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Examiner
  • Team searches for the supernatural in 1859 Jail

  • The sun was setting on the hot and humid day when they arrived at the jail. Dressed in black T-shirts and carrying an arsenal of video equipment, the four members of the Southwest Ghost Finders group looked unsteady and tired as they wiped away the sweat.

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  • The sun was setting on the hot and humid day when they arrived at the jail. Dressed in black T-shirts and carrying an arsenal of video equipment, the four members of the Southwest Ghost Finders group looked unsteady and tired as they wiped away the sweat.
    Steve Noll was there to greet them. The tour guide of the historic 1859 Jackson County Jail in Independence is accustomed to Friday night arrivals – late arrivals, that is.
    “I get calls during the month, sometimes weekly,” Noll said. “I don’t want to discourage them, I’m not much on the supernatural myself, but it’s a widespread interest.
    “Many people are interested in the subject and many people come here to see what they can find.”
    To accommodate the professionally curious, the Jackson County Historical Society permits investigations like these on a case-by-case basis. Noll said some groups request to hang out in the jail after hours, but they’re refused.
    “Some don’t impress you as being responsible,” he said.
    If a group is accepted, they’re asked to join the historical society or make a donation.
    Prisoners did die of exposure in the cells, and that’s what seems to attract groups like Southwestern Ghost Finders. The perfectly carved limestone blocks were natural insulators, but the interior still got cold because there was no heating system and windows were typically shut and secured on the outside.
    “But the people who died here were in fragile states,” Noll said. “Still...”
    At this point, after the tour is complete, Noll is sitting behind his desk in the main receiving room. He’s just finished showing the group where they could and could not go, what rooms they could enter to set up infrared cameras, where lights could be turned on and off.
    The ghost hunters, meanwhile, were behaving like bees, snatching equipment and hurrying down the hall to where the jail cells are.
    Rumor has it that the cell on the left-hand side, the center cell that resembles more of a limestone cave than your typical pre-Civil War jail cell, is infested with spirits.
    Or if not infested, then at least visited from time to time.
    “Out of all of them, that’s the one people report on most,” he said. “People say they feel things in there.”
    It’s the cell that Belinda Clark-Ache, a guest of the group, plans to sit inside, in the dark, until as close to midnight as she can get. Or until she gets what she wants. Her mission is to sit completely still and ask questions aloud so as to collect EVPs, or electronic voice phenomenon – spirit voices for you amateurs out there.
    Clark-Ache met the group’s leader, Kim Luney, shortly after she founded the Haunted Missouri Paranormal Studies Group in 2005. They quickly discovered their mutual interest in the paranormal, and like most people who are interested in it, there was no one specific experience or life-changing moment that ushered it into the forefront of their lives; it just came with their lives, so to speak.
    Page 2 of 2 - “Always been interested in it,” she said.
    Luney founded the Southwest group (named because they are based in Springfield, Mo.) three years ago. In that time they’ve traveled to numerous places, searching for video and audio evidence of the supernatural.
    “I’ve always dabbled in it,” Luney said, almost impossible to corral into a corner for a few moments; she’s unraveling cords for cameras, positioning monitors, preparing audio. Each of the dozen cameras are positioned at specific locations down from, in front of and inside the cells, hallways and small rooms.
    The black and white images flicker on the screen.
    Charlie Alexander, another group member, has involved his life in the supernatural for the last few years, and he’s excited over the possibility of what they may see and hear at the jail.
    Luney stops and considers the cameras.
    “Is that one positioned?” she said.
    When asked what she and group members want to experience at the jail, both she and others agree on one thing: They have no expectations.
    “If you have expectations, you’ll be disappointed,” Luney said. “But we do want an experience that will make us go, Wow!”

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