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When the email and phone calls started, no AMG member thought the urgent requests for contact by CNN was the real deal. Then we reached Andrea, a hard-working producer in New York, and we were on the Memorial Day weekend ride of our lives!
It appears our "Canary," sensitive Al Brindza, somehow attracted attention as Anderson Cooper's "360" show planned a week-long series of stories and debunkers of the paranormal. Once I spoke with Andrea and called Al at his day job (archaeology), it was beat the clock.
Seems CNN, with whom we were talking late Thursday afternoon, needed to have the story on-air the following Monday....and it sounded like the only time we could hook up was the next day.
Worse, as I tried to imagine the best haunt in terms of creep factor, there was no 2nd best; it had to be the former West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville.It's creepy, it's where Al got his awesome apparition video, and an economic development agency oversees tours of the spooky old, civil war-era joint.
And so began round-robin phone calls, with Pat Kleinedler at the prison, a producer in Atlanta, another in New York who wanted to pre-interview me to ascertain we weren't TOTALLY dysfunctional, and segment producer David Steck. The calmest person I spoke with all day was Jonathan Freed - a really great guy who inherited the reporter-at-large duties of long-timer Jeff Flock, based in Chicago.
Next came coordination. The Moundsville staff - Pat Kleinedler and Mike Parininca - were absolute stars. Pat gave up her day off and Mike, an excellent tour guide and former guard, came in six hours before a schedule all-nighter with another. CNN had to import a video crew from somewhere, Iraq-tested night vision equipment and Freed, with the goal meeting just 25 hours after we agreed to the plan.
Traveling in our party was digitize Media cofounder Benjamin J, Mazur and production assistant Jarod Sather, as well as Al's wife Jo and mine, Marty.
It wasn't going to be a traditional 'ghost hunt' by any measure. CNN needed video from outside and around the place in the fading light - and we always had to factor in the location of Kevin, the videographer, as Mike guided us. Goal #1 was reaching 'The Hole" where Al captured his video on June 28, 2003. As in our visit the previous August, the rooms in question were totally dark at any hour - and, as we did in August - we had no joy getting another apparition image.
Al picked up on a potential residual image on a ramp above the entrance to the Hole, but as soon as we all turned, it was over. Mike then led us to the really, really unpleasant place - the north wing solitary cells for crooks and killers who continued their ways behind bars. These cells, barely the size of a closet, are too hot in summer and too cold in winter.The graffiti on the walls reflect the bad energy of the artists. But the worst, in Al's experience, was the last cell on the ground floor. Al walked in for a few moments and almost staggered out. I guided him away from the camera and tried to get him to talk, as I heard Mike describe this as 'the death cell.' It was the end of death row and it's the last place where a prisoner murdered another (with 17 stab wounds) before the old pen closed in 1995.
Al's Perspective -
The CNN interview was quite a surprise and we didn't know what to expect on such short notice. I would like to thank CNN for sending producer David Steck, Reporter Jonathan Freed and the guy behind the camera, Kevin. They were very professional and understanding, and seemed really interested working with us on this assignment.
My first touch of the paranormal in this visit started in the prisoner visitation room just after we showed the Moundsville staff the video. As Pat and Mike watched the footage of the apparition I captured last year, I sensed the energy of one very agitated inmate. He was adamant that he was falsely accused (not unusual, I understand). Pat later told me that a psychic who visited the prison earlier also sensed this restless spirit. As the CNN crew watched us preparing our equipment, paranormal gremlins went to work. I deliberately handed Jonathan two new unopened videotapes, asking him to choose one for my camera. (I do this in the event I am lucky enough to capture anything paranormal; sort of like the magician who says "nothing up my sleeve!") My camera would not accept the tape Jonathan handed me and we tried the other with better success. Almost every ghost hunter has fallen victim to dead batteries or quirky equipment thanks, I believe, to those on the other side.
As we passed through two sets of iron gates leading from the lobby to the hallway, I sensed two rows of prisoners, standing side by side the entire length of the darken hallway. I was relieved my senses were working and I was able to concentrate on my surroundings. Its one thing for a sensitive to pick up on things, but to prove what we are sensing is another matter, Pat was able to confirm some of my observations as we walked around.Many tragic events occurred within these walls and the energy is still there. The simple act of walking past the cells can evoke feelings of despair, anger and hate. As we arrived at the last cell on the ground floor of the north hall I stepped into it for just a few seconds. Suddenly the energy and emotions were too overwhelming and I felt I had to get out before the negative energy consumed me. Later I found out this was the death cell stated by Jon earlier.
We were asked to show our apparition video to a tour group arriving at midnight. After viewing this incredible video and talking to us about our experiences, a few of them had second thoughts about spending the next 6 hrs locked in the haunted prison! Would you?
Moundsville, WV State Penitentiary
by Al Brindza
Early in June of 2003 my wife Jo and I were invited to tour the former West Virginia State Penitentiary located in historic Moundsville, which is roughly 12 miles from Wheeling WV. Our son Eric and his girlfriend Chrissy were going on a midnight ghost tour of the prison and asked us to go. At first I said yes thinking what an adventure this place would be not only historically but also possibly it might prove to be haunted. As the day came closer for the tour I began to have second thoughts. After reviewing the website about the prison and learning some of it's background I knew this wasn't a place that I should venture into unprepared or unprotected. I believe it was a few nights before we were planning on arriving at the prison I had a dream or perhaps just a vision that I needed to see this place for myself, that I would be protected, no harm would come to me and there was a reason for me to be there on that particular night, unknown to me at the time.
