Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Springvilla Specters

Springvilla Specters
Opelika, Alabama

September 22, 2012 was supposed to be a typical camping event put together by the Alabama Paranormal Research Team and Creepy Mountain Research. Team director, Faith Serafin of the Alabama Paranormal Research Team and Creepy Mountain Research, discussed the many unusual aspects and history of a location in Opelika, Alabama called Springvilla. Most of the paranormal research done here by the Alabama Paranormal Research Team has been ghostly in nature. But, recently some unusual sightings and happenings led our team to seek out other paranormal researchers, specializing in crypto-zoology after two separate incidences prompted the ghost hunters to seek out other explanations for the phenomenon. 

The first experience came in the early winter of 2011, when the Alabama Paranormal Research Team was working on a training exercise at the historic plantation. The spirits inside the 18th century mansion where buzzing with activity. K2 meters lit up on high electrical frequencies and the MEL meters picked up endless amounts of energy as we conducted numerous EVP sessions and recordings in real time. We picked up several voices that were responding to our questions. Shadows moved from room to room and the footsteps of an unseen entity traveled up and down the spiral staircase. After several hours of investigating the team stepped outside for some fresh air. We gathered around the front lawn, talking excitedly about the night’s events.

To our backs, the dark and foreboding night cloaked the surrounding forest in pitch blackness and a heavy, lingering fog began to roll in quickly. We watched over our shoulders as a mist appeared and took the shape of an oddly shaped carriage being pulled by ghostly horses. The team watched in amazement as it slowly disappeared into a vaporous cloud. This was a typical paranormal investigation at Springvilla, but, a very untypical event was about to happen that would add to the numerous paranormal experiences we've witnessed here over the years. 

As the night’s conversation progressed on, we must have stood on the lawn for about forty five minutes or so. We were in a deep conversation about the odd mist and the EVP’s inside the house. Suddenly an enormous crash bellowed from inside the forest, just fifty yards behind us. The sound was extremely loud and several thumping sounds occurred simultaneously. It was as if someone had pushed over a massive tree and was then running through the forest. Whatever it was, it was large and solid. All the team members present that night jumped at the sound and a few even ran from it. We all agreed that most likely this was nothing more than a fallen tree and went on with our investigation leaving the location in the early morning hours with no further experiences from the forest.

Some months later, another exercise was being conducted at the location. Again, the house seemed to be turning up great evidence in the form of EVP’s and a few unusual photos. But like before, the activity outside of the mansion would prove, once and for all, that either someone or something was indeed on the property. Team members sat inside the breezeway connecting the two sections of the house, as we watched for nocturnal animals (which are common here) we turned our attention toward the front of the park, where the main entrance is located. As we started toward the front part of the property something, of an enormous size, fell from a large Oak in the front. It sounded like a limb was falling, hitting other limbs on the way down, and shaking the tree entirely. We stood looking at the tree, waiting a few seconds and expecting a limb to come crashing down. But there was nothing there. We could see the tree rattling from something moving in it, and we could hear the enormous sounds of cracking and falling but saw nothing. As we approached the tree there was no indication of a fallen limb - whatsoever. No limbs sizable enough were on the ground that would cause the crashing or shaking. The dirt was scattered beneath the tree as if something had landed on the ground but we could not identify anything that had done so. Either a large and stealthy animal had jumped from the tree and disappeared, or some strange paranormal phenomenon was happening that we were not prepared for.

This final experience prompted the Alabama Paranormal Research Team’s director to contact friends at Creepy Mountain Research. Creepy Mountain Research (CMR) is an organization that studies cryptid phenomenon and sighting. Though no official sightings have ever been recorded in Opelika to our knowledge, we did learn from locals that this type of phenomenon is common in the Springvilla area. Determined to find out what kind of potential paranormal aspects pertained to these events, the Alabama Paranormal Research Team and Creepy Mountain Research set up a camping excursion and teamed up for a night of investigating the area for possible answers.

At 3:30 pm CST, I  met with CMR members and discussed the experiences my team and I had witnessed. We showed them the two locations where they occurred. They discussed the situation regarding the details but both agreed that in no way were we trying to imply or give some suggestion that would portray that a actual Sasquatch was in the area. However, we both had an understanding that the potential for one to be there was high, given the terrain, remoteness, and environmental contributions that could indeed sustain a small family of Sasquatch. We decided to set up camp in a hollow, just on the tree line, where the first experience happened in the winter of 2011. A few team members were apprehensive about staying in the location, but according to our Bigfoot researchers, this was a good place to set up. CMR took several photos inside the forest off a remote trail and found some possible signs that are common among areas inhabited by Sasquatch. Some sapling trees were bent over that allegedly mark boundaries by Sasquatch. Still, this wasn't enough to prove any existence of a cryptid creature in the area.  We settled in around the camp fire and were encouraged by the researchers to carry on with chatting and cooking, since this kind of activity apparently attracts Sasquatch.

As the night grew later we broke up into groups and set for the heavily wooded trails. CMR brought in gear commonly used by Bigfoot hunters such as a parabolic ear and recorder mounted on a tri-pod, a digital camera, headphones for high frequency listening, and a FLIR imaging camera designed to detect hot and cold temperatures. Armed with these devices, the first group traveled deep into the murky wilderness. They stayed gone for nearly an hour and when they returned, they discussed with the others that they had experienced a few very unusual things in the woods.

First they made a few calls to attract any potential Sasquatch in the area and found that something answered them back, still not convinced, they also tried “wood-knocking”, which is a form of communication between the creatures. Several sounds were reported to have been heard but no definitive proof was collaborated by the CMR team. However, an image was captured on the thermal camera that was promising and a sense of higher anticipation that some thing, characteristic of Sasquatch, was in the area, seemed to drive the CMR team to investigate further. An illuminated eye appeared near a tree on the camera. “Eye shine”, in Bigfoot hunting terms, is simply reflection of a creatures eyes that typically appear at night. Mark of Creepy Mountain informed us that these creatures have different colored eyes, much like humans do, and therefore eye shine can come in different colors as well. Green, blue, yellow and red are most common.

We were also informed at this time that the creatures have evolved into different species of Sasquatch. Whether by environment or genetics is only speculation but the common species found in the South and South-East parts of Alabama are known as the “long snout” or “long nosed" Bigfoot. Frequently, reports state that these creatures have “werewolf” like characteristics regarding appearance. I asked if the creatures could possibly be aggressive like the stereotypical werewolf. Mark told me that some species have been reported to be aggressive but they had never encountered any that were.

This lingered with my team and an uneasy feeling seemed to take over the entire camp since recently a story and a personal experiences from Talbotton County, Georgia, just a few hours from Opelika, Alabama, turned up a hundred year old werewolf legend. The team pressed on and set for the neighboring property across the road from the plantation. An open parking lot filled with small pea size gravel gave a good view under the quarter moon and open clear night sky. It was getting late, close to 3 AM, and at this point a few of the team stayed behind at the camp. We walked toward the wood line in the hopes of capturing more thermal evidence with the FLIR. CMR members noted more eye shine on the thermal viewer and made several calls and whistles, hoping to get a response. Only a few audible sounds came back as substantial. We noticed that an open trail was clear enough to walk down and so CMR and three members of the APRT walked down the trail while the rest of us stayed behind and scouted the field in case anything ventured through while they were on the trail.

We could plainly see where they were located on the trail by the flashing of the flashlights, some ninety yards in front of us. The mouth of the trail was open and the street light from the lodge illuminated the outline of the tree line while the denser part indicated the opening to the trail. Feeling confident that no living being could come into the location without us seeing it, we watched as the five of them set out down the dark trail. Several minutes went by and some movement and possible ghostly phenomenon seem to be happening inside the woods closest to those of us still in the open field. We sat quietly and listened and noted we could no longer hear our teammates on the trail. A shadowy figure began walking up the trail back to the opening and we agreed that the figure was most likely one of the team members since he appeared to be wearing the same grey shirt as one of them on the trail.

