A deep sea of gray clouds masked the setting sun as we pulled into the chapel’s dirt drive.
There were six of us on the ghost hunt. Myself, an audio/visual engineer and four Northwest Missouri State University freshmen. Freshmen? Hey, they were doing it for a grade.
We parked under the limbs of two trees that had grown old next to the chapel. In one, according to legend, a woman was hanged and anyone sitting in a car beneath that spot will hear her shoes scraping on the roof. Urban legend, yeah. But the freshmen were still nervous.
Workman Chapel, just north of Maryville, was quiet in the dusk, its black, glassless windows and open door frame slightly beyond uninviting. We were there to find the ghosts of the woman and two Civil War soldiers who reportedly ride their horses in the chapel’s cemetery.
Two years ago, former Northwest student Jessica Lavicky heard the horses. Her dog heard something, too.
“We walked down to the cemetery and the dog started running back and forth like it was playing with somebody,” Jessica said. “But it wasn’t playing with us.”
John Workman built the chapel in 1901. He’s buried there. Workman’s descendent, Lester Workman, is caretaker of the chapel.
“It’s been empty for years,” he said. “It’s been 50 years or better.”
People have heard church bells peal at the chapel and have seen black, human shapes dancing on the tombstones.
That’s what we were there to see.
Will Murphy, engineer of Northwest’s Mass Communication department, brought digital cameras, a digital video camera, digital audio recorder and a voltmeter.
The cameras were to capture “orbs.” These balls of light you can’t see with the naked eye sometimes appear in digital pictures. Some people claim orbs are pictures of ghosts. Others say they’re light reflecting off dust, insects or moisture.
The video and audio equipment were to record disembodied voices. Freshmen Kayla Lindsey, Katie Pierce and Harrison Sissel shot still pictures in the now black cemetery while Mallory Riley wandered with the voltmeter, trying to pick up energy fluctuations some associate with ghosts.
Then the fun began.
Katie and Kayla called me over. Katie had just taken two pictures. One had orbs. The other didn’t. Dust and insects should have been in both. Had she captured the image of a ghost?
“Oh my God,” Kayla said as Mallory walked past with the voltmeter. Will said the meter can generally pick up .14 volts out of the air; more around an electrical source. If the meter went past .40, Mallory was supposed to say something.
“It’s gone up to 80,” Kayla said.
Ninety. One hundred. One hundred fifteen. The meter went to 120 before Will pointed out they’d been walking toward utility lines. Easy mistake.
Then Harrison ran into one of the great problems of ghost hunting in a crowd mixed with boys, girls and, maybe, monsters. He had to go to the bathroom and he didn’t want to go alone.
“He can’t pee in front of ghosts.”
Maybe it was time to go. We drove back to the university.
Did we find evidence of ghosts? The orbs were interesting, but inconclusive and debatable. We didn’t record voices. And we didn’t detect anomalous energy fields. But, it was fun.
Would any of us go again?
“There’s an abandoned insane asylum near Iowa,” Will said after the freshmen had gone. “People say they hear human screams coming from it at night. Want to go?”
Copyright 2006 by Jason Offutt
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 at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your name, address and telephone number. 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.