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Who you gonna call?

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Local ghost hunting group strives to help local communities

Story by feature writer Trista Lutgring

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CANNELTON – The air in the old Perry County Courthouse and current county museum in Cannelton was suffocating the night of June 8. Outside, it’s pitch black and cool. But on the ground floor of the museum – which is packed with items of Perry County’s history – it’s a sweltering 75 plus degrees. The heat, however, is the last thing on the minds of the three women standing before a display case in the dark. With hands outstretched and gazes trained to the case in front of them, one asks, “Are you still here with us?”

A moment passes and everyone in the room seems to hold their breaths. Then, a small flashlight sitting untouched turns on brightly. The women gasp and nervous laughter circulates as more questions surface and all eyes are on the flashlight, waiting for it to turn off and on again, seemingly by itself.

“Is your name Mary?”

“Did you live in Cannelton?”

“Did you work in the courthouse?” 

It may seem strange to some that anyone would ask questions in the dark waiting for some unseen force to turn on a flashlight. But to the six new ghost hunters participating in the first novice hunt sponsored by the Tell City Ghost Hunters, it is a night they won’t forget.

Angie and David Dykes began TCGH in November 2011. And while the Cannelton couple shared an interest in the paranormal, the group is essentially David’s idea. Like most ghost hunters, David’s fascination with ghosts began when he had an experience of his own. 

When he was a child, after his grandmother passed away, David found himself in her home. Looking about a room, he explained he saw the figure of his deceased grandmother sitting in a chair which she was known to frequently be in during her life. From that point on, he was a believer. The couple also had experiences in their former home on Third Street in Cannelton.

While she attended basic training, David would write to Angie about the strange things he would see in their home. 

“We were sitting on the couch after I got home and I asked him, ‘Did you just see that? It looked like a little girl … peeking around the corner,’” Angie said.

Their oldest daughter, who is also a part of the team, saw things as well. 

The couple said they’ve always wanted to start an investigation group, but the timing wasn’t right. Angie served in the military for 8 1/2 years, which kept their family moving and never gave them a chance to form a group. However, with Angie retired and the Dykes family settled once again in Cannelton, everything seemed to finally be in place for the formation of TCGH.

Soon the group had six members total, including Rachel Decker and Carol Brandle. Brandle, a Hawesville, Ky., resident, became a member after participating in TCGH’s investigation of the old Cannelton Gym in October 2012. She attended several other hunts with the group before they asked her to join.

“I absolutely fell in love with it. I’ve always had an interest, but never really had an experience until I did this,” she said.

She doesn’t get scared, she said, and admits she joined because she  wants to see paranormal activity.

“People ask that and expect we get scared. But for us, we’re going out looking for it. It’s more of us hunting it rather than it hunting us.”

Decker said she is the self-proclaimed most skeptical member of the team, even if she is a believer. 

“I’m the first one to say ‘Well that can be explained by this,’” she said with a laugh.

The group has also started a Kentucky chapter, managed by group member Shannon Humphries. She handles cases from the Louisville area up to Perry County area.

“We try to cover Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio,” David explained.

While they were unsure about the response they would receive, David and Angie scheduled visits to a few locations, including the Perry County Museum, Cannelton High School, St. Luke’s Church and the old gym. When they started, David admits he believed they would have a slow start. 

“But once we got it out there … it totally blew our minds,” he said.

Since their beginnings, Angie said TCGH has been to several places in Perry County to do investigations and in the past few months, have been traveling to well-known locations out of town.

Some times they catch things, some times they don’t.

“The paranormal is like a wave; it comes and it goes,” David said. “We’re like surfers waiting for that big wave to come in.”

 “Some people look at us like we’re crazy. But we’re not doing Ouija boards … we’re using scientific equipment. We set up DVR cameras, we set up voice recorders. We don’t put crap on our page,” Angie added.

***

Some may think the Perry County Museum isn’t haunted, but the members of the group are certain it is and have evidence to back it up. During one of the group’s investigations, Angie describes standing in the old courtroom on the third floor of the building.

Standing with Decker in the vast room, Angie said they heard footsteps coming up the stairs, which did not belong to any of their team members. Other experiences they’ve captured have included knocking sounds and electronic voice phenomena, or EVPS. Many community members have told TCGH members they have had similar experiences in the courthouse as well.

Angie said the building has been known to be haunted for quite some time. “Matter of fact, recently lights have been coming on” according to employees of the museum, she said.

“Ninety percent of the evidence you are going to get is audio,” David explained. “When you capture something on video, it’s huge.”

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A novice hunt, according to the group, is designed to help those interested in ghost hunting. It’s not an investigation for the group to gather evidence; it’s to teach others. 

“We supervise the teams. They get to do the ghost hunt; we want them to experience it,” Angie said.

Among the group of new hunters June 8 is the Dykes’ niece, Maggie Dawson. Only 10 years old, the Cannelton student said she likes the ghost hunts because they are “fun to do.”

“I’m used to watching scary stuff. I just like to do it because I’ve faced scary things,” she added. 

Angie and David welcomed Maggie when the young girl expressed interest in ghost hunting. 

“We don’t want it to die out,” Angie said. “We want the younger generation to know you don’t have to be scared. It’s okay to think there’s a ghost, you’re not crazy if you think there’s a ghost.”

Maggie’s excitement before the hunt began was clearly infectious for the other hunters. As the sun finally dipped completely below the horizon, the group gathered in the base camp room, which was the former jury room. With TV monitors set up and cameras recording, David explained to the group the equipment they would use that evening.

The group also gathered around to watch evidence TCGH has collected on previous investigations, including a voice saying “Mary,” a knocking sound and footsteps.

Once all questions were answered, flashlights passed out and everyone divided into two groups, they headed out into the building for their investigations. As the groups moved about the floors and basement area of the building, Maggie stayed in the middle of the group, near her mother, Donna. 

Only frightened a few times, she was willing to ask questions, use equipment and learn from the members of TCGH. Others started EVP sessions, swept the rooms with Mel meters to register electromagnetic fields and took pictures. 

Participants experienced feelings of being touched, heard footsteps during the evening and saw readings on the Mel meter and flashlights turning on and off in response to questions. 

All in all, it was a night of success, not only for those on their first adventure hunting ghosts but for the member of the group as well.

***

The TCGH may be about finding evidence of life after death, but the nonprofit group’s core mission is about helping the community. Not only do their investigations possibly shed light on activity at locations, but they strive to give back by raising money for the area.

The novice hunts are just that, Angie said. The group hopes to help out the museum by raising enough money for a new air conditioning unit. The unit, which is from the Perry Central School building, would cost $2,000.

The hunts in the courthouse are not the only fund-raisers the group has put together. Through the past two years, the members of the group have lead hunts during the Cannelton Heritage Fest and held cook out fundraisers to collect money for the Perry County Animal Shelter and the courthouse.

The novice hunts will continue the group said, to help the museum reach their goal. The next is scheduled for July 20. The Perry County Museum is open to the public from 1 to 4 p.m. every Sunday through October. 

Donations can be made to the museum through a Pay Pal account at perrycountymuseum@gmail.com or by contacting Brandi Hess at 549-5954.

Evidence, recordings and information about the Tell City Ghost Hunters can be found on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ tcghosthunters.

“We enjoy the ghost hunt, but we enjoy being a part of the community too,” Angie said of their work. “We want people to understand that not only are we raising money for the museum, what we do is not the crazy voodoo stuff you see on TV. It’s the real deal.”