Aside from my videos that will only be accessible on this website, and an occasional podcast appearance, this will be the only place I will publically share my personal solo ghost hunting experiences.  Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy them!

  

    More Than A Feeling

11 or so affable and willing folks following our guide back up to the 4th floor of the famously haunted Waverly Hills Sanatorium. This is that iconically abandoned old hospital known for the death chute. It is a tunnel built to ferry up supplies and minimize contact with the staff and patients when tuberculosis was incurable and highly lethal. The hospital opened in 1926, filled quickly and became renowned as a premier tuberculosis sanatorium. Sadly, if you were admitted to Waverly Hills, it was highly likely you would die there. By the end of the epidemic in 1954, one in seven Americans had died from TB  It was the 1st of July 2012 and that part of Kentucky was experiencing a record-breaking heatwave, but no one in my group complained about the sweltering conditions.  We had explored the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd floors and were eager to continue.  But as soon as I stepped onto the fourth floor, I was walloped by an unsettling feeling of dread.  I had not felt anything like this in any other part of the building.  The fourth floor felt different somehow. 

 Emotional residue refers to the belief that emotions experienced by one person in a particular physical environment leave a trace in that environment that can affect the emotions of a new person entering that environment, even if that person is unaware of the emotions experienced there previously (Savani, Kumar, Naidu, & Dweck, 2011).  

Patrick Henry Orozco
August 28, 2020

  

Many years ago, when I believed I was happily married, my then-wife and her sister and husband all thought it would be a great idea to buy a duplex and live in it…together.

Luckily, that didn’t happen.  However, in looking for the perfect illusory Shangri-La duplex we witnessed many rare and profoundly revealing ways other people lived.  Sometimes it simply meant we would have a realtor with us to show us around.  Other times it meant the owners would give us a tour.  This process took several months as we were only looking into one or two properties a month.  At one point we had two duplexes to look at in one day.  The first was a split-level upstairs/downstairs as was the second one.  The first was very artsy-fartsy and quite charming.  The second one was like what you might expect the inside of the Amityville Horror House felt like immediately after the murders.  I’m not sure anyone else in our party felt it, but I did!  I couldn’t explain it except to say it felt as if something unutterably evil had happened at some point in the history of the house or that the people unabashedly lounging around in various rooms of the duplex had committed some unspeakably horrific act…recently.  I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of that demon house.  Once outside, I felt much better, and I knew that we were definitely not interested in that one.  

30 some odd years later I was in a group of about

These beliefs vary from culture to culture.  Indian and Japanese cultures, for instance, are more open to these beliefs.  Emotional residue is similar to Shintoism beliefs, which suggest that everything contains an essence, and these essences can affect each other through positive or negative energy transfer (Tsunetsugu, 1988).

Indeed, the culture you grew up in determines to what degree you believe a place, or even a person, can have a bad or good vibe. (Grewal, 2011) But does this apply to a reputed haunted location?  Or are we psychologically primed by the folklore, legend, and media treatment of haunted houses?  Did I expect to feel dread when I signed on to explore an abandoned “haunted” tuberculosis hospital?  Maybe.  

In psychology, priming is a technique in which the introduction of one stimulus influences how people respond to a subsequent stimulus. Priming works by activating an association or representation in memory just before another stimulus or task is introduced. (Cherry, 2020) The popularity of ghost hunting shows on television has, for the most part, tinged a significant amount of the global population. Even my efforts have stirred interaction. Many months ago, I received a cordial invitation to visit Padang West Sumatra, Indonesia to witness a highly active haunting at a local beer garden. So, I think it is safe to say we all know what to expect when we hear about a haunted location. It is like when hearing the words yellow and banana elicit a faster response than “yellow television” would. (Cherry, 2020) Ghost hunting has become a global phenomenon. And most folks kinda know what to expect.  However, at Waverly Hills, I only experienced a 

marked sense of dread when I stepped onto the fourth floor.  So, what happened on the fourth floor at Waverly Hills Sanatorium that might have embedded such pronounced emotional residue?  Well, the fourth floor is where the surgical units were located.  Back in the early 1900s, surgical procedures to attempt a cure for tuberculosis were nothing short of barbaric.  Some attempts were major fails leaving patients in absolute searing pain and agony.  Some even died during or immediately after the experimental procedures.  Catching tuberculosis was a death sentence for more than half of those afflicted.  It’s not hard to imagine the nightmarish extent of trauma the patients must have experienced.  

The Savani paper, published in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that students in America and India felt very strongly that the emotions of a previous occupant of a dorm room would influence their own. For instance, if the former occupant had experienced family issues and depression, they (the new occupants) would also feel those negative emotions. (Huston, 2012)  

Back in 1987, I ended up in the hospital with a mystery ailment that baffled three doctors. No one could quite figure out what was wrong with me. One doctor suggested it could be HIV. My GI doctor suspected cancer. For several nights, while waiting for lab test results, I laid in a hospital bed convinced my time was up. I weighed 91 pounds, was wasting away rapidly, and no one knew why.  So, I was a wee bit stressed. So much so that after 30 years I remember the entire experience as if it had happened three weeks ago.  

