Participants in the first Dixie Ghostland ParaCon crowded into the small foyer of the Carriage House Inn on Saturday night. After all the chairs were filled, they sat on a staircase and the floor as they prepared to hunt for spirits.
Some had cameras and digital recorders. Others had K-II Electromagnetic Field Meters, infrared thermometers and ghost boxes, which are handheld AM/FM radios that have been modified to continuously scan every radio station at rapid speed and capture the voices of spirits.
At least one person activated a Ghost Radar app on a smartphone.
The investigation for signs of paranormal activity yielded results almost immediately.
Psychic medium Carrie-Anne Hartley Silkowski of New Jersey felt something brush her left arm and then touch her head. She also reported smelling the strong, “disgusting” odor of rotting bodies.
Lights on K-II meters blinked in response to questions while infrared thermometers detected falling temperatures, indicating that ghosts might be nearby.
Dani Corley of Columbia described seeing a “little pinpoint” of energy.
“It was opaque, kind of like smoke,” she said. “It grew to be the size of a golf ball and then it disappeared. Maybe it wasn't a spirit, but it was a form of energy that was unexplained.”
Following the investigation, which lasted an hour or so, ParaCon producer Leitreanna Brown, summed up the results.
“There were seven or eight spirits here,” said Brown, who lives in Greenwood County. “One was a man named Kenny and another was a girl named Victoria. One spirit, whose name we don't know, warned us about Union soldiers and told us we should watch out for them.”
Brown said the Carriage House Inn once was some sort of health care facility and that she got the impression that the spirits were patients there.
“They were concerned about leaving; they didn't feel like they should,” she reported.
One of the Carriage House Inn's former owners, she said, “had beautiful carriages. He also had a wife who was very submissive. This duchess started coming to town, and he had a love affair with her.
“When he entertained the duchess here,” Brown continued,” he would lock his wife in a room over the stables. She couldn't get out and she would cry. The horses would cry, as well.”
Impressed by the paranormal activity she had experienced as well as by Aiken County's rich history, Brown decided it would be the ideal site to conduct ParaCon.
“I fell in love with Aiken,” she said.
Investigations at the Carriage House Inn and the Aiken County Historical Museum were included in ParaCon's program.
Most of ParaCon's events were held at the Horse Creek Banquet Hall on Saturday and Sunday in Warrenville. Among the speakers were Keith Ramsey, Benny Reed and Jonathan Hodges of the Syfy reality television series “Deep South Paranormal” and Andrea Perron, whose family's experiences in a haunted Rhode Island farmhouse are portrayed in the hit movie “The Conjuring.”
Dr. Kent Cubbage of Aiken Ghost Tours also spoke during ParaCon, providing information about Aiken's past and telling stories about restless spirits locally.
“This is a fun event, and it gives Aiken a chance to showcase its history,” he said. “Some things you hear here you can take seriously and there are other things that you maybe don't want to take so seriously. I do know that at every point in history, when we thought that we had the universe figured out, we were wrong, so it's arrogant not to leave the door open. It would be a really boring life to just totally dismiss everything that we can't explain in 2013.”
Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.