Rock Island Arsenal, Ill. -- So, I went in the basement.
To catch up readers who missed my story about the initial one-on-one meeting with the Illinois Paranormal Research Group who was hosting an event at Quarters 1, I left that meeting completely unnerved from my own experiences on the main level (and during broad daylight). From what I had learned from them, and heard from others who spend a great deal of time in the historic former residence, the basement was the hotbed of activity. I had most assuredly decided the basement would NOT be a place I would ever set my size 9 feet, during the day or otherwise.
The tour was conducted over Halloween weekend. A co-worker, Linda, had signed up to go Friday night and I went with another co-worker, Greg, Saturday night. Between the three of us, I was sure we would come to a firm conclusion on what exactly happens in that house when the lights go down. Linda and I made a pact not to speak until Monday, so there was no subconscious influence on my part for my visit. I wanted to go in unaware and open-minded.
So much happened to so many different people that I must approach writing about the events in location/timeline format, if only for ease of reading.
Arrival and introductions
We arrived at Quarters 1 around 5:30 p.m. I wanted to get a few external shots of house at sundown. The sun was setting and the leaves were changing, so the setting was lovely for a photo or two for our office archives. I also wanted to get inside and get some shots of the rooms we were going to be researching with the equipment set up before the other participants were allowed in them.
We go inside and Greg sets up the camera to get footage of the U.S. Army Sustainment Command historian speaking and do a few interviews with participants. He had a fully charged battery and was set for five hours of recording video. We do the participant interviews, which took about 15 minutes and then he video records the historian speaking, which lasted about 20 minutes. We had plenty of battery life left for the rest of the evening, and to get some post-event interviews recorded.
As we are distantly spaced out listening to the historian, I notice a young couple standing in the corner of the room. I had seen them arrive with an older couple, who were sitting on a sofa near them. They were friendly and chatty, so I was surprised when I looked over a few times and saw the young man look … not happy. Maybe they had gotten in a little tiff or something. Love is “interesting” that way, am I right?
The historian concluded his remarks and then the paranormal team briefed theirs. The young man appeared more unhappy as the time went on. When we had a break before starting the investigation, the two couples went outside quickly and were having what appeared to be a quite serious discussion, and it was apparent to a few of us that something was wrong.
The young couple then left and went and sat in their car. The older couple came back and informed us they would NOT be coming back in and would wait in the car until the end of the event. I privately asked the older woman if everything was okay. She took a deep breath and said, “He doesn’t like the feeling of this house, and he doesn’t like the ways it’s making him feel.”
I asked if she could elaborate. She said that everything was fine when they arrived, but over the course of the time they were there, he felt unsettled and it increased as the time went on, and had culminated to a point he felt like he was going to have an anxiety attack -- like there was a pressure building around him. She assured me this was way out the norm for him, but that he was adamant he was NOT staying in the house any longer.
I passed the info on to Anna Winters, the “caretaker” of the house who was onsite to manage the event logistics. I then asked her if we could sneak upstairs before the three groups split up and went to their assigned areas for portion one of the evening. I want to get my photos done before there were people in the rooms.
We climbed the stairs to the third floor and there was a great moonlight reflecting on the river. Standing in the doorway, the widow framed the river perfectly and I lined up my camera for a shot. I snapped, hit the review button to check the image and was annoyed -- there was a black slash in the lower right of the frame.
I readjusted the strap behind my shoulder in case it had gotten in the way and took another shot. Same black slash. I cleaned my lens. Same black slash. I cleaned my sensor. Same black slash. I was muttering some choice expletives under my breath and Anna asked what was going on.
“When you look through the viewfinder, everything is fine,” I said. “When you review the photo, there is a terrible black slash across it.”
I told her it was my personal camera that I was planning on using the next day to take pictures of my kids in their Halloween costumes. I was privately fuming at the hundreds of dollars I would be spending on a new lens, too. I slapped my lens cap back on the useless camera and didn’t touch it again. We walked back down and I stowed it away.
Session 1- the Third Floor
We had been divided into three groups for the tour, and would “rotate” through each room in 30 minutes sessions. I made sure that Greg and I were in separate groups for optimum coverage of potential happenings, so he went one way, and I went the other. He still had hours of charge on his camera battery. I was hoping at least one of us would be able to get something recorded, and now it was up to him since my camera was non-functional.
In the room I was in, not much happened that first session. One couple behind me kept saying they smelled something strange, and kept asking the rest of us if we smelled anything odd. We had a few flashlight and electromagnetic frequency indicators go off, but no real “contact,” so to speak. Whatever was in, or near, the third floor room was shy, or just not in the mood for chatting.
We all regrouped in the foyer downstairs to switch up the room assignments and Greg pulled me to the side. “We have a problem,” he said.
The hours of battery life on his camera? Gone. Completely drained. He had used maybe 45 minutes of the original five-hour charge. He walked into the room with a little more than four hours of charge and, in 30 minutes of non-use (too dark), it was dead as a doornail. Two cameras down in an hour that were perfectly fine on arrival. We mentioned this to the research team who said it was a common occurrence for batteries to drain at a high rate when in an area of paranormal activity. Good to know after the fact.