So it is no surprise that neuroscience has found that

memories formed under extreme distress become hard-wired into our memories more so than routine everyday events. (CBS News, 2018)  The way our brains decide what to flag as important also varies from person to person.  For instance, I remember my hospital room vividly, but I cannot remember what my doctor’s names were.  I remember the hospital hallways, the rooms they took me to for tests, and the lonely view from my window.  

Place attachment is a cognitive-emotional bond people form toward places that have strong emotive associations. In most cases, these are places where positive life events occurred.  Place attachment can also form to places where negative events or threats may have transpired. (Leila Scannell & Gifford, 2014)  Both traumatic and pleasant events can and do become etched in our memories.

This brings up an interesting similarity when we purchase souvenirs from faraway places we have visited in our vacays or holidays and how they can evoke memories of our experiences long after we have returned home.  Those trinkets and tee-shirts then take on a magical ability to trigger specific memories of faraway places and pleasant experiences.  Transmission hypothesis, conceptualized by psychologist Peter A. White suggests that as a heuristic, people expect objects to transmit properties between each other.  When we apply the theory broadly to others, we also expect people to be able to transmit their subjective essences through contact – a phenomenon called magical contagion.  (Huston, 2012) 

In Savani et al.’s scenarios, there’s no particular object transmitting emotions from expresser to perceiver through contact, but property transmission sometimes acts without contact. Heat, light, and odor all radiate outward from their sources. So, we might expect happiness or sadness or fear to radiate outward from people and fill a room, even seeping into its walls.  Could this explain why I experienced such an elevated sense of dread on the fourth floor at Waverly Hills Sanatorium?  Could the collective angst of so many unfortunate souls who spent their last days on earth waiting for their inevitable demise, be interwoven in the walls of the sanatorium? Is this the cause of the mechanism of a haunting?  Or was it me? 

In the winter of 2011, when my interest is the paranormal became reactivated, I researched paranormal groups in the San Antonio area. One group struck me as being particularly competent and disciplined so I contacted the lead investigator via email. They were looking for a new member, but I would have to go through a rather thorough vetting process that consisted of several interviews. The first went well and we agreed to continue to a second interview at a later time. A few weeks later I was grilled more specifically about my thoughts about the paranormal. Things were going well until I was asked if I believed some people were sensitive to the paranormal when I answered yes, my interviewer’s demeanor changed dramatically. He gasped and bemoaned my answer and said something like, “Well we think people who claim they are sensitives are full of crap! And we never accept anyone into our group who would answer the way you did!”  And that was the end of the vetting process, I was rejected.

It wasn’t until many years later that a good friend and I were having a lively conversation about many subjects, including hauntings, when he declared that I was probably an empath.  I had never considered this a possibility until I pondered his assertion for many days after.  With a little research, I began to believe that I might be a sensitive. 

Empaths are no longer confined to literature and science fiction characters.  There is now developing empirical evidence that suggests that empathy is an evolved form of intuition.  Studies are beginning to suggest that empathic abilities are caused by striking differences in biological and psychological processes absent in some but amplified in others.  Empaths also tend to be introverts. (Hurst, 2017)  Researchers have discovered brain cells called mirror neurons that appear to be responsible for compassion.

Empaths may have hyper-responsive mirror neurons.  The mirror neuron system allows us to share and feel another’s pain, sorrow, or joy.  By contrast, psychopaths and narcissists are thought to have an under-active mirror neuron system. (Orloff, 2017)  I always wondered why the sound of a crying infant seemed to cut right through to my brain and cause me an intolerable amount of distress.  Now I know.

Similarly, the connection between our actual gut chemistry and our brain has been scientifically established.  Gut feelings have been hardwired into all of us as far back as human history can take us. (Olson, 2015)  Dr. Deepak Chopra put it this way, “A gut feeling is actually every cell in your body making a decision.”  And it makes that decision instinctively, we all do, it’s the classic fear response – fight or flight.  Chopra goes on to say that our gut produces the same types of chemicals our brains make during our thought processes. You can call it by any other name; a hunch, an inkling, or a funny feeling, but it still comes back to instinct. Instinct is the innate inclination toward a particular behavior that typically relies on a pattern of behavior in response to certain stimuli.  It is a process that is mindless and automatic and is not yet fully understood. (Olson, 2015)  

Here is a perfect example. I was driving through an affluent neighborhood back from my weekly trip to the grocery store. I came to an intersection to make a right turn. A police officer was in his police car at the corner. I made my turn and proceeded down the street. Within a few seconds, that police car was suddenly right behind me. It startled me and I felt this distinctive rapid sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I had no idea why he aggressively pursued me then backed off.  But I felt it in every part of my body, but mostly my gut.  When I stepped onto the fourth floor at Waverly Hills Sanatorium the feeling was the same only a bit milder.  But I have had significantly stronger reactions in haunted places.

