On the evening of Oct. 18 I got to join paranormal investigators from Investigating Oklahoma's Paranormal (IOKP) and the Paranormal Times Research Society (PTRS), who set up shop in Ellison Hall, one of the most famous allegedly-haunted locations on campus, to see what they could find.
According to College of Arts and Sciences information specialist Angela Startz, Ellison has undergone many such investigations over the years, and there’s usually something to be found. Before the night’s investigation she explains the history of Ellison Hall:
First opened in 1929, the building was originally the university hospital. The first floor was the clinic, the second patient rooms and the third floor—where the infamous roller-skating ghost is said to be heard—operating rooms.
The legend of the roller-skating ghost says that one day back when Ellison was still a hospital, a boy roller-skating down Elm was hit by a car, rushed to the third floor, and died in surgery with his skates still on, which is why he can be heard skating around the third floor. However, Startz says that no records of such an incident have ever been found. A theory that resolves this discrepancy is that the wheels heard on the third floor belong to a rolling gurney rather than skates. Whatever could be causing it, the sound of wheels, in addition to doors knocking and rattling and motion lights turning on by themselves, makes the third floor a popular focus of paranormal investigations.
“My first investigation was here, actually, back in April,” says Jessica Rivera from PTRS. She always found the paranormal interesting and got involved in investigations through friend and PTRS founder Tanya McCoy.
McCoy explains that ghost hunting is about fun, learning about the paranormal and helping people: “It’s a hobby. … We never charge. If somebody calls us out because they’re having activity in their home, because they’re getting scared or anything like that, a real paranormal team will not charge. … We just try to help and find out whatever we can.”
Before the investigation starts, the team sets up cameras in places where they hope to capture paranormal activity. This is also the time to unpack and prepare ghost hunting equipment such as motion detectors, electromagnetic field (EMF) readers and melometers, which are for tracking electronic voice phenomena (EVP).
My favorite among the ghost hunters’ exotic equipment is the ovilus, a hand-held machine that generates and says words based on environmental readings, like a more audial version of the melometer. While its offerings often seem to be non-sequiturs, it’s an undeniable thrill when it says something more attuned to what’s happening, such as “descend” when we head downstairs or “woman” when the medium of the group, Dee Parks from IOKP, speaks of struggling to determine whether or not a presence is that of a man.
Not all of the investigators’ toys are so technical, though; in fact, their simplest piece of equipment is an actual toy. When the ghosts they search for seem reluctant to reveal their presence to the EMF readers or melometers, sometimes the team will set on the floor one of those spiked rubber balls that light up when hit or moved. The spikes prevent the ball from rolling on its own, and the light provides an obvious and unambiguous visual cue if something manipulates the ball.
As the group assembled on the third floor of Ellison splits into two teams—both including at least one seasoned investigator and some first-timers like me—and prepares to search for paranormal activity, Parks warns us, “Sometimes you can get false positive readings for some equipment, especially if you have phones on you.” She says that it’s best to always consider possible mundane causes for readings—such as phones, walkie-talkies or even things that are part of the building like air conditioners and fuse boxes—before assuming that you’ve detected the paranormal.
My group follows Parks downstairs to see if we can contact any spirits on the second floor, and we end up doing a lot of waiting. Parks tells us that in this way ghost hunting is like fishing; it’s very exciting when something happens, but most of your time is spent waiting for something to happen.
The other two members of our group are RAs who explain to me that Ellison isn’t the only haunted campus location the investigative team will tackle; they’ve invited the investigators to check out several places including Adams, Cate, and the basement of Johnson. One of the RAs, elementary education senior Alexa Hudak, has already had some experience with the possibly paranormal while working in Cate:
“I work there until two in the morning—sometimes I stay there a little later—and you can always hear the swipe of the card access just open the door, and nobody’s there,” she tells me, “It’s kind of creepy.”
Our group talks for a while with what might be a shy spirit, getting occasional relevant responses from the ovilus, but we ultimately head back upstairs to see if the other team has had better luck.
The other team tells us about their conversation with what they think is the ghost of an angry nurse who isn’t in the mood for chit-chat. I had to leave around this point, but checking back with Parks later, I learned that further third floor investigation saw the conference room lights flashing on and off and a brief talk with another spirit, this one a little boy, though apparently most of the night was spent with the sulky nurse.
Even when the team packs up for the night, however, their work is far from over. As McCoy explains, the next step of the investigation is to go through all the camera and audio footage (each investigator carried a simple recording device left on for the duration of the investigation) from the evening, looking for things they might not have noticed the first time around.
“It’s very time consuming, but it’s very fun,” says McCoy, summing up the ghost hunting experience.
Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, Ellison Hall, with its scary atmosphere, creepy history and strange happenings, is inarguably a great place for a ghost hunt. The eerie building will no doubt be fascinating and frightening experienced paranormal investigators and amateur ghost chasers alike for many Halloweens to come.