The 'history' that never leaves some houses
The paranormal investigators known as C.R.E.E.P.Z. blend a love of stories from the past with their quest for ghosts
By Leigh Elmore
Do you believe in ghosts?
If you answered "yes", you are not alone.
Recent surveys have shown that a significant portion of the population believes in ghosts, leading some scholars to conclude that we are witnessing a revival of paranormal beliefs in Western society. A Harris poll from 2017 found that 42 percent of Americans say they believe in ghosts.
The C.R.E.E.P.Z. squad suited up for an exploration at the Belvoir Winery in Liberty. Top to bottom: Alec Tillery, Adam Tillery and Gideon Coyle. (photo courtesy Adam Tillery)
It turns out that a significant number of people report having personally experienced paranormal activity. In a study published in 2011, 28.5 percent of undergraduate students surveyed at a southern university reported having had a paranormal experience. In a 2006 Reader's Digest poll 20 percent of respondents reported that they had seen a ghost at some time in their lives.
October is that time of year when our thoughts turn to ghosts and hauntings. For some, though, those thoughts are ongoing year-round. Brothers Alec and Adam Tillery and their friend Gideon Coyle have been searching out paranormal events in houses and public places in the Midwest since 2009 when they formed their ghostbusting outfit: C.R.E.E.P.Z, which stands for City and Rural Explorers Examining Paranormal Zones.
"We try to focus on buildings that have historic significance," Alec Tillery said in a recent interview with Discover Vintage America. "We think of ourselves as explorers, who are out to connect the past with the present and the future. And what you will take away from the experience is history," Adam Tillery said. "We love to promote area houses and buildings. What we do is tell a story of our personal experiences at a particular location." Those experiences are then shown publicly as videos posted on You Tube or their website, www.CREEPZ.com. Frankly, viewing several of them caused my skin to crawl. Orbs (generally associated with paranormal activity) can be seen floating through rooms in some of the videos.
Epperson House on the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City has been widely reported to be haunted. (photo courtesy UMKC)
An expensive hobby
A lot of paranormal investigators do it for money, inviting the public to attend "investigations" at selected sites that are said to be haunted. But for the Tillerys and Coyle, paranormal investigations are a hobby, although an expensive one, they explained.
"The equipment can be expensive, " Adam said.
Basic equipment for a paranormal investigation includes a high-definition night vision camera and a voice recorder. Ratcheting up the technology involves getting an Electromagnetic Field (EMF) meter and a device called Ovilus 5, a meter that absorbs electromagnetic fields and "translates" them to words. (They explain by way of example: "We were in a three-story building in Iowa and the Ovilus said 'yellow pipes'. We looked up and saw a pipe wrapped with yellow insulation. It reads the energy in a room and produces words that could pertain to a spirit.")
"Overall, what we do is capture visual and audio sounds," Alec said.
The C.R.E.E.P.Z. crew reported unsettling feelings of dread while visiting the gas chamber in the old Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City. (photo illustration courtesy Missouri Tourism Division)
And even for a skeptic, some of the sounds and images that they have collected can be very compelling and serve to add evidence to claims of paranormal activity. They explained an "encounter" they experienced at the Rice-Tremonti Home in Raytown in the early days of their hobby.
(Editor's note: I am on the board of directors of the Rice-Tremonti House and gave C.R.E.E.P.Z. permission to be there.)
They report that Adam had gone to the basement of the house to check on the videotape camera, they have since graduated to a digital version.
Alec was in the kitchen and heard a sound near the back door. "I looked out the back window there seemed to be a figure of a person with long flowing hair or maybe even a sack over their head looking in. I yelled to Adam, we wanted to make sure it wasn't someone trying to break in. We went outside and split up, circling the house but couldn't find a soul." But when they played back the audio, they could hear a definite "knock, knock, knock" on the back door.
Alec and Adam Tillery in their "civilian" garb. (photo by Leigh Elmore)
To date the C.R.E.E.P.Z. have held more than 50 investigations of about 30 houses and structures in the region, including some of the best known historic sites in the Kansas City area: the John Wornall House, Harris Kearney House, 1859 Jail & Marshall's House, Alexander Majors House, Longview Mansion, plus the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City and the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis. They are currently looking forward to investigating the Vaile Mansion this November in Independence.
Adam recently took a special tour of Stonehenge in England, which allowed him to get close to the stones. He reported that he got a jolt on his EMF reader when he held it over the inscription that 17th century architect Sir Christopher Wren made of his initials.
A special place for the C.R.E.E.P.Z. is the Belvoir Winery near Liberty, MO. As volunteers, they led tours of people through what originally was established as a community for members of the Odd Fellows lodge. "Belvoir has always been special for us. It's where we learned our craft," Alec said. "We held monthly investigations" and they did it for no pay.
"We were in what used to be the hospital building on the top floor. Adam was doing an electronic voice phenomena (EVP) session and asking questions of a possible spirit. Meanwhile, Alec walked down a long hallway and saw a streetlight through a window go out. "I felt a static buzz go right through me, it felt like a 'chill'," he said. "Then a woman on the tour screamed, 'My hat flew off!' It flew a few feet away. Totally unexplainable."
