I have a confession to make. I’m a ghost hunter. Yes, like on the tv shows.
It’s something I’m ever hesitant to talk about given people’s mixed views and experiences with the paranormal. Generally, though, once it slips out in casual conversation people slowly start telling me things. This one time I felt something in my friend’s house or I always thought my old apartment was haunted. My own relationship with the paranormal is complicated and though I’ve had enough weird, inexplicable experiences to make me a believer, I chalk most experiences up to science and psychology and remain about 85% skeptical.
My dad was a historian, and so our family vacations almost always involved a trip to a battlefield, old fort, old city, old something. So, as a seven year old with an over active imagination writer brain, I spent a lot of time day dreaming about the people who once lived in these places. I wrote a lot of short stories about ghosts, and wildly consumed every book and movie I could get my hands on. I had my first extremely strange paranormal experience in college, while living in an 50 year old apartment where there had been a suicide (though I didn’t know it at the time) years earlier. For the purposes of this blog, it’s far too long a story - but it involved a definite, specific presence of something that my roommate and I both felt but didn’t mention to each other until weeks later.
All this leads to about a year ago, when an opportunity to join a paranormal research team fell in my lap. Obviously, I jumped at the chance. Partially to answer my own questions about the afterlife, partially to get to legally crawl around in dark, weird buildings, and partially because it was a new, different kind of adventure.
This weekend we returned to St. Alban’s Sanitarium in Virginia for the second time. The building was first built as a boys’ home and later turned into a sanitarium. It has been abandoned now for many years and is used for paranormal research. They’re slowly restoring the building to be less full of asbestos, black mold, and peeling lead paint in the building.
The building is a labyrinth of narrow hallways and staircases and full of rooms that were once used for all sorts of terrifying things. One part of our team did a session in the old morgue’s autopsy room. Mold is covering almost everything on the ground floor basement and many bats have taken up residence in the old ceiling beams (which, by the way, is terrifying when you’re standing alone in a dark abandoned creepy mental hospital). You kind of just keep expecting David Bowie or a creepy ghost child (or maybe both?) to pop out of nowhere. Fortunately (or unfortunately for David Bowie), that didn’t happen and the investigation was relatively quiet.
Ghost believer or no, the building is still amazingly cool and I hope I get to explore it many more times.
This is the electroshock therapy room. Though we find the treatment deplorable today, it was common practice until not that long ago.
The old bowling alley is said to be haunted by the ghost of a little girl.
This was once used as a padded cell for solitary confinement. The pads have all been removed, but evidence of their past is still there.
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