Haunted buildings are typically depicted as old buildings, but creepiness isn’t generated by the age of a structure. Cozy old log homes and farm houses radiate a warm charm. And even if they were haunted, you would expect the resident spirits to be warm and charming, too. The creep factor of a structure is, however, directly proportional to its design and purpose for its construction. Anything inspired by the Victorian era is always spooky. The Victorian era was chock full of creep. Jack the Ripper was filling the streets of London with blood, and Edgar Allen Poe was sitting just on the edge of sanity while writing about ravens and catacombs. Easily the creepiest period in history. It may be a form of type casting, but anything inspired by British culture from the years 1837 to 1901 always gets the nod for a likely haunting. The building I was in on this oppressively humid August night was built just outside the years of that Victorian era, but it had the creep factor in spades. Though it didn’t look Victorian, it had other criteria. It was large — five stories counting the morgue — but really, we can stop right there when assessing creepy criteria. A morgue in the building means you don’t need other criteria. A morgue in the building trumps even Victorian era design. A morgue means the creepy scale is maxed out.
Accompanying me in the building were 15 or so other curious souls – this was the count for souls still in bodies anyway – and we were looking for evidence of souls without bodies under the guidance of Reverend V. Duwane Ledbetter Jr. Duwane is the founder of Russellville Paranormal Investigation LLC. Duwane is a man searching for the truth.
“The first time I experienced a paranormal type of thing was when I was probably seven or eight years of age,” said Duwane. “We lived on a chicken farm around Eureka Springs, this was back in the seventies, and some people will probably remember the cattle mutilations going on at that time. I saw something, some lights hovering in the sky, and then I saw the cattle afterwards. They had their eyes and sometimes internal organs missing, but no blood and no sign of cuts or stitches.” The mutated cattle and hovering lights fueled a curiosity in Duwane.
“But as you know people, parents and religion pushes stuff like that down,” said Duwane. “It’s not part of the norm. So you kind of get desensitized from our society as far as being able to pick up on wave lengths and forms of the paranormal. Psychics are able to pick up on those things because they shut themselves away from the mainstream, and just focus on what they consider their gift.” Looking for the truth, for an understanding of subjects often taboo in mainstream society, has led Duwane down this path. “If you have an experience that you can’t explain, I want to help you. I’m not here to judge anybody. If you’re dealing with something that you can’t talk to your rabbi or your priest about, email me. I’ll talk to you.” >>
Duane is a reverend of metaphysics. He has a bachelor’s degree in paranormal science, and is working toward a master’s degree and eventually a doctorate in paranormal science. The degrees are earned from the International Society of Metaphysical Humanism International College of Humanistic Science.
Due to his past experiences and his training, Duwane believes what we witness in this physical world made up of matter and light is only a fraction of the reality out there. Parallel universes are part of this reality. “Déjà vu is when a decision you didn’t make [in this universe] is made by your alternate self [in an alternate universe] and the waves of those parallel universes,” said Duwane, “they move in waves, come very close to each other.”
Duwane pulls from legitimate science in regards to his theories about parallel universes and wavelengths of matter. We won’t be delving further into this aspect; you can do your own research on quantum physics, string theory and even Schrodinger’s cat. But suffice it to say Duwane’s philosophical approach to finding the truth is grounded in the scientific method of ask a question, do background research, hypothesize, experiment, observe, draw a conclusion and communicate. No séances, incantations or crystal balls. Of course the science of what he’s doing has been called into question. Mainstream science has some problems with the paranormal sciences.
A pillar of science, one of the defining characteristics of a scientific theory, is the ability to recreate the experiment and observe similiar results. It means you can summon a phenomenon by repeatable manipulation. Paranormal phenomena don’t play by those rules. This makes for some tricky research in the paranormal field. “That’s where regular science drops us,” said Duwane. “It’s hard to replicate things that we experience in paranormal investigation.”