In the Glore Museum in St. Joseph, formerly the Missouri Lunatic Asylum No. 2 the long hallways appear frightening enough. (photo courtesy St. Joseph Museums)
The Tillerys had an even more uncomfortable experience at the old Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City. "We were in a group of about 15 paranormal investigators that got the chance to investigate the gas chamber, the site of about 40 executions over the years."
Two of the most publicized executions were those of Carl Hall and his lady friend, Bonnie Heady, who were convicted of the kidnapping and murder of six-year-old Bobby Greenlease Jr. in 1953. The boy was the son of Robert Greenlease, the Cadillac dealer in Kansas City.
They were executed seated side-by-side. "There are two chairs in the chamber," Adam said. "I sat in one of them, and all of a sudden a feeling of disgust, dread and sickness came over me. I had been asking questions to the camera. I asked, 'What madness drove me here?'
"There was a response to the question on the audio tape: a female voice saying 'Love.' Could it be the spirit of Bonnie Heady? "All I know is that I don't want to feel that way again. I have heard of that happening to other investigators as well," Adam said. "That was very uncharacteristic of Adam," his brother Alec said. "As he rushed out of the chamber, he didn't look recognizable to me."
The John Wornall Museum is said to be haunted by the spirit of Eliza Wornall and by those of Civil War Soldiers. (photo courtesy the John Wornall House Museum)
Not all scary experiences are cause by ghosts. They relate that they were invited to investigate an eight-sided building in Armstrong, MO, that was originally a church. An alleged imposter priest had bilked people from their money years ago. It was the stereotypical dark and stormy night, and the two fled – not because of any spiritual apparition, but because of the all-too-human person who invited them became very frightening himself.
The C.R.E.E.P.Z. don't go into any investigation looking for trouble. In fact, their early experiences with "ghosts" are actually very positive. The two grew up in Kansas City, KS, "in what is now a not so great part of town," Alec said. "When I was five years old, my mother was tucking me in bed and I saw what looked to be a man, 'Who is that man?' I asked, but my mother couldn't see anyone. Twenty years later a relative saw the same image."
He goes on, "My Dad woke up one night to his bed shaking. He looked out the window and saw someone breaking into our car. He felt guided toward it.
"It made us think that the spirits were there to protect us. Those stories are dear to our hearts. There are good ghost stories. Guardian angels are real."
Some locations of reported hauntings
• Ghost tour of the John Wornall House
John Wornall's wife Eliza saw the construction of the Wornall House, witnessed its use as a field hospital during the Battle of Westport, suffered the deaths of her father and five of her children, and watched her city, country and home be torn apart during the Civil War. Dying shortly after the war, her spirit reportedly lives on in the Wornall House as one of the most commonly seen unearthly residents of the museum.
On Oct. 18, 19, 25 & 26 the public can book a one-hour Ghost Tour that will take you into the life and death of Eliza Wornall, touching on stories of ghostly sightings as well as historical Victorian beliefs when it came to death and spirituality. You'll quickly understand why the Wornall House at 6115 Wornall Rd. holds the reputation of being one of the most haunted locations in Kansas City. Tickets are $20 and tours will be held every 15 minutes beginning at 6:30 p.m. Go to the website, www.wornallmajors.org.
• Do a sleepover at the Glore Psychiatric Museum
Once part of State Lunatic Asylum No.2, the Glore Psychiatric Museum in St. Joseph is rumored to be a site of paranormal activity. Join paranormal researcher and investigator Becky Ray for an examination of these hauntings and the museum's history in an overnight stay, Oct. 5-6.
The event begins at 3 p.m. and includes dinner, a movie, and overnight stay and breakfast. The cost is $125 per person and space is limited. Reservations are required. Must be at least 18 years of age to participate. Payment due at time of reservation. No refunds 30 days prior to the event.
The Glore Museum is located at 3406 Frederick Ave., St. Joseph. Check the website, www.stjosephmuseum.org
• The Lemp Mansion, St. Louis
When life gives you lemons, make beer – at least that's what John Lemp did! When Johann Adam Lemp came to America from Germany he originally tried to make it as a grocer. However, Lemp soon realized that he possessed a unique skill – the ability to brew lager. St. Louis provided phenomenal conditions for brewing, and so a star was born. The Lemp family kept up the brewery and became wildly successful before falling from grace. After tragic deaths and bouts of both mental and physical illness, the Lemp line eventually died out. Their mansion is said to be one of the 10 most haunted places in America. Particular hot spots in the mansion include the stairway, the attic, and what the staff refers to as, the "Gates of Hell" in the basement.
The Lemp Mansion, 3322 Demenil Place, St. Louis, MO, 34-664-8024
• Epperson House at UMKC
Epperson House a 56-room brick and mortar mansion stands perched atop the southwest corner of 52nd and Cherry Streets overlooking the campus of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. It is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Harriet Barse, a Kansas City Conservatory of Music student who lived with the Epperson family. Security guards have reported hearing music coming from the organ loft in the living room and seeing Barse dressed in a recital gown. In 1979, a patrol officer reported his car was hit from behind when parked in front of the house. He heard the sound of shattering glass but found no evidence of another vehicle.
Leigh Elmore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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