TORRINGTON – After all the living souls have turned in for the night and the bars have disconnected their neon signs, when headlights are a stranger sight on the highway than nocturnal wildlife and hotel night clerks have exchanged their hopes for another weary traveler for the comfort of a spare bed – that’s the perfect time.
It’s quiet. Deadly silent. It’s dark – pitch black. Three-in-the-morning dark, black as ash and brimstone.
Those are the psychic hours, they say. That’s when some certain dwellings become more active. It’s the time when you hear things you can’t explain – things that go bump in the night.
That’s when the Goshen Paranormal Society goes to work.
The four members of the group are on a mission to figure out what exactly goes bump in the night. They want to know why dark shadows create anxiety, if that movement in the corner of your eye was more than the wind, or why that chill just went up your spine.
They’re on a quest for answers – and for some of them, it’s been a lifelong hunt to find things most of us would rather pretend we didn’t see.
A quest for answers
When Tyler Werner – one of the group’s founding members – was a just a kid, he was sitting in his bedroom and saw, just in the corner of his vision, his little brother, Chance, trying to sneak up on him.
Werner ignored him, and his brother eventually gave up on the prank and went on his way. When Werner emerged from his room, he asked his mother, Shelly, if his brother had been trying to mess with him.
His brother had been asleep in a different room for hours.
That’s when Tyler knew.
“It’s crazy to experience something like that,” he said. “Now, I’m trying to find the answers.”
Werner, along with Ryan McCallen, formed the Goshen Paranormal Society nearly a decade ago. The group has grown to four members in recent years with the additions of Chris Jenkins and Addison Madden. They investigate sites rumored to be haunted, where they conduct experiments and search for evidence of the paranormal. McCallen said each of the paranormal investigators became interested in the paranormal for their own reasons, but the group came together with a common goal.
“To be honest, this was years in the making for each one of us,” he said. “There are four of us in the group, but each one of us has a history of interest in the paranormal. We have a main goal, and it’s kind of hard to explain.
“Our goal is to find out things that nobody else tries to find out. We all share the same common vision.”
That vision is to determine if the things people talk about in hushed voices – the spirits, the shadows, the shapes, the ghosts – can be explained. Specifically, McCallen wants to know what grabbed him by the shoulders while he was staying at a friend’s house back when he was in middle school.
When McCallen was in sixth grade, he – and every other kid his age – was a huge fan of the Ghostbusters movies and cartoons. Perhaps he was channeling Peter Venkman when he agreed to investigate a classmate’s house, which had a history of paranormal activity.
“I went to his house and I had a briefcase, just trying to be a professional. The only thing I had in the briefcase was a pencil and a piece of paper,” McCallen said. “I spoke to his mom and she told me some incredible stories. I spent the night that weekend at his house, and I didn’t really know what to expect.”
Nothing happened, so the young ghost hunters turned in for the night. Several hours later, McCallen got up to use the restroom – and had an experience that would shape a part of the rest of his life.
“When I was walking into the bathroom I felt like somebody had grabbed my shoulders, as if I bumped into them,” he said. “I thought it was his dad and I apologized. I reached around and turned. the bathroom light on and nobody was in there.
“That was a personal experience but that was enough to say there’s something to this.”
An active investigation
When the GPS shows up to a site, they don’t just copy what they see on TV shows like Ghost Adventures and try to provoke the location to become active. They don’t try to confront entities at all, but see an investigation like they’re visiting someone in their home – except this visit includes a worst-case scenario box with a Bible and holy water.
“We show a lot of respect to the building itself,” McCallen said. “When we walk in, we assume in the back of our minds that it could be a legitimately haunted location, so we treat it as such. We treat the whole situation with absolute respect.”
The investigation begins with research – months of it, to learn the history of the building and who or what may be inside. On-site, the team begins with a silent walkthrough, where the team simply examines the different rooms in the house. They touch the furniture, the handrails and get acquainted with the building – and get the building, as well as any spirit inside, acquainted with them.
Then the Society sets up its equipment. The tools of this trade range from commonplace items like the LED candlesticks the team uses to mark certain spots in the house, to specialized equipment like voice recorders, a K2 meter that measures electromagnetic fields and a structured light sensor that can detect shapes invisible to the naked eye.
“It’s an infrared laser system that maps out skeletal structures,” McCallen said. “That is one of our fancier things and we have caught a few anomalies with that.”
Once the equipment is set up, the team maps out who will be investigating which parts of the building, and when. From there, each investigator has their own methods.
Werner likes to be by himself in a quiet area, where he asks questions he hopes will be answered though electronic voice phenomena, or EVP – a disembodied voice captured on camera or digital recorder. Jenkins and McCallen stress the importance of being thorough and sometimes go through the entire alphabet multiple times to allow an entity to communicate with them by manipulating the K2 meter. For Madden, who does the majority of the filming for the group, investigations are about seeing as much as she possibly can.