The older lady from the two couples I mentioned earlier came up to me during this break and thanked me for being concerned about the young man with them. She also mentioned that now she and her husband were leaving, too, and seemed upset. I asked if the young man had gotten worse and she said, “This isn’t about him -- this is about me. In the room were just in, something ice cold grabbed my arm and at the same time hot breath was exhaled in my face. No one was near me but my husband, and it wasn’t my husband -- he was next to me, not in front of me, and we just need to go now.”
She explained they really didn’t understand what the event was -- they thought it was more of a “haunted historic tour” like they do at historic homes in Charleston, South Carolina, or Savannah, Georgia, and she didn’t realize this was actually trying to communicate with spirits. Her final thoughts on the whole evening? “This is not for us, but, for what it is, it is worth the money spent -- there is something in this house, without question.”
Session 2- the Second Floor
We get into the second floor room and get more activity noted on the meters. There is an infrared camera set up right behind a row of people seated at the table the rest of us are on the sides of the table. The session gets going and one of the women seated with her back to the infrared camera blurts out, “Something is stroking my hair -- It’s not being pulled or snagged -- it is like a hand stroking my hair.” There was nothing behind her but the infrared camera.
Other people felt some odd sensations. A man said it felt like someone was touching the back of his neck. We all seemed to notice an impossible shadow across the mantle of the fireplace. It was impossible because there was nothing whatsoever in the room, or outside the room, moving to actually generate the shadow, nor were there any lights on to cause a shadow to cast.
But, we all sat and watched it move back and forth for several minutes, before vanishing. Our paranormal lead, Cheryl, was also doing some audio recording and was doing a playback. When she got to a certain point, that is when we hear the voice.
The initial sound we heard with our own ears when it happened seemed to come from nowhere, and everywhere, at the same time. It almost seemed to come from above us, but from all corners of the room. It was like a really long exhale. We thought someone had yawned or something.
Cheryl raced down the stairs to download the clip and isolate the soundwaves with her computer program. When she returned, it was most definitely a voice, and most definitely an expletive word. You could hear it clear as day. It is not a word I can share verbatim for manners’ sake. You can also hear it on the Illinois Paranormal Research Facebook page under a recent post and sound file with the heading *language alert*.
Session Three - The Basement
I know -- I said I wouldn’t go there, but I made Anna go with me for support and nothing had happened to me directly so far, so I felt a little brave. There are two sections to the basement. Section one was dead, pardon the pun, so we moved over to section two. That’s when things got a little weird. Lots of touching going on, with lots of people reporting it.
A few people started getting jumpy. Hair was being tugged. Hot breath was being felt in faces. One guy, who had been silent the entire time and seemed very no-nonsense about the whole thing, was very unpleased when something seemingly grabbed his buttocks region. He was not happy. I may, or may not, have felt something cold grab my fingers. It was freezing down there and I already was not a fan of being there in the first place, so maybe I had imagined it.
I, and my fellow group members, had seen enough of the basement and we quickly went upstairs.
We all regrouped upstairs and people were exchanging stories and experiences. One girl in another group had her face scratched in the basement, took a photo of it right after it happened, the red line clearly visible, only to have a totally clear face by the end of the session. Others claimed to have been touched repeatedly by unseen hands.
One of the younger paranormal team members said a little boy who called himself “Christian” was active on the third floor for this last session. Cheryl talked to her about what she meant by “active” and then went up the stairs alone to check it out. Everyone else from the participant groups left, and I was talking to Anna when a call came over the paranormal team walkie-talkies and every team member raced up the stairs to the room Cheryl was in.
Anna and I chose to observe from a safe distance and went to a room off of the kitchen were 10 display monitors were set up. They were live-streaming from cameras set up across the house to record any activity. We were looking at monitor seven, the one outside the room they were all in, and that is when we saw something odd.
Coming down the stairs outside the room was a bright, silver, orb-like ball. It was moving like footsteps walking down stairs. It was rhythmic in pace, and moved down one side of the stairs, and then the other. It wasn’t like dust floating (we could see tons of that floating in the air), or erratic. It was defined, and had a prescribed pattern of ambulatory movement. When it got to the bottom, it moved forward until level with the doorway of the room the researchers were in, and then just vanished off the screen -- as if it walked into the room. I don’t know what it was, but it could have been anything of this world…or not.
I took that as my cue to depart. As I was leaving, the researchers came back down and all I really got out of them was it wasn’t a child spirit in the room, regardless of what “it” claimed earlier to the junior researcher. I didn’t ask any more questions because, honestly, I didn’t really want to hear the answers.
I later learned Linda had heard a baby crying in that room when she was in it the night before, and had been the only person to hear the sound for several minutes, until the paranormal researcher also heard it. I had heard, and seen, enough for the night and said goodbye.
And that was that.
I had made it through the evening with no hard or definitive “proof,” one way or the other, if Quarters 1 is truly haunted. Yes, seemingly unexplained things happened, but could they be explained with further scientific investigation? Perhaps.
I went home and fell asleep, and woke the next morning trying to figure out where I was going to find a new lens on a Sunday for my camera. I took the lens cap off and took a shot of the beautiful fall leaves in my yard, seething that it would be ruined by the stupid, black slash that ruined all of my shots the night prior.
I clicked on the review button to see exactly how bad it was.
The picture was perfect.
And so has been every single photo I have taken since I walked out and closed the door of Quarters 1 behind me that night.
I will let you be the judge of that.
The paranormal tours of Quarters 1 have concluded for 2021. The 2022 schedule will start up again in the spring through RIA’s Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation.