Paranormal living along West Virginia’s country roads.
Archive of the Afterlife “the National Museum of the Paranormal” was a planned detour on our road trip. We were filled with anticipation when we organised our visit into the creepy realms that most tend to veer away from.
We were in contact with curator, Stephen Hummel, to arrange a time for the 5th July, just after the Independence Day holiday. He was closed on the 5th, but he and his partner Victoria said they would open up especially for us. How could we resist their kind offer! We felt privileged!
Winding path to an unavoidable conclusion
We wound our way through the country roads of West Virginia, as our spirits felt light enjoining the beautiful sunshine.
Sudden braking was the alert to the local wildlife as we slowed to a halt. A beautiful young deer skipped across the road, spooked as our vehicle stopped.
It stood at the verge, undecided, looking into the bushes at our side of the road. The deer turned to look intently and curiously at us, giving a quick glance back whence it came, while pondering what move to make next.
A local car approached from the other direction and made up the deer’s mind as it left into the bushes. The other driver gave a wave of appreciation acknowledging our awareness for the resident wildlife.
Beautiful non paranormal scenery
The rolling hills and lush greenery was very akin to what you would see in Ireland, UK, and rural France. They even had roads called Irish Ridge Road and Dublin Lane. Little houses, with typical American porches, sat back from the main road oozing charm.
Some side by side with little quaint cemeteries that would come to the roads edge. Maybe the closeness of the living and dead, with these open graveyards, give an insight into how the local community embraced their past connections.
The day of the Paranormal tour
We turned up 10 minutes early and spotted the modest white house on 86 Railroad Street. It was easy to spot with its sign in the window, ‘Archive of the Afterlife – a Paranormal Museum’.
There was little life about as we photo documented the outside and wrapped the door, but there was no sign of our hosts as yet. The curtains were closed and the place seemed asleep.
Archive of the Afterlife – a Paranormal Museum
Luckily we didn’t have to wait in anticipation too long as Stephen and Victoria turned up at 1pm on the dot.
Entering the house
There is some kind of nervousness, yet excitement when you enter. I guess it’s a combination of things, such as these two strangers meeting us in the small, quiet town in the middle of nowhere to open up ‘especially for us’, and taking us through a house with haunted artifacts, creepy dolls, antiques, and relics from warzones and the State Penitentiary.
We were warmly welcomed into the small vestibule and introductions slipped into an easy chat. Stephen certainly has the gift of the gab. Maybe he kissed the Blarney Stone in a past life! Indeed, he explained that he feels an affinity with the Titanic; it’s building and maiden voyage.
The first scary prop that glared at us, was Billy Butcherson’s head from Hocus Pocus, of whom Stephen said guards the place. If you think he’s scary, wait till you see the REAL haunted items in the other rooms!
Eyes glare at you from the black and white pictures upon the walls. However, don’t be scared, not all these people are haunted from centuries gone by, they just have interesting pasts.
One photo in particular dominates the gateway room behind a glass casing. Stephen had retrieved the photograph from an antique shop. He was drawn to the picture. When brought home, on inspection, Stephen found documentation inside the back of the picture frame, which included the ladies name, her DOB etc. This information led him to be able to discover a lot about her life as he delved deep into her history. Her name was Annie and Stephen now says Annie is very active and watches over the museum.
Soil in the bottles
A fascinating collection of soil got from places alive with presence and sightings. These little bottles of soil have been got from all over the world, from places like Gettysburg, graves, areas of mass death / murder, or of particular interest that may help to give readings during paranormal investigations. There is even thought to be soil from the grave of serial killer Ed Gein among others.
Embalming Room – Victoria guides us into the paranormal
Victoria, who eased gently into the conversations, took the lead as we brushed past the black net veil and into the Embalming room. Definitely not a favourite of mine (Miko) but it didn’t faze Knox lol. A real embalming table, given as a gift from a funeral home to our guides, was the centerpiece in this recreated, old style funeral home mortuary. Victoria, assures us it has been cleaned as i eyed it suspiciously.
Embalming medical equipment sits in a glass casing.
‘Look at these, aren’t they fascinating’, Victoria’s eyes light up at the instruments.
I look at the shiny silver instruments. The artery tube, cavity injector, pressure vessel etc made me queasy as my imagination ran away with it.
Victoria kept talking enthusiastically about dead bodies and mortuaries, as I thought about the poking and prodding of the bodies as they get turned inside out so to speak.
War Room / West Virginia State Penitentiary
The collections from these two theatres of death and horror share this small space. Steve, Victoria, and many others have used these objects while investigating for paranormal activity.
As a World War II history enthusiast, Stephen has collected many items from different sources. Hole ridden German and Russian helmets as well as many other objects dug up from Europe’s battlefields adorn this room.
There is also the more recent addition of a battle jacket and boots worn by a soldier who perished during Desert Storm. The items were gifted to the museum but the identity of the soldier has been kept secret by those that donated.
