Always it seems with me. I never do things in baby steps. I just go right in hard-core, full throttle. Hence why I’m no longer allowed to drive a V8….Grrrr…So when I let a friend beguile me to a certain group of ghost hunters and I meet said ghost hunters and they instantly feel like home, why the hell wouldn’t I join. Even more so, why the hell wouldn’t I let my very first investigation with them be at one of the scariest, most haunted places on the East Coast. Pfft. I got this.
Of course I’m talking about my kick ass friends and team members of Coastal Virginia Paranormal. And the big and bad scary place, the uniquely eery, where spirits have run amuck, the notorious St. Albans Sanitorium. And of course I wasn’t quite ready for what I was about to experience. Hell no.
Most people, you know the sane ones, they’d see this sign and peace out.
Yeah, my Daddy always said I didn’t have much common sense.
The six-hour drive to Radford, Virginia where this paranormal playground sits is a pretty one. A scenic drive taking us across mountains into this quaint little town. But then, as one of my team members points towards a hill saying “there she is over there” I turn to get my first glimpse of the asylum and it’s as if the theme song to Psycho starts playing full blast in my head. The weeks of anticipation for getting here was now over and here I was, just minutes away from the creep show starting. I gulped down quietly as we inched closer to the large dilapidated three story abandoned brick building that looked straight up like the perfect backdrop for a horror movie. And let me tell ya, I like horror movies but I ain’t trying to be in one yo…..
Upon arriving and signing waivers (yes waivers) we each were required to sign, one of the co-founders of our group, who had been there once before, said “come on guys I know a short cut in.” Note to self, don’t let him lead me anywhere short ever never again. (just kidding you know I love ya) “Come this way,” he says. “It’s cool,” he says. “They say a spirit likes to hang out just on the other side of this door” he says. He forgot to mention on the other side of that door was the bottom floor, the basement. Pitch black. As in no windows. As in dude, I couldn’t see nuttin. I gulped down hard when he opened that door and the burst of cold air hit my innocent little non ghost conversationalist self. Armed with my tiny flashlight (because the big ones just ain’t cool) I stepped forward as the door slammed behind me into this now nothingness that was once full of life. A long long sordid history of life….
Before it became notorious for being one of the most active locations for paranormal activity on the east coast, it started off from the ground up, literally. The land from which it sits was once occupied by the Powhatan, Shawnee and Cherokee Indian tribes. Overlooking the New River, this land was host to the infamous Draper’s Meadow Massacre in 1775 where many pioneers suffered tribulations at the hands of the Shawnees. Further in history, during the Civil War, the hill from which the asylum sits was host to several battles.
It wasn’t until 1892 that the building was erected and became the St. Albans Lutheran Boys School, named after the famous St. Albans school in London. Meant to be one of the most prestigious schools on the east coast, it soon inherited a terrible reputation for bullying and suicides.
like a twisted disguise
how it rears its three faced eyes,
dancing on them all
the souls of unsuspecting hosts
taunting with fire and brew
whispering callous words
giving them no choice
to rage within
and decide war their only course
-Fragments of Chaos, poetry by Jenny Hayut
The students it seems were separated into two very distinctive groups, the athletic and the worthless. Those that were not worthy of playing a sport on one of the highly competitive teams within the school were often bullied resulting in many suicides and unexplained deaths. After the death of its founder, George W. Miles, in 1903, the school because of its dark reputation suffered a great loss in enrollment and as a result closed its doors in 1911. It sat vacant until 1916 at which time Dr. John C. King acquired the property and opened the doors again to what he’d hoped would be the nation’s first advanced psychiatric hospital….
Much like Miles, King set his expectations high. He wanted a hospital that would not only cure the mentally ill but change the near barbaric living conditions as was the standard practice with other facilities at that time. He’d hoped to have patients live as normal a life as possible, curing them of their sickness. Unfortunately armed only with what was the standard procedures of his time, he wasn’t very successful.
The methods of treatment in the 1900’s were, pardon the pun, insane. Things like insulin-induced comas, lobotomies and shock therapy were not just something you’d see in a horror movie, they were the real deal. And these procedures would leave most patients either brain-dead or literally kill them.
Another horrific treatment was that of hydrotherapy. Patients were made to soak in bathtubs…for days at a time. Or perhaps strapped with ice-cold towels, or naked bodies hosed down with blasts of freezing water.
