Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee. Reputed to be one of the most haunted sites in the US, home to half a dozen colorful ghosts who aren't shy about making their presence known.
That's where I spent last weekend, in the gracious company of Historical Haunts, a TAPS family member group based out of Memphis.
So Frank, you may be asking. Did you see anything? Hear anything? Is the Thomas House actually haunted, or is all the hype merely a mish-mash of publicity and eager amateur ghost hunters mistaking knocking water pipes for poltergeists?
Well, have a seat, my inquisitive friends, because answering that question is going to take some time.
I arrived at the House well-armed with an array of recording gear. My emphasis was on audio, but I had a bit of everything. Here's my gear, laid out on the small second bed in Room 18.
Parabolic mic and netbook recorder. Magbox and recorder. Tesla radio and recorder. Zoom H1 mic/recorder. Velleman Super Ear and recorder. Ramsey Tri-Field meter. Non-contact temperature gun. Camera. Batteries. And of course the ubiquitous K2.
Did I capture anything with all this gear?
Oh yes. I certainly did. I think the best way to describe my stay at the Thomas House is to proceed in chronological order, incident by incident.
Before I start posting things, though, a reminder. Most of what I captured is audio, and some of it is fairly faint. I can hear everything just fine through the speakers on my PC, but my PC is an old-school tower unit with external speakers. If you're listening on a laptop or a mobile device, the device's tiny speakers may not be able to accurately reproduce the softer sounds. If that's the case, even plugging in and listening through a simple pair of earbuds will present a vast improvement in what.
That said, here we go!
THE MOVING BALL
We arrived at the House around four in the afternoon. The projected five hour drive turned into nearly seven hours after a detour from the Natchez Trace sent us straight into bumper-to-bumper traffic through several middling small towns stretched across the interstate.
We arrived, dumped everything in room 18, and set out to have a quick look around and stretch our legs before unpacking and getting set up.
The Thomas House is old. Built in 1890, and it shows. Walls bob and weave. Floors creak and doors don't quite shut. Dull painted eyes peer down on you from the hundreds of paintings and old photos that cover every inch of vertical wall space. Even the scale of the place is a reflection of the smaller people of the 19th century.
One of the House's more famous ghosts is that of Sara, a little girl who died in the hotel in 1920. She'd been brought to the Thomas House to partake of the mineral waters that flow beneath the hotel -- at that time, such hot springs were thought to be a panacea. Sadly, they did nothing for poor Sara, who died after only 3 days there.
At the end of the hall shown above, on the left, is a small sitting room. Sara is said to play along this hall, and in the sitting room. We wound up in that room to take a break and rest a bit. There was already a child's ball there.
There were four of us in the room. Mike, Kelly, my wife Karen, and myself. We were all seated. Talking casually. There was no air movement in the room. No one stomping past in the hall. No one striking the floor from below with a jack-hammer. It was quiet and still.
Karen encouraged the spirit of Sara to move the ball.
Like everyone else in the room, I watched.. I wasn't expecting anything. A brightly-lit room, in the early afternoon? It seemed an unlikely place for anything ghostly to commence.
So when she said, 'Sara, move the ball,' I wasn't anticipating any movement. Nothing in the environment seemed capable of inducing any kind of motion.
Until the ball simply rolled, on its own, half a full revolution.
We all saw it. The floor didn't shake, a passing truck didn't thunder past. The ball simply moved.
I took a photo immediately after this, as I cursed myself roundly for not gearing up when I left the room. So I can offer no video evidence to support my claim -- but like everyone else in that sitting room, I saw the ball move.
After a delicious supper (the cook at the Thomas House is extremely skilled), we split into three groups. My group was the first to enter the infamous Thomas House Chapel, which is said to be inhabited by two spirits.
The first is the Reverend Blankenship, the former pastor, who hung himself above the pulpit after he realized years of shady business dealings were about to be exposed. The second ghost is reputed to be that of Miss Polly, a poor homeless woman the church took in as a resident.
