What Lurks in the Shadows? - The Missourian: Features People

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What Lurks in the Shadows?

Enoch's Knob Bridge southeast of New Haven is haunted, so local legend claims. You may have heard a convincing story or two from friends that has made you wonder - cars and electrical devices not working while on the bridge, demon dogs with glowing eyes, monsters in the woods . . . But are the stories true? New Haven's Assistant Police Chief Dan Terry, who was given the Medal of Honor in 2006 for pulling a wounded deputy out of the line of fire during a gunfight, believes many are.

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Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2008 12:00 am

He's been there and experienced the phenomenon firsthand. He even has evidence to back up his beliefs - photographs of "demon dog" eyes glowing, recordings of electronic voice phenomena (EVP).

For the last several years, Terry has been investigating paranormal activity around Franklin County and last year he wrote a book about his findings, "Beyond the Shadows, Exploring the Ghosts of Franklin County."

Now Terry has followed up the success of his first book with a second, "Missouri Shadows, A Journey Through the Lesser Known, Famous and Infamous Haunts of Missouri." Both books are available at the Washington Historical Society, Pratt's Pharmacy in New Haven, Old Post Office Antiques in Union and directly from Terry at book-signing events. His next book-signing is this Thursday night, Oct. 30, at the Washington Cemetery Tour hosted by the Washington Historical Society.

The new book also is available at The Book Depot in Washington, Left Bank Books in St. Louis and Subterranean Books in University City, as well as online at Amazon.com.

It includes details on 20 of Terry's paranormal investigations around the state.

"I've done maybe 50 hunts since I started into it in 2004 and 2005," said Terry, whose interest in ghost hunting actually goes back to his childhood growing up in Stanton and Sullivan.

Back then his favorite TV show was "Kolchak: The Night Stalker," about a reporter who investigated paranormal activity. It's the same show said to have inspired "X Files" creator Chris Carter.

As soon as Terry was old enough to drive, he organized a group of friends and began visiting haunted places around Franklin County. Following up on legends and rumors, Terry wanted to see if any of the "ghost stories" were true. He didn't uncover a whole lot, but it was an exciting hobby.

After graduation, Terry joined the U.S. Coast Guard at age 19 and served four years. When he returned to Franklin County, he launched a career in law enforcement, started a family and settled into a routine. There was little time or money for ghost hunting.

But now Terry's kids are grown, giving him the time to pick up where he left off, this time with his wife, Sherri, by his side.

When the couple was first married, Terry said he didn't reveal his interest in the paranormal or penchant for ghost hunting to his new wife. He worried what she might think of him. Turns out, she shares his curiosity.

Terry turned to established ghost hunters like the Missouri Paranormal Research (MPR) group to learn procedures like EVP and paranormal photography. He also continued reading books, as he had since his childhood, about ghost hunting. He has since investigated properties in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, North Carolina and New Mexico.

Uses Police Techniques in Hunt

One thing that sets Terry apart from other ghost hunters is his approach. He investigates every alleged haunting just like he would a crime scene. It's earned him the nickname "Spookstalker."

"I use police techniques when I'm dealing with witnesses or the people who are living there," said Terry, "and also when I'm 'hunting' the ghost."

He maintains control over the scene by only allowing a certain number of people to be on the premises during the investigation.

"There are no more than four people there, and I know who is where at all times," said Terry.

He marks off areas of the haunted property just like he would at a crime scene and investigates one step at a time. He brings tools and equipment to the scene - a digital camera, an EMF (electromagnetic field) detector and an EVP (electronic voice phenomena) recorder.

"On one hunt, we may take between 1,200 and 2,000 photos," said Terry, noting what shows up on the photos are things that were not always seen by the naked eye, things like orbs and apparitions.

"Orbs" are what ghost hunters call unexplained balls of energy in photos. "Some may be dust or moisture," said Terry, "but many, I believe, are some sort of paranormal energy."

Apparitions are ghosts that look like people. Sometimes they are just an outline, or with a misty appearance," said Terry. "Sometimes they look like a full person."

"Most of the ghost stuff we see is very subtle - shadows on a wall that you can't explain, a cup or something like that is moved, a blackness that can't be explained. It's never as exciting as it is on TV."

Terry said he has never felt afraid for his safety on any of his hunts, although he doesn't doubt there are some haunting cases that are dangerous.

"I don't think the demonic cases are as plentiful as some people let on," he remarked.

Terry welcomes people to contact him about investigating a suspected haunted building or property. He never charges anyone for his investigations. That, he said, would be wrong.

"No reputable ghost hunter would charge for this," he said.

Of course, Terry admits that there have been occasions where ghosts have not presented themselves during an investigation.

"Some nights they don't want to play," he remarked. "It just depends on what they feel like doing. They can be just like people.

"And the more familiar they are with you, the more things will happen."

Specific Haunts

In his first book, "Beyond the Shadows," Terry investigated a handful of local properties that owners or others claim are haunted. Enochs Knob Bridge is one. Others are Boondockers in New Haven, the old Mac's Caf and Hall Hotel in Berger, the "Union Screaming House" in Union, the Harney Mansion in Sullivan and Tri-County Truckstop in Villa Ridge.

During an investigation at Tri-County Truckstop, Terry notes that he "challenged" a human-shaped shadow on the wall. He couldn't find any source or object that was causing the shadow and once Terry confronted it, the shadow actually moved, he said.

In his second book, "Missouri Haunts," Terry includes more information on Enoch's Knob Bridge and Tri-County Truck Stop here in Franklin County. He also investigates places in Gasconade, Washington, Iron, St. Louis, Jefferson, St. Francois, Cooper, Newton, Jackson, St. Charles, Marion, Crawford and Green counties, as well as St. Louis city.

Both books include historical information about each site and details about murders and things that happened on the properties that may have led to the hauntings. Terry said that's extremely important to understanding a haunting, to know when and how "the invitation" for a haunting occurred.

Terry is already working on future books, one called "River Shadows."

Terry said he writes the books to share his findings with others. Ghost hunting is not something he does to make money, although he invests quite a bit of his own into the equipment and traveling to these sites.

"It's a hobby," he said. "I spend money on EMF devices like other people spend money on titanium golf clubs."

For more information on Terry, his investigations and his books, people can visit www.spookstalker.com or e-mail him at spooks@fidmail.com.

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