West Virginia State Penitentiary
A prison door from West Virginia State Penitentiary (A particularly violent lock up), sits as a focus in the room as well as a bed frame from the prison.
On the frame lies a photo of a prisoner and a selection of Shanks (crudely fashioned prison knives) which were found in numerous cells.
He even bought the missing Electric chair skull cap used in WVSP due to links he developed while working in the closed prison as a tour guide! This sits behind a display. On top of the display are photographs of the men who were forced to succumb to its deathly power as retribution for their crimes.
Connections between prisoners and officers
There is also the picture of Corrections Officer, V Arbogast, who got an inmate to build him some furniture pieces for his wife and home.
The ornate inlay of the items were good craftsmanship and was a welcome gift from the CO’s family to the museum. Inmates were asked, at times, to actually build the Electric Chairs used for executions. This was dangerous work as it would mark one out for a violent end by the rest of the prison population.
A cabinet displays well known inmates, and items they owned, such as The bible of Aileen Wuornos; a female serial killer of the state, as well as a postcard from the notorious Charlie Manson; although he never spent time at this prison.
There are also photos of the Love Racketeer serial Killer, Harry Powers, who lured his victims in using Lonely Hearts ads. He was hanged at the prison. Maybe he’s the Shadow Man that has been captured on camera.
Funeral Home Room
Coffins, of various styles, lie in wait for those that enter. Definitely gives me (Miko) the chills.
There is a tiny child’s coffin, used during the funeral service but not the burial, as one enters. Pulpits and prayer kneelers sit amongst the other coffins while crucifixes adorn the walls.
One interesting piece is the wicker coffin that would have been used around the time of the civil war (mid eighteen hundreds). The style was to help preserve a body that may not have been able to be seen by a coroner immediately. Ice would have been packed into the bottom and then a sheet placed over it before the person would have been laid on top. The wicker aspect also allowed the dead to breathe just in case they hadn’t actually passed on to the afterlife just yet!
The spirits moved us Upstairs
We followed our paranormal guide as Victoria led us up the creaking stairs. The energy levels in the atmosphere also went up as we climbed.
Creepy Dolls Room
Why are dolls so creepy? It has probably something to do with how they look so human-like.
Then you have the sinister looking clowns.
Or how about the ventriloquist dummy, with its menacing smirk, from a hinged jaw, and deranged stare.
Victoria tells us how he moved his head once without the aid of a master. He apparently is benevolent though.
Most of the dolls they got given to them, as parents had had enough of their frightening ways. One mother said she was determined to get rid of a particular doll as one of her children would run from it while the other would giggle and babble with the quirky doll.
The Mutilated Effigy
The paranormal dial was twitching upwards as the eerie faces watched us. This was not a sinister room but the emotional energy was rising as we listened to Victoria’s words. Was this a natural human response to a perceived feeling or something more paranormal?
The story of the red headed doll certainly pointed towards the latter. A presence in a house had led the team to investigate the happenings. Drawn to the basement, a doll lay sprawled on the ground. Cold, damaged, and unwanted, Stephen felt the energy. He picked her up and sat her on a sideboard. On a return visit, a week or so later, Stephen went back to the basement. He was assured that no-one had been down there since the team had last been to the house. The little red haired doll once again lay sprawled on the floor cold, damaged, and unwanted. The team got a chill and sensed a case of abuse down through its past.
Benevolent Indian Dolls
While some people who have visited the museum have experienced a negative response when viewing a collection of Native American dolls, we sensed quite a light and free energy emanating from the untroubled figures.
The landing had more items connected with superstitions, weird occurrences, and photos that showed a glimpse of the hidden world around us.
One such photo was taken in a church as a girl was getting ready for a wedding. The picture had a happily smiling person enjoying an occasion of joy. When it was developed, there was a shadow, initially thought to be her hair, that dominated the space directly behind the girl and loomed menacingly about her shoulders.
Standing in the corridor between the rooms, and just outside the latched ‘Dark Room’, I could certainly feel an infiltration of negative energy enveloping the area. There just felt an oozing sense of confined power tapping on the mind.
An Iron framed bed from a psychiatric ward, patients and nurse uniforms, old rusty doctors examination chairs, wooden wheelchairs, doctors equipment etc filled this room.
There is always a close link between the insanity world and levels of existence only a shadow away.
Victoria related the story of how she glimpsed a tall presence around Stephen and a friend when they were moving this chair.
It was over 6 feet tall and paranormal probing has suggested a tall man has a certain attachment to the doctor’s chair.
Residual Room for less offensive paranormal characters
This is a room that has a number of ‘active’ items but they don’t appear to have the threat of those that occupy the ‘Dark Room’. Nevertheless, there is a crackle in the air and some shockingly tragic stories.
My little paranormal pony
There was a plastic horse that just loved to venture abroad. Like it’s wild relatives among the plains, this wee pony takes a trot to other parts of its domain when it pleases.
