Grishum Gristmill

Grishum Gristmill

Investigated by S.U.P.I. in April

 

                “Grishum Gristmill is a historic site being one of the few original mills in the Shenandoah Valley.  This mill was owned and operated by Alfred Grishum from 1843 to 1860.”  Robb read the plaque to the others while standing in front of the large stone structure.

                It was mid-April and the Strathmore University Paranormal Investigators were happy to have found another site to investigate.  The Grishum Gristmill was over 160 years old and stood outside of town along the Amangamek River.  It was old and like a lot of haunted sites in the area it was a historic landmark.  Luckily for S.U.P.I. it was not under the Strathmore Historical Society’s ownership, at least not yet. Stephen was glad about that little fact primarily because he would not have in to deal with Miss Strydecker the president of the Historical Society and a royal prude.  Stephen had gotten the impression she did not like the S.U.P.I. especially Evelynn because of the whole Crimshaw Manor incident.

                Stephen had never been “allowed” to publish the team’s findings during that investigation due to the truth they had discovered and he foolishly signing a non-disclosure agreement.  There were a lot of unanswered questions regarding Crimshaw Manor and the Historical Society.   Rumors had circulated among the students at campus, some of them true others outlandish.  The curiosity of the haunting at Crimshaw Manor had resurfaced and the historical society wasn’t happy about it or the bad publicity it had produced.  “Too bad for them.” Stephen had thought to himself.

                This investigation was suggested by the current owners, which was a trust, and had members of the Grishum family as part of it.  The local rumors had been that the old mill was haunted, that someone had died there having been crushed by the large mill wheel.  Strange lights were seen, odd noises heard and occasionally someone would report seeing a figure moving within the empty gristmill.  The owner wanted to see if there was any validity to the claims and if so if they could incorporate it into a haunted attraction.

                Stephen didn’t like being used for that purpose, but he had heard the stories growing up as a kid in Strathmore.  He had even come out here with his friends during one of their “round trips” they took that comprised of them leaving their homes in the morning, travel through the fields, woods, crossing creeks and into town.  Once in town they would go to the Dairy Queen, the bookstore or catch a movie. Once done they would then travel back all the while exploring and doing what young teens do… avoid getting into too much trouble.

                  The mill had always been closed and not open to the public.  Stephen and his friends had tried to get in several times but never thought about breaking in.  They had morals after all.  They had tried to climb the old water wheel seeking a way in once.  Looking back on that now it had been dangerous and dumb.  Nothing paranormal ever happened while they were exploring the mill although Jimmy claimed to have seen something in the upstairs window once.

                “What does a mill actually do?” Robb asked bringing Stephen back to the present.

                “Grinds grain into flour…”  Rich said sarcastically.

                Robb turned towards Rich Fairfax, a relatively new member of the club.  Rich was from a wealthy family in Richmond and was happy to let anyone know how influential his family was.

                “Thanks, Richey Rich for your informative opinion.”

                “Don’t call me that.”  Rich remarked.

                “Can you two grow up?  I mean really.”  Evelynn remarked.

                “He started it.” Robb said with a grin trying to get a rise from her.

                Stephen sometimes forgot the level of maturity of college students.  This investigation had been open to club members but only Evelynn, Robb, Rich and Eric Drexel were able to attend.  It was late in the afternoon on Saturday and the plan was to do one night investigating the claims inside the mill.  The owners had given Stephen keys to the gate and to the building in order to have the place to themselves.

                “Alright folks, let’s get the equipment inside and go over the research that Rich and Eric have done.” Stephen suggested.

                The mill had four floors and a basement.  The main floor, where the mill stone was, opened to stairs, lofts, gears, shoots, and the water wheel.  It was like being inside an immense clock.  The mill had stopped being operational a long time ago, but the owners had considered renovating it and bring it back into working order.

                The team placed their equipment on the first floor which was the main platform and started to set up the command post.  Once everyone brought in the various cameras, light poles, cords, etc... Stephen addressed the group.  “I’m very happy you all have decided to join this investigation.  Grishum Gristmill has long been believed to be haunted.  From the historical standpoint it is one of the oldest mills in Virginia.  Before we start setting up the equipment, I will let Rich and Eric explain some of the history and recent claims.  Guys…”  Stephen offered them the spotlight.