At this point the reader needs to understand that Duwane says he is not an advocate of paranormal phenomena. He’s a skeptic. After a youth of experiencing phenomenon like the flashing lights above a north Arkansas cattle pasture and frequent déjà vu, Duwane joined the military. The military changed his thinking for a while. “The service kind of desensitizes you to perception [of the paranormal] because you’re always trying to do the right thing and you’re always on guard,” said Duane. “When you’re always on guard, you shut your feeling off. You become cold.” A stint in military law enforcement solidified his cynicism. “I’m a retired military police officer so I’m always looking at the investigative side. If I can disprove it I’ll go further until I can’t prove or disprove any more, and then I make a call as to whether it’s paranormal or not.”
The methodology of paranormal investigation boils down to awareness. “I look at all possible avenues of my senses and those [of people] that are with me,” said Duwane.
I can personally testify to Duwane’s thoroughness when it comes to collecting information. The opening paragraphs of this story were drawn from my experience on a “ghost tour” hosted by Duwane and Russellville Paranormal Investigation. During the tour, Duwane was asking participants about differences in temperature, odd smells and any gut feelings pertaining to the building or a particular room.
And at this point the reader needs to understand that I am a skeptic as well. That being said, there were a few experiences during the tour that I’ve been wrestling with:
- At one point on the tour several people, myself included, heard a shriek or whistle from an unoccupied room. Not a lot of possible explanations for this. All living people were accounted for just after we heard the shriek, and no one was in the vicinity of the shriek. Maybe you could write this off as momentary group psychosis.
- There was a distinctly different smell in one section of the building. It was a small area, and there could be explanations ranging from chemical to biological, but it was a smell described accurately by Duwane as “sweet tobacco.” The room also felt ever so slightly cooler than the rest of the building.
- I rarely experience the willies. Cemeteries don’t bother me. I’m more worried about what the living can do as opposed to the dead. But the sense of dread I felt in that morgue was stifling. I was ready to leave within two steps of going inside. Was it just my mind hyped up on all the boogeyman stories and horror movies percolating with the fact that I was on a real paranormal investigation? That’s what I kept telling myself. No other section of the building bothered me like the morgue.
I wasn’t the only one to have some weird experiences. Other people on the tour reported feeling a tug on their shirt, hearing a cough in the morgue and we all witnessed the flashing lights of Duwane’s high-tech investigative equipment – the Ghost Meter Pro – an electromagnetic field measurement tool. The instrument measures the electromagnetic field generated by spirits. All living things generate an electromagnetic field, but disembodied spirits are supposed to generate a much weaker field. The Ghost meter is designed to light up when a weak electromagnetic field is picked up. The meter lit up numerous times during our tour, and I wasn’t the only skeptic to notice that Duwane was holding the meter as it lit up. “Are you making that thing light up?” asked a young woman. “Well here, you hold it,” was Duwane’s reply.
She held it. And it continued to light up.
Several people on the tour asked whatever was making the meter light up yes and no questions, with one blink for “yes” and two blinks for “no.” I’ll just say the blinking only happened after a question was asked, sometimes one blink and sometimes two. The last tour of the morgue (which was sans Johnny) reported asking how many souls were in the morgue, to which the EMF meter blinked 67 times. When asked to confirm the number by blinking one time… the meter blinked one time.
So what do I think about all this after the ghost tour? I don’t really fit a type when it comes to belief in the paranormal. Curiosity and an open mind are countered by a strong adherence to logic. I want to believe in many things that practicality and my understanding of science tell me are impossible. But what if there’s more to this life and to the universe than what practicality and science tell us? What I do know is that the blinking light in response to a question was unnerving, and I never want to set foot in that morgue again.
What it boils down to is that no one really knows. We all have our beliefs and our faith, but belief and faith operate outside evidence. Proof for what you have faith in automatically makes it a non-faith issue. Duwane claims he’s a skeptic, but I’d call him more an agnostic. He’s searching with an open mind for the truth while believing in his heart that the truth is out there to be found.
Russellville Paranormal Investigation LLC is a non-profit organization. Duwane and RPI accept donations which fund RPI for future events and future tours. Ten percent of all donations are pledged to helping military veterans in Arkansas. (479) 567-5651. Email: email@example.com ~ Website: www.paranormalinvestigation.biz