Sitting at a table in the vast dining hall at Springfield's Pythian Castle, psychic Dawn Newlan of the Ozark Paranormal Society played voices the group recorded there in 2005.
Some of the voices were clear, some muffled, but all of them had something in common they were recorded when no one was home.
Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVP, is an unexpected sound that appears on an audio recording. EVPs have been around since the 1920s when Thomas Edison tried to develop a machine to talk with the dead. Today, ghost hunters place tape and digital audio recorders in empty rooms to capture the voices of earthbound spirits.
And Pythian Castle is rife with spirits.
The castle, a three-story stone structure built in 1913, has been an orphanage, hospital, WWII Army headquarters where German POWs were interrogated Š and soon to be a bed and breakfast.
"In the basement, we've heard two or three different voices," Dawn said. "We've actually got voices on tape."
From Dawn's recordings come the moans, "I am not myself," "punish him" and "I'll kill him." Dawn also played whispers, laughter and the faint sound of a man hissing, "It's OK." All were gathered in empty rooms.
"Each one of the ghost hunting people have gotten something unusual here," said Tamara Finocchiaro, co-owner of the castle.
Ghost hunter Ryan Straub also records EVPs. Ryan has picked up EVPs in desolate Hazel Ridge Cemetery near Brunswick.
"I sat it just like that," he said, placing a recorder atop a weatherworn tombstone. "And we walked away from it. The next morning we listened to it and it sounded like chipmunks. I slowed it down and it was a little girl singing 'Ring Around the Rosie.'"
The tombstone was next to the graves of children.
Carol Mullins has worked for the University of Central Missouri's housing department for five years, mainly in Laura J. Yeater Hall. Legend has it the building is haunted.
The ground floor of Yeater is empty, and its banquet room generally remains quiet. That's where Carol likes to collect EVPs.
"I put my tape recorder in there and there was a moan," she said. "It wasn't the windŠ It was a moan. It was a moan of pain.
"A lot of people say that's the radiator, but the radiators aren't on here over the summer."
Carol has also collected EVPs in her Yeater Hall office at night.
"There were like a dozen girls giggling outside my door," she said. "It was the summer. How were there girls giggling outside my door?"
What are the voices picked up by these ghost hunters? The sounds of restless spirits? Demons? Past events seeping into the present? Or is someone just playing?
"All the tape recordings, it's just weird," Carol said. "I can't explain it."
Want to capture an EVP? Place a tape recorder in your living room, hit "record" and leave the house. But later, as you're about to press "play," just remember, you might not like what you hear.
Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn't identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt, c/o The Examiner, 410 S. Liberty, Independence, Mo. 64050, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, address and telephone number for verification only. Your story might make an upcoming installment of "From the Shadows."
Jason Offutt is a syndicated columnist, author and fan of all things Fortean. His book of ghost stories, "Haunted Missouri," will soon be available at www.jasonoffutt.com and all major bookstores.
Copyright 2006 by Jason Offutt