We entered the Chapel around 10:30 PM. I had my magbox, my Zoom, my thermal gun, and a so-called 'spirit box.' Karen had the Velleman Super Ear mic.
As we enter, we caught the first EVP. I heard nothing at the time, but on replay, a voice seems to say 'Meet her.' You can listen by playing the YouTube video linked below.
Which is strange, but hardly the only strange thing going on at that time.
My magbox is a simple but effective machine. A magnetic pickup on a two-foot-long extension rod feeds a sensitive audio amp. It's quite capable of identifying 60 Hz house current and nearby cell phones in use. If noncorporeal entities somehow manipulate EM fields, it could detect that too.
It was dead silent on the walk to the Chapel. Because we were well away from electrical lines or circuits. As soon as we entered, though, it began picking up the usual 60 Hz hum present in all buildings with electricity. There was a 'dead spot,' about waist high, where the buzz fell to nothing. But that's not unusual.
Unless you consider that the Chapel HAS NO ELECTRICITY. No supply line. Even that was taken down years ago. I didn't know that when I entered.
So what was my magbox finding? Ghost circuits? Some odd localized electric field?
I have no idea. I turned the magbox off because the hum was so loud. When we left, a mere hour later, I turned it back on -- to find the new battery was completely drained.
I can't explain that either. I once forgot the magbox. Left it on a headstone in a cemetery in Birmingham. It stayed there running all night, for a total of something like 16 hours, and the battery wasn't drained.
But an hour in the Chapel, in the presence of electricity that wasn't there?
Anyway. On to the next!
THE TELL-TALE HEART
I've used my trusty Zoom H1 mic for years now. It's a sensitive, reliable machine with a truly excellent recorder built in. Musicians and journalists use H1's for recording in the field.
I noticed something strange, though, on the Chapel recording. Present throughout the entire event was a constant, soft noise that my ears didn't hear. As I listened to the recording, though, I kept hearing a dub-dub, dub-dub dub-dub. A sound rather like that of a beating heart.
I did NOT have the mic in a jacket pocket. It was resting on a table. It is not built to pick up heartbeats from people sitting a meter away.
So what the heck is the sound?
I have absolutely no idea. You can hear it for yourself below by clicking the link.
WELL HELLO THERE
We found chairs in the cramped, junk-filled Chapel, seated ourselves, and the EVP session began in earnest.
I heard nothing at the time, but when a speaker invites any entities present to speak, a faint little voice chirps 'hi.' You can hear it below; the 'hi' is about six seconds into the clip.
Many visitors to the Thomas House report being touched.
I myself was not touched. But Karen, my long-suffering wife, was touched not once but twice during our session in the Chapel.
She described both events thusly: First, a sudden rush of extremely cold air, approching from behind. Followed immediately by a cold touch on the back of her neck, moving from just above her collar to her hairline, as though a cold fingertip stroked her.
I quickly inspected the area for anything that might have hung down or reached in from the side. In both cases, the area was clear. No cobwebs, no hanging lamp cords, no bric-a-brac in the vicinity. The chairs all had low backs. And it was way too cold for bugs of any sort.
I had 3 mics running at the time. My Zoom. The recorder on the magbox -- yes, the magbox was switched off, but the onboard digital recorder was still recording via its own internal mic. And she had the Velleman Super Ear.
All three of the mics picked up a faint whisper spoken by parties unknown shortly after the second touch. All three mics.
Let's start by listening to the entire second touch incident, recorded on my Zoom. The whisper is very faint, about 35 seconds into the recording. You'll hear us discuss the touch, hear me verify nothing is near, hear someone say 'there's nothing around here,' and finally you'll hear a woman add 'that we can see.' Then, if you have headphones or loud speakers, you'll hear a faint rustling whisper. Don't worry, the next video contains an amplified looped whisper. But I wanted you to have the full context before I present that.
