In 2013, Stones River Paranormal invited me to participate in an overnight investigation of historical Engel Stadium. This past weekend, that same crew invited me to observe an investigation of Hales Bar Dam in Guild, Tennessee.
Engel Stadium involved mostly outside exploration (it's a baseball field), but the Hales Bar exploration involved navigating a series of dark, isolated rooms, damp tunnels and creaky stairways. Scarier, to use another word. And that would probably be the case even without the years of paranormal history associated with the property.
Hales Bar has received national attention for its hauntings and been investigated by Ghost Adventures and other national paranormal groups.
I arrived at 7 p.m., and it was already dark outside. The powerhouse—the only remaining structure associated with the dam—was as menacing as I expected it to be. I took a moment to convince myself that I really wanted to spend all night there.
The paranormal has always fascinated me. I wouldn't say that I'm a "believer," but I try to remain open to the idea of the unknown. I enjoy working with the SRP team—a faith-based investigation team—because of the diverse backgrounds of the members. Leader John McKinney and newcomer Ashley Bishop are all about gadgets and documenting evidence, while members Tammie McClendon and Angel Bowman feel they are sensitive to otherworldly presences. It makes for a fun mixed-bag experience for a casual observer.
Recently, Jeff Weaver acquired the property and has spent much of his time cleaning the main building and offering overnight paranormal investigations. Stones River Paranormal also offers Ghost Hunting 101 experiences at both South Pittsburg Hospital and Hales Bar.
I recorded the below interview with Jeff and John inside the tunnels before our investigating began. It was the last time I would see them alive.
Just kidding. Everybody survived.
Hales Bar Dam
Now a marina and resort, Hales Bar Dam was the first multipurpose hydroelectric dam built on a navigable river in the world. Construction began in 1905, and workers didn't complete the project until 1913.
Soon after completion, the dam began to leak because of the soft bedrock foundation it was built on. TVA acquired the property in 1939 and it remained operative until 1968. Until Jeff came along, the property had suffered from years of neglect.
Weaver and his team have done an incredible job at cleaning the facility. As a believer himself, he understands the importance of paying homage to the history of the facility while also being respectful to the spiritual residents who manifest there.
There are countless ghost stories involving Hales Bar Dam. Examples include workers who were supposedly trapped in the walls during construction and the many men who drowned during those first few years. Other stories involve the spirits of Cherokee natives—including Chief Dragging Canoe—who still haunt the property. We were also introduced to a presence called Chris and made contact (via flashlight communication) with the ghost of an allegedly murdered young girl named Linda.
However, easily the creepiest apparitions are the schoolchildren who haunt the tunnels. According to Weaver, the children navigated the long tunnels on their way to school. To add to the creepiness, past investigators have left toys and plush items to make the children "more comfortable." This display had the opposite effect on me. It was odd and unsettling, and I wanted to cry.
Exploring the property
The schedule had the team splitting into two groups to explore the tunnels and building separately. I went with John, Tammie and Ashley to explore the building first. Each team received about an hour to explore before heading back to base camp.
Originally, the powerhouse served as the epicenter of the hydroelectricity that powered the dam. But now, the room just feels eerie and empty. It's also partially flooded.
Our first location was a security tower overlooking the water. The sounds of fish splashing echoed throughout the facility. We explored all three floors of the building.
SRP used a variety of equipment during the night. They had K2 meters to measure electromagnetic frequencies, a thermal camera and a device called a Rem-Pod that lights up and makes a terrible beeping noise when EM fields are distorted. John also carried with him a tripod with various gadgets on it, including an audio recorder and night vision video camera. There was even a device called a BooBuddy, a stuffed bear that lets spirits speak through him. I'm not kidding. Fortunately, we did not use the latter device.
Full admission: I was being a bit dramatic for the camera during the Facebook Live video below.
Surprisingly, the most useful piece of equipment was a simple flashlight. Investigators turn the flashlight's head to the position where it easily goes on and off, allowing for a spirit to "answer questions" by turning it on and off. This is how we discovered Chris in the tunnels and had a conversation with the ghost of poor Linda. I don't actually believe we were talking to ghosts, but it was interesting to see the light flash on and off as we asked questions.
Other than a few flashlight conversations, the most impressive evidence came after I decided to leave (at 5:30 the next morning). John had tried on multiple occasions to get a spirit to knock a specific playing card off a table. He lined up 10, 8 and 2 cards, and we stood there as nothing happened. A few minutes after I'd left, he sent me a text that something had knocked off the 8 card. Allegedly, there is video evidence of the incident that the SRP crew is going to reveal soon.
The below video was recorded during a session inside the tunnels. Investigators were trying to speak with one of the children. (Spoiler alert: Nothing happens and it's a long five minutes.)
Angel recalled having her shirt pulled and hair tousled by an apparition, and Tammie felt cold chills at a dead-end portion of the tunnel as we were talking with Chris. The ghost also indicated—using the light—that he thought Ashley was cute.
The tunnels are structurally interesting even without the stories attached to them. Any dark tunnel will be creepy on its own, but these didn't send chills down my spine like some. Sure, it's unnerving to see a single chair at the end of a hallway or an offering of stuffed animals on a table, but I found the cavelike building to be much scarier.
If SRP invited me out to another investigation, I would go in a heartbeat. But after our visit to Hales Bar Dam, I'm no more a believer than I was before. The investigation was worth the time, but I also felt kind of like the only kid in class who didn't get to see the meteor in the sky. Everybody else is talking about what they saw and how amazing it was, and I'm over in the corner with nothing to show for the experience.
Hales Bar is scary even without the ghosts. The thought that you might be surrounded by a variety of spirits is only slightly more interesting to me than the historical aspects of the property.
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