For most people, Music Hall conjures images of the Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Opera. It’s one of the city’s most refined and classy destinations. But Teri Casper sees it differently.
“That is the site of an old mental institution, an orphan asylum and also a potters field where they buried the indigent and the people from the insane asylum,” Casper says. “It’s really highly active there. It’s one of the most haunted locations we stop at in Cincinnati.”
Casper, owner of Cincinnati Tours, leads bus tours of haunted sites near Downtown Cincinnati. The tour groups are small — 15 or fewer participants — and connect those possessing a macabre curiosity to the other Cincinnati, the one that’s dead.
“It’s not just legends,” Casper says. “It’s a full historical account of tragedies and events that have happened.”
The irony of sharing a name with the friendliest of illustrated specters isn’t lost on Casper. The tours aren’t just storytelling and sightseeing; amateur ghost detectives can use a toolkit complete with sensitive digital recording equipment — used for capturing electronic voice phenomena (EVP) — electromagnetic field meters, infrared no-touch thermometers and night vision cameras.
“We’re not really promising you’ll see anything, but it gives you something else to go on,” Casper says. “You get at least some evidence to go home with.”
Casper says her groups have collected compelling evidence, including a curious EVP recorded at Bobby Mackey’s nightclub in Wilder, KY.
“We went in and captured this EVP that called us spirit stalkers,” she says. “You can hear it with the naked ear. It’s very audible. That’s the most amazing piece we’ve caught.”
It’s an experience that’s either fringe or cutting edge, depending on your point of view.
“Everyone wants to experience something that’s scary,” Casper says.
“This is more of a real scary.”Year-round ghost hunters
Rick Fenbers is half of the two-man ghost hunting team that calls itself the Cincinnati Regional Association for Paranormal Studies (CRAPS). He’s been on more than 20 cases a year since 2007 and considers himself a skeptic. CRAPS often partners with the Northern Kentucky Paranormal Society to investigate claims of hauntings.
CRAPS is a hobby, and Fenbers says their first goal is to disprove the presence of supposed entities. They look for natural or manmade sources of bumps in the night and later move on to the use of ghost detection equipment.
“We do this all for the fun of it and to help others,” Fenbers says. “Our main thing is to help people who feel they may have things in their home and try and prove it’s not paranormal.”
Recently, he says, CRAPS worked in the home of an autistic child who was having trouble sleeping because he believed ghosts were present in his room. CRAPS was able to isolate the knocking sound that the child thought was a spirit and identified it as coming from an appliance. They explained their findings to the family, and the child has been able to sleep well again.
“More of the work is debunking that finding,” Fenbers says.
Fenbers relates a story from a couple of years ago when CRAPS was investigating a haunting at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, which was used in the film The Shawshank Redemption and is now operated as a tourist attraction. He was searching for EVP and using an electronic field meter to scan for phantasms.
“As we would ask questions the meter would start beeping for no reason,” he says.
The spirit was asked to count, too, and issued the number, “1959.”
“Upon reviewing the history, we believe it was claiming to be the superintendent who died in 1959,” he says.
Kentucky’s haunted, too
Jerry Gels, one of the founders of the Newport Gangster Tour, offers walking tours of haunted Newport and late night ghost hunting sessions at Sin City Antiques, which he says is one of Northern Kentucky’s most active sites among those who have passed on.
Gels says in his research for the Gangster Tour he began hearing legends about local ghosts. The stories were exciting and strange, and he says his group has tried to be systematic and to relate only tales that have some supporting evidence.
“We really wanted a sense of legitimacy,” he says. “We try and eliminate things that are crazy and take a four-pronged approach to what’s left.”
Gels looks for stories that come from multiple sources, have historical support or phenomena that can be picked up using ghost detection equipment and are able to be verified by psychics.
“I like being a historian, but this ghost stuff scares me a little,” Gels says. “I slept on a hardwood floor from kindergarten through sixth or seventh grade because I was afraid of a monster under my bed.”
He says one psychic advised him that he might have undeveloped psychic abilities.
“I want to keep the tour strictly science and told her, ‘Yep, we’re not going to develop that.’ ”
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