After being contacted by a casting director, Cathi Weber, Darla Spector, and I—the —were chosen to participate in a new reality television show for the Travel Channel, Paranormal Challenge, created and hosted by star Zak Bagans. Each episode featured two three-person teams of paranormal investigators in a head-to-head competition at some of the most haunted locations in the United States. We were delighted when producers sent us to , which was at the top of our paranormal wish list.
During our three day shoot in May of 2011, we engaged in a battle of nerves, technical skills, team work, and historical knowledge against our worthy competition, Dark Alley Paranormal. Each team simultaneously investigated the building, armed with the same equipment, in an extremely limited time frame.
A cameraman and sound technician followed us throughout the night investigation. Special areas were designated as “solo” spots, where a team member investigated alone rigged with a POV camera. A panel of expert judges monitored the teams remotely via stationary and robotic cameras placed throughout the building.
The sanatorium was electric with paranormal activity and both teams captured amazing evidence. But, alas, there could only be one winner. The Haunted Housewives reigned victorious and were awarded the grand prize: bragging rights.
When we returned to Waverly Hills in August of 2012, my teammates and I had the opportunity to explore the building at a much less televised, much more leisurely pace. Without the pressures of judgment and a ticking clock, we were able to spend more time investigating properly.
We entered the morgue with much trepidation. The space felt tight and confined, even though it was nearly empty, with most of its original equipment long gone. What remained sent shivers up my spine.
The most disturbing aspects of the room were the body trays. The drawer-like structures were built into the wall in a group of three, one on top of another like a double oven, containing sliding slats that allowed access to the bodies. They were still in working order although the doors were missing.
My mind quickly painted a picture of an emaciated corpse, pale and bloodless, lying face up on a cold slab, waiting for its turn on the autopsy table. The trays made a horrible screeching sound as they were pulled out, strenuously objecting to being disturbed.
On my previous visit to the sanatorium, while filming Paranormal Challenge, I had bravely (or stupidly) lain down on one of these slats and had my teammates slide me in, thinking this would be a good way to stir up some spirit activity. After a two-minute eternity, my fear and claustrophobia had chased me out.
This time I passed on the nap in the death drawer—once was more than enough for me. Instead I made my way over to the autopsy table, which looked like an ordinary table except for the strange grooves along the edges leading to an unplugged hole. The grooves were channels for blood to flow through as it drained from lifeless bodies, outlining them in parallel rivers of red. All evidence of the table’s past had long been scrubbed away, but in the dark it was easy to imagine what a macabre scene it must have been.
The three of us gathered around the autopsy table. Cathi and I placed two digital voice recorders, a video camera, and a spirit box neatly on the table. Darla, our videographer, set up to film the session. We were hoping to catch an EVP or get some real-time responses through the spirit box. The room took on a sepulchral vibe and we felt the temperature drop. Unnatural sounds emanated from the shadows. Suddenly, a rusty metal chair in the corner rustled as if someone were getting up or sitting down on it. Of course, the chair appeared to be empty.
I tried not to think about the noises—there was work to be done.
Hoping to entice the spirits to talk to us through our equipment, we began the session with a few basic questions.
“What should we call you?”
The radio spewed out a series of names, “Rick… Garth… George… Dave… Sonny… Dan… Mike…”
“How many of you are in here?”
“Seven,” the box said.
“Are you patients here?” I asked.
“Yes … seven.”
“Seven? Is that correct?” Cathi reiterated.
Someone was clearly talking to us through the box. Voices cut through the static and white noise, every word a distinct, intelligent response to our questions.
“Do you know what room we’re in right now?” I asked.
“Morgue,” came the response, loud and clear.
Mind blown—chills gripping body.
“Can you see us? How many women are in this room?”
“Do you know our names? Do you know what my name is?”
At that exact moment, my camera shut off. The battery was fully charged, it was as if someone had physically pushed the power button and turned it off.
“Did you just shut my camera off?” I demanded of the spirit.
“YES,” came the forceful response.
Many find it easy to dismiss the disjointed “answers” that come from the spirit box, chalking them up to coincidental radio chatter. But unequivocal responses to direct questions can help corroborate paranormal activity.
After the most successful spirit box session ever, we continued our investigation.
While conducting an EVP session, I thought I heard footsteps from within the room. Cathi heard a noise as well but believed it was coming from the autopsy table, which, upon approach, we noticed was vibrating, shaking our equipment against its metal surface.
“Oh my gosh, Theresa, feel this!” Cathi exclaimed.
The cold surface was indeed vibrating. Like a washing machine on spin cycle, it shook lightly but rapidly.
Between the temperature drop, moving chair sound, camera malfunction, autopsy table vibrations, and remarkable responses from the spirit box, we undoubtedly communicated with the dead of Waverly Hills Sanatorium in the morgue that night.