By JEANNIE WILEY WOLF
CAREY — Stories of haunted activity surrounded the old Carey High School for years.
When a paranormal team investigated last summer, members reported strange noises and voices, shadows and feelings of unease in the 95-year-old building. But was the building indeed haunted?
“If by haunted you mean ‘unexplained paranormal activity’, yes,” said Sylvia Daniels.
She and her husband, Doug, are co-founders of the Carey Area Paranormal Energy Research Society (CAPERS), which was given permission to spend two nights in the school last June — a month before the building was demolished.
“We recorded voices and sounds that were not us,” she said. “Team members had experiences and impressions that coincided with what other team members experienced at another time in the same location, without having shared this information.”
A team from Capture1 Studios in Fostoria filmed CAPERS’ experiences and prepared a 70-minute documentary. The film, titled “The Haunted Halls of Carey School,” will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the new Carey School cafetorium, 2016 Blue Devil Drive. The free program is sponsored by the Dorcas Carey Public Library.
The investigation is the largest yet for CAPERS.
“We did what we wanted to do, which was to document this and get this out and have our experience. And we actually found some things, so for us it was a success,” said Sylvia Daniels.
The Daniels couple shares an interest in ancestry, genealogy and metaphysical subjects, so they enjoy visiting cemeteries. Then they began taking pictures in graveyards, thinking they might capture something paranormal.
In 2011, Sylvia Daniels put together a Facebook page and invited some family and friends to join.
“I was thinking this would be, ‘let’s go look at some cemeteries’ and that type of thing,” she recalled.
The couple’s daughter, Melanie Birch, joined the group, along with friends Lisa Myers and Christy Myers.
“Then Lisa knew of a lady here in town who wanted her house investigated, and it’s just taken off from there,” said Sylvia Daniels.
The house dates back to the 19th century. Historical research uncovered that the original family met with sickness and several deaths.
Research is an important part of any investigation, said Doug Daniels.
“When we can find something to validate what we find, that’s exciting,” he said.
The team uses internet searches on websites like Ancestry.com for obtaining census, birth and death records. That’s how they discovered the original builder of the home had drowned, said Sylvia Daniels.
“And as we were saying, there were other deaths in a short period of time which wasn’t uncommon, I don’t think, back then. But that created what we feel was a lot of what was happening in the home,” she said.
The woman living in the house at the time of the investigation talked about seeing a little girl and sensing an angry man.
“She was an older woman and she just wanted us to come and see,” said Lisa Myers. “She says, ‘Don’t make them go away. I like them. They’re my friends.'”
The team returned to the house several times to investigate. Members sensed an angry man and also caught a clear electronic voice phenomenon. According to the group’s website, these are recordings of voices, usually on a digital recorder, for which there is no natural or scientific explanation. The voices are not audible during the recording, but can be heard on playback.
They said a woman’s voice was recorded in a back utility room. A window in the room looks out to an old family cemetery in the backyard.
“It was a whispery ‘Don’t go’ and ‘Don’t die,'” said Birch.
Doug Daniels explained that the team uses both traditional and modern methods when conducting investigations.
“We call it getting back to our roots,” he said. “We’ll use a pendulum. You hold a pendulum and ask questions. I like using dowsing rods just to pick up on energy.”
They also use infrared and full-spectrum cameras and motion detectors.
“And if we have something as far as an audio, (we) never change it, we don’t manipulate it. But we’ll try to enhance it, filter out the background noise or make it louder, something like that,” Doug Daniels said. “We never manipulate it to make it something it’s not.”
The group has since investigated locations in Hancock, Wyandot and Seneca counties.
When word got out that the old school was being razed, several people suggested the team should investigate. Permission was obtained from the Carey school board.
They were also contacted by Matt Erman of Capture1 Studios to see if they were interested in making a film, something they’d never done before.
“We thought about it. We didn’t want it to interfere with the investigation, but we wanted to not miss that opportunity,” said Sylvia Daniels.
“That was one of the things I insisted on,” added Doug Daniels. “‘Yes, we can do this, but the investigation comes first. This is our only chance at this because it’s going to be gone.'”
Seven members of CAPERS spent two nights, from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., in the school, along with a team from Capture1 Studios and a custodian who was required to stay with them.
Besides investigating, members said they also had to deal with their emotional attachment to the building — Sylvia and Doug Daniels both graduated from the school in 1975, while Birch is a 1996 graduate. The couple’s other daughter, Ericka Kurtz, graduated in 1995. Lisa Myers’ two sons are also graduates.
“It was the most difficult thing that we’ve ever done, because I wanted to go down Memory Lane,” said Sylvia Daniels. “‘Oh, this was my locker.’ Then trying not to get boo-hooey, at which I think at the end of the second night I did. So we had to focus on what we were doing, plus we had to accommodate with the filming and then deal with emotional issues.”
Her husband also wanted a chance to reminisce.
“We did not really cover every room like we should have, and part of that was because when I got in my first-grade room, I wanted to spend a lot of time there because I remember that so well,” said Doug Daniels. “That was probably my favorite teacher, my favorite year, and I wanted to go in that room.”
The teams also checked areas they’d heard unusual stories about in the past, including the band room.
“We asked if anyone could tap on a drum in the band room, and we heard this noise,” said Doug Daniels. “And then we figured out it was the vent. We were really excited for about 15 seconds.”
There had also been talk about the boiler room.
“There were stories of things sliding off the shelves and going on the floor, all kinds of things in the boiler room, but we didn’t witness anything,” he said.
An area under the stage was also investigated. The space had been used as dressing rooms for theater productions, for wrestling practice and for storage.
“It was really pretty weird under the stage,” said Sylvia Daniels. “And how many times do you hear of theaters being haunted? A lot. So that turned out that whole area was interesting.”
Overall, team members heard sounds and what sounded like voices.
“We all pretty much had experiences that we can’t document. I know Doug and Lisa and myself saw shadows,” said Sylvia Daniels. “We didn’t capture them with any kind of equipment, so that’s just me saying that. It makes it difficult because we make a real effort to present these things in a responsible manner.”
There did seem to be several types of spirit activity, she noted, including an “ornery” nonhuman entity that wanted to scare people or make them feel uncomfortable. But she said they didn’t encounter anything that felt dangerous.
Erman had over 200 minutes of video when he started editing.
“He gave us the option: ‘Do you want to make it like a TV show or a documentary?’ And given the nature of what it was, we opted to go with a documentary,” said Doug Daniels. “One, we wanted to document our investigation. We also wanted, in our own way, to document the school.”
The DVD sells for $15 and is available at Kurtz Shoes in Carey or on the group’s webpage at a cost of $20, which includes shipping and handling.
The documentary will also be shown at 6:30 p.m. March 16 at Bucyrus Public Library, 200 E. Mansfield St.
Send an E-mail to Jeannie Wolf