Next weekend thrill seekers wanting a scare can line up at the Busch Brewery in Washington to walk through the “Butcher’s Brewery” haunted house. It’s all for fun, a fundraiser for Relay for Life of Franklin County, but people who dare to go in should be prepared that they may experience some very real interactions with ghosts.
According to Dan Terry, assistant police chief at New Haven Police Department and a well-known ghost hunter who goes by the nickname “Spookstalker,” there are several spirits known to inhabit the historic brewery — Fritz, the homeless man who died of a heart attack in the kitchen area some 100 years ago; Fred Gersie, one of the three original owners of the brewery; a Confederate soldier; someone hiding from the police; and a young girl.
Terry has had interaction with all of them through a series of investigations he’s held at the brewery over the last couple of years. Using a KII meter, dowsing rods and other equipment, Terry — who uses the same police techniques and standards when collecting paranormal evidence as he does in his work as a police officer — has collected evidence that these spirits exist.
He lays it all out for readers in a new book, “River Shadows, Ghosts and Legends of America’s River Towns.”
This is Terry’s fourth book on his work as the “Spookstalker.” Previous books have included details on ghosts of Franklin County, Missouri and Hermann.
“River Shadows” takes Terry across the entire country to 24 towns along 10 major rivers, from Taos, N.M., to Savannah, Ga.
The new book has been two years in the making, since Terry finished “Hermann Shadows” and realized how much information he had on investigations in river towns.
“There seems to be a higher percentage of hauntings around rivers,” said Terry. “That makes sense. Everything started near rivers.
“Or it could be the limestone . . . heavy quartz seems to magnify these energies that come up. Or it could be the moving water.”
Anything that provides energy can be used to “bring up” spirits, said Terry, noting he has invited spirits to use energy from the batteries in his flashlight before.
“I talk to the ghosts just like living people,” he commented.
‘Happiest Haunted Place’
Of all the stories included in “River Shadows,” Terry said the one on his investigations at the Busch Brewery stands out the most. He has held book signings there and even organized a ghost conference.
The ghosts there have made their presence known in more ways than one — setting off the KII electromagnetic field detector, crossing a pair of dowsing rods in response to yes and no questions, “speaking” through an ovilus device . . . But the most convincing for Terry was when he felt a spirit touch his wrist.
“Suddenly, I felt my hand being grabbed, with an invisible thumb on top and the fingers under the hand. It was not the cold touch of death, nor the warm feeling of a human hand — only pressure from someone grabbing my right hand,” he writes in the chapter on the Missouri River in Washington.
All of Terry’s encounters with the spirits at the Brewery have been benign. Nothing has ever been scary or dangerous.
“The ghosts at the brewery have so much fun,” he remarked. “They like to play with us.”
In the book, Terry notes that once during an investigation at the brewery, the spirit of Fred Gersie said he was “waiting for the fun to begin.”
“In my experience,” Terry writes, “the Washington Brewery is the happiest haunted place along the Missouri River.”
“Very seldom do I come across a violent spirit,” Terry said.
This time of year, Terry is busier than usual with ghost hunting. He goes about three to four times a week.
His clients include local homeowners who are concerned about unexplained things going on in their homes. Terry comes to the home, free of charge, to investigate and help the family stop future disturbances.
“I help empower the homeowner,” said Terry. “They have more control than they realize.”
Mike (whose name has been changed for this story) in Washington said his family was living with a spirit that presented itself through doors opening and closing on their own, unexplained cold spots, light orbs and shadows. But the weirdest involved the family’s 13-week-old puppy.
“My wife found the puppy inside our youngest daughter’s room and we have gates on all of our bedroom doors so the dog can’t get in, but the dog was inside with the gate closed and locked.
“He couldn’t jump over it because it’s 3 1/2 feet high and no one could have put him in there.”
Mike’s older daughter had doors slammed behind her and once, in the middle of the night, saw a figure walking from the bathroom to the living room, but when she got up to see who it was, found no one there.
The family contacted Terry, who came over and used the dowsing rods to communicate with the spirit. Things settled down for a while, said Mike, but recently they started up again, so they had Terry come out again.
“He told us to tell it to knock it off, to stop or we will have it removed,” said Mike.
For now, they’re following his advice and are grateful for the help he provided them.
Teresa, who lives with her family in a haunted house in Krakow, said Terry helped them too.