These various treatments leaving patients in a mummified state or only making their illness worse and wanting to end their suffering, committed suicide. One bathroom on the third floor, where it was known the most ill and dangerous patients were housed, has been nicknamed the “Suicide Bathroom.” It is here that many attempted and or were successful in taking their life. At least four suicides are documented as occurring in this bathroom. On a side note here, this is by far the one room in the whole building that I felt the most uneasy in. While assisting a team member setting up a camera and motion sensor, my chest became heavy and I had a hard time breathing. I would not enter the room again until the end of the night when I assisted again with removing our equipment.
did you know with a delicate grasp you held me there,
hanging by an endless memory,
among the fragments of midnight,
among the white noise,
absorbing this me that I have become that floats between
the jagged edges of sanity
and a chaos that I covet
as if my final infusion
-Fragments of Chaos, poetry by Jenny Hayut
By the 1960’s the hospital had over 3,500 patients to an astounding staff of just forty-five. It was impossible to give everyone equally proper care and struggled remaining open until 2004. It was left untouched for years, faced threats of being demolished, suffered vandalism and then the paranormal world began investigating. Countless groups have toured, investigated, made claims, presented evidence and it continues today to be one of the most astounding places to visit….
Five dollar flash light don’t fail me now I silently prayed as I tried to keep up with two of my adrenaline charged team members weaving corners in the dark. That initial moment I seriously was having second thoughts as to whether or not I could do this. The fear was very much present but so was the adrenaline. It was already slowly charging through my veins. I could almost feel it as I looked behind me, beside me, squinting in the darkness. After getting lost weaving around corner after corner into this dark abyss, I silently cursed myself, -something is gonna snatch you Jen and these guys are gonna be so far gone they won’t even realize it-
Thankfully, we finally managed to find the stairs leading up to the first floor to our now waiting team members and I breathed a sigh of relief at sunlight. That is until I began to walk the corridor leading to the main entry. I discovered real quick, even with the daylight, it wasn’t much better up here. I seriously was going to give myself cool points by way of a bottle of booze if I made it through this night.
Upon arriving we had arranged for a proper tour of the building with the docent who relayed the history of how the asylum came to be and of its demise. Taking nearly an hour, we were shown from the third floor where the most disturbed patients were housed as well as an outside caged area the “birdcage” as it is called by some, where they could get limited outside activity.
dare to imagine a walk beyond this terrace of hopeless hearts,
beyond this bruised sky
where burning tides tease of the devil’s water
that lulls a nefarious thirst without remorse
-Fragments of Chaos-poetry by Jenny Hayut
We also toured the nurses quarters where many reports of laughter, talking, walking, pretty much everyday activity has occurred. Making our way back down to the basement, we toured the areas that were used for electroshock therapy and hydrotherapy. Because the hospital had so many deaths it even had its own morgue which we toured as well. Much activity has been reported in these areas due I imagine to the horrors experienced here and death.
In the daylight walking the halls wasn’t THAT bad. But, beyond the light, turning darkened corners, I felt the presence. We all did. You could almost smell it in the air. These walls were watching us. And we would soon discover they had a lot to say.
Below are images taken by myself as well as my team members as we toured. I have always flocked to abandoned buildings with a certain aura about them so naturally I was beyond excited at the opportunity to photograph St. Albans. Capturing the spirit of the building. The history that seems to remain in remnants here and there, telling us a silent story. From the people who inhabited this place decades ago, refusing to be forgotten, to the history of how far medical technology has taken us with treating the mentally ill, it’s all here and it’s quite a beauty.
Upon ending the tour, we had decided that we wanted to fuel up on food before offering our energy to Casper. Smart thinking I found from my experienced team members. As we returned and daylight was already starting to diminish,it was time to set up all of our equipment.
We as a group discussed where we wanted to set up cameras and investigate, strategically making sure wires would get where we needed them to be and make the best use out of where we could get equipment in. We organized groups as to who would investigate where and when first. A lot was going on all at once and I was in complete yowza mode. We knew the two places that we all unequivocally wanted to investigate were the bowling alley and the boiler room which of course naturally were both down in the basement. But then aren’t all sinister places after all?
