CU Paranormal Society seeks the spiritual world

By Maddie Galassi

The Champaign Urbana Paranormal Society searches for evidence of the paranormal by conducting ghost hunts both locally and around the nation.

The society’s founder, Bob Davies, also known as the ‘Ghost Cowboy,’ got the idea for the organization after a paranormal experience sparked his passion for ghost hunting.ss

Davies’ mother passed in 2001, and he found himself facing some hardship as a result.

“I woke up one night around 2006, and my mother was standing next to my bed,” Davies explained. “She told me things were going to get better. Soon after that, my life turned around completely.”

Davies began searching for more evidence of the paranormal. After stumbling upon an episode of Ghost Hunters, he begin doing research on tours of haunted locations around the nation and discovered one of the top ten most haunted was nearby in Alton, Illinois.

“I’ve been down there a few times and I’ve had some really crazy stuff happen to me,” Davies remembered. “Channel 4 had been there a few days before, and they had left tape marks around the feet of some of the furniture for filming purposes. I left the room, and heard the door slam shut behind me. When I went back into the room, nobody was there, but all the furniture was moved a few inches off of the tape marks. That’s what really hooked me on ghost hunting.”

Davies has also conducted private local investigations of potential hauntings. The society has spent time exploring some of C-U’s local legends.

“The old YMCA has been rumored to be haunted for many years,” he said. “We were able to get into it for a night, and got some evidence, but not enough to confirm that it is definitely haunted.”

The paranormal society is trying to return to the YMCA for further investigation, and to possibly confirm its haunting.

“I think that there is something there,” said Lori Leger, Champaign resident and member of the paranormal society, about the local YMCA. “Some nights things are jumping and some nights they’re more tame, so I definitely would like to go back soon.”ss

It has been three years since Leger’s first ghost hunt. Since then, she has found evidence of the paranormal in Champaign as well as other locations across the country.

She also explained that at one local, private investigation, she recorded what appeared to be knocking and a little girl talking. There were no children present.

Both Davies and Leger found some of their most compelling paranormal evidence at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia.ss Starting in 1864, thousands of people with mental illness lived there, and hundreds died there before its closing in 1994. The spirits there are said to haunt the asylum back to the Civil War era.

“I’m always the slowest one on ghost hunts, since I have a cane,” Davies said. “I was walking down a long, dark corridor and heard the footsteps of someone walking behind me, which was exciting because I wasn’t the last one. I turned around, and no one was there.”

Leger explained that her experience at Trans-Allegheny involved a little bit more emotion.

“I was in the women’s ward, and saw a shadow in one of the rooms and had the feeling that someone was there. I heard a noise and didn’t know what it was, but all of the hair stood up on my arms,” Leger said. “I walked back into the hallway, and aloud said that that if there was a message they needed to share to express it. I suddenly got an overwhelming feeling of sadness and almost started crying.”

According to Leger, women were neglected at the asylum.

“They did not treat people well there,” she said. “I think their message was that they were really, really sad.”

Despite the apparent excitement, Davies said that ghost hunting is not for the faint of heart. He explained that it requires both courage and patience.

“A lot of people go ghost hunting and expect a ghost to jump out at them, and it just doesn’t work that way,” he said. “What I always tell people when they show interest in the society is that you might think you want to ghost hunt, but until you experience a paranormal encounter you don’t really know if you can or not,” Davies said.

Chris Cochran, another member of the CU Paranormal Society, explained that she joined the society to explore her curiosities.

“I’ve always been interested in the paranormal,” Cochran said. “I don’t necessarily believe, but that’s why I’m doing this.”

Leger explained that what keeps her hooked on ghost hunting is the feeling she experiences in the presence of the paranormal.

“It’s not very glamorous. You go to a lot of cold, dirty places and sit around for hours in the dark,” Leger said. “Sometimes you don’t get anything, but the minute you do is when you know you want to do it again.”

Davies had one statement that summed up his experience with ghost hunting: “I’ve found too much evidence not to believe.”

Recordings, videos and other evidence that the Champaign-Urbana Paranormal Society have collected can be found at www.cuparanormal.org.

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