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If you’ve ever seen someone in your peripheral vision then turned to find empty space, or felt cold chills run up your spine for no apparent reason, then you may have experienced what many believe makes Jonesborough one of Tennessee’s most haunted towns.
And that is exactly why Robb Phillips and Kathy Shephard brought their business, Paranormal Investigating & Research, here in August.
“I started this kind of work 12 years ago on Halloween,” Phillips said.
Phillips and Shephard both have more than a decade of this type of investigating under their belts, and both claim to have had paranormal encounters since childhood.
Their brick and mortar space on Main Street is a first for their business, and Phillips thinks it’s probably the only service of its kind in the area.
“We needed a place for people to actually be able to come in and talk to us,” he said.
The duo conduct private ghost hunts in people’s homes or businesses.
“First we try to find a reason for it happening. It could just be an air conditioner with faulty wiring, or a remote control that turns on two TVs instead of one,” Shephard said.
Once they rule out everyday hijinks, they bring in their DVR recorder, their digital voice recorders, and a static camera.
And if they find an entity they’ll also perform a blessing that they claim casts the spirit out, leaving the occupants permanently freed by their evicted ghost.
“We are definitely not the occult,” Phillips said. “I’m a retired preacher, and I’m a firm believer in heaven and hell. I believe ghosts are sent back to take care of people, or they are confused about why they are dead, or they are just angry they are dead.
“Most of them are just attached to something here, and all they are doing is repeating the last few moments or life; like replaying a movie over and over.”
Phillips explained Jonesborough’s age lends itself to its potentially large ghost population.
“The buildings are so old that there have just been a lot of deaths here,” he said.
So far, nothing overtly evil has registered on his radar. But many local haunts are promising points in which to record paranormal activity during private investigations, on group investigative tours, or on historic ghost walks.
“In Bumpus Cove Cemetery there’s a lot of activity: full body apparitions. And the Salthouse is my favorite right now,” he said. “We actually caught a full body apparition on static camera. And we’re hoping to get permission for (investigating) the old courthouse.”
The local lore in the courthouse on Main Street is that two prisoners were horsing around in their jail cell, and one man attempted to benignly tackle the other. But when he jumped on top of his cell mate it broke the other man’s neck, killing him instantly.
“I’ve not done the research on this yet, but what I hear is that the guy felt so bad about it that he hung himself in his cell,” Phillips said. “And there have been rumors of activity since: voices, apparitions, and different things moving.”
The duo and their team of five research volunteers also hopes to do some spiritual gumshoeing at local funeral homes and some places downtown that many residents have claimed for decades are most definitely rife with otherworldly inhabitants, such as the Chester Inn and the Cranberry Thistle.
“There’s a mail lady who swears up and down that she’ll walk by those two benches outside the Chester Inn, and out of her peripheral vision she’ll see an old man sitting on the second bench, (but) when she turns around and looks he is not there,” Phillips said. “And in the Cranberry Thistle, I’ve heard that people have seen full body apparitions inside.”
Both Shephard and Phillips have learned that directly eyeballing a spirit is technically impossible; instead it must be viewed, filmed and photographed from the side.
“I’ve gotten to where if I see something moving, I’ll just angle my head at it,” said Phillips. “I see alot more activity that way.”
Though many locals claim to be unafraid of, and even feel affectionate toward their spooks, Phillips warned against lodging with any specter long term.
“They’ve got to watch their luck,” he said. “A lot of these spirits, if they are hostile, can make bad things happen — streaks of bad luck, losing your job, illnesses, cars breaking down. The energy of these things can sometimes cause harm, and people don’t even realize it.”