Taking about an hour, we ended up setting up seven cameras in various areas of the building and it was then lights out. (that’s just what we say cuz um psssst there wasn’t any lights in this place to begin with)
the silence that shall inevitably creep in the darkness,
it digs its nails deep,
fading into a fraction of her soul,
succumbing to the truth
as it slowly unfolds
-Fragments of Chaos, poetry by Jenny Hayut
Naturally I was sent off to the basement first to the bowling alley. But of course! Now the bowling alley. A little bit of history and reported activity first. Quite a few spirits have been reported down in this area. The bowling alley itself came to be by way of a reward for patients. So in all accounts it was a fun place to be I imagined. But they had to put in the basement….
Virginia is home to a legally historical murder trial. The first conviction of a murder without a body. And guess where the suspected murder happened? Right outside the property that led up to the sanitorium. Yep. It is thought that the spirit of that victim, Gina Renee Hall killed by Stephen Epperly lingers in the basement between the bowling alley and boiler room. Other reports of a demonic spirit named “Goat Man” attacks people here as well as “Smokey” the once maintenance man of the facility who would drag women to the boiler room and rape them. He got his nickname as it is thought and reported that he was a smoker and if visitors offer him a cigarette then he will interact with them. Because of his disrespect, women are warned not to investigate the boiler room alone (Of course that didn’t stop us). Disembodied voices, shadow people, bursts of coldness, growling, all these have also been reported between these two rooms within the basement.
Entering the bowling alley, we started our audio recorders, digital video recorders (DVR’S) and settled in for the first EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) session of the night. I should mention that we chose to set up not only an IR (infrared) camera here but an audio recorder as well because of the abundance of activity that has been reported occurring down here.
Now see this is the first thing I learned about ghost hunting. It feels weird as hell initially sitting there in the dark talking to yourself and as my team members would tell you it took me a few times investigating with them before I could get over that weird feeling and once I did it was game the hell on. This particular session included myself, Rocki and Wayne, one of our co-founders. Rocki lead the session while Wayne armed with a DVR was recording and I was recording audio. I will say right now as I learned early on, paranormal investigating is hours and hours of sometimes nothing. Yeah, that wasn’t the case this night. Below is what we captured in that first session. (you will need headphones with the volume turned all the way up for this and all the audio and video evidence I’ve attached)
hear that knock? after I ask that it come closer..
hear the whispering?
What we hear is a “no” a direct answer to Rocki’s question….
I can personally recall throughout our time down there that there were unexplained noises repeatedly coming from the hallway between the bowling alley and the boiler room. We undoubtedly heard disembodied voices and unexplained knocking. The most significant noise I recall however, was the sound of shuffling feet. One particular instance I recall shifting myself away from the doorway onto the other side of my team member as I was certain someone was about to walk in on us from the darkness. The whole time I was down there I was uneasy, of that I’m certain. And it wasn’t going to get any better as the boiler room was next.
Throughout the night my other team members had sessions as well and had their own personal experiences. One being with Mike and Tom, the other co-founder of our team. Upon going through a series of questions it would seem they were getting interaction as with each question that was asked a knock was heard signaling an understanding. They as well distinctively heard a woman’s voice as well as scratching as if someone was trailing their nails along the pipes. The following is their evidence.
The following is what was picked up on the audio that we had set in the bowling alley. No one was down there investigating at this time.
To all of us it sounds like the ball return functioning. Obviously it wasn’t working nor in working order.
To the boiler room we went….
All of us throughout the night had our own individual experiences with the boiler room. I myself did two separate investigations. One this initial time with Rocki and Wayne and the second time with just the women of our group. It without a doubt lives up to its reputation as being the most sinister place in the building. The sordid history of it hits you as soon as you walk in. Bursts of coldness come and go leaving you chilled to the bone. That itself happened several times to many of our team members, myself included.
Initially with that first session in the boiler room I personally experienced a tug upon the bottom of my pants leg. It was sudden but there was no doubt I felt it. Much like while when we were in the bowling alley, shuffling of feet, and knocking continued outside the hallway leading into the boiler room. So much so that we decided to walk outside and stand within the hallway and begin recording. It’s at that time that my team member was knocked with a massive sense of coldness. Below is the recordings from our experiences.