Control, jealousy, and a family massacre
A Dr Seuss book was the main focus in the room, sat under glass in a coffee table. Looking closely, you could see blood on the corner and edges of the front cover. This was an item, retrieved from a murder scene, in Clairsville – Ohio, that has made its way to the safe arms of the museum.
A woman trying to flee, with the help of her extended family, an abusive, controlling husband. The shame, perceived by an angry man that he would feel within his Pakistani community, explodes in a horrendously gruesome manner. He slashes his wife, her father, sister, and two year old niece before absconding with his two children in a failed attempt to flee the country and escape the law. He was arrested at Kennedy International airport. The book has helped connect the team with what they believe to be some of the murdered family, including simple answers by the two year old, Nasira Ahmad.
The Dark Room
Last but not least. The dark room was a room situated at the top of the stairs and at the end of the corridor. I (Miko) already felt the oppression as I lagged behind Knox and Victoria. As being an empath and intuitive from childhood, I still had sixth sense and I am very sensitive to feeling others’ moods and different atmospheres.
Victoria and Knox entered the ‘most haunted’ room while I stood back. Almost immediately I felt faint. I couldn’t enter. As Victoria was giving a rundown on different artifacts in the room, I felt something brush against my back two or three times. There was no fan or air movement on the landing. I got the shivers, urging in my mind for the tour to be over.
Hope or despair – a paranormal question
Victoria discussed many things in the room, but the most famous had to be ‘Hope’, a doll the size of a small child. Her eyes peered out of her boxed confinement, staring right at me.
Victoria explained the need for the secured glass box for Hope, as one evening she’d come back into the room and Hope was upside down.
Paranormal Clearance doll
At a house clearance, one of Stephen’s friends were creepily locked in the basement. Hope was there. It’s not clear if this was Hope’s doing or the menacing man sorting the clearance. When her friend finally got her outta there, they wanted to skedaddle, but not without the doll. She called Stephen later, as she didn’t like the feel of the presence and needed it out of the car. The doll was never going to make an introduction into her house.
Strong force from the dark side
She handed the black bagged, covered doll to Stephen and said she never wanted to see that doll again. He thought she was giving him a body! Several paranormal investigations into her have shown a strong presence connected with the doll. Hope’s torso and legs are a different colour from her head and arms. This suggests that she is an amalgamation of two different dolls but what is inside her?
The Cursed Cabin
The story of the cursed cabin is particularly eerie. The cabin is located in the mountains of Southern West Virginia. The owner of the cabin explains that there have been multiple deaths of people who have stayed there, got sick after, and passed away. It usually always comes in threes.
Experts began to think that it was the mirror that was the problem but whatever is in the cabin seems to want to stay. ‘Don’t look into the mirror’, I shouted at Knox as he took a picture of it from its position in the closet of the dark room. It is thought the mirror is a portal to another dimension. Indeed, folklore and legend believe that a mirror can suck out souls. Hence, why they removed any mirrors from a dying person’s room.
In order to prevent mirrors being used as a portal by supernatural entities, the mirror should be frequently moved to different areas of the room. It’s also thought that mirrors with a solid backing, i.e. attached to a wall or wardrobe and placed in the same position for a long period of time, are thought to be more likely to become spiritual portals for supernatural entities. Therefore you should go for a mirror which you can move around the room regularly!
When paranormal investigators were exploring the cabin one night, one lady investigator got her pocket pulled three times. Inside was an old coin. After her time investigating the cabin, three days later she has symptoms of a heart attack. This is how other occupants have met their end after inhabiting the cabin. The owners will let no one stay there now. Stephen and the team have been up at the place a couple of times.
The 666 Bible
An abandoned school for crippled children, a bible left open at page 666 with certain satanic worshipping evidence around, a group of college students that break in to look around – What on earth could go wrong with that! The bible was removed by one of the lads and taken home. Fantastic!
Things start occurring
That was in May. By July, the bible had to go. Family members getting ill, a pet had died, and flat tyres all pointed to life traveling in the wrong direction. The deciding factor was the voices in the head and a strong oppressive energy surrounding him. His usually calm dog barked without stop on a night when he encountered a group of dark, shadowy figures in the yard. The entities left no trace. The dog wasn’t hanging around and neither was the bible after that. It now resides in the Dark Room.
What a lovely bunch of artifacts. I (Knox) stood amongst them. I certainly felt a tingle in my stomach and a few goosebumps on my legs. There is definitely an odd energy in the room. Victoria made sure it was latched closed again as we exited and made for the stairs.
We confirmed with each other that the draw of the place was strong. We had to visit and relished the thrill to our senses as we toured the house. Make your own mind up how you want to appreciate the plains of life around us. We certainly are not alone.
Stephen and Victoria were super hosts. We left them to continue our journey as they continue to tread where many fear to go.