By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
Tim Murphy is a member of the Hancock County Common Pleas Drug Court team. He’s an advocate for CASA/GAL and volunteers with Flag City Honor Flight.
He also hunts ghosts.
It’s baffling, admitted Murphy.
“I don’t even watch scary movies,” he laughed.
But the Findlay man does like to investigate old buildings and cemeteries. And he started the Hancock County Paranormal Investigators, a group of local ghost hunters, with friend Melissa Soto.
In December, the group spent a night exploring the Hancock County Courthouse. The brick structure at the corner of South Main and West Main Cross streets dates back to the late 1880s.
“Not too many people get the privilege of that,” he said of his overnight courthouse stay.
Murphy, 52, said he was granted access from one of the judges: “We were talking about it because he’s heard stuff in there. A lot of people have.”
Prior to the group’s investigation, Murphy went into the courthouse alone to do some recordings. He said he captured the sounds of people walking and talking, a screeching noise and the ringing of a bell. The squealing sound is particularly interesting, he said, because there used to be a turnaround for the interurban trolley system in front of the courthouse.
“And the bell in the bell tower doesn’t ring,” he said, adding that the bell on the recording chimed just once.
The team uses an assortment of equipment, including digital recorders, cameras, K2 meters and dowsing rods, to investigate possible paranormal activity. But there are times, Murphy said, when he can “feel” things. That happened while he was in the law library on the fourth floor.
“All of a sudden my arm and back started burning. And it just kept getting worse, and hotter and hotter,” he said. “I had to leave. As soon as I got into the elevator, it went away.”
The two other investigators with him at the time were fine, he said.
The group has also explored Maple Grove Cemetery. Murphy has a permit to be in the graveyard after dark and said they’ve held ghost hunts and ghost walks there.
“There’s a spot in the cemetery that I will not go into,” he said, explaining that he feels a negative presence in the area.
Other times he’s felt physically sick in the cemetery.
“I just keep going until it’s stronger, and then when it stops, I usually see there’s a broken headstone and I fix it,” he said.
Admittedly, ghost hunting is an unusual pastime for “an old farm boy who grew up near Van Wert, out in the middle of nowhere.”
Murphy’s family moved to Findlay in 1984, and he graduated from Van Buren High School the following year. After a four-year stint in the Air Force, Murphy returned to Findlay, where he worked in construction and drove a dynamite truck for demolition jobs.
He recounted an accident at a quarry that left him with a broken neck and a badly injured back. Murphy is disabled as a result, but has found a silver lining since he now has time to volunteer and give back to the community. He can also indulge his passion for investigating the paranormal.
Murphy has attended horror and paranormal conventions, and met a number of actors and actresses including Maureen McCormick who played Marcia on “The Brady Bunch,” and R.A. Mihailoff, Leatherface in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.” (“I’ve got pictures of him choking me from Scarefest,” Murphy said.) He’s also met Shari DeBenedetti from “Ghost Hunters” and Dalen Spratt of “Ghost Brothers.”
Murphy was also a tour guide at the Mansfield State Reformatory for two years. During that time, he worked with the “Ghost Adventures” crew. He also accompanied the team on a trip to Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, where he felt something scratch him on the back of the neck.
“Then I’m like, this sh.. is real,” he said.
Murphy has became friends with Dann Allen, owner of the Randolph County Asylum/Infirmary in Winchester, Indiana, and the Old Haunted Jail and the Ervin-Campbell Speakeasy in Hartford City, Indiana.
“The guy who owns all these has a business called STOP, Save the Old Properties,” said Murphy. “Because the buildings that are old, now everybody just tears them down and builds new ones. There’s craftsmanship in these old buildings and he wants to save them.”
“I have keys to all of them so I can go and investigate whenever I want,” he added.
He’s had experiences at these locations, too.
“I was working in there (the asylum) and was up on a ladder. And this door, it’s 5 by 6 or 6½ feet, and this door just shut in front of me,” he said.
Another time, the men heard doors slamming at the back of the building.
“We were the only ones in there. Sometimes I do (get scared),” he said.
Murphy has his own bedroom at the asylum.
“When I go there, I stay the night. I sleep there. I’m the only one in there, 58,000-square-foot building,” he said.
He was awakened one night by what felt like someone laying beside him.
“I was under the covers and it was hard to roll over. It was like someone was laying on the covers beside me. It made me wake up and there was nobody there,” he said.
There have also been times when Murphy’s interest has gotten him trouble; he was once caught at midnight on Halloween in a graveyard in Salem, Massachusetts.
“Getting caught in a graveyard at night, I’ve learned to get a permit,” he said. “I know I’m not supposed to be there, but I have a passion for this because it’s fun.”
Closer to home, the paranormal group has investigated several area residences.
“When people call (for help), a lot of times they just want verification that something is going on,” he said. “I can’t tell people what they should do or how they should do it, but I can tell if there’s something there. And I can tell if it’s good or bad.”
Anyone interested in contacting Murphy can message him through the group’s Facebook page.