Disclaimer: The events in this article were experienced by me and another co-worker and are documented, to the best I can recollect, in the sequence they happened. However, dates and times may be imprecise. For reasons of confidentiality some names of people and places may be fictitious or eliminated completely. Nothing has been added or implied to add drama to the content.- JJA
I believe in ghosts. I have experienced strange occurrences in my life, whether they have happened randomly or I have actively pursued them, I know what I have seen, heard, and felt. I believe in ghosts because I believe in myself. – JJA
As far back as I can remember I have never denied the existence of ghosts. I don’t recollect ever uttering the words ‘There are no such things as ghosts.’ I sat in fascination around the campfire listening to ghost stories with my fellow cub scouts; On Saturday nights I waited in anticipation for ‘Chiller Theatre’ never once being afraid to go to bed after watching a few hours of zombies, vampires, and all forms of ghouls and ghosts. As I grew a bit older my friends and I would share the urban legends of our area and even embark on hunts to possibly get a glimpse of one of the undead that was thought wander the local railroad bed. Even as a pseudo-intellectual in college I remained open-minded about paranormal phenomena even though it really didn’t concern me one way or the other whether there was an afterlife or not. Afterall, I was young and invincible and death just wasn’t in the cards for me-yet!
In 1981 I was employed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at White Haven Center, a state institution for mentally retarded individuals it was there that I would have my first encounter with paranormal phenomena forever changing my perception of reality.
The history of a site is a primary component of any paranormal investigation or experience and should always be included if available. I have included the history of White Haven Center which is available on-line. You will notice that White Haven Center was once known as Pennhurst State School Annex. You may remember the name Pennhurst as the abandoned institution from some of the popular ParaTV shows where some of the episodes of those shows were filmed. White Haven Center was an annex of that facility. You can view the Pennhurst site @ http://www.opacity.us/site30_pennhurst_state_school.htm
♦WHITE HAVEN CENTERS HISTORY♦
White Haven Center was originally a Tuberculosis Sanitorium which was opened during the first week of August, 1901, with a Superintendent, a cook, and three patients.
It was located on a fairly level stretch of ground about halfway up the mountain, on what had been a farm. The buildings consisted of a farm house, which was fitted up as a kitchen, dining room and sleeping quarters for the employees, and a large barn, which was converted into a “pavilion”, with accommodations for forty patients.
The original purchase of 215 acres was later increased by a gift from the Coxe Family of Drifton PA.,of $800.00, which brought the final acreage up to about 265.
Year by year new buildings were erected from August 1901 until March 1902, seventy-one patients were admitted at an average cost of $5.42 per patient, per week. From 1901 to 1941, the total number of patients treated at White Haven was 25,335, with an annual average of 617.
In 1907 one of the first training schools to provide those who recovered from Tuberculosis with means of livelihood was established at White Haven. In 1909 the first class was graduated and consisted of five nurses. From 1909 to 1942, White Haven graduated 275 nurses.
Jefferson Medical College accepted the gift of the Sanitorium, complete and outright in 1946 and operated it until March 1, 1956, when the diminishing number of Tuberculosis patients made it mandatory to close the Sanitorium.
It was accordingly sold to the State of Penna. to be used for the care of the Mentally Retarded and starting March 5,1956 was known as Pennhurst State School Annex #2, a sub-division of the Institution at Spring City, Penna. with over 463 patients between the ages of 16 to 60.
When the State of Penna took over White Haven, March 5, 1956, as a Pennhurst Annex, it was a school for the Mentally Retarded. It’s first day of operation was two days later and 30 patients were in attendance during the week, as working patients, getting the site ready for occupancy. These patients came from Pennhurst, where they spent the week-ends.
The first permanent patients to arrive at White Haven, totaled 25, on March 23, 1956. This grew to a capacity of 463 by the end of the year.
