A few weeks ago two paranormal investigators joined Michael Koh, Rob Fee, and I in Iowa as we did an investigation in the Villisca Axe Murder House. Our investigators, Heidi Steffens and Tim Donahue from the Minneapolis Paranormal Research Society, were my first real peek inside the world of paranormal investigations.
In planning the trip Rob, Michael and I all watched the episode of Ghost Adventures where they investigate the Villisca house, but it would be stupid to think a TV show is the same as knowing what a real investigation looks like. What you don’t see on TV is how dark things are behind the cameras, how different locations can make you feel strange, or how alone you really are when you’re one little group somewhere. Heidi and Tim were very open during the investigation about what they were thinking and feeling, and experiences they’d had during previous investigations. Here’s some of the things we learned:
During an investigation in the famously (very) haunted Waverly Hills Sanatorium Tim stood in a room with moonlight streaming through the window watching a shadow figure walk across the room. As he watched the figure slowly, deliberately, turned to look at him.
During one investigation Heidi felt a ghostly presence breathe into her ear. She left the room to tell the rest of the group about it. At the same time, Tim came out of another room and announced, “Something just breathed in my ear.”
Lightheartedly, Heidi will “volunteer” Tim for things. Tim is fearless, going into attics and crawlspaces others won’t venture in to, so she’ll say something like, “if you’re here please touch Tim’s shoulder and then watch on a monitor as Tim, too far away to hear, rubs something off his shoulder.”
The caretaker of the Villisca house told us a story of entering the house one day and hearing such human sounding footsteps upstairs that he sighed, annoyed he’d have to go up and kick a squatter out. When he went upstairs, he found he was completely alone. He’d been in the house for years, alone and with others. He knew what sounds the house made when it was settling or creaking like any old house does, but this was different.
Things you’ve seen before
At a private residence in Minnesota, Heidi showed up for an investigation. The house was now completely bare but opening a long emptied closet Heidi recalled it’s former inhabitant’s belongings to the home’s current owner, down to a fur coat hanging on a hook on the far corner. Heidi knew she was intuitive as a kid when she saw spirits frequently, waiting in corners, loitering in her room. She now teaches others and runs a business.
Heidi says dealing with the paranormal is like dialing a phone, unsure of who will pick up on the other end, but if you keep dialing, someone will pick up.
Things running towards you
“I got bum-rushed by an entity a few years ago,” Heidi remembered. She thought it was going to knock her over, but it ran right through her.
Tim says, “I got into the paranormal because I was looking for answers. I wanted to know what was happening to me.”
We all know there’s a lot more out there beyond the little corner of the world we inhabit, and the more we see, the more we know we haven’t yet seen. Heidi adds, “It’s fun to see what might happen. What’s out there? And every time something happens I end up with more questions.”