Her first encounter with the spirit came when she was pregnant. She felt someone sitting on the bed with her, heard lullabye music and then a man’s voice.
Teresa’s fiance didn’t believe her when she told him about the experiences, and he was ready to tell her to get psychological help when he started hearing unexplained things too.
The most convincing experience happened when their child was 6 months old, eating in her high chair. Suddenly one of the baby food caps flew across the room.
“He stood there in shock,” said Teresa.
As her daughter grew, Teresa would see her wave to someone in the hallway and say, “Hi, Bobby.”
Her mother-in-law came through the house burning sage to drive away spirits, and that seemed to help. Digital photos shot in the home showed bright orbs, what ghost hunters call unexplained balls of energy.
Some orbs can be explained away as dust or moisture, but not all of them.
Teresa said some of the orbs in their photos looked like they had faces inside them.
The family contacted Terry, who used his equipment to zero in on a presence in one room. She watched as the KII meter he used went from green to red, indicated a spirit presence.
“Everything stopped after that,” said Teresa.
Terry felt the spirit in the home was friendly enough, possibly even a family member who had passed away.
Looking back, Teresa said the experience was “kind of scary” at first, but that Terry was right.
“Nothing was directed toward us, so we didn’t need to worry.”
Later Teresa recommended Terry to a friend who was experiencing her own haunting.
“He’s very good!” she exclaimed of Terry’s work.
Not everyone is like Teresa or Mike.
Terry said he has run into his fair share of skeptics, people who believe his ghost hunting is all for show. His response to those folks is always an invitation to experience it for themselves, to come along with him on an invitation.
One skeptic who did that watched Terry using the dowsing rods and scoffed at the idea that a spirit was making them move. So Terry turned over the rods to him, and he felt the rods move.
“He felt the current, and said, ‘By God, they’re moving!’ ” Terry recalled, with a smile.
That’s the strongest reason he too believes.
“I’ve seen it, been touched by it, talked to it . . . there’s no question in my mind that these things are real,” said Terry.
In the foreword of “River Shadows,” Greg Profitt, founder of Savannah Tours by Foot, describes Terry as “personable,” “easy to talk to” and “extremely honest, a trait that comes from his years as a police officer.”
The book, Profitt writes, “is filled with tales of a true ghost hunter.”
The “Butcher’s Brewery” haunted house will be open Friday through Monday, Oct. 28-31, from 6-11 p.m. each night in the lower level of the old Busch Brewery in Washington. Each night will feature different things to scare people.
The haunted house is open to all ages. For younger groups, there will be a guided tour offered.
There will be a suggested $2 donation to walk through the house. All proceeds will go to Relay for Life of Franklin County.
Members from Relay teams are needed to help volunteer during the event.
For more information, people may call Karla at 636-667-0088 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Booksignings, Next Projects
Terry will hold several booksignings for “River Shadows.”
This Saturday, Oct. 22, he will be at Scenic Regional Library in Union from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
He will be at the New Haven Library Wednesday, Oct. 26, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and at the Busch Brewery as part of the Washington Historical Society’s Ghost Tour Oct. 27 and 28. Tickets for the ghost tour must be purchased in advance through the Washington Historical Society.
Terry will have copies of all four of his books available for purchase. He also welcomes people to share their stories involving paranormal activity.
Already at work on his next book, Terry said it will not be related to ghosts, but rather his work as a police officer and some of the big cases that have occurred in New Haven.
The working title is “Nothing Ever Happens in New Haven,” said Terry, because that’s what people believe, but that’s far from true. The stories, none of which include the real names of citizens involved — run the gamet from funny (a lady who called to report a “drive-by mowing” and someone else who reported a “sod-napping”) to sad and disturbing (stories of domestic violence and meth labs).
The New Haven book will likely come out early next year.
He’s also already working on his next ghost-hunting book, “Too Ornery to Die,” which he says will be totally different from his previous books.
The ghost of Bertha Gifford, the serial killer who lived in Catawissa, posing as a nurse and poisoning her victims with arsenic, will be among the featured characters. There also will be stories on the ghosts of John Dillinger and Jesse James, said Terry.
That book he hopes to have completed by next October.
“River Shadows” can be purchased online at www.spookstalker.com or in stores at Pratt’s Pharmacy in New Haven, Smokes for Less in Union and By the Book in Hermann.
He expects more outlets will be added.