Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Ghosts of Workman Chapel

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?

Who knows?

“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.

Kayla laughed.

“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?”

Heck yes.

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 jasonoffutt@hotmail.com. 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.


Anonymous said...

You're a jerk Jason, thanks for lettting everyone know I had to go to the bathroom.


ps see you in class next semester

Anonymous said...

hey this is a kid named Cody Maser. I used to live in Maryville and me and my friends would pile into my sisters car and we'd go to workman's chaple all the time.It was awsome getting freaked out all the time. Infact the last time I went we went straight under the tree and as always we heard what we thought we were going to hear feet scraping against the rooftop of the car. But it was different this time we heard 3 or 4 different peoples feet scraping against the roof to and heard people gasping trying to breath. So one of my friends named Kyle suggested we get the hell out of there so Ashley my sister started up the car and we left. But we wanted to see if it would happen again so we turned around and went back but when we pulled up we looked at the cold hot thing by the speedometer and it was moving farly fast to hot. But thats not what freaked us out just then a truck came from the highway the way you come in to come to workmans chaple and we were just sitting there and this beat up junky looking truck came in right behind us and bright lighted the car like he was searcing the car. Then he backed out of the drive way and speed out of there like a bat out of hell. So then I say why don't we just get out of here. So we basically speed back to town and when we got to some lights we stopped and got out and looked at the top of the car and there was marks like shoes making a black mark when you scrape them on tile ya thats what we saw. Then that was it hope you liked it.

Cody Maser

Techie said...

Regardless of someone's beliefs, it is never a good idea to mess with things that you even hint at being "scary".

For the non-believers the worst thing is that you become obsessed with these events and possibly become engrossed with the paranormal.

For the believers you are simply encouraging potentially evil entities to mess with you.

Back in 03 or 04 I was part of a group who wanted to investigate so called paranormal places. Our group consisted of a spectrum of people - from new age believers to myself a devout Christian. Before going to the chapel we "investigated" a few other places, but we were simply big kids scaring ourselves.

When we investigated the chapel one of our group became rather obsessed with the place. The rest of our story spanned a few weeks, but ultimately we all came to believe that we were in fact dealing with something evil - demonic - there. To this day I am only one of two people from the group who will even speak of the event.

Does the evil still reside there, probably not. Will all the groups who go out there experience something spooky or even genuinely paranormal? maybe spooky, but probably not genuinely paranormal.

The over all moral of my post is simply that playing with things that you don't understand is never a smart thing - if you believe in it or not.

Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me where Workman's Chapel Cemetery is?

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Anonymous said...

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emeryboy said...

In order to get to workmans u get on 71 and go north until u get to highway ff (my grandparents live on that road lol) then u keep on ff go past a couple mormons houses with the religious signs and after those houses the first curve there should be a gravel road heading north turn on it and go 400 ft and workmans is on ur left

emeryboy said...

U go on 71 north towards but then turn on ff go on it for 5 min past the Mormon signs until road starts to curve south right at curve turn on gravel Chapel should be on ur left after 400 ft there is a cemetary around it

Photosynthesis said...

A group of my friends went there recently (last night) and we experienced a few things. Inside the church we experienced creaks in the floorboard. When I stood in the place we heard them and my friend started saying mean stuff followed by "what are you gonna do about it? What are you gonna do to me?" On my recording device I captured a voice saying "God."
In the cemetary, that same friend got a particularly large unexplained scrape on her back. Another friend thought she saw a child hiding behind a gravestone.
We pulled our car under the hanging tree and we all thought we heard light thumps on our roof.

Josh said...

Hey guys. My name is Josh Heard. I just released a book on Workman's Chapel. It deals with what my team and I believe to be demonic in nature. Scariest moments of my life, however in the book I state a lot of fact that I have dug up and researched over the years. I also obtained a good amount of information from Daisy Workman herself on the subject. The book can be found on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, and the iBookstore. Check it out. The title is:
"When Ghost Hunting Goes Wrong: A Brush with Evil."