confusion, and Chaos: The Dark Side of Paranormal Investigating

"Sometimes I wish I never set foot in that hospital."


Here I am again, walking down the dark and musty corridor of Old South Pittsburg Hospital in rural Tennessee. With every step I take, I’m aware that the portal to the spirit world is opening and I’m subjecting myself to more anguish, confusion, and chaos. Such hostile energies won’t stay within the dilapidated walls of this abandoned building; they will instead follow me home and haunt my life.

My first encounter with the ghosts of Old South occurred during an overnight investigation. I awoke to my blanket being yanked off of my body. A tea light candle sailed from the dresser and hit me right in the chest. What I didn’t know then was that this would become just another night at the haunted location—and that I had inadvertently welcomed dark energies into my life.

My name is Tim Nealon and I am the founder of Ghost City Tours. For the last 12 years, I have spent more nights than I can count walking through some of America’s most haunted locations, trying to elicit responses from my ghostly companions and hoping the next one will give me the answers I seek: Who are you? Why are you haunting this particular location? Why are you haunting me?

The dark side of paranormal investigating is rarely discussed—when it is, it’s often from the mouths of TV hosts who act like being touched or scratched by an unseen force adds to the ‘coolness’ of ghost hunting. But what happens when the TV lights go out? You’re left with the reality of the business, and the reality is that there are often dire consequences for dipping too deep into a world that does not belong to the living.

Related: The Ghost Who Followed Her Home

Since my first visit to Old South Pittsburg Hospital, I’ve felt the inexplicable need to come back. It begs me to return. Perhaps it’s because I’m a sucker for the endless possibilities of the unknown, or perhaps it’s because I’m being manipulated into returning. Sometimes I wish I never set foot in that hospital.

I know that a “dark place” is a subjective term. I know that people, in general, are fascinated by the unknown. But the darkness of Old South Pittsburg caused me to sink to levels of depression that I have never experienced before. It triggered night terrors and waking visions of my family and friends dying—repeating images that make me wonder if they’re premonitions. I could write tomes about the darkness, but that would encourage only more pain and despair to creep into my life. I’ve found that by not repeating these dark thoughts or by reacting to the phenomena is my form of self-preservation.

Sometimes, however, it’s impossible to pretend. When I first detected the characteristics of a demonic haunting at OSPH I did not hide in fear. My curiosity got the best of me and I was determined to find out what it was.

I thought I knew what I was doing. I was wrong.

It started innocently enough. I would come home from the Old South Pittsburg and little things occurred. I heard voices while I was in bed. I saw shadow people from the corner of my eye, and sometimes right there before me. Objects shifted from one place to another without my ever touching them.

Related: The Spooky Ruins of Georgia’s Central State Hospital

It didn’t take long before such activity escalated. More times than not, I woke up in my bed, forcefully, by an unseen energy. I was pulled and dragged from my mattress. I was hit, as though the evil entity from OSPH wished to show how much it hated me. I had terrifying nightmares, which still continue to this day, about loved ones dying horrible deaths. Voices found their way into my mind, telling me that everyone I love is going to be hurt, nobody will ever want to be with me again. These were not ‘crazy person’ voices. It was something making sure that I understood that it wasn’t going to let me find peace, not even in my own mind.

In discussing OSPH, someone once said: “It’s like you step into another world when you are there.” And that is exactly how it feels. Stepping inside is like entering a timewarp that sucks you in and spits you out hours later.  It’s tough to say whether your experiences happen in a matter of seconds or minutes, or if they are actually spaced out by hour-long intervals.

There is the female entity at the front of Old South Pittsburg Hospital that greets every person who enters the hospital. She knows me, whispering my name like a ghostly welcome.

Related: 9 Famous Female Ghosts From Around the World

The demonic entity, too, is like a bad friend I didn’t ask for. Its sinister voice torments me from the minute I walk through the doors at OSPH and has found his way into my home, into my office, and even at my girlfriend’s house. He makes himself known with a loud and breathy, “Hhhey!” It is usually followed with, “Tim, you fucker.” I guess he’s not a fan of me, though he clearly likes to be heard. He has screamed his “Hhhey!” into my girlfriend’s ear with a voice that sounds like nails on a chalkboard.  He’s appeared on recordings during EVP sessions at other haunted locations around the country, including our haunted location in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

I don’t know why he chose to follow me. I don’t know why I was the one that “let him out of the hospital.” But I do know that nothing good comes from his arrival. His voice is almost always accompanied by feelings of vertigo, suspicious and irrational thoughts, and violent visions of loved ones.

My girlfriend has told me on numerous occasions that she has felt the presence of something dark and evil. We both have said that it feels like this ‘thing’ wants us to fight, wants to us be in misery. We have to work extra hard to combat the regular relationships stresses, plus the weight of this negative entity which seems to be hell bent on making sure that everything and everyone suffers. When you see someone who you love more than anything dealing with pain or fright, and you know you brought it into her life, you’ll never forgive yourself.

Related: Old Changi Hospital: the Most Haunted Place in Singapore

While the world of paranormal investigating can be exciting, I wish more people took the time to appreciate its dangers. If you want to enter places with known demonic entities, or even investigate locations that you suspect are haunted, you’re taking a risk. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it cannot happen to you. Don’t let your ego take over and do it because you think it makes you tough. There are real consequences—not only for you, but for the ones you love.

Unless you’re fully prepared to be tormented, unless you’re willing to sacrifice your loved ones’ wellbeing, don’t fool around with entities that may be demonic. It isn’t worth it.

I make my way into the nurse’s waiting room area of Old South; late evening light seeps through shuttered blinds. Outside, a group eagerly awaits the beginning of their ghost hunt at OSPH. I see the nervous excitement on their faces—they want answers. Answers that I don’t have, that nobody has.

I usher the group through Old South’s steel doors. As I deliver my introduction, I hear that raspy sinister voice that has followed me now for four years: Hheyy, Tim’s here.

And I know, like always, I’m never alone.

About the Author
A lifelong interest in ghosts and hauntings led Tim Nealon to create one of the largest paranormal activity companies in the world, Ghost City Tours. An experienced paranormal investigator, Tim has been on hundreds of ghost hunts and paranormal investigations up and down the east coast. When not working on Ghost City Tours or traveling to haunted locations Tim can be found spending time with his two beautiful daughters.