You're in a dark room filled with strangers, all here for the same reason, hoping to talk with the dead. You hear someone sit down on the bed next to you but no one's there. The video camera, turned on only moments ago, shuts off on its own. The boxes in the corner of the room shift for no apparent reason. The cold seeping into your veins feels well below room temperature.
Welcome to an average night at Paranormal 911's haunted fire station.
It's the right time of year to get your scare on. But this is not your typical staged terror with actors made-up as zombies and vampires. Nor is it only open in the month of October. This is a decommissioned Indianapolis fire station, known for its paranormal activity, open to the public year-round.
A little background
I first found out about the haunted fire station through a a co-worker, Jamie Johnson - a big fan of paranormal TV shows, who had come across Paranormal 911's Facebook page and wanted to do something different for her birthday. I accompanied her, some members of her FAMILY and several of her friends (tours accommodate groups of six or more), for an eight-hour investigation at the firehouse, led by members of Paranormal 911.
Paranormal 911 isn't your typical "ghost hunting" group. It's made-up of firefighters, paramedics, EMT's, nurses and other career professionals. Co-founders Sean Barrett, a firefighter of 25 years and part-time worker at Conseco Fieldhouse's First Aid Department, and his wife, Mary, a former employee for architectural and construction firms, first investigated this fire station after being told by other firefighters who had experienced strange things while working there that it was worth checking out. So many amazing incidents happened during that first investigation, that the pair realized they had barely scratched the surface.
With the permission of the current residents (a local nonprofit), Paranormal 911 returned. According to Mary, subsequent investigations showed that, "there was just not one spirit energy there but many, and that a certain area in the basement seemed to be a doorway for other spirits to enter."
The founders felt they had an incredible opportunity to share their experiences with the public and to educate people about paranormal activity. So they started organizing regular investigations, which they opened to the public (the schedule is available on the group's Web site, www.tpiofindiana.blogspot.com; groups of 6-15 people can also schedule a private showing, like we did). But it was also an opportunity to do some good: Proceeds help support the Indianapolis Fire Buffs, which provides Rehab Support Services to the Indianapolis Fire Department and surrounding departments.
The evening begins
Our group met at the Indianapolis fire station a little before 8:00 p.m. armed with flashlights and a ton of extra batteries - having been told by Mary Barrett in advance that spending time with spirits can quickly sap batteries' strength. The Paranormal 911 team gave us history about the fire station, which was built in the early 1900's. They told us that four firefighters had died in the line of duty but the spirits there are not only firefighters.
We took a tour of the fire station and then our group split into two with one group starting upstairs and one in the basement. Our group started in the basement, which was creepy after having heard about its background. There are two jail cells which held prisoners waiting for paddy wagons.
One area in the basement is a section where the paranormal team said they don't often go because they feel uneasy and not wanted there. They also said that the portal where they believe spirits come through was nearby, underneath the stairs. With a gulp, we put our chairs in a circle, handed out the equipment and began to talk.
Debbie Clark, a member of our group, started with the dowsing rods. Mary Barrett and Rhonda -- who describes herself as an "intuitive," a person who claims to see, or intuit, spirits in his or her mind -- also joined our group. Debbie was holding the dowsing rods (L-shaped metal rods used in conjunction with asking questions. When the rods cross in the front, that means "yes".) She immediately had the name "Sandy" come to mind. It turns out Sandy was the name of someone involved in a love triangle in the 1920's with two firefighters, one being at this station.
As the leaders explained it, spirits can give "hugs" by moving the dowsing rods back to touch the holder's arms instead of having them cross in front. Debbie started to receive many "hugs," which clued Mary and Rhonda into the sense that another spirit name "Charlie" had joined us.
Charlie was a fireman at the station who now makes regular appearances (and gives plenty of hugs) to guests who visit. In the past, many guests came up with Charlie's name on their own and some even came up with his last name. Mary said that she didn't put much credence in it until she found a roster of the men who worked at the station in 1959 and his name was on it. His photo is now on display upstairs in the bunk room.