Returning with the women was just as revealing if not more chilling. In trying to provoke “Smokey” we taunted him asking if he just simply couldn’t handle all of us women together in the room. If it pissed him off or turned him on. It didn’t take long for us to get activity from him as you’ll hear below when my team member Heather, captures what she believes a shadowy presence hiding within the corner of the room then suddenly disappears. I waste no time and begin questioning him. What my audio picks up as I listen to much later sends chills down my spine. Listen for yourself…
what we hear amidst me channeling my inner leprechaun, is just before I say “it’s just us girls” is a faint whisper saying “oh yeah” acknowledging he is in fact hiding from us. Now…I took my interpretation a bit further with this one thanks to the erotic writer in me. It’s a bit x-rated so I’ll refrain from mentioning it here but if you are curious drop me a message, I’ll tell you.
Two of my team members, Krystal and Tracey were using K2’s (EMF-electro-magnetic field-detectors) during this session and repeatedly it was as if Smokey or some thing was pacing back and forth around us as they both would continue to light up, as if he was taunting us. A friend of the group investigating with us, Marie, was using a thermal image device and even she was detecting energy aside from us.
Upon hearing what we believed was the sound of a young woman’s voice we decided to begin using the spirit box. (also known as a “ghost box” is a device used to contact spirits through radio frequency) It didn’t take long for us to begin getting interaction but seemed as if the spirits were fighting amongst each other. As if the room was full with entities. One most obvious battle was what we believed the ghost of Gina perhaps with Smokey. She would answer questions that we posed such as “what is your favorite color” and we got the definitive answer “wine” As the questions continued we suddenly heard a male voice and then the sound of the female voice “I have to go” at which time silence ensued. The continued bursts of coldness affected all of us up until we left to return upstairs.
I need to mention here that while we were having a session in the boiler room, all the men had decided to do their own investigation in the room on the second floor known as Donald’s room. The story of Donald as we know it is he was a janitor of the asylum and lived on site. He was a known homosexual and not an all around nice guy but I’ll get to that in a second. So the guys in all their gander decided they may get more activity if they all went into the room together. Activity was especially reported within the closet of Donald’s room. So naturally they pretty much tried to seduce a spirit in to coming out to play, taking turns in the closet. While none of them got felt up they did manage to get a pretty amazing EVP recording.
what we hear is perhaps Donald acknowledging Mike’s question with a “uh huh”
Upon returning upstairs we paired up differently and went off into what was the nurse’s wing where much activity had been reported as well. Armed still with our audio recorders and digital video recorders we walked the dark halls with flashlights in hand. I personally did not experience anything while here however some of my team members picked up talking and laughing along the empty corridors.
Below are various images that Rocki took throughout the wing as well as other various places within the asylum that after reviewing have questionable orbs within them. They could very well be nothing but it certainly made some of us go hmmmm.
Another team member, Mike, had an interesting experience in the room we pegged the “knocking door” room. It is here that a door that remains padlocked for whatever reason gets a lot of activity as reported by other groups. Mike decided to go and check it out by knocking and even though he didn’t get what he hoped was a knock back, he did hear the distinct sound of shuffling feet just on the other side.
Because of all the activity that had been going on in the bowling alley all night, including what I hadn’t mentioned yet, initially when some of our team members were setting up the camera, Mike was trying to summon the spirit known as “Goatman.” An EVP was picked up very clearly calling him a “dumb ass” which became the joke of the night. So we made our way back down to the dreaded basement where I once again went back into “gotta watch my back” mode. While down here which turned out to be our last time, we continued to hear several sounds, banging, shuffling of feet. There was no doubt in my mind that there was a presence down there. And not all friendly. While none of us ever experienced any kind of attack, it had been reported over and over again that other groups investigating had. But the voices, the banging, the walking, yeah, I was and still am convinced we were not alone down there.
Returning back upstairs nearing 3am our night of investigating was coming to an end. So they always say save the best for last. Seems not of my doing but that is exactly what happened.
Just at the top of the staircase leading to the second floor, is a room scattered with toys about and the shadow of a child painted on the hardwood floor. This is Jacob’s room. As the story goes, Jacob was abandoned just outside the doors of the asylum. The staff decided to take him in, giving him his own bedroom within the staff quarters, across the hall from Donald. I think you may already sense where this is going. Yeah. Turns out Donald had a thing for little boys. Repeatedly raping him to his death.