I listened to all three recordings, from all three mics. I isolated the whisper, added some amplification. Then I combined all three recordings onto the same track. What you'll hear below is a looped recording from the Olympus recorder, followed bny a loop from the Velleman, and finally a loop from the Zoom. It sounds like someone is whispering "He's coming out the door."
THE CONFERENCE ROOM
We spent about an hour in the Chapel. Later, several of us moved to the hotel's conference room.
Note the door on the left side of the image frame. See the panes of glass that make up the door. That will be important later.
We seated ourselves around the table. By now, it is well after midnight. An EVP session is begun -- at one point Stephen mentions that the 'door is open,' speaking metaphorically, because that door is actually closed.
But I suppose something wants in, because after we've been in there about 15 minutes the door begins to rattle and shake. You can easily hear the noise in the clip below. Our reactions are also there, as Sarah, seated at the head of the table with a clear view of the door, reports no one is there.
What made the door move?
I don't know. Something did, but it couldn't be seen. I can offer nothing in the way of physical explanations.
That wasn't the last conference room event, either. None of us hear anything after the door rattle. The REMpod beeps and boops, as the temperature in the room fluctuates. But no one is touched, and aside from the door nothing moves.
Toward the end of the session, Sarah notes that 'it seems very still now.' Maybe not so much, because the Velleman mic caught a single word from nowhere, that seems to say 'repent.'
Odd, especially in light of Kevin's own visit to the Chapel, in which he spoke about forgiveness, hoping to offer the Reverend some comfort.
Below is the word again, this time amplified.
THE SLEEP MACHINE
Once upon a time, I worked nights. I lost count of the number of days I worked until the sun rose. I was a night owl's night owl.
But those days are long gone. By 3:00 AM, I was barely able to function. So I took to my bed -- my tiny, tiny bed, which, of course was haunted.
The story is that the tiny second bed in Room 18 was once owned by PT Barnum. It was one of two beds that were said to disturb occupants by shaking all during the night.
I volunteered to sleep in the bed, and I did, but honestly the thing could have launched me through the roof and halfway to Nashville and I doubt I;d have noticed.
Nevertheless, the Thomas House wasn't done with us.
Karen brought along a noise machine, because I snore. I know, shocking, but it's my one flaw. So she retired to the slightly larger, possibly less haunted bed in the main bedroom and fired up her sleep machine while I collapsed onto the PT Barnum bed and waited for the poltergeist to arrive.
The door between bedrooms was open. I heard the steady hiss of the sleep machine start up, heard her go to bed.
A few minutes later, the sleep machine went off. Came back on.
This was repeated three times. I wondered why she was fiddling with the thing, could hear her get up and down, but I was too exhausted to comment.
Unknown to me, Karen wasn't turning the sleep machine off. It turned itself off, three times, forcing her to get up and turn it back on. On the third and final time, she says she told whatever was causing the machine to turn off that she was very tired, and would it please stop playing with the machine?
I may have audio of this. I left my parabolic mic running in the small bedroom. But since I took so many mics, and I have a day job and I am trying to finish a new book, I haven't had time to process the audio from the parabolic yet.
But it happened. I heard it, she witnessed it. Something caused the sleep machine to shut itself off three times, and the phenomena stopped when asked to stop.
Make of that what you will.
I witnessed strange events at the Thomas House. I saw a child's toy ball move, without apparent cause. I witnessed inexplicable equipment malfunctions. I recorded a number of anomalous sounds and voices.
And I haven't even finished processing all the audio. But what was captured, and what I saw, is sufficient to convince me the Thomas House is home to activity that defies mundane explanation.
I will of course continue to analyze my remaining audio, from both the Tesla radio (which spent the entire night on the porch) and the parabolic, which was stationed by the shaking bed in Room 18. Any further events of interest will be displayed here.
Thanks for reading! Thanks as well to Stephen, Tanya, and Kevin of Historical Haunts.
Stay spooky, people.
“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”