During the 1960’s the name of the Institution was changed from Pennhusrt to White Haven State School, and in 1962 was amended to White Haven State School and Hospital; and in 1961 was divorced from Pennhurst to become independently under State Supervision.
The new addition to the Institution, the first of three phases of construction was put into operation when the first assignment of patients, 37 patients, were transferred from the old site May 28, 1964.
On November 15, 1964, White Haven had a total of 528 patients. There are six residential buildings currently in use at the new site and each is set up to house up to 160 patients each. Many new departments have been added to White Haven since January 1, 1964, and has since changed its name to White Haven Center, which it still is called today.
My career at White Haven Center as a Mental Retardation Aide began sometime in 1981. I started on 2nd shift and eventually was able to move to day shift. In 1986 we were blessed with our first daughter, Dominique. After a 6 month maternity leave my wife had to return to work. Since I had the option of working the graveyard shift so as to be with my infant daughter during the day I eagerly did so.
In order to comprehend just where paranormal activity was experienced, an explanation of the layout of the facility and buildings is in order: White Haven Center is composed of 8 residential buildings, 5 of which were operational, each housing about 80 to 90 mentally retarded adults at that time. Each building or “Unit” is composed of 4 wings or sections with designated with the letters A, B, D, and E. Each Section housed approximately 20 + adults. The sections included a large living area, a bathing area, and 3 dorm areas radiating off of a central hall.
Click on the Section diagram below to enlarge:
The names of each residential building or ‘Unit’ were as follows: Hickory Hall, Hemlock Hall, Pine Hall, Penn Hall, Pocono Hall. Upon transferring to 3rd shift I was assigned to Pocono Hall, Section D. My duties then included the care and habilitation of the mentally retarded adults living there. As in most places of employment, the graveyard shift is usually minimally staffed and this was the case at White Haven Center. The Section where I worked included me in addition to one, and sometimes two coworkers, Roger and Robin (for the sake of confidentiality I will use their first names only). They had both worked in Section D of Pocono Hall for a few years prior to my joining them so I was the proverbial “new kid on the block.” As conversations go, one thing led to another and Robin suddenly stated “just want to warn you now, some strange things go on in this section.” ‘What do ya mean?’ I replied. “It’s haunted” Robin answered laughingly. Robin indicated, with Roger supporting him, that they had experienced the radio suddenly turning on and/or off, the smell of cigar smoke wafting through the section at different times, unexplained shadows and lights and objects that were put in one place suddenly ending up somewhere else. Although I found it intriguing I didn’t give it a second thought and went about the everyday business of doing the job.
Depending on the activity levels of the residents you could end up with a lot of ‘down time’ on 3rd shift, this was the case in the section I worked in. After attending to the needs of the individuals residing there and other related duties from 1 am until about 5 am was kind of quiet time in the section. Me and my coworkers would usually sit in the center hall so as to monitor the 3 dorms or sleeping areas which radiated off the center hall. Robin normally sat on a small couch positioned on the outside wall of the right dorm and I typically sat on a chair directly across from him or against the outside wall of the left dorm. Again an explanation of the physical layout is necessary. The walls in the center hall are block tile about two thirds of the way up and the last third is wire reinforced double pane glass framed in stainless steel. This was done back in the day to capitalize on the available natural light. A few weeks after working in the section I began noticing behind the partial glass wall of the right dorm–which I faced when sitting in my chair on downtime (that’s downtime-not “Deadtime) what looked like small pinpoints–and sometimes pea-sized balls of white light which seemed to streak rapidly from right to left near the ceiling of the dorm. These globes of light did not appear one at a time but en masse. Thinking it was just my eyes playing tricks on me or light reflections due to the double-pane glass I ignored it and didn’t immediately mention it to anyone else. I would find out later that others also see or have seen those light anomalies.