His behavior was odd in the sense that he walked up the trail and appeared to squat down in a crouched position, then stood back up and walked back down the trail. We could clearly make out his legs against the dark silhouetted opening of the trail and whoever it was didn't seem to mind when we flashed our flashlight on him. Clearly we could see that this was a man of some sort, a human being from what we all could gather.  Everyone in the field agreed that it was a team member. A few more minutes went by and we approached the trail when we saw the flashlights reemerge from the darkness. We met them on the trail and asked who had walked up earlier?

No one answered directly and so I asked them all individually. One by one they all denied being at the opening of the trail. CMR had been the furthest down the road, and APRT members, Tony and Shane were with them, another team member stood the closest to the opening but never came off the road and saw no one pass him either.

Perplexed and shocked we all stood, pondering and questioning the situation, trying to make sense of it all. We also noted at that time the five of them entered the trail, something appeared to be on all fours entering the trail with them but thought it was a large dog of some kind. Since they did not react to the animal we didn't see that any of them were in danger. We also noted there was no sound that we could hear when the four legged creature appeared or when the human figure appeared afterward. The group in the wooded area on the trail also reported seeing several sightings of red glowing eyes and the sound of a little girl talking. Strange indeed since neither of the circumstances seemed to fit a particular criteria and neither the Alabama Paranormal Research Team or Creepy Mountain could determine exactly what was going on.

Later we regrouped at the camp site and discussed the possibilities of the things we had witnessed. Everything from Skin Walkers to Sasquatch and ghostly theories were tossed around between all of us regarding the sighting. The unusual aspects of this experience seem to come with the fact that all of us in the field had seen this “being”. We did note that none of us could see facial features and it did appear to be the same size as the average man. We could not see any hair, suggesting a possible Bigfoot sighting, the figure was grey in color and extremely quiet. If this being was an apparition of some sort, it was truly the most elaborate and solid form of one anyone of us have ever seen. Second to that, with some potential evidence of a possible Sasquatch in the area, we could not rule that out either. The one thing we did agree on was that this being was so real and so obvious, that four of us would not go to sleep in the camp. If “someone” was there and they were stealthy enough to walk past five of our teammates in such close quarters, it might try to sneak up on us while we all slept. So, staying up and watching over the camp became the idol task of Faith Serafin, Robin “Bones” Rodriguez, and the CMR team.

As day broke I sat wondering what the possibilities were regarding what I had seen the night before, it was enough to perk my curiosity and also enough to rattle my fears that something other than spirits inhabit Springvilla. The Native Americans that lived at the location prior to Penn Yonge had a spiritual connection to the land. Its high quartz and limestone content made it a religious gathering spot and they buried their dead just a few hundred yards from where the plantation was built. Sasquatch is a spiritual being in Native American folklore and this lends some credibility to the sighting but it also is far from the typical sighting of Bigfoot. Since nothing like what we experienced has ever been reported in the area, if some cryptid creature does exist on the property, they are indeed masters of camouflage and hiding.

Speculation is the common awkwardness of whom or what this was.The experiences was an emotional one. Neither Creepy Mountain Research nor my team expected to witness what we did that night. We did not capture video or photo evidence of the being that night. Until we asked, we assumed it was a team mate. A lesson learned in these types of circumstances is that you can never rule out anything involving the paranormal; ghosts and spirits, cryptids, UFO’s and alien beings. And never - ever, be without a camera or other device capable of capturing potential evidence. We were not prepared for what we saw that night and, more than likely, we will never witness it again. I feel lucky to have seen it myself and shared it with many of my team mates. I can only share the experience with you through story. I understand the paranormal to a great degree but the experiences we have keep us understanding that we are forever in a learning circle of educating ourselves about what else exist in the world and what we consider to be “our” world as humans. We're supposed to be the supreme beings of the universe, at the top of the food chain, but I’m just not so sure that is the case anymore.