The car wreck left 16-year-old Ryan Straub broken, but it may have fixed something in him that had, until that point, lain dormant.
“I was hurt really bad,” Straub, now 25 and living in central Missouri, said. “Then I started seeing things, even that night. Spirits. After that I thought, ‘what the hell’s happening to me?’”
As he saw more and more people – dead people – no one around him could see, he set out to find out what had happened to him.
“That’s what’s sparked my interested in the paranormal,” he said. “I’ve dedicated my life to it. Since then I’ve been indulging myself in research.”
Straub began investigating the paranormal in his hometown of Marceline, Mo., the boyhood home of Walt Disney; which included a local nursing home, and the “lady in white” that haunts a Marceline restaurant.
Straub chose to attend Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill., because of its paranormal reputation.
“It’s haunted,” he said. “That’s the only reason I went to it. It’s a Catholic university. There were exorcisms conducted on the top floor of one building. That’s why I went to school here. I heard it was haunted by demons.”
Today, Straub, along with Jeremy Taylor and Mike Hourcade investigate the paranormal with their group Tirfirnath, which means, “to observe the dead” in Tolkien elvish. They also, if asked, try to rid an area of any unwanted spirits.
“The three of us started doing extensive research,” Straub said. “I like to call our group an ‘evaluate and eradication’ group. We’ll go into an area and determine what (type of entity) is there and get rid of it. I don’t like going somewhere and not helping someone.”
Straub’s group has investigated spots in Idaho, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma, and although the group specializes in hauntings, they’ll also entertain reports of aliens, Bigfoot and werewolves.
Tirfirnath has received a report of an Ohio man witnessing what looked like a large dog walking on two legs near a construction site and one report from Missouri.
“A friend heard stuff in the woods and he saw what looked like a large wolf-like creature walking around the property,” he said. “That’s probably the most non spirit-related thing we’ve dealt with.”
Straub’s most chilling encounter was at Hill Haven, a nursing home in Marceline that was in the process of closing its doors.
“My mom used to run the building,” he said. “My mom would work up there during the day. There was no electricity.”
One night the police called Straub’s mother reporting lights were on in the building and it looked like people were walking along the hallways. She was ill, so she asked Ryan to go by the building.
“She sent me and a friend to figure out what was going on,” he said. “We walked through the whole building. The lights were on when we went up there. There was one light on in one room on the third floor.”
As they approached the room on the third floor, they could hear the creak of a rocking chair on a hard floor.
“The doors were very big and very heavy,” Straub said. “We opened the door and there was the spirit of an old woman rocking back and forth.”
The sight of the apparition startled the two, but not like what happened next.
“The woman who was facing the window without moving her body turned her head 180 degrees to face us,” Straub said. “The smile was literally across her face. It was unlike anything paranormal I’ve ever seen.”
His mother later confirmed a woman had lived in that room.
Since that encounter, Straub has tried to banish spirits from the building, but whatever’s there isn’t ready to leave.
“What I don’t understand from that building, you can go through and do cleansing and before you know it there is something else going on up there,” he said. “It sounds like the building growls at you. It’s not pipes. I can tell you that.”
Have a haunting? Straub and Tirfirnath can be reached at Tir_firnath@hotmail.com.
“I’ll do anything I can to help somebody,” he said. “I’ll go just about anywhere.”
Copyright 2009 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: Jason Offutt c/o The Examiner, 410 S. Liberty, Independence, Mo. 64050, or email@example.com. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”
Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” is here. Order online at: tsup.truman.edu, www.amazon.com, or visit Jason’s Web site at www.jasonoffutt.com.