Photo courtesy of Kim Luney of Southwest Ghost Finders from Springfield, Mo.
Arcadia Valley Academy’s red brick buildings aren’t original to the campus, but they’ve still been there a long time.
The academy, in Ironton, Mo., opened in 1846 as a Methodist high school and served as a Union military hospital during the Civil War. However, it is best known from its later incarnation as a Catholic girls school that ran from 1877 to 1971. It also served as a convent for nuns of the Ursaline Order until 1985. It has most recently been a bed and breakfast and antique mall.
Most of the buildings, such as the Administration building, the Auditorium, and the Gymnasium, were built between 1907 and 1934, and something unknown lurks in these buildings of the old Academy.
Belinda Clark-Ache, founder/owner of the paranormal investigation group Haunted Missouri Paranormal Studies, heard stories of a haunting at the 200-room academy and conducted a thorough investigation there.
“We were there every month, April through October,” she said. “I used to just go up by myself and rent a room for the night. All the potential; all the earmarks for a haunting were there.”
Such as a disembodied girl’s voice that said “Lucy,” and the presence of orbs. Although orbs, small balls of light captured by digital photography, are sketchy evidence at best – they can often be explained as dust particles, insects or moisture in the air – some are more convincing. Clark-Ache’s group captured many orbs on video that were a mystery to them.
“We got some interesting moving orbs,” she said. “I’m not an orb person, but we have hours of video from the third floor hallway. One winter evening we had moving orbs up and down the hallway. We could never explain them away to our satisfaction.”
Although Clark-Ache’s group found some cursory evidence the Academy is haunted, they weren’t entirely convinced.
“I did an experiment the first few months. I would take (groups of visitors) on a walking tour of the place,” Clark-Ache said. “I asked if anyone got any certain feelings. It turned out after about 60 people; we were averaging seven out of 10 people feeling something out on the third floor senior hallway in the dormitory. But I didn’t get anything compelling.”
However, paranormal investigator Kim Luney, of Southwest Ghost Finders from Springfield, Mo., did.
Southwest Ghost Finders visited the Academy on invitation from Clark-Ache.
“They did not tell us any history,” Luney said. “We like to go in cold, investigate and hear the history later. It validates the findings.”
Luney stayed in the Priest’s room during her visit, across the hall from a paranormal investigation group from Posey County Clark-Ache also invited.
“We kind of wandered around,” Luney said. “We went in the Bishop’s Room and snapped a bunch of pictures. Posey County showed up and we headed out of the room. I turned around and snapped a picture of the corner where a mirror was. I thought, ‘I’ll check it later.’”
She was shocked at what she found.
“Later, I downloaded it onto my computer and there was the image of a child in that picture,” she said. “You can see her eyes, her hair. You can make it out plain as day. I said, ‘oh, my God.’”
No one else was in the room when Luney took the picture that appears to be a little brunette girl peeking at her from over the foot of the bed.
“We tried to recreate it with actual people and you can’t recreate that,” she said. “It’s obviously a child. It’s just an awesome picture.”
While Luney downloaded the photograph, members of her team watching over her shoulder, the Academy again let them know it was aware of their presence.
“You could hear footsteps out in the hallway,” she said. “We’d look out the door and there’d be nobody there. When we went back in, we’d here little giggles like, ‘I made them get up.’”
But Luney wasn’t finished with the Bishop’s room. Her group went there later in the evening to try and capture Electronic Voice Phenomena (inaudible voices that can be captured on tape)– and they did.
“When we went back in the room later that night, (a group member) said, ‘I think we caught a picture of you,’” Luney said.
When they listened to the recording later, they found the voice of little girl saying, “they got a picture of us.”
Maybe the little girl liked the attention; at 3 a.m., Luney was awoken by odd occurrences in her room.
“We were laying in bed and the bathroom door was opening and shutting itself for no reason,” Luney said. “(I was) laying there and felt faint, feathery touches against the bottom of my feet. Then you would hear ‘shss, shss, shss.’ Like somebody was whispering to you, but nobody was there. “
The next morning, the owners said people have reported experiencing children running around their bed during the night. Luney said children died from influenza and cholera outbreaks and are buried on the Academy grounds.
But the most personal encounter Luney experienced was in the basement of the main building.
“My team was creeped out,” Luney said. “And if we feel creeped out, we don’t go in.”
So they left, but not without audio recorders running.
“When we were leaving the basement there was an EVP that said, ‘don’t go, Kim.’”
Luney is convinced the Academy is haunted.
“It’s a great place,” she said. “We went back a second time. There’s little strange things that have happened, but we have to have evidence. If we don’t, we throw it out, but the little girl was indisputable.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”
Jason’s books on the paranormal, “Darkness Walks: The Shadow People Among Us,” and “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” at Jason’s blog, from-the-shadows.blogspot.com.