I believe I spoke about this briefly during a podcast where I said having a paranormal experience often involves more than just visual and auditory processes. I said it was a whole-body experience. You not only see and hear; you feel paranormal events. Your body, and in most cases, your gut reacts to fear out of memory.  Something at Waverly told my gut something about the place was off. This mind-gut connection is not just metaphorical. Our brain and gut are connected 

by an extensive network of neurons and a highway of chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback. If you’re stressed, your gut will know it immediately. (Sonnenburg & Sonnenburg, 2015) 

July 1st, 2012 is just a couple of nights away from a full moon. It’s a cloudless night sky. On each side of the corridor, through windows absent of glass, moonlight daubs the decaying, peeling, desecrated walls with an ethereal neon glow. In my peripheral vision shadows dart quickly and evanescently through open doorcases swishing into the cavernous disconsolate hallway. Every abandoned room once unwillingly occupied by expiring souls seems to peer back into my soul, uncovering my ordered dread, recognizing the inexorable fear of my own impending decline. 

In spite of the physical decay, there is still a measure of order.  Unlike the deteriorating, crumbling hallways of Yoakum Community Hospital strewn with a hodgepodge of precarious debris and rot, Waverly Hills is uncluttered, maintained, and conserved.

The 4th-floor corridor sweeps on ceaselessly, doorway after doorway of patient rooms until you reach the end, where surgical quarters once witnessed brutal agonizing procedures that often ended in fatalities.  There is an unceasing trace of old wet fetid brick and mortar.  Timeworn wood rained, dried, and sun-bleached, in recurring spells of eroding cold and heat. As I step over a threshold into a darker passage of patient rooms, I become deeply sentient and am briefly overwhelmed with intense melancholy. As if I touched a reminiscence. A deep memory and yearning of a sheltered place. A desperate longing to be released from inescapable condemnation. A reflection of a kinetic life halted. All possibilities and plans denied. Holding hands, the scent of a favored meal, faraway thunder on a rainy spring afternoon. Anticipation, expectation. Belonging and beloved, accepted, and released.

A little over 8000 souls hoped that they would walk out of this hospital and go back home and live their lives. But that didn’t happen.  Here at Waverly Hills Sanatorium, they died.  Are some of them still here, waiting for that day they can go back home?  Do they need our help, or do they just want us to know that they were and still are here?

Tesla, Einstein, and many more great minds all believed in intuition and gut feelings.  Gavin de Becker said intuition is always in response to something.  While Dean Koontz stated that intuition is seeing with the soul.  I think a gut feeling and intuition is simply being fully in the moment and paying attention.  That is primarily why I am a solo ghost hunter.  When you are alone and something out of the ordinary happens you simply can’t ignore or debunk it as happenstance or error.

I don’t believe in anything paranormal.  I think it’s all normal.  I believe it is a naturally occurring phenomenon that can happen anywhere, for any reason at any time.  So, if you ever find yourself in a spooky situation and you feel it in your gut, trust it, it’s probably right.  That doesn’t mean you should be afraid.  On the contrary, you should feel lucky.  You should feel as if you have been blessed with a profound insight most folks simply ignore as a fluke, a funny feeling, something weird, and then forget about like it never even happened.  As for me, 2021 looks like it will be an interesting year.  I am slated to explore two asylums, a penitentiary, a haunted villa, and an infirmary.  Solo.

Works Cited
CBS News. (2018, September 25). The Science of memories: Why we remember traumatic events better. Retrieved from CBS This Morning: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-we-remember-traumatic-events-better/

 

Cherry, K. (2020, February 21). Priming and the Psychology of Memory. Retrieved from www.verywellmind.com: https://www.verywellmind.com/priming-and-the-psychology-of-memory-4173092

Grewal, D. (2011, November 1). Believing in "Bad Vibes". Retrieved from www.scientificamerican.com: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/believing-in-bad-vibes/

Hurst, K. (2017). What Are Empaths? 14 Empath Traits and Scientific Theories. Retrieved from The Law of Attraction: https://www.thelawofattraction.com/empath-traits/

Huston, M. (2012, April 20). Can Emotions Haunt Houses? Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psyched/201204/can-emotions-haunt-houses

Leila Scannell, & Gifford, R. (2014, January). The Psychology of Place Attachment. Retrieved from www.researchgate.net: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Robert_Gifford3/publication/279718543_The_psychology_of_place_attachment/links/5a07c9364585157013a5d3a6/The-psychology-of-place-attachment.pdf?origin=publication_detail

Olson, S. (2015, March 12). Your Gut Feeling Is Way More Than Just A Feeling: The Science Of Intuition. Retrieved from Medical Daily: https://www.medicaldaily.com/your-gut-feeling-way-more-just-feeling-science-intuition-325338

Orloff, J. (2017, March 3). The Science Behing Empathy and Empaths. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-empaths-survival-guide/201703/the-science-behind-empathy-and-empaths

Sonnenburg, J., & Sonnenburg, E. (2015, May 1). Gut Feelings-the "Second Brain in Our Gastrointestinal Systems. Retrieved from Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/gut-feelings-the-second-brain-in-our-gastrointestinal-systems-excerpt/

 

Can gut feelings, emotional residue, and place attachment validate hauntings and paranormal activity?