Brynn Mechem, DN
Paranormal investigators discuss Muncie's haunted sites
“If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call? Ghostbusters!” sings Ray Parker Jr.
Except in Muncie, students can call Shelly and Andy Gage, the couple responsible for the area’s paranormal investigations.
For the past 10 years, the Gages have been in charge of the non-profit organization East Central Indiana Paranormal Investigators (ECIPI).
Steps to an Investigation
The Gages have a list of defined steps that each investigation must follow. The quickest an investigation can be is just under two months. These steps make their group much more controlled than a ghost hunt. A ghost hunt is often more chaotic and less scientific, Shelly said. Their steps are:
- First, they meet offsite with the owner. They do this to learn what the haunting is and learn whether the owner is nuts Shelly said.
- Then, ECIPI does a daytime sweep of the area in question. They do this to see what factors could interfere with a nighttime investigation.
- The nighttime investigation takes from three to six hours and involved visual, audio and full spectrum recording. Some of the tools they use are cameras, a monitor, recorders and emf detectors.
- Finally, ECIPI reviews the footage. They can have up to 30 hours of footage of empty rooms to analyze.
“On average a good investigation has three to four pieces of evidence for the unexplained,” Andy said. “A lot of times though we go in and we get nothing.”
ECIPI is the Gage’s strange hobby, Shelly said. Their team, which is comprised of seven members, is there to help anyone who suspects paranormal activity.
“People contact us if they think there is a haunting in their home or business,” Shelly said. “We start on the skeptical approach of trying to debunk the claim or trying to find a rational reason.”
For example, if someone calls ECIPI complaining about a haunted cabinet with a swinging door, the first thing they do is check if the door is level.
Andy, who has loved ghosts since he was a kid, said he was the one who got the couple into this line of work.
“I’ve always had a fascination with the paranormal,” Andy said. “Eventually Shelly made the mistake of saying, ‘You need a hobby,’ and here we are.”
So, the couple joined a paranormal group in Gary, Indiana. After several months, they felt they had learned enough to break off and make their own group.
ECIPI averages four to five investigations a year, however, Shelly said 2017 has been busier.
Muncie’s Haunted Origins
Muncie’s haunted origins dates back to its very first land purchase.
“When Muncie was first founded in 1827, the land was purchased from a woman named Rebecca Hackley, who was a [half Miami] Indian,” Shelly said.
Hackley sold half of what is called the Hackley Reserve according to The Star Press. Except, she and her family sold the half they believed to be haunted.
“Muncie is haunted,” said Cailin Murray, co-author of “Weird Encounters: Haunted Ball State” and professor of anthropology. “It’s an old place … there’s a long history of human habitation here and that creates situations in which people feel haunted.”
Muncie’s Haunted Sites
In their active years, ECIPI has collected a list of some haunted spots in Muncie. From research and investigations, these sites have been deemed to have some paranormal activity:
Muncie Civic Theatre
Shelly said that since the Civic was first constructed it has always been a theater of some type.
“Any time you have a theater there is a lot of strong emotions and that is a recipe for something getting left behind," Shelly said.
ECIPI has conducted hunts in the theater on three different occasions. The first time, they heard what appeared to be a laugh that turned into sobbing.
“There a couple of stories tied to Civic,” Andy said. “In the early 20th century, a couple was in a wreck with their horse drawn cabin. They are still seen occasionally at shows.”
Shelly also said there have been multiple reports from staff of tools moving themselves.
“They believed that someone who used to manage the costumes is still hanging around,” Shelly said. “She was a very forceful personality and people still smell her cigarette smoke around the costume room.”
Murray said her former husband has had experience with the ghosts of Civic Theatre.
“He was sitting on the aisle seat, there was nobody walking up and down,” Murray said. “And somebody pinched his arm — hard!”
WLBC Radio Station
The station started in the 1920s as an AM signal. As one of the first stations to switch to FM, the owner Don Burton had an intense love for his station, according to the radio blog Faded Signals.
Burton was so dedicated to his station that his first broadcast was from his living room.
“He loved his job so much that when he retired, he went to 40 hour weeks,” Shelly, who worked at WLBC for several years, said. “That was his retirement.”
Burton is now often seen in the windows of the building, especially on weekends. Staff who didn’t even know what Burton looked like have identified him in pictures because they claimed to see him in the windows.
Doors have been slammed on staff, computers have malfunctioned in Burton’s old office and faucets have spontaneously turned on.
ECIPI brought in a physic to take a look at the place. Without previous knowledge of the station, the medium started to describe Burton to Shelly.
Old Hotel Roberts
“The big haunted place for Muncie is Roberts Hotel,” Andy said. “It has several spirits in it that have been talked about over the years.”
- Lan Thornburg — He managed the hotel during the Great Depression. To keep the hotel alive, he didn’t turn in his paychecks during the Great Depression Shelly said. In his old office, staff have reported shadows, reflections on shiny surfaces and noises from his typewriter.
- “Potato chip guy” — The story says a man committed suicide by putting rat poison on potato chips in room 319. Now, guests have reported hearing the room being torn apart but find no visible signs of damage. However, the Gages have found no historical proof for “potato chip guy” and believe this story to be a folktale.
- Florence Bly — She was an unmarried, librarian that lived in Muncie. Occasionally, she had arguments with her family and would check into room 620 for several days. In 1943, a blackout test for World War II occurred in Muncie. Bly’s body was found on the sidewalk beneath her room Shelly said. Andy explained that the newspapers of that time didn’t report the death as a suicide or murder. According to the story, she can be seen in the hotel window. Additionally, maids have reported finding objects strewn across the room.
Cornerstone Center for the Arts
While the Gages have only been on the first two floors of this building, the have debunked some of the alleged paranormal activity surrounding it.
Shelly said that the voices are in fact from a cognitive disorder called auditory pareidolia.
“You can sit in some of the rooms and it sounds like people are having a conversation outside of the room,” Shelly said. “We realized this only happens when the air is on. There is a phenomenon where the brain turns white noise into something comprehensible like voices.”
However, the staff has experienced images and feelings in the building that ECIPI hasn’t dismissed.
“We would like to come back and investigate the building more,” they both agreed.
Ball State Haunted Sites
While ECIPI is not allowed to investigate on campus, the Gages have heard of several haunted locations on campus.
On the eighth floor of Knotts Hall, a woman is reported to have died by suicide by jumping in the 1980s Andy said. However, there is no documentation to back the story up.
“There is talk of going into the restroom on the eighth floor and the center stall would be locked and you could hear crying,” Andy said.
When Shelly worked in LaFollette, she said staff shared some paranormal experiences with her.
“In the basement, some people said that they had experiences with their hair being pulled while they were alone down there,” Shelly said.
Additionally, Murray has heard of a ghost in Shively bathrooms that will lock stall doors.
The story says that someone by the name of William Schomburg died by suicide by hanging from the rafters on the top floor of Elliot.
“There has been lots of stories about William throughout the years, but there has been research done and there is no evidence William Schomburg existed,” Andy said. “What is interesting is that no one knows where the story originates. A gentleman from [attending one of ECIPI’s paranormal talks] said he knew about the ghost in 1968 when he lived in Elliot.”
Andy said that the story could have some truth. Either the name in the story has been changed, or the story has been greatly embellished. However, Andy said when he lived in Elliot he witnessed paranormal activity.
Looking for more?
ECIPI is the only paranormal group in this area that gives talks to the community.
Their next two talks will be at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Carnegie Library and at 5:30 p.m on Oct. 23 at the Alexandria-Monroe Public Library.
Arrive early as the talks have limited seating.