The highly anticipated episode of A&E Network’s supernatural series Paranormal State, featuring the historic Thomas House Hotel in Red Boiling Springs, is scheduled to premiere on Monday, April 13th, at 9 p.m. CDT.
Paranormal State, a half-hour reality series now in its third season, delves deep into the strange and the mysterious, attempting to unravel inexplicable paranormal phenomena including sixth-sense experiences, ghost sightings, demonic disturbances, and brushes with the darkest areas of the unknown.
For those who are not familiar with the cast, its members are a team of investigators known as the Paranormal Research Society (PRS), which was founded by Penn State student Ryan Buell in 2001.
Spending four nights at the Thomas Hotel, Buell and his PRS team members investigated paranormal activity with the use of high-tech thermal cameras, EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena), Electro-Magnetic Field (EMF) Detectors, audio recorders and 24/7 video surveillance, seeking out the truth behind the many eerie experiences reported by guests and visitors of the hotel since its establishment in 1890.
The hotel itself, has endured its share of tragedy, including two fires. Historically, it became a popular summer destination after word spread across the country that the small town of Red Boiling Springs had mineral waters that contained medicinal qualities and it was perhaps best known for its luxurious hotels and bathhouses, which among the notables of famous people included President Woodrow Wilson, who spent his summers there.
Some of the most talked about supernatural stories that have emerged from the hotel over the years, include tales about a former cook who still remains in the room he once lived in, a whistling man who walks the halls during the day, a gentleman who haunts the front desk where guests check in and a little girl believed to be named Sara, who died at the hotel when she was brought to the town for the healing waters.
Sitting down with Buell, the show’s PRS Director opened up to the Chronicle about his investigation findings at the Thomas House Hotel in an exclusive interview on the last day of filming, sharing his opinion on whether or not paranormal forces are, in fact, active at Macon County’s own historic attraction.
“Have you ever stayed the night here?” Buell asked as he sat down at a table in the hotel’s dining room. “I think that if you’d like to have an experience you should stay in room 37 or 14 . . . if you stay there by yourself, with the lights off, and just sit around for a little bit, you’d have an experience . . . if you want one – that’s the big question.”
With paranormal investigation contacts all around the country, Buell explained that a friend of the PRS, who lives in Tennessee, recommended the Thomas House Hotel to the group.
“The Thomas House is starting to grow a reputation as being known as ‘The Stanley Hotel of the South’,” he explained. “The Stanley Hotel is considered to be one of the most haunted hotels in America. Stephen King, who wrote the movie The Shining, stayed at the Stanley Hotel, which inspired the movie. So, when we heard people were referring to the Thomas House as the Stanley Hotel of the South, we had to check it out.”
While the show’s production team spent the four nights between filming elsewhere, Buell and his eight investigators spent each night in the very rooms under investigation at the Thomas House.
“Almost everyone from my team had an experience here of some sort,” Buell affirmed. “So I think just about all of us believe this place is haunted. We heard a growling sound, I saw a shadow figure, we have something weird that we documented on video camera and can’t explain, and we also have many EVP recordings.”
While Buell confirmed his team’s experiences with the supernatural during their stay, he also acknowledged that they were unable to make contact with the hotel’s most popular ghostly guest, Sara.
“We can’t find any actual record of Sara, so we don’t know if it’s an urban legend that was started and grew . . . that’s one thing we’ve been trying to find out about. There are people who were here decades ago, who claim to have played with a girl, or have seen a girl I should say, so I guess there’s a little girl running around here and somehow it turned into Sara. The story goes that she was sick, came here to be healed, but it didn’t work, and she died here. We can’t find any record of that but if you think about it, that information would be hard to find, because if she traveled here to be healed, it could be anybody. We originally thought she was a descendant of one of the families, but they denied it.”
While Buell and his team of investigators have explored paranormal activity in hotels similar to the Thomas House in the past, he explained that the group typically examines the homes of families whose lives have been nearly destroyed by the affects of an alleged haunting.
“The show’s take is to document us, and our team’s mission is mainly to conduct research into the unexplained. The other is, if needed, we help people who are terrified or simply need advice, education or help. In a way we’re like researchers and counselors at the same time. A lot of people are affected by this phenomenon because they don’t understand it. We come in and do our research, but we also do therapy for these people at the same time because some of them are shell-shocked, hysterical, terrified and just can’t function.”
“For the people who don’t believe in ghosts, I mean you just have to look at these people, who are very everyday people, who literally can’t work, sleep or eat because they’re so affected by what they’re experiencing. So, on top of the phenomenon we’re trying to document and explain, we’re trying to help them cope with it, or get rid of it, so they can go back to a normal life. A lot of people don’t want to have paranormal experiences.”
While many people relate the paranormal to something negative or evil, Buell says, in his experience with the supernatural, that is not always the case.
“I think that a lot of people think that anything supernatural is bad, and it’s because we don’t understand it. But objectively speaking, there’s just something weird going on, and we’re trying to understand it, and what we’ve come to determine, in theory, is that we believe spirits are like people – there are good people and good spirits, and bad people and bad spirits. We had a time when there was a really mean, nasty guy who died and his spirit remained there - still mean and nasty and terrorizing the people. On the other hand, we had a case when a little boy was seeing the ghost of man who, in life, was a nice person, but had committed suicide. There was nothing bad about his spirit.”
Buell, who claims to have had his own experiences with the paranormal when he was just a child, still finds it hard to discuss the details of that period in his life.
“I guess I don’t want to really talk about it just yet. I kind of like to keep it to myself. I grew up in South Carolina and, 15 years ago, talking about the paranormal was definitely taboo. Having experiences that you knew were real, but that you’d be punished for talking about, made it hard to deal with. So as I got older, I wanted to find out what happened and went on this quest, if you will. I was young, and I just wanted to know. There was a little bit of anger because I knew I experienced something that was frightening, but I was being punished for it.”
As Buell and his team prepared to return for taping, the lead investigator offered one last comment about his time at the Thomas House, urging those with an interest in the paranormal to experience it for themselves.
“I don’t think there’s anything harmful here. I think this is a place with so much history, with so many layers to this haunting, with so many active spirits here, that at times the veil between our world and their world just slips by a little bit, and if you stay here long enough, you might get to experience something. But I don’t think it’s anything frightening . . . I think it makes this place unique and special. Some people want to have paranormal experiences . . . well, if your traveling and you want to go to a hotel and get away, you can knock out both here at the Thomas House.”
The episode featuring the Thomas House Hotel, entitled ‘Room37,’ will be re-aired at 1 a.m. CDT on Tuesday, April 14th, for those who miss out on the first showing.