Time passed and at one point I remember standing in the center hall with Robin when all of a sudden the radio went off. Robin looked at me smiling and said “See!” Checking out the radio I took note that it was not a clock radio with any way of setting it to go off and on automatically. It was a small, cheap ‘Boom Box’ type combination radio/cassette player. “Happens all the time” Robin remarked. ‘Maybe a short’ I replied. “Okay, if you say so” Robin said sarcastically. ‘Do you ever see streaks of light in the right dorm?’ I asked Robin. “You see those too huh?” he laughed. ‘Thought it was my eyes.’ I answered. “I told you Joseph, things go on in here!” Robin said. (You knew you were on Robin’s good side when he used your full name when addressing you).
Months went by and I found the conversations between Robin and I leaned more and more towards ghosts and the sporadic unusual occurrences in the section. Then the fun stuff began to happen!
Normally, upon arriving in the section we split the duties. If there were 3 of us on shift in the section two of us would make rounds and do a bed check while the remaining worker would clean wheelchairs, fold laundry etc. On this particular night at the beginning of the shift Robin and Roger were doing bedcheck while I was gathering up wheelchairs to clean. The overhead fluorescent lights were all blazing brightly as Robin and Roger proceeded from dorm to dorm with their supply cart in tow. When doing rounds you would usually parked the supply cart in the center hall outside the dorm you were checking and take the supplies that you needed from it accordingly. This night the cart was parked outside the rear dorm door while I was still in the center hall. Suddenly I heard a rustling noise. Turning towards the source of the noise I saw 2 packs of Attends (adult diapers) seemingly fling themselves up and out of the top nook of the supply cart and onto the floor. What was unusual about this was that the supply cart has 2 shelves a lower and upper. The lower is just a flat area while the upper is kind of a well, meaning there is about an 8 inch deep recessed box on the top to prevent the supplies from falling off the top of the cart. The packs of Attends appeared to be lifted up and out of the cart rather than just falling off. As I walked over to the cart I heard Robin exclaim from the rear dorm “What was that?” ‘The diapers just jumped off the cart by themselves!’ I answered excitedly. Robin and Roger were already coming out of the dorm as I reached the cart. I demonstrated to them what I had seen. They both looked at me perplexed. Apparently something this dramatic had never happened in the section before.
A week or so following the supply cart event something else happened within a few feet of the previous occurrence. This time involving a substantially heavier object. In the center hall on the right side of the doorway into the left dorm was a heavy square wooden table. It was about waist high and measured a about 24 in.x24 in. supported by straight wooden legs at each corner. An old office desk chair was pushed under it–the swivel kind with arms and on wheels. As long as anyone now working in the section remembers that chair was always in the same position relative to the table and no one ever used it (the chair). Robin and I were in the center hall early in the shift and once again all the overhead fluorescent lights were on. Suddenly we heard a loud noise, sort of like a banging sound. We immediately looked in the direction where we thought the noise originated and saw the office chair suddenly fly about 3 feet backward away from the wooden table where it had been anchored for so long. ‘Holy shit did you see that?!’ I exclaimed loudly. “No way that could happen!” Robin replied nervously “That chair has been there forever!” he continued. From that time on things were about to get even more interesting.
We felt that we had reached a point where it was time to seriously take a hard look at what was going on and possibly entice whatever-or whomever it was to show us more. As I mentioned previously, I wasn’t into paranormal investigating at the time but had enough common sense, had read enough, and had taken a few Parapsychology courses in college to have a primitive grasp on what we might want to do. I brought in a Sony microcassette recorder with voice activation which I had stuffed in a drawer at home for starters. We set it up in the most logical spot-the table outside the left dorm door where the chair had moved. I set the recorder on voice activation so I didn’t have a ton of tape to review and ’cause I really didn’t think we’d hear anything on it anyway–and we didn’t. Of course we only ran the recorder for 2 nights and then gave up on that aspect. I also didn’t have a clue about running it through an audio editing program to reduce noise and boost the gain or maybe we would have heard something!
