Sunday, February 17, 2008


The haunted house at Spookywoods on Kersey Valley Road is rumored to be home to the ghost known as The Fiddler.

BY JIMMY TOMLIN ENTERPRISE STAFF WRITER TRIAD – If ghosts exist, they probably love nights like Feb. 8, 2008.The air was cold and damp, not only outside, but also in the small, unheated house at Spookywoods, a popular haunt­ed house attraction in High Point that has a unique twist – a real ghost story.On this particular night, five members of the Winston-Salem Paranormal Soci­ety had come to Spookywoods in quest of “The Fiddler,” a mild-mannered spirit believed by some to inhabit the upstairs rooms of the old, creepy-looking house on Kersey Valley Road.During a visit in early December, group members say The Fiddler scratched one investigator’s back twice – hard enough to leave red marks – and threw several small objects at the investigators.“Sometimes during an investigation, if the spirit is not responding, you want to taunt it and make it a little mad,” says Sarah Sherman, a 30-year-old Thomas­ville woman who co-founded the paranor­mal investigation group.“So one of our members (John Mac­Gowan, the same member who was scratched) was taunting it – calling it a coward and stuff like that – when all of a sudden a tube of makeup came flying out of the other room and landed at his feet.”That was followed a few minutes later by a clothespin and a cross pendant.“It was pretty weird,” Sherman says in an understatement.So on the group’s return visit, the five paranormal investigators – all women this time, accompanied by a curious, not-altogether-intrepid reporter – eagerly anticipated an encore performance by The Fiddler.And, if their story is to be believed, he did not disappoint.**** Pity paranormal investigators, a fool­hardy lot who explore the likes of spooky houses, abandoned hospitals and eerie bone­yards in their attempts to prove, or in some cases disprove, the existence of ghosts.Theirs is a world of surreal evidence – mysterious noises, unexplained lights, foggy apparitions, muted voices that can only be heard on high-tech recorders, spine-tingling chills, contact with unseen forces and, yes, the occasional flying tube of makeup.It can be terrifying work for the faint­of- heart, compounded by the fact that it’s typically done in the darkness – an en­vironment that tends to stimulate one’s imagination, not to mention give ghosts more hiding places – and yet, they can’t seem to give it up.“You get this adrenaline rush, and it’s kind of addictive,” explains Sherman, who works in a local medical office. “You just want answers so bad that you keep coming back. And the more experience you have, the less scared you get.”Many get involved in paranormal pur­suits after having experiences they can’t explain. That was the case for Sherman’s co-founder, Tonya Denny of Winston-Sa­lem – who says she had relatives living in haunted houses – and for Sherman, who claims to have had an encounter with her deceased grandfather when she was about 7. Sherman says she later lived in a house in Thomasville that she believes was haunted.Such experiences can trigger a desire to find – and, more importantly, to document – the truth.“What we try to do is get documented evidence, something that proves what we’re feeling or experiencing is real,” Denny says. “I believe myself that there’s something there, but I want to find some­thing that will prove it.”Paranormal investigations, then, in­clude such tools as 35mm cameras, video cameras equipped with infrared night vision, audio recorders (digital and tape), digital thermometers, and equipment to detect electromagnetic fields.“If there’s something paranormal there, the theory is that it gives off EMFs (elec­tromagnetic fields),” Sherman explains.“The more the detector lights up, the more EMFs it’s giving off. We have to make sure there’s no electricity in the area that may be causing any spikes, because things like lights and appliances can cause EMFs to rise.”The investigators get baseline readings – of EMF levels and temperatures – when they arrive, then make note of any changes in those levels during the course of the investigation. According to Sherman, a rise in EMF levels or a significant drop in tem­perature – sometimes as much as 20 degrees – could indicate the presence of a spirit.They also use high-tech recorders to record what’s known as an electronic voice phenomenon, or EVP, a voice that’s not heard by human ears but mysteriously can be heard on the recorder. For example, when Sherman went with a group inves­tigating an old battlefield believed to be haunted, one of the investigators – believing they might encounter the spirit of a fallen soldier – asked, “Are you hurt or wounded?” There was no reply, Sherman says, but when they played the recording later, they heard a man’s voice answer the question softly, “I want to go home.”The group didn’t record any EVPs at Spookywoods, but they do believe The Fiddler paid them a visit.**** The paranormal investigators are not the first to report an encounter with The Fiddler, but they are the first to investigate his existence.According to Spookywoods owner Tony Wohlgemuth, the old house – built in the 1930s – was a boarding house, and The Fiddler was one of its occupants. A woman who once lived in the house told Wohlgemuth the man – nick­named The Fiddler because he entertained housemates with his violin – died in his sleep in an upstairs bedroom. Wohlgemuth says he’s had a couple of unusual experi­ences in the house – seeing lights on upstairs when no one should’ve been there, and finding an attraction in the house called the “Hellevator” operating on its own – but he’s never encountered The Fiddler himself.“I’ve heard all kinds of stories,” Wohlgemuth says.“We’ve let people camp out at Spookywoods, and they say they hear things.”For the members of the Winston-Salem Paranormal Society, their first indica­tion was a temperature drop. Sherman, Denny and fellow investigator Michelle Kindley, of Lexington, were poking around in a small, windowless nook upstairs, just off the bedroom where The Fiddler is believed to have died.“I felt cold chills on my legs,” Kindley says, noting the temperature had dropped about six degrees where she was standing.Denny’s stomach felt uneasy, as she says it always does when a spirit manifests near her.Then Sherman heard a noise behind her, “but before I could even turn around to see what it was, some­thing yanked my hair,” she says with a nervous laugh.“I jumped, it scared me so much. I said, ‘OK, I’ve gotta get out of here.’” Yeah, that’s what she said, but not what she did.She went downstairs with Denny and Kindley, but five minutes later, she was right back upstairs, resuming the investigation.“I don’t think it wants to hurt me,” Sherman says. “I think whatever it is, it’s just wanting to let me know, ‘Yes, I’m here – I do exist.’” And as far as she’s con­cerned, mission accom­plished.