“I just try to take it in,” she said. “With the video camera, I try to get as much as I can in the time that we are allowed to investigate. I just try to be as silent as I possibly can. The most experiences happen when we’re quiet and not as loud and obnoxious as you seen on TV. The silent approach is a lot better for the group.”
But for Madden, the event that made her a believer didn’t happen in the quiet.
It came one night at her aunt’s house, when the family was sitting around the kitchen table telling stories about her grandmother, Margaret Fleenor. Fleenor had passed away, but the house had once belonged to her.
“Out of the corner of my eye in my aunt’s kitchen area, I see this antique spoon collection,” Madden said. “We were talking about Maggie, and when we were talking about her it flew off the table. That was the first experience I ever had. It wasn’t really creepy, but we thought that was her presence.”
It’s fitting that Fleenor may have provided that first experience. Madden said she became interested in the paranormal because of stories Fleenor would tell when she was growing up, and after that experience, she joined the GPS in 2017.
The Society has investigated several local sites, and the investigators believe they have evidence there is legitimate paranormal activity.
At the Trail Hotel in Torrington, one of the LED candles disappeared without a trace. A billiard ball was spotted rolling across the floor. It stopped, then starting rolling again – on its own. The best piece of evidence, however, was a big one.
“We had heard a noise somewhere else in the building,” McCallen said. “It was a really loud bang. I was looking off to the side and the camera was just in my hand pointing in a different direction. “When we looked at the video afterwards, we found something. It looks exactly like a face and it kind of just turns and looks at the camera for a minute. You can make out the nose, the eyes, everything. It was a direct response to a question. We had asked if someone was up here.”
They’ve found evidence of hauntings in the Knights of Pythias building in Cheyenne, and in the Silver Cliff Hotel in Lusk. They’ve had things thrown at them, they’ve heard disembodied voices and the investigators themselves have been physically touched by whatever inhabits these buildings. But still, according to Werner, they’ve never experienced anything that seemed malicious.
“I can say that I’ve never felt uncomfortable,” he said. “I’m more excited. I’ve been creeped out way more than legitimately frightened. You go in there and you hope to hear stuff and find stuff and what actually happens, it’s more exciting than anything.”
“We’re there to be creeped out,” McCallen said.
Making it work
The biggest challenge for the team so far has been finding places to be creeped out in, and the time to investigate. While the individuals on the team have experience investigating on their own, coordinating four different schedules makes it tough to work as a team. When they find the time, the challenge is finding a location.
Jenkins said the team collectively dreams of investigating Fort Laramie National Historic Site, one of the most reportedly haunted sites in Wyoming, but it costs a nonrefundable fee of $100 just to request a permit to allow them to investigate – and that permit isn’t guaranteed. In addition, the team would have to pay a security guard $50 an hour to be on the site during the investigation. For a team of volunteers, that’s steep.
“We do this for fun, for free,” Jenkins said. “There are a lot of places that want to charge us to go in. Sometimes they want to have somebody else with you. It kind of slow investigation when you have somebody else come in it’s just difficult.”
And sometimes there are bigger issues than just dollars and cents. The team has faced religious objections, and often have to convince a non-believer they should be allowed to investigate.
“It’s a taboo subject,” McCallen said.
Something to prove
The members of the GPS have posted a wealth of evidence on the group’s Facebook page, and will readily share anything they’ve found with anyone who asks. The big question, though, is what exactly are they finding?
When the team finds evidence of an entity, the first thing it does is try to debunk it. They look for hidden electrical wires that could trigger the K2 meter, old pipes that gurgle, loose siding that chatters in the wind – anything that could explain the experience. Once all of that is ruled out, an experience
“It is easy to mistake dust particles for orbs or ghosts, and that is our focus – to make sure we’re 100 percent sure as a group and we agree 100 percent this is a genuine haunting,” McCallen said. “I use that term loosely, of course.”
Proving those hauntings through evidence is the main focus of the group. The GPS doesn’t exist to sell television ads or scare people – the members have legitimate questions, derived from personal experiences, they want answered.
“We’re always working on a theory, and there are tons of theories out there,” McCallen said. “Each one of us might have a different outlook on it.
“The problem is nobody really knows if ghosts exist until it’s too late to tell anyone about them.”
The members of the GPS unquestionably believe in what they’re doing. They’re willing to put in the legwork conducting a thorough investigation, to spend time researching locations and picking through the hours of recordings they create while they’re on-site. It’s a labor of love for McCallen, Werner, Jenkins and Madden – and their goal is to prove their personal experiences weren’t imaginary.
“I thought that if we could explain or find out exactly why paranormal activity happens, what causes it, we’d really be onto something good,” McCallen said.
“I know for a fact it is legitimate.”
The Goshen Paranormal Society can be reached through its Facebook page. If you have questions, they can help you find answers – and they’re ready to believe you.