Once again common sense ruled and we thought: ‘ if it could move the chair and diapers why can’t it move something we ask it to?’ We found a small non-aerosol plastic spray bottle and set it on the solid wooden table where the previous activity had taken place. You have to understand institutional construction of not only buildings but furniture as well. It is built strong and built to last. The table was probably solid oak, and although plain, very functional as it sat solidly on the floor. The floor was huge granite block tile with NO give whatsoever, believe me! After setting the spray bottle on the table we shook, kicked, and banged the table repeatedly and the spray bottle remained standing. I pushed the bottle with my hand and it slid on the table rather than falling over. It would definitely take a deliberate act to actually knock the bottle on its side. We slammed doors and ran back and forth in front of the table to make sure nothing could move it. Then we made this simple statement: “If you’re here knock this bottle over, okay?” I think we may have repeated the statement again, then we settled in for the night.
Robin was sitting in his usual spot–the loveseat against the outside wall of the right dorm, while I was planted in my chair against the outside wall of the left dorm and on the other side of the doorway from the oak table with the bottle standing like a miniature sentinel-waiting. The night dragged slowly on, the exit lights above each dorm door casting an eerie red glow in the center hall. Eventually both Robin and I dozed off. Suddenly we heard a distinctive ‘thump.’ Me and Robin both looked at each other across the center hall. ‘What was that?!’ I said. “Don’t know.” replied Robin, still groggy. We both got up and began checking the dorms. Robin stopped abruptly and pointed at the oak table. “Look!” he exclaimed. I immediately turned in the direction he was pointing and froze! The spray bottle was lying on its side on the tabletop. That was the noise we had heard. The bottle had fallen over like a telephone pole and lay on its side almost in the same spot it had been standing upright. ‘Oh (expletive deleted)!’ I exclaimed loudly. ‘It knocked it over!’ Robin appeared a bit more calm than I was I suppose because he knew that something was in the section all along. “You know if we tell anyone about this they’re gonna think we’re crazy.” he said. ‘Hey, I’m happy knowing that we know!’ I replied.
I remember going home after work that morning feeling all kinds of emotions. Satisfaction, confidence, excitement, and a little scared all at the same time. Although always open-minded about the paranormal, I finally had my own experience to solidify my beliefs. Now I could say, without a doubt, that something was going on; that life after death is not so farfetched afterall! I was off the next 2 days so I had lots of time to sort this out before returning to work. It wasn’t the end–yet…
Upon returning to work a few days later and making my rounds in the dorms that night, I began getting feelings of apprehension and at times, it was almost overwhelming. I felt like something was there–always watching me. I would make my rounds and try to ignore the feelings. These feelings persisted at work for a few weeks and I never relayed them to Robin so as not to have him think I was just downright scared.
Some time had passed now since the spray bottle event and the foreboding feelings I had seemed to have dissipated (or else I got used to them). We tried the spray bottle thing on a few more occasions with no results. Nothing unusual happened but we still caught glimpses of the streaking globes of light in the right dorm.
