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Spirits of the past draw a crowd to History Center
Ghost Walk participants hear legendary tales of spectral visitors at Brenau campus
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Southeastern Institute of Paranormal Research co-founders Diane Culpepper, left, and Denise Roffe talk to a group about the devices they use to document paranormal activity. The researchers participated in a ghost walk Friday that featured stops along the Brenau University campus. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

As is evidenced by the Northeast Georgia History Center's sold-out Ghost Walk, adults enjoy a good ghost story just as much as the kiddies.

Unlike the ghost stories that many of us remember from our youth, these tales were all true, based on local events, history and legend.

"It's not a scary walk, but it is eerie," said Kathy Amos, Brenau University Learning and Leisure Institute director, who helped research the stories.

On Friday and Saturday, hundreds of participants took part in the tour, which meandered from the history center on Academy Street to seven, different stops on the Brenau campus.

Some of the tales featured well-known characters like the storied ladies of the lake and Agnes, who is said to be Brenau's resident ghost.

Other stories had less well known characters, like Dr. Hilbert Tingley, a New York doctor who met an untimely death and somehow ended up in a plot in Alta Vista Cemetery in Gainesville. Although the history center's staff have pieced together some of Tingley's puzzle, there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

"If anyone knows anything about (Tingley), we would really like to hear from them," Amos said.

This year, participants got an extra treat: a visit from investigators with the Southeastern Institute of Paranormal Research.

"We do at least 24 investigations a year. We usually see an increase in interest around Halloween, but we conduct investigations all year long. We usually get requests for investigations after something significant has happened," said Denise Roffe, SIPR co-founder.

"Usually they're seeing apparitions or objects are being moved to strange places."

Roffe and Diane Culpepper, the institute's other co-founder, also explained to the tour groups how they conduct investigations.

"We usually do investigations at night because the photographic evidence that we're trying to capture shows up better on a dark background," Roffe said.

While the investigators were in town, they did a bit of ghost hunting at Brenau's Pearce Auditorium and may have discovered more ghosts than just Agnes — a student from the 1920s who is said to have hung herself on campus — taking up residence.

"One of the investigators was up on the catwalk over the stage, while the rest of us were outside. She said she heard footsteps on the stage, but when she looked down, no one was there," Amos said.

"I read the reports from two of the group's sensitives, people who sense the presence of spirits. They both wrote about seeing a woman who was wet, dressed in white, with dark, matted hair. They weren't together during the investigation so this is something that they each saw independently."

The investigators also captured two EVPs, electronic voice phenomena, on their digital voice recorders. The researchers are planning to remove some of the background noise to see if they can decipher the sounds.

With any luck, the researchers' findings will help tour organizers find new tales to incorporate into next year's event.

"I have been gathering leads on stories since the History Center first had the idea of doing the Ghost Walk," Amos said.

"We start with a lead and then we begin researching the stories to see if there is any basis of fact for the story. Some of the stories are pretty eerie, but you get to learn a lot of history about the area."

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