                Eric seemed embarrassed to be in the “spotlight” and looked to the upper classmen to take the lead.  Rich looked at Eric expecting him to begin with the research.   Finally, he exclaimed, “Oh gosh, fine… As you have already deduced Eric and I were tasked with researching the history of Grishum Gristmill.  Robb already enlightened you by reading aloud one of the several plaques regarding the mill.  It was built by Alfred Grishum around 1843 and was fully operational up until 1860 when the Civil War began.

                It had been a very busy and profitable business for Mr. Grishum serving the growing town of Strathmore and some of the smaller towns in the valley.  Having all that business, however, came with a price.  A lot of moving parts are involved in the operation of a mill and unfortunately accidents happened, some with deadly consequences.

We know that several deadly accidents happened, but the one known and believed to be the cause of the claims of this place being haunted is from the death of George Brantford.

                George was an employee of the mill for a long time having moved up in duties and responsibilities.  After twelve years of working and obtaining the position of foreman, George Brantford had an accident that cost him his life.

                  While working one evening, George Brantford somehow got caught in the water wheel and was pulled into the flume where he became wedged underwater and drowned.  That would have been tragic enough, but the pressure of the water eventually forced George’s body through bringing him to the surface.  Either a body part or piece of clothing had gotten caught on the mechanism and his body rotated with the wheel up and around, repeating the process.  When the other mill workers came in the next day, they found what was left of his body.

Take a look at a similar site to the Grishum Gristmill.

Over the next five years strange things were reported to have happened.  Sightings of unknown lights at night, sounds of the machinery working, and voices.  When the Civil War started up a lot of business fell away and the mill was not able to sustain itself and had to close.”

                “It has been abandoned ever since.”  Eric added finally finding his voice.

                “You mean to tell me it has been sitting here for…” Robb started calculating the years in his head.  Rich rolled his eyes waiting for the mental calculator to finish. “Over 150 years?”

                “Yes.” Eric replied.  “The stone walls were built to last and most of the wooden beams, that hadn’t been stolen or beyond the normal wear and tear are still here.”

                “The mill and property stayed in the family but was never used as a working mill again.”  Rich stated.

                “Good work on the history, what’s the current claims?”  Stephen asked already knowing.

                “The mill has been believed to have been haunted since the death of George Brantford.”  Eric said, “After it sat closed and dark for years and years it became a local legend and a dare for kids.”  Stephen smiled remembering the stories he had heard in elementary school.

                “Yes, but to bring us to modern times, “ Rich interrupted, “People have claimed to see lights inside moving like a candle or lantern from room to room.  On one occasion voices were heard when no one was inside.”

                “That is very interesting and from a variety of sources I assume.  Sounds like the stone tape theory.” Evelynn offered.

                “Stone what theory?” Eric asked.

                “Stone tape.  It is believed that mental impressions during a traumatic or emotional event can be stored, for lack of better words, into the surrounding natural material such as wood or stone.  Stone being practically indestructible has long held the belief as being the best medium for such impressions.” 

                “So, it acts like a tape recorder?”

                “More like a residual experience.” Robb suggested.

                Stephen was happy to hear the dialogue among the students.  Learning was happening!  He smiled as he unpacked the equipment.  Stephen had decided to set up the command post on the ground floor where the mill stone was.  The location was centrally located and easily accessible to the outside.  From this floor the top of the water wheel could be observed and access to the lower floor and upper floors was available.  The command post’s cables would run up to the second and third floor cameras and microphones and down to the basement level where the gear box, water wheel and flume where located without too much crossover of wires and cables.

                A direct feed camera and audio mic would be placed on each of the floor.  The idea was to capture something on film or on audio such as a disembodied voice, floating lights or other noises.  Stephen would man the command post; two students would investigate the second and third floor while the other two would investigate the first floor and basement using the various equipment they had brought.

After an hour of setting up the equipment Stephen took his place at the command post making sure the cameras where working and in the best positions.  The teams would be Evelynn and Eric investigating the upper floors and Robb and Rich doing the first floor and basement.

                “Hey it’s E2 and R2.” Robb blurted out.  Everyone looked at him not sure what he was talking about.  “You’ll figure it out.” He said.

                Evelynn and Eric took a REM pod, the Polaroid camera and an Ovilus.  Evelynn wanted to start at the top floor and work their way down.  She explained to Eric that it was to drive the spirits towards Stephen and the other students.  Eric looked at her and wasn’t sure if she was joking until she smiled and said, “Just kidding.  I’m thinking there will be less audio contamination having at least two floors between us and Robb.  He tends to talk too much during an investigation.”