I really had no intentions of going into this room at all but for the fact that one of our team members, Tracy, really wanted to do a session in it. So I as well as Rocki were asked to go along. Remember that tour I mentioned at the beginning of our visit? I snapped some pictures of Jacob’s room then during the daylight…
The toys and dolls were brought in from various different researchers over the years in hopes of interaction with Jacob as it had been reported that a new toy would excite him, as it would any child. As we filed into the room, each of us armed with a flashlight and recorder, two of us leaned against the wall and begin attempting to summon Jacob. Asking questions like “Jacob are you here?” and “can you sit down and play with us?” When Rocki asked him “show us your favorite toy” that’s when it got very very interesting.
As we leaned against Tracy was crouched to the floor. Within seconds we heard the sound of a coin dropping onto the floor directly behind her. I quickly shined my light at her just as she was picking up a penny off the floor. As you’ll hear in the recording below I ask her if it had perhaps fallen out of her pocket as I shifted my eyes to what she was wearing, and the position of her pockets. From the position she was in there was no way anything could have fallen out of her pockets and she was adamant that she didn’t have any coins in her pocket, adding that she’d being using her bank card the entire day. Obviously we were dumbfounded trying to come up with a logical solution but we couldn’t find one so we were left to believe that it was in fact Jacob. Jacob showing us his “favorite toy”.
Again as you’ll hear in the recording, we thank Jacob and place the coin back on the floor for him. Moments later both my team members experience an overwhelming sense of discomfort resulting in Tracy turning on her light. Walking about her light then shines on a series of pennies in a perfect row to my left, about five feet from Rocki standing next to me. None of us can be certain that those pennies were there when we entered the room. In all honesty they very well could have been. However all three of us heard and saw the penny that dropped. That much we have no doubt about and remains with no explanation.
The session lasted just under twelve minutes and nearing the end it was decided we’d attempt a quick session in Donald’s room as neither of us girls had done so. Within moments of myself entering the room, I was hit with a wave of anxiety. It’s not something that I can easily explain unlike the bowling alley and boiler rooms where I was scared the whole walk down and for the most part the whole time I was investigating. With Jacob’s however my disposition was relatively calm. I truly was relaxed the whole time I was in Jacob’s room unlike my team members. However the moment I entered Donald’s room I tensed up and immediately wanted out. As a result we decided to finish up and return downstairs. Now this is where it gets really interesting…
Upon returning downstairs we discovered that it was time to begin packing up. We were calling it a night. Because the three of us were still standing on that side of the building we offered to return upstairs and pull the cameras and wires from both Jacob and Donald’s rooms. Immediately returning to Jacob’s room Rocki sat his light on the floor while pulling the wires up to break down the tripod and camera. When I heard him say “they’re gone” I was puzzled. “What” I asked him. Pointing into the room he said again “they’re gone, the pennies, all of them, go look.” Now I knew for certain that the three of us remained together from the time we walked out of Jacob’s room until the time we walked downstairs until present and I knew for a fact that no one else had been up the stairs since we’d walked down. Of course my immediate reaction was yeah right so naturally I had to see for myself. I was beyond shocked when I discovered he was absolutely right. Not only was the coin gone that Tracy had tucked just under a toy in the room but the coins that had been perfectly lined up were gone as well. This to me was the most perplexing event of the entire night for me there and still baffles me. Simply because there is no explanation for it. None. It wasn’t until we returned home and the three of us started listening to our evidence that we heard it. I’ll let you listen for yourself to see if you can place it. Just before the penny drops. Listen….
You hear it? That little faint sound just before the penny drops? Yeah. We did too….
So in short, after spending six plus hours investigating St. Albans Sanitorium I am absolutely convinced that it is haunted. From the decades of history, horror and tragedy it has even before this building was erected. This building is dead yet so very much alive. From the countless EVP’s we recorded, to the images that we captured, to the first hand experiences of sounds and hints of being touched, there is no doubt. This place is the real deal. No friggin doubt. And I’m beyond ready to go back. It’s kind of in my veins now….
Thanks for reading and please check out the video below that shows off an amazing flight view of St. Albans as well as our evidence collected.
to put into words
an impossible chore
but there it is
its existence ripping at my core
slowly it drives me mad
and sometimes keeps me at bay
yet its force, the reason
for never keeping me away
those moments when i doubt
or feel i should say goodbye
it pulls me back in
silencing my cry
this twisted connection
where night embraces day
is something to covet
a reason for us to stay
…a ghost hunter…
-Fragments of Chaos, poetry by Jenny Hayut