We arrived at the prison near midnight and would be locked in until early morning roughly 6am. Before we entered the prison we met with the other members of the tour group, there were 20 of us in all. We did our usual ritual of protection before entering a possible haunted location. Besides Eric and Chrissy and our niece Lori, we were strangers to the other members of the tour group. Once inside, the outer gates of the prison were locked in by our tour guide (Mike P.). The tour was to last approx. an hour and a half and after that we were on our own for the rest of the night.
A little background of the prison before I get on with my story of the night. This prison is on the list of the National Historic Register and was built just after the Civil War, construction starting in 1866. In the early 1900s the prison was nearly self-sufficient due to the income from the prison farm and inmate labor. In 1921 a prison coalmine was opened, and in 1929 the prison was expanded to almost double its size to over 10 acres. It now looks like an old very impressive gothic style fortress.
A number of people asked me if there were any executions that took place at this penitentiary. The answer is Yes! From 1899 to 1959, 85 prisoners were executed by hanging and 9 others by the electric chair. In 1965 Capitol punishment was abolished in WV. We also learned that from it's beginning as a prison, that 998 people died there, half of these were either murdered by other inmates, or suicides. The rest of the deaths were contributed to illnesses or natural causes. Several of the murders by the other inmates were very brutal, because of this I will not go into detail. Most of the prison population served short sentences, 1 - 10 yrs. for the smaller crimes, but there was a section called the North Hall that housed the rapists and murders and others who were too dangerous to mix with the general prison inmates. These were considered the badest of the hardend criminals. They were locked in their cells 22 hours a day. As part of the tour we were taken to where some of the prisoners were held in solitary confinement. I entered a few of these 5ft. by 7ft. Cells which were basically steel boxes with no window, only a thick 2 or 3 inch steel door that looked out to a wall on the other side of the dark hallway. There was no other contact with any other humans except maybe an occasional visit by the guards to bring their meals. I felt the impressions left by these inmates; believe me a few were totally out of their minds. Even though protected I could only be in the cells for a short time, a few I would not enter into. In 1986 the WV Supreme Court ruled that having the inmates in 5 by 7ft. Cells was considered cruel and unusual punishment. Some of these cells held 3 inmates when conditions became over crowded at the prison. In 1995 the prison was officially closed and the inmates were moved to other locations. Some went to the new Correctional Institute at Mt. Olive WV.
Now back to my story, once we were all inside the lobby we signed in as required by the prison. It was now after midnight and after a short briefing we began the tour. We did this almost in total darkness except for flashlights that most of had brought along. Most of the group was armed with cameras; some were just along for the thrill of this event. Being experienced ghost hunters my wife and I were better prepared than the others. We had all the necessary equipment with us. An infrared camcorder, several digital cameras, thermal scanner, EMF meter, reg. 35mm camera and a few other toys we had along with us. We also had the advantage of me being a sensitive, which proved to be a blessing that night.
We were on the tour for approx. 11/2 hrs when we were in a location called "The Hole." This is where it happened history was to be made that night at this spot. At this location we were actually underground in the basement of a building that is known to have been the scene of several hauntings. One of the entities that supposedly haunts this place is J.D. Walls, who was murdered and butchered on Oct. 8, 1979 by the several of the other inmates. J.D. was a trustee of shorts who was like by both the inmates and guards. Apparently a few of the newer inmates didn't trust him and took his life. While we were in one of the rooms of the basement listening to the tour guide explain what this area was used for. I was off by myself at one side of the room. Remember we are doing this in total darkness. I had my inferred camcorder running and was scanning the room where everyone else was standing. Mike (our tourguide) was talking and I got my usual jab of a headache that indicates to me something paranormal is about to happen.
I felt a presence to my left and turned my camera in that direction and started recording. Approx.10ft. or so my camcorder was picking up an image of an entity that was so real I couldn't believe my eyes. I managed to film this event which lasted for approx. a minute before the batteries on my camcorder died. I kept this to myself until we arrived back at the lobby where there was light. My camcorder was now working again, I rewound the tape and then showed it to my wife and son. I immediately checked everyone who was there clothing, shape, size, hair, features etc. checking to see if anyone matched the description of the entity I had captured on video. Next we called Mike over to look and he verified that no one in the tour group matched that description. The group consisted of half men and half women, most were young in there 20's early 30s. The entity was detailed enough to see he had a beard and long hair, some described him when they saw the video as naked or possibly wearing one piece long johns with maybe a shirt that was opened. Either way he was not one of us that was positive. My next question to Mike was "Were there any other people in the prison at this time, any other guards or workers?" He assured me that we were the only ones there, the gates were locked. Positively no one could enter or leave the prison with out his knowledge.
I know now why I was supposed to be there that night and if I had cancelled I would have never been able to video tape this event. This is every ghost hunters dream to be able to capture an Apparition on film! It meant something more special to me, finally after all these years of being able to see these entities at certain times and locations I now have the proof I need to show people (skeptics) that the other side does exist. This piece of video shows that it's possible to capture a Residual Haunting (an event that is played over and over again) if your lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Sure, I expect the skeptics not to believe this video is real.
To satisfy myself along with Jon and Marty we returned back to Moundsville in Aug. where we did an afternoon of experiments and testing, to rule out any doubts in our minds. At this point we can offer no other explanation except to say; "It's Real!" Other experienced ghost hunters who have viewed the tape are at a lost for an explanation, they agree this is the best they have seen. Future trips are in the plans for us now to learn more about this place and the entities who are still trapped there. I will keep you posted as to what we find!
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|Al Brindza||Jon McClintock|