In the creaky, historical Campbell House at Genoa’s Mormon Station, I witnessed something I was so skeptical about when it comes to paranormal activity: a pantry door opening by itself.
I swear, a breeze didn’t cause it and the bolts definitely weren’t loose; the door calmly opened.
It was around 10 p.m. when that happened and I had nothing but a flashlight on me.
I wasn’t alone when it happened; I was with a group of five, who also saw the sudden liveliness in the kitchen.
“Th-that door just opened,” stuttered one of the girls.
But that wasn’t the only freaky thing I saw that night.
Ghost stories are always a thrill and are sometimes taken lightly to calm our nerves because “it’s just fiction”— or is it?
Over the weekend, it’s been proven to my own sense you have to see it to believe it.
Although I personally don’t believe in an afterlife, I walked in with an open mind when I participated in Nevada State Park’s free Paranormal Investigation event Saturday, at Mormon Station State Historic Park, which occurs once a month during the summer.
7 p.m.: Dinner at Mormon Station Park
It’s best to arrive a half an hour before dinner to pitch a tent, as participants get the most experience by sleeping at the park overnight.
If you don’t own a tent, as Nevada State Parks has a couple to spare.
Remember to bring along lawn chairs, Nevada State Park’s Dan Wassmund goes over the history of Mormon Station — while cooking up a hearty chili cheese meal with buttered biscuits on a Dutch oven.
From there, you’ll meet Rosemary Osborn, the regional paranormal investigator and medium.
She organizes ghost tours throughout Washoe Valley and did investigations during her time in Hawaii.
She first got involved when she was 7 years old, when she had a pet that died and saw its spirit.
But when it comes to Genoa, Osborn said Mormon Station is one of the most haunted places she’s investigated in the area, including Virginia City’s Washoe Club, the Stewart Indian School, and Reno’s Morris Burner Hotel.
“This park is extremely active, especially with children,” she said. “The more you do this, the more connections you will have.”
Her investigation counterpart Kat Thompson, of Reno, also attended to lead one of the tours. She’s been ghost hunting since the 1980s.
Paranormal activity isn’t always visual — it also is telepathic, involving emotions and physical feeling.
The night had barely started when I already experienced my first paranormal encounter of the night, along with 11 other people.
My interview with Osborn was suddenly interrupted.
“Wait a minute,” she said. “There’s someone right next to me. It’s a woman and she’s with her child.”
As Osborn’s eyes were closed, I stood there silently, feeling a little insecure I might be interfering with her concentration.
“Come closer,” she said. “You’ll feel her presence, too. She wants us to show her daughter what we’re doing. Say hello.”
I closed my eyes and awkwardly introduced myself to whoever was standing there.
From that moment, I felt a rush of cold air and a heavy dizzy spell.
When ghost hunting, Osborn said not to ignore those feelings as it could be a spirit trying to connect with you. Those kinds of feelings can include a headache, dizziness, nausea, and pressure in the chest.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who experienced these feelings before. Diana Lombard of Gardnerville brought her two granddaughters visiting from Utah, as they experienced paranormal activity at a house they used to live in Ely years back.
“Things stuck with us,” said Ashlee Lombard. “We even had a medium bless the house.”
Diana said although she’s a Christian, she used to be a non-believer in paranormal activity until she toured the Washoe Club in Virginia City.
“You have to look at this with an open mind,” she said. “You can connect with a sense of belief.”
But when Osborn asked the rest of the group if they believed in an afterlife, not many of them raised their hands.
I wouldn’t doubt by the end of the night they changed their minds.
“A part of me is not looking forward to it,” said Nicole Rodriguez, Diana’s other granddaughter. “You can feel the presence and it’s intense.”
9:30 p.m.: The Campbell House
The group of 11 was split into two, to tour either with Osborn or Thompson (I was assigned to Osborn).
Both investigators went over the basics of how to use paranormal investigation tools, such as a K2 Meter that picked up electromagnetic fields and a Mel 8704R to indicate ambient temperature changes.
According to Thompson, 0.2-0.7 indicates a spirit is present. As for the meter, the flashing orange lights were an indication.
Each team members was assigned a responsibility with a tool, along with a digital recorder, notebooks, and cameras.
Locked and loaded, each group was set to tour four buildings: The Campbell House, the shed, the chicken coop, and the museum.
Osborn and Thompson carried laptops to use Phasmabox during the hunt, a computer program that allegedly picks up and translates spirit communication.
With these tools, we were expected to meet the spirits of some of Genoa’s well-known figures, such as Dick Gelatt, who died when his business burned down in 1910.
There’s also Lucky Bill Thorington who owned a log store in 1854, which also is now the old museum building. Proprietress of the old Rice Hotel, “Auntie Rice,” and Dick Raycraft of the Raycraft Exchange, were also known to roam the area. The Campbell House also is where the Rice Hotel once stood.
Spirits such as Gelatt’s also were known to hang out in the Campbell House; Osborn’s equipment translated communication exchanged with Gelatt’s spirit, which described his death in great detail.
This is the building where my group witnessed two occasions of opening doors, with one I happened to catch on video. With that, we also witnessed a rush of flashing orbs, an indication of high spiritual energy, Osborn said.
We asked the spirits questions, such as, “Who are you?” and “Why are you here?” as the Phasmabox responded with shouts and voices, some articulate enough to understand.
Some of the tourists in the group expressed nausea, dizziness, and chest pressure as they sat in the dining area of the Campbell House.
Some said they kept thinking up images of faces and words in their heads — such as “fire”— which means Gelatt may have been reaching out to a few people.
Our next stop was the chicken coop, but I couldn’t leave the spirits of the Campbell House without saying, “Thanks for the tour.”
Phasmabox picked up a response: “You are brave...”
10:30 p.m.: The Chicken Coop
At this point in the hunt, it’s important to keep yourself hydrated.
Not only are you doing a lot of walking but the infereference of spirits’ energy can be overwhelming for the body, Osborn said.
“It’s natural to feel dehydrated and exhausted while investigating,” Osborn said. “When spirits try to communicate to you, they connect with your energy.” Compared to the museum and the shed, I would say the chicken coop was the second most paranormally active building of the tour.
Of course, that may change by the time next month’s tour comes around.
This abandoned building northwest of the park was built in 1945 during the park’s reconstruction. Normally, this building is off limits during regular museum hours but when you’re on a ghost hunt, you have access.
As a group, we went inside of the short, narrow coop and traveled to the end, a cramped room.
We stood there for a bit until I noticed I became quite — solemn. The energy in the room was somber and distraught.
I told Osborn I was feeling depressed.
“Something is communicating with you,” she said. “Go ahead and ask why they are depressed.”
“Why are you sad?” I asked. “It’s OK, you can tell me.”
Nothing. There wasn’t a face or an image that came to mind, and no words popped into my head.
Just down in the dumps — and the feeling was weighing even more. The girls in my group started crying.
“Sometimes that’s all there is,” Osborn said.
Whoever’s soul it was, Osborn summoned it to follow the light and to follow the angels.
Believe it or not, within minutes, the weight of emotion in the room disappeared.
By 11:30 p.m., each group returns to the main section of the park for campfire and s’mores, and share experiences. Lights are out by 1:30 a.m., followed by breakfast at 8.
Osborn is in the process of translating more than eight hours of spiritual conversation through the Phasmabox, which is emailed to participants throughout the week.
This experience is something that will stick with me for a few days; I keep on wondering, “How?”
As a result, I’m still a bit skeptical of things but I won’t refuse to believe, either.
“We have a lot of activity on these grounds,” Osborn said. “Sometimes, you just have to listen.”