                “Ok. Sounds good to me Evelynn.”  Eric happily replied.

                The sounds of their footsteps echoed in the stone building as they walked up the two flights of wooden steps.  Walking even the least bit made the floorboards creek and groan.  The wood was solid even though it was very old.  Once on the third floor they were surprised to find that not much of anything was up in that space.  It was a large empty area with only a few boxes and some wooden 2x4 boards.

                “Nothing is really up here.” Eric said in a low tone.

                “Not necessarily.  Perhaps now nothing is here but at one time there may have been much.”

                Eric laughed.  “You’re talking like Yoda.”

                Evelynn smiled and said in her best Yoda voice, “Wait and see you will.”

                Rich and Robb decided to go to the basement where the gears, mechanism and water flume for the water wheel were.  If George had been killed by the water wheel this would make the most sense of where it happened.  Robb took a recorder for EVPs and a REM pod.  Rich took a spirit box with him.

                “Have you ever used one of those?” Robb asked motioning towards the spirit box.

                “It’s not rocket science Robb.”  Rich said. “You turn it on and listen.”

                Robb looked at Rich walking down the stairs in front of him and thought to himself that Rich could listen to him drop kick him the rest of the way to the basement.  What was up with that guy?  He was only trying to make small talk; be friendly towards him.

                The two made it to the basement, making the same amount of noise on the wooden stairs as Evelynn and Eric did.  Reaching the basement Robb immediately felt the chill in the air and the moisture of the water.

                “Wow.  You feel that?”  Robb said forgetting he was addressing Rich.

                “Yes. The lower temperature and water vapor really give this place the creeps.” Rich replied.

                “The creeps?” Robb thought to himself and was going to crack a joke but figured Rich, who was a cross between a Vulcan and Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory would not appreciate it, only said, “Yep.  Let’s set up the REM pod near the gear mechanism and we can start an EVP session.”

                  “Ok.” Rich said casually looking around with his flashlight.  Two for two without a snide comment, Robb thought.  Maybe he’s coming around.

                “Close your eyes while I snap a few photos.” Evelynn suggested to Eric.  He did as she had suggested as a series of flashes lit the floor followed by the familiar Polaroid sounds.  After taking about four photos Evelynn stopped and Eric opened his eyes.

                “Why use a Polaroid camera” He asked.

                Evelynn placed the photos down near the wall in order to develop.  Turning back to Eric she explained. “Obviously the Polaroid allows somewhat immediate viewing of the picture…”

                “Well so does a digital camera.”  Eric quickly said.

                “It does and I like digital photography, but it is not film.  The Polaroid uses film that is sensitive to different spectrum's of light.  Sometimes it will develop something on the photo that was not seen with the human eye.”

                “Cool. Did it this time?”

                “Let’s see.”  Evelynn said going back over to the photos.  Picking them up she scanned them one by one.  Nothing appeared unusual except for one.

                “What is that?”  Evelynn said looking at the photo.  In it was the open space of the third floor.  Eric was in the photo, with his eyes closed, but beyond him near the stairs appeared to be a shadow of some sorts.  Eric looked at it closely not sure what he was looking at.

                “Is that my shadow?” He asked.

                “Maybe.  I’m not sure.”  She looked at the photo more closely.  “It does look like a person.  Almost like a person coming up the steps.”

                “BEEEP!” Sounded the REM pod.

                Evelynn and Eric slowly turned to look where the REM pod had been placed.  It was silent now where it sat near the top of the stairs, but one of the lights faintly blinked on and off.

                “Is there anyone here with us?”  Robb asked holding the recorder out in front of him.  “If there is can you make a noise or say something?”

                The two of them stopped and listened.  They had been doing an electronic voice phenomenon, or EVP, session for about twenty minutes asking a variety of questions.  They have had no luck in hearing anything either directly with their own ears or on the recorder.

                “This sucks.”  Rich commented, obviously bored with the lack of activity.

                “Sometimes that is how it goes.”  Robb replied.

                “Still sucks.”

                Robb got along with most everybody, but Rich always seemed to be in a disgruntled mood.  He was wondering why that was when suddenly the REM pod gave a short beep.

                “Woah! Did that just go off?” Robb said excitedly.

                “It did.” Rich replied flashing his light in that direction.

                “Rich. Please turn off the light.”

                “Why Robb?  Why do I need to turn off the light?”

                Robb took a deep breath and thought about his options.  The best one was to reply calmly, which he did.  “Because Rich the energy used by the flashlight may or may not interfere with the energy used by spirits to attempt to communicate with us.  More importantly it hampers our vision and the equipment’s ability to see anything by actually creating more shadows.”  Robb finished and was proud of his self-control.  It was less satisfying of a response, but the correct one.  What he wanted to do was to punch him in the throat.  Rich didn’t respond but turned off the flashlight.

                “Knock!” Came a sound from the direction of the wheel.

                “What was that? Robb asked.

                “I didn’t hear anything.”  Rich replied.

                “You didn’t just hear that knock?”

                “No.”

                  Robb moved to the edge of the old flume near the water wheel.  In the past a gate would have been opened allowing water to travel down the flume from the river which in turn would start to rotate the large water wheel.  That in turn would power the rest of the equipment and turn the mill stone.  Genius, Robb thought, friggin genius.

                “Is anyone here with us?”  Robb asked holding out his recorder.  “What is your name?  What happened to you?”  Robb stopped as Rich came over to join him at the edge of the flume.  “Let me review this real quick to see if we captured anything.”  Robb placed the recorder near his face to better hear what he had just recorded.   Nothing seemed unusual until the end of the second to last question.  During the asking of the question a strange sound began.  It was low but steady.

                “What is that?”  Robb said stopping the recorder and rewinding it.  He pushed play and listened again.  The sound was faint and low and had a rhythm consisting of knocks and bangs.

                “Did you hit the recorder on something?”

                “No.  Just held it out in front of me.”  Robb let the recorder continue as the last question was heard, “What happened to you?”  As the strange knock and bangs continued another noise was in the background.

                Robb stopped the recorder, “Woah.”  He backed up the recorder and again listened to the second noise that wasn’t heard before.  There was no mistake upon hearing it the second time.  It was a scream for help.

                “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!”  Eric exclaimed at the sound of the REM pod going off again.  He quickly moved closer to where Evelynn was standing.

                Evelynn smiled, “Eric.  Are you scared?”

                Eric composed himself a little embarrassed by his actions. “No. No…. not of that.”

                Evelynn was intrigued by that response.  “Not of that?  Are you scared of something else?”

                Eric laughed a nervous laugh, “Well yeah.  Isn’t everyone.”

                Evelynn was now very curious.  “What scares you Eric?”

                “Nothing.”

                “You just said something scares you.”

                “Yeah, well…”

                “What?  What is it?”

                “I don’t want to say.”

                “Eric… What is it?”

                Looking at Evelynn it was hard to not deny any request she would ask. Looking into her deep dark eyes was hypnotic.  Not able to say no to Evelynn, Eric finally blurted out, “Those tube men!”

                “What?”

                “Those tube men.  You know the inflatable tubes with arms flinging about… there at car lots and restaurants.”

                Evelynn snorted a laugh.

                “See. You’re laughing at me.”

                “I’m not.”  Evelynn began to laugh trying to contain it.

                “I know it’s stupid, but they really freak me out; moving erratically with arms flinging about.” Eric began to mimic a tube person weaving side to side flailing his arms about.  Evelynn busted out laughing not being able to contain it any longer.

                “Please don’t tell the others.”  Eric pleaded.

                “I won’t.  Your fear is safe with me.”  Evelynn said and laughed again flailing her arms about.

                “Oh my gosh.” Eric replied putting his head down.

                “Did you hear that?” Robb asked holding out the recorder to Rich.

                “Yes, I did.  Can you play it again?”  Robb was surprised by the request and lack of comments by Rich.  He replayed the recording hearing once again the strange rhythmic sounds of knocks and bangs, the final question from Robb and then the faint but obvious scream for help.

                “I think we should show the professor this.”  Robb said.

                “I can take it to him.  You should stay here to see if there is any other activity.”  Robb agreed and handed over the recorder.  Rich turned on his flashlight and began to walk upstairs leaving Robb alone in the dark, damp basement.

                  Stephen was chuckling to himself after viewing and hearing Eric’s fear of the “tube men” over the audio mic.  He could only focus on one video feed at a time and could only listen to one mic as well.  He noticed Rich leaving the basement on the other camera but did not know why he was since he had the audio mic from the top floor activated now.   “He was probably upset with something Robb said or did,” he thought as he heard Rich’s footsteps coming up the stairs and into the command post.

                Rich came into the command post area and greeted Stephen.  He explained that he had captured some great EVPs down in the basement after they had heard some knocking and had some REM pod activity.  Stephen listened to the recording and was excited.  “What is that noise and the scream? Is he saying help?”

                “I think so.” Rich replied beaming.

                “Great job Rich.  That may be George Brantford’s spirit who may have died down there near the water wheel.  Good Job!”

                “Thank you, Professor.”

                After being left in the proverbial dark of the basement; Robb started thinking about Rich’s reaction and suggestion he take the EVP to the professor.  “That son of a …” Robb thought and begun to walk up the wooden stairs.  He made his way towards the command post as Professor Davenport was saying good job to Rich.

                “Really?”  Robb said coming into the command post and confronting Rich in front of Stephen.

                Evelynn and Eric heard the commotion coming from downstairs and could recognize Robb’s and Rich’s voices.  Something was happening downstairs.  Deciding to have a break the two of them exited the top floor and headed to the command post.

                “I’ve tried professor, really tried.”  Robb was saying as Evelynn and Eric came down to the first floor and into the command post.  Robb was upset, which was unusual given his laid-back attitude.  “All night you have moaned and complained; gripped and made snide remarks.  Now you take credit for an EVP that you didn’t have anything to do with. Pretty low Richey Rich, pretty low.”

                Stephen asked them both to settle down and explained that this was a team investigation and no individual was more important than another.  Robb took a deep breath and seemed to have put the incident behind him, venting it out seemed to have satisfy him.  Stephen knew Rich was difficult and thought of all people Robb could tolerate him the most.  Sometimes people just pushed the right buttons.  Stephen told everyone to take a break and that they would change up the teams when they continued.

                Everyone broke up into small groups, grabbing some snacks and drinks they had brought.  Stephen and Evelynn sat together talking while Robb and Eric did likewise in another area.  Rich sat alone at the monitor table looking at his phone.

                Robb wasn’t a mean person and seeing Rich sitting by himself struck a chord in him.  So what if Rich took credit for the EVP.  It didn’t really matter.  It seemed strange that it had bothered him the way it had.  Now he regretted losing his cool.  Maybe Rich needed to get some credit, some attention.

                “Rich.”  Robb spoke up catching his attention. “You can join us if you like.”

                Rich looked up from his phone at Robb and responded, “No. I’m good.”

                “Oh for the love of Peter Frampton!” Robb exclaimed.

                  Eric looked at Robb, “Who’s Peter Frampton?”

                “Uh?”

                “Peter Frampton.  Who he?”

                “Oh.” Robb laughed sitting back down. “I don’t know.  It was something my mom would say when I did something dumb or dangerous when I was growing up.  Which… looking back on it now seemed to be a lot.”

                Eric laughed and the two of them shared some beef jerky and Funyuns when Rich suddenly spoke up. “Hey professor.  Something is here on the monitor upstairs.”

                Everyone rushed over to the monitor to look at the screen.  The camera on the top floor had a great angle of vision since only a few boxes were present.  At first nothing seemed to be happening on the monitor then a flash of light on the REM pod followed by a beeping noise indicated something was there.

                “Look.  Right there!”  Eric said pointing at the screen.  Everybody saw what he was pointing at, an orb had suddenly appeared from nowhere and was hovering near the REM pod as it increased in lights and sounds.

                “So cool.” Robb stated forgetting the incident with Rich already.

                “Professor.  Should we go up there?”  Rich asked turning towards Stephen.

                “Not yet Rich.  Let’s see what this orb does.”

                The orb hovered near the REM pod as if looking at it and then floated towards the center of the floor before going down through it.

                “Oh, wow it’s gone.” Eric commented.  No one moved but continued to watch the screen waiting for something more to happen.  No further activity was seen on the screen.  Robb, Evelynn and Eric went down to the basement to try the spirit box but had no luck.  Stephen and Rich went up to the third floor in the hopes of seeing or documenting some additional activity, but like the others they had no such luck.

                  The rest of the evening was quiet and a disappointment to all.  After several hours of no activity the group decided to call it a night.  While not as active as they had hoped for the team was able to capture video of an orb, a photo of a shadow person and an EVP of strange knocks/bangs followed by a scream for help.  Stephen would inform the client of these findings and discuss with them the possibility of doing a follow up investigation in the future.  Needless to say, the Strathmore University Paranormal Investigators believed that Grishum Gristmill was indeed haunted.

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