Mary told Charlie out loud that she had done research and had found out his wife's name as well as his address. Charlie, he didn't confirm the address through the dowsing rods so we wondered aloud if maybe he owned the house but rented it out. This he confirmed.
It was at this point that I realized the atmosphere was not scary but fun and interesting. When asked if Charlie liked any of the gals here, the rods pointed to me. It seems Charlie has a thing for red hair.
Next, Rhonda was able to discern another spirit named "Katie," almost like a picture in her mind. A little girl with long hair in braids, Katie "hugged" Debbie several times and agreed that Debbie reminded her of her mother. They set a ping-pong ball in the middle of the floor and asked her to move it.
Rhonda said that Katie was saying, "I'm trying. I'm trying." Through the parabolic microphone, someone heard an exasperated sigh. (The parabolic microphone helps hear sounds or voices not audible to the rest of the room.)
The group assured her it was okay and she didn't need to try anymore.
Katie was not the only spirit of a child there. The leaders told the rest of us that another spirit liked Hannah, a junior intuitive on the Paranormal 911 team. The spirit liked her so much, she followed her home and Hannah started seeing her there. Evenutually, the folks at Paranormal 911 had to tell the spirit that she had to remain here, they said.
More interesting stories
While upstairs in the kitchen, Debbie felt cold. She said she knew someone was standing next to her (this was later confirmed) but it creeped her out that they wouldn't talk with her. Jaime Mersch, one of the members of our group, was holding one of the meters which measure electromagnetic fields when it started going off. Her sister Michelle asked Jaime if she had touched her butt. Jaime said she hadn't but Michelle was certain someone had pinched her. There was a bang in the oven, but no one was near it when it happened.
We went to the bunk room where we each of us sat on a different bed and spoke with a spirit named "Virgil". Virgil lived in the neighborhood in the 1930s. Two members of Paranormal 911 saw a tall man in overalls and he confirmed that was him. Virgil evidently likes to pinch women because he greeted Mary in the same way he "greeted" Michelle in the kitchen. We heard someone sit down on the bed. The video camera was also shut off. All of it, apparently, was done by Virgil.
Through talking with spirits in the bunk room, spirits have shared details about many things that have happened in the past, according to Sean and Mary. That night, a new spirit came through to the bunk room who had something to do with the love triangle dating back to the 1920's. So far, the team has not been able to verify names and exact dates so they have not been able to research the story through archives.
Birthday girl was there for a reason
It was Jamie Johnson's idea to form a group of family and friends and to come to the fire station for her birthday. But little did she know the present she would receive.
Jamie and her sister, Jenna, were in the party room with the other group. Rhonda said she was feeling a "Danny" or "Daniel". Jamie's nephew who had died in a motorcycle accident came to mind. She said she could just feel his presence. Rhonda was receiving hugs with the dowsing rods and said that he was giving Jamie and Jenna hugs. Danny said he was worried about his brother who was riding with him the day Danny died. He asked if his brother is getting in a lot of trouble and they told him he is currently in jail. Rhonda quoted him as saying, "Stop acting the dumb s**t." meaning to "act right". Rhonda said that is not the way she normally talks and they said that that is something that Danny would have said. For Jenna, it brought closure. For Jamie, she felt relieved that he said he was okay.
The evening was filled with far more experiences than those related here. Randi Bruns, who joined the Paranormal 911 team after having a personal experience with her grandmother much like Jamie and Jenna's experience with their nephew, said, "What you see here, get here, is real."
I, personally, had never done anything like this before, but, from my perspective, there was nothing that felt staged or trumped-up. We heard noises, the meters detected things, we felt things ourselves that could not be forced upon us. But Paranormal 911 encourages all to come--believers and skeptics alike. So you too, like us, can have your brush with the other side.
See some video footage from the experience in the video viewer above!