LAWRENCEVILLE - Do you believe in ghosts? Nan and Dave Spears own and operate Brunswick Mineral Springs, a bed and breakfast, and from the first day when Nan stepped across the threshold approximately 16 years ago, she felt there was a presence in the house, not a scary presence, one that she described as "good karma".
Over the years she said she has felt that someone was with her in the kitchen while she was preparing dinner or she would catch a glimpse of a something out of the corner of her eye doing everyday chores. Dave has also had similar experiences, feeling like there was someone else in the room but not a bad or negative one.
"When we first looked at this house, I had a really good feeling. I didn't have that feeling at other places we visited. It was like someone was here with us and we felt welcomed. I felt like we had lived here all of our lives," Nan said.
Brunswick Mineral Springs is 226 years old so you can just imagine the stories the house has to tell. Nan has experienced serious health problems that led to her being at Duke University and that is where her path crossed with Eddie Howell with NC HAGS, which stands for North Carolina Haints, Apparitions, Ghosts and Spirits, in the Raleigh area. He was one of her medical providers. They started talking and when he learned that she lived in a 200 plus year old house, somehow the subject of ghosts came up. He asked if he and other ghost hunters could visit. Nan and Dave agreed and the phone calls and emails began to arrange a time that suited all involved, not an easy task.
"Nan and I started talking while she was at Duke and when I found out the house she lived in was built in 1785 I had lots of questions. She said she wanted people to come to her house to see if the ghosts could be documented. We are not paid a dime for this, we just want to find answers," Howell said.
According to the website, NC HAGS is a paranormal investigation group based in Raleigh, N.C. The group's goal is to investigate areas that claim to have paranormal events, to document their findings, and to present them to the one searching as they experience them.
Howell said it is kind of unusual for different groups to work on a project together but when he explained the invitation, two other groups wanted to be in on the hunt - Don and Beth Wilson with Ghosts of Raleigh and Michael La Chiana and Steve Boyette with the Heritage Hunter Society. Other members of NC HAGS are Jeff Tracy and Mike Turmage.
The visit is arranged and Nan and Dave prepare to receive guests to gather information. Jo Ann Walthall learns they are coming to Brunswick Mineral Springs and calls a reporter she knows and said, "Got any plans for dinner? How about coming to Brunswick Mineral Springs and write a story about ghost hunters and enjoy a delicious lasagna dinner?" I accepted.
Howell shared a little background about his interest in the paranormal, which he said means beside the normal. Synonyms for paranormal are: telepathic, psychic, clairvoyant, mystic and mystical.
"First let me explain that we are all normal people who have regular jobs but we all share an interest in learning what is on the other side. We share a common interest. When I was growing up I believe there was a ghost in my house, I never mentioned it to anyone but after Mother died, my father said he saw a ghost too but didn't want to mention it because of my Mother. Since that time, when I mention I am interested in ghosts, invariably, someone will share a story about an encounter with a ghost with me," Howell said.
The stage is set and the process to gather information begins. The group walks around the property. There is a cemetery on the premises. Equipment measures electro magnetic fields and a tape recorder is also used. The group divided into smaller groups, rotating through all the areas, spending about 45 minutes in each area. I sat in on one session. Eddie, Beth and I were in an upstairs bedroom. Eddie started talking, trying to get a response. Before Beth would take a picture, she would say "flash" to let others know. They asked lots of questions, trying to get a response. Some of the questions were: What kind of music do you like? Do you like to be called ghosts? Do you want to communicate with someone? Did you like Elvis? He began to sing songs and just kid around. There was no response. After the session others said they saw movement they couldn't explain and felt another's presence.
"I think using humor helps bridge the gap between this world and the next. Other groups make the experience too clinical for me. I like to focus on the emotional aspect and that is why we have been successful. We take what we do seriously but we don't take ourselves seriously," Howell said.
One of the team said they saw shadows on the third floor. Howell said the data is collected and reviewed, a time consuming task. He said in other hunts when they played the tape, there was a woman's voice on the tape and there was no woman in the group or they would hear a voice on the tape they didn't recognize.
Eddie said before his group accepts an invitation, a questionnaire must be completed. Are they religious? Did someone die in the house? Do they have trouble sleeping? How do you feel about where you live? Have you seen objects move? Have you heard voices or seen figures? He said they also need to know of noises the house makes.
Eddie said NC HAGS does not deal with anything demonic. He said they say a prayer before they leave a home.
"We are all Christians. We don't deal with the demonic. We just got invited to participate in that kind of event. We just have lots of questions and we are trying to find answers. We enjoy meeting people with similar interests. We are not trying to convince anyone about anything," Howell said.
According to the Brunswick Mineral Springs website, the Ravenscroft Suite is the most elegant and romantic. The motif is Victorian Bridal Honeymoon. The Col. William Suite is a spacious bedroom decorated with rustic antiques and a pine cone theme. The Aunt Mitts Suite is the largest yet and coziest suite. It covers the entire third level with two bedrooms. The Hospitality Cottage owners of the plantations created these small buildings to house the travelers. Private cottage is perfect for a family traveling.
The Sammie's Place owners of the plantations created these small buildings to house the travelers. The private cottage is perfect for a family traveling.
Brunswick Mineral Springs is located at 14910 Western Mill Road, Lawrenceville, Va. 23868. The phone number is (888) 723-7567. For more information about Brunswick Mineral Springs visit www.brunswickmineralsprings.com
For more information about NC HAGS visit www.nchags.org
For more information about the Heritage Society visit www.heritagesociety.com