Robert is there. And Daphne. And a little girl.
They are people long dead presumed to be behind the mysterious events reported at the Tuolumne County Museum and History Center.
That’s some of what two paranormal groups discovered in four midnight and beyond investigations performed since summer.
Investigators with Sinister Sightings and Calaveras Paranormal Research said they were able to hear voices and saw items move without explanation during their time in the museum, which was built in 1866 and housed the county jail, and the newer history center, which holds thousands of artifacts from Tuolumne County history.
Jason Nelms, founder of Sinister Sightings, said in June, the first time his group was in the museum, they experienced a lot of action, but the second time, in September, they were able to record more evidence, both audio and video.
They heard whispering and footsteps right beside them walking down the hallway of the jail. One woman said something touched her.
Nelms said he felt a presence behind him, turned and no one was there. Then a map started swinging. They heard a voice saying, “I’ll do it again.”
There were also cold spots, especially near Billie Lyons, the museum curator who is a member of Calaveras Paranormal. The temperature in the room was a steady 73, but the spot near Lyons was 66. It was the same sensation as putting an arm in a freezer, a swirling cold.
They asked who was there. A voice said, “Robert.”
Lyons said she believes Robert could be her father, from whom she was estranged most of her life.
Lyons said she has images in her mind of the girls, Daphne is a teenage girl, the child is wearing clothes from the early part of the 1900s, she said. She has brownish blond hair and she touches her chest as if she died of some sort of bronchial disease.
Fred Schumacher, who is also an investigator with Calaveras Paranormal, has a recording of the girl. Another investigator tripped over something and clearly a little girl laughs.
“It is hopping here,” Lyons said. “It’s unbelievable.”
A lifetime of sightings
Lyons and Nelms both said they have experienced the paranormal since they were children. Lyons calls them energies, Nelms entities.
“I was that kid who knew things they weren’t supposed to know,” Lyons said.
She could tell a person’s history by looking at a picture. Her religious grandmother believed Lyons was in touch with demons and brought in church elders to talk her out of such foolishness.
Then when she was 17, she heard an electronic voice phenomenon and knew that’s what she had been hearing all her life.
“It was nice to know I wasn’t crazy,” she said.
In the years since, she’s been in touch with all manner of energies, from a small child who stayed with her for 26 years to a man she called the Shadow Man because she and her son could see his shadow.
She believes the spirits of the dead are always around, but only certain people have the sensitivity to know it.
The small child saved her son’s life, she said. She followed the child as he ran down the hall and found her son choking after having a seizure.
“I wouldn’t have gone down the hall had I not seen him,” she said.
She believes she picked up the child while she was caring for abandoned graves. He called her Mom-Mee.
Nelms said he was 8 when he saw a black shadow walk down the hall in his house and disappear into a wall. When he was 13, he investigated his own house.
He’s spent his life helping people who are scared understand what is happening around them. It is his full-time vocation.
Prove them wrong
Lyons and Nelms said when their groups are called in to investigate the paranormal, they first must rule out the normal. Are items moving around because the floor is uneven? Is old wiring causing sounds? Is the wind opening a door or blowing papers off a table?
“You never go into it saying this is legit,” Lyons said.
But once there is no explanation, the investigators bring in the equipment to collect evidence.
Neither group charges for the service.
Schumacher, who has spent his career working in lasers and optics, has briefcases full of equipment to record what can be recorded, temperature, voices, low-frequency energy. During one of the museum nights, several in the group saw something gray like a head and movement on a ramp in the history center.
“Whatever’s living on that ramp we want to find out who that is,” Schumacher said.
Lyons said she took the job as curator of the museum because she loves history. She knew nothing of the paranormal events until she saw movement in the office one night, then papers off a table and finally a flowerpot she left on a water cooler ended up on the floor several times overnight.
Lyons said sometimes when she is alone in the history center she hears people rifling through boxes. She’s heard jingling handcuffs and footsteps.
Once, in the museum where Carlo DeFerrari’s gun collection is housed, she heard someone behind her say, “Psst.” Frightened that someone had followed her in, she turned around quickly. Nothing. Relief.
“I’m not afraid of the dead. The living scare the crap out of me,” she said.
The museum is a hot spot because there is quartz, limestone and water underneath — all energy conductors — and the history center houses all manner of personal items, including diaries, dolls, she said.
“They’re just people,” she said. “Someone’s mom, someone’s dad.”
She knows some people don’t believe in ghosts. She knows people mock the idea.
But that matters not to her.
Every time she does an interview or presentation, someone new comes forward to tell a story — doctors, lawyers, park rangers. She’s heard from so many through the years.
Calaveras Paranormal intends to hold monthly investigations to collect more evidence in the museum.
“It’s not a creep show factor,” Lyons said. “It’s about learning.”