One particular night Robin was off and the person filling in for him was off on break somewhere. It was late and I was in my usual chair ready to settle in. Things were excessively quiet that night as I put my head back on the chair to rest. Some time passed, I don’t know exactly how long, and I heard some noise, specifically banging and thrashing coming from the left dorm. Noise emanating from the left dorm wasn’t an unusual occurrence as there was an individual in that dorm who was sometimes a bit restless at night and the bedrails, being metal, made a lot of noise if you happened to make contact with them. However, the ruckus this night seemed to be a bit different. I had just lifted my head in anticipation of checking on the individual. I had turned my head towards the left dorm door which was to the rear and left of where I was seated. Suddenly I heard what sounded like quick, short footsteps (no one who resided in this section was ambulatory–all were wheelchair bound individuals). The footsteps stopped abruptly. What I saw at the threshold of the dorm door appeared to be a cloaked figure between 5 & 6 ft. tall. For what seemed like an eternity but was actually only a few seconds, the figure stood there and appeared to look from side to side. IT wore a black–or very dark brown cloak with a full hood that extended out over its forehead and the sides of its head so that you couldn’t see a face at all–just darkness where a face was supposed to be! The apparition began to move again. It proceeded out of the dorm and turned right. Now I realized that it would pass directly in front of me and also became cognizant of the fact that I couldn’t move–whether it was from pure unadulterated fear or something deliberate, I found myself held against the back of the chair. The figure continued on its path taking very short but quick footsteps (which I could hear the entire time) almost like a women walking in high heels. As it passed in front of me it hesitated for a moment and turned its hooded head towards me. I felt the coldest chills course through my body like I never felt before or have felt since that night. I was close enough to put my foot out and trip it if I had a mind to. As close as I was, I could still not make out a face when the apparition looked in my direction. It continued on through the open bathing area doorway and the sound of the footsteps just stopped! Suddenly I was able to move again and the intense chills were only a lingering coldness which quickly dissipated.
In the remainder of my time in Pocono Hall, Section D the apparition never appeared again nor did any objects move. The radio would still turn off periodically and as I said before, the lights still appeared in the right dorm and that brief wiff of cigar smoke was ever present. Once again time passed and one of the occupational hazards of my job, the heavy lifting, eventually took its toll on me and I ended up needing an operation which necessitated me being off of work for a few months. In the interim I transferred to day shift. Over the years I’ve talked with Robin who still works in Section D and he hs told me that the usual still occurs. I do miss it.
Now with some experience in paranormal events behind me and over a decade to think about just what occurred in Pocono Hall, I’ve formulated a theory or two of my own.
Why did many of the events occur in the same general area i.e. the left rear of the center hall? Back in the day when it was determined that a resident’s time on this earth was limited they were put on 24 hour supervision–or a “Death Watch.” As a matter of protocol the particular person’s bed was moved from their dorm to the center hall so he/she could be monitored by the limited staff on 3rd shift. Where in the center hall was that bed usually placed?–why in one of the rear corners of the center hall of course. The reason for this location being that the bed would not interfere with the doorways leading out of the center hall into the bathing area and the dayroom which were in the front of the hall. Many a resident passed away in their beds in the center hall or not only Pocono Hall but all of the residential buildings. Back then we were responsible for preping–or “Bagging & Tagging” the body for the mortician. This was done on a gurney also in the center hall. Once the body was bagged it sometimes layed on the gurney covered with a sheet for a few hours–or until the mortician could send someone to pick it up the next morning. So, as you can clearly see, if there is any truth to the theory that a person who has passed on is sometimes trapped or hangs around in just that location where he/she died then the place of activity makes perfect sense.
Regarding the cloaked apparition: I have no clue what that could have been! Some things I can say concerning it are: it appeared to have solid mass as I did not detect any transparency-it seemed as solid as me or you!; Although its appearance invoked some fear in me and if having a feeling about something holds any water at all I can say that when it paused and turned to look at me, aside from the temporary paralysis and extreme chills I experienced, I sensed no malicious intent whatsoever. What I did sense was…well…perhaps curiosity-or maybe even…”get a good look at me now cause this is the last time you’re going to see me.”
This was my first encounter with the paranormal and something I will never, ever forget! In the years following the event life went on as life does. I married raised a family etc. etc. and the significance of what I experienced in Pocono Hall on that night took a back seat for awhile–but not for long. Years later I became interested in doing investigations and helping people understand their experiences or enlightening people on the subject whenever the opportunity presented itself. – JJA
One night while watching a particular episode of one of the well-known ParaTv shows I suddenly exclaimed loudly to my wife, ‘Why the F$%# are these things always wearing cloaks and hoods when they appear for God’s sake?!!’ Who knows, maybe its the fashionable uniform for inter-dimensional travel.