“Ghosts Exist... Ghosts exist to help keep history alive.”
– Paranormal Investigator, author and public speaker, James A. Willis from the introduction to his book, Ohio’s Historic Haunts, published in 2015 by the Kent State University Press
The ideal qualities of a paranormal investigator should include objectivity, a grasp of the relevant history and science, and a skeptical and inquisitive nature that’s balanced with a fair and open mind. Tonight’s guest has all of those traits and more. Author and paranormal researcher James A. Willis originally hails from the Hudson Highlands of upstate New York, the stomping grounds of the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. After spending 15 of his formative years being intrigued by macabre media and all things ghostly, strange and spooky, Willis moved to Ohio to found the nationally recognized research organization, The Ghosts of Ohio. He has since grown the organization to over 35 members, representing the regions anchored by the cities of Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati. In 2004, the founders of the popular line of Weird US books invited Willis to contribute and he has since collaborated on 6 volumes in the series. In 2012, Willis struck out on his own with the publication of Haunted Indiana. For 2013’s The Big Book Of Ohio Ghost Stories, Willis crisscrossed Ohio to bring readers over 75 of the Buckeye state’s most famous (and infamous) ghosts. In 2015, Willis released Ohio’s Historic Haunts: Investigating the Paranormal in the Buckeye State. Willis’ latest project, 2017’s Central Ohio Legends & Lore, had him chasing down some of the Buckeye State’s most legendary characters, including Johnny Appleseed, Annie Oakley, and Chief Leatherlips. Along the way, Willis took the time to explore some of central Ohio’s stranger legends, such as the Ohio Grassman and even UFOs. A sought-after public speaker, Willis has given presentations throughout the United States, during which he has educated and entertained tens of thousands of people of all ages in crowd sizes ranging from 10 to well over 600. He has also been featured in more than 75 media sources, including CNN, USA Today, Columbus Business First, Midwest Living, The Canadian Press, and even the Kuwait Times. Please join us as we hear about James’ approach to paranormal research and delve into some of his most weird and eerie cases.
Audio Clips from James Willis’ investigations:
The “Wendy Laugh”
Notes from James:
**It’s creepier if you listen to the clips in this order**
Recorded by my digital voice recorder, a Tascam DR-05 (note: this will pick up stray interference from cell phones, etc., which comes across as static. But I have yet to come across any other instance where this did NOT pick up something which I heard “live”), which was sitting on the desk in front of me, facing me.
I was seated in a small office area at a desk with my back to the door, which was approximately three feet behind me. In the next room, which was an open sitting area-type room, was a studio microphone, which was facing towards me. Behind the microphone was another door, which led out into a hallway. Across that hallway was another door, which led into the library’s conference room. At the far end of that conference room was Wendy, who was sitting at the monitor/mixer/computer table, watching and listening to things. All other investigators were at the opposite end of the building in the library itself (as opposed to the office area).
In this clip, you will hear me calmly mention “that was Wendy, laughing in the other room”. In real time, when I heard it, I distinctly heard “Wendy”, although I don’t know why it didn’t dawn on me that 1. It was way too loud for it to be Wendy since she was so far away from me because 2. Wendy doesn’t have a loud, obnoxious laugh like what I heard. But when I heard it, I thought it was Wendy and “marked it” because it was so loud I thought the recording devices around me were going to pick it up.
BTW, the various clicks, pops, and odd noises appear to all be related to me moving in the world’s noisiest chair. There’s also a clock on the wall, which, oddly enough, ended up helping us time out things because we could follow the “beat” of the clock.
Recorded by the studio mic which was behind me. This is the “Wendy laugh” that I heard in real time. The laugh that’s curiously missing from my digital voice recorder.
Oliver House Restaurant Investigation:
Raw, unedited audio file
The is a section of audio recorded at the Oliver House, a restaurant. The entire recording was originally “thrown out”, for reasons which will become clear in a bit.
This recording was made while I was setting up the microphones for an investigation. The building was closed and locked up for the evening. I was alone with the exception of the GM, who was female.
The microphone was placed at one end of a long hallway, facing a door to the outside, which was locked. The hallways had doors to offices on either side, all of which were locked.
After turning the microphone on and checking it through the mixer, I realized the mic was placed near an AC vent, which was causing the mic to get “blown out” by the sounds of the blower coming through the vent. We tried moving the mic, but no matter where it was placed in the hallway, it picked up the blower. So I ended up not using a studio mic in that hallway.
To set this clip up, it was taken from the audio that was recorded in that hallway, so you will hear the blower noises throughout. The two voices you will hear and mine and the GM’s and you will hear us briefly between the :05 and :07 mark. She had just flipped a switch and thought that might have turned that one vent off. That’s where my “Uh, no, not really” comes from as I had headphones on and was listening to the mixer. It’s important to note that at the time, neither of us were in the hallway—we were about 20 feet behind the mic, down some stairs, and in another room. So there was no one in the hallway at the time of the recording.
The unexplained noise that’s sort of buried under the blower noise is what sounds like someone whistling…a lot. It starts around the :09 mark and goes through the end of the clip, with particularly loud sections occurring between :32 and :48. It does not appear to be “normal” blower-type whistling that happens when air passes through. This whistling appears to change pitch and tempo.
My only rational explanation was that the restaurant has Muzak or actual music piped in. I don’t recall hearing it at the time and none of the other recordings made during the night have any music in the background. It’s also a bit odd to me that I just hear whistling—no music.
Ohio Library Investigation
A description from James about the following audio clip:
This is a section of audio recorded during an investigation at an Ohio library. We were taking a break, which is why there is all the distant talking.
During the time this was recorded, the library had been closed for hours (it was approximately 11:00 pm) and all investigators and librarians present were at or near the front desk on the main floor (we’re the ones you can hear talking in the distance). The microphone that recorded the audio was on the same floor, roughly fifteen feet away and around the corner in the “Local History” room. It was a studio condenser mic, facing away from the front desk area and towards another smaller room.
The “voice” that comes in around :11 remains unexplained as of now, but does not match anyone who was in the building at the time. The library does have high ceilings and the “voice” appears to have an echo, but oddly enough, this “voice” was only recorded by this one microphone.
Description of audio clips by James Willis
from the James Thurber House investigation:
Taken from microphone #1 (top of stairs)
Taken from microphone #2 (bottom of stairs)
Taken from microphone #3 (front parlor)
• All three recordings were from the Shure microphones, that were hardwired into the Korg mixer. All three clips are from almost the same exact moment in time—1:15 am.
• For J and S, the creaking noises from roughly :02—:10 may have been the result of the 2 contest winners shifting their weight on the staircase and/or bannister.
• All three microphones picked up the two contest winners having a brief discussion regarding the noises they were hearing (and their belief that it was being caused by the team members (“them”) downstairs. The conversation begins at approximately :19 and consists entirely of the following exchange:
F: “Is that them?”
The “voice anomaly” at approximately :17 does fall within the range of a human voice, but does not match the voice pattern of anyone else in the building at the time. Both contest winners said they heard “you guys talking”, but could not make out what we were saying. None of the team members or the Thurber House employee heard the “voice” at the time it was recorded.
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Episode 153: James Willis and the Ghosts of Ohio. Produced by Scott Philbrook & Forrest Burgess; Audio Editing by Sarah Vorhees Wendel; Sound Design by Ryan McCullough; Tess Pfeifle, Producer and Lead Researcher; Research Support from the astonishing League of Astonishing Researchers, a.k.a. The Astonishing Research Corps, or "A.R.C." for short. Copyright 2019 Astonishing Legends Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.