Group to study paranormal activity in Selma

Published 9:54 pm Tuesday, January 27, 2009

After more than 150 years, there are bound to be a few things lingering inside the Vaughan Smitherman Museum other than cobwebs and dust.

Over the years, employees reported hearing footsteps on the stairs and toilets flushing at odd hours.

Southern Paranormal Researchers stepped in to get to the bottom of the bumps and scrapes that echoed throughout the brick building at the end of Alabama Avenue.

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“You almost did feel the presence of someone up there,” said Shawn Sellers, director of Southern Paranormal Researchers.

The Vaughan Smitherman Museum was built in 1847 by a group of Masons. Through the years, the building served as a Confederate hospital, the Dallas County Courthouse, a Presbyterian high school for boys and again as a hospital until the city bought it in 1968.

Sellers, who is also an insurance adjuster, first saw the building when he worked a claim at the museum. A tour guide began telling him about its history, and the self-described history buff was hooked.

“As I walked through, it was just a place that stuck in my mind that I always wanted to have the opportunity to go back and have a chance for my team and I to investigate,” Sellers said.

Last November, Sellers brought his team to Selma and invited Arts Revive treasurer Cindy Stoudenmire to join them. The group brought along digital cameras and voice recorders, video cameras, electro-magnetic field detectors and thermometers to aid the investigation. Stoudenmire, who is also a tour guide at the museum, said it was a thrill to participate in a ghost hunt after hearing so many ghost stories growing up in Selma.

“We all grew up hearing about ghost stories,” Stoudenmire said. “You hear people have a ghost in their house. They’ll tell you they do. It’s almost matter of fact.”

While Southern Paranormal Researchers did not find enough hard evidence to confirm resident paranormal activity, Stoudenmire said it was interesting just to see how all the equipment worked. She saw a compass needle spin like a top on the third floor, and an EMF detector flash on and off several times after a team member asked certain questions during the three hours of research. Not too many people can make that claim.

“It was a little convincing,” Stoudenmire said. “Although, the report dismissed it.”

In his report, Sellers concluded, “there does seem to be some activity there, but it is most likely not a resident intelligent spirit.” He said this is common in buildings as old the Vaughan Smitherman Museum. Often, it takes more than one visit to truly get to the bottom of things.

“A lot of these historical places have a lot of residual energy,” Sellers said. “There’s a lot of places that you have to go through and investigate more than one time.”