CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Despite being a believer in the paranormal since childhood, Terry Petrovits, owner and manager of the Silver Thatch Inn in Albemarle County, has never encountered a spirit. However, over the nearly 20 years she has managed the inn, Petrovits has heard more than her share of ghost stories from guests.
“They would tell me stories of seeing apparitions and shadows walking through the walls and fireplaces,” she said. “After hearing stories like this get more frequent for years, I decided to try and find out more.”
The Silver Thatch Inn has a long history, dating back as far as the Revolutionary War, and it has served a variety of purposes over its more than 200-year existence. It’s served as everything from a boy’s school to a residence of University of Virginia Dean of Men B.F.D. Runk.
In January 2017, after deciding to have the inn investigated, Petrovits sent out emails to neighbors to make sure it wouldn’t upset anyone. To Petrovits’ surprise, she said, not only were her neighbors supportive, they shared their experiences with the paranormal in and around the property.
“I got more than 30 responses, all of them excited about the investigations,” she said. “Even though I’d heard the stories, I didn’t expect that much of a response.”
Soon, Petrovits began to reach out to paranormal investigators in Virginia, including the Twisted Paranormal Society. The Fishersville-based group has been investigating things that go bump in the night since 2011. Founded by Lyle Lotts and his wife, Tonna, the group now focuses on haunted locales in Virginia as a part of their PBS/YouTube series “The Twisted Realm.”
They conducted an independent investigation in October, which will air in the spring as the second episode of the season, and then returned for a public investigation Jan. 27.
“We investigate and determine whether or not something is haunted,” Lyle Lotts said. “Even before we got into the inn, two of our team felt something. This place is something of a hotspot.”
Bringing with them all kinds of equipment to detect everything from electrical signals to temperature changes, the large group of investigators began their examination of the property after dark.
TPS and other ghost hunters use devices to detect things out of the ordinary, usually in the form of electromagnetic field changes. There have been disputes within the scientific community about whether these devices collect evidence, but they are generally accepted by ghost hunters.
Earlier in the evening, self-described medium and TPS member Merlin Bradbury said she had ventured to the attic with Lotts and encountered a large, shadowy figure.
“Must’ve been seven feet tall, just standing behind (Lotts),” she said. “I left. Didn’t seem like he wanted us up there.”
As the investigation started, the team split into two groups to take participants into different rooms of the inn. Bradbury led one group upstairs to the Jefferson Room. Previously, the room had served as a dormitory during the early 1800s.
Once inside, Bradbury and two other members of TPS set up a spirit box to try to coax out responses from spirits. Spirit boxes are claimed to detect electronic voice phenomena, which the investigators attribute to ghosts and spirits lingering in the mortal plane.
Petrovits had previously mentioned the Jefferson Room as a hotspot for paranormal experiences, saying several different guests, without prior knowledge, reporting similar sightings.
The second group headed to the Hessian Room, the oldest part of the inn. Hessian soldiers who were captured in New York at the Battle of Saratoga in the Revolutionary War and marched south to Virginia built the room. According to Petrovits, more claims of paranormal experiences have come from this room than any other.
Led by Lotts, the group clustered around a participant named Betsy Foster as she tried to contact the dead with dowsing rods. Among paranormal investigators, dowsing rods are used to communicate with spirits of the deceased by prompting them to cross the rods as answers to questions.
While both teams were working, Timothy Bawkey watched a monitor containing camera footage of all the supposedly haunted rooms at the inn. Bawkey, a TPS tech specialist, said his job was to monitor for unexplained orbs and note their time. According to Lotts, orbs routinely appear on the monitors and are rarely insects or dust.
Later in the night, Petrovits said, the group encountered a large, black shadow in the attic, similar to what Bradbury said she spotted earlier.
“I will tell you, after you guys left, things got a bit crazy,” Petrovits said. “We did see a shadow figure appearing to crawl across the floor at the top of the stairs.”
Petrovits and TPS are convinced the inn is haunted, they said, and also claim that none of the spirits means anyone harm.
“They’re often more scared of us,” Lotts said.
Petrovits plans to host more investigations in the future, though her next public paranormal event won’t involve TPS. On April 27, Scott Porter, television ghost hunter and co-owner of Tennessee Wraith Chasers, and psychic Stephanie Burke will host an investigation and give readings.
Information from: The Daily Progress, http://www.dailyprogress.com