Ghost Hunters investigate Pioneer Playhouse

Published 8:27 am Friday, October 14, 2022


After hearing rumors and reports for years of mysterious happenings at the Pioneer Playhouse, Katie Followell and Justin Petrey of 859 Paranormal Research decided to investigate the playhouse to find out the truth. Most of the reports they have received are of a mysterious ghostly figure of a woman known as The Countess. Most of the sightings have been in the backstage area of the playhouse.

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The ghost hunters of 859 describe themselves as skeptical ghost hunters. When they have strange findings on their hunts, they try to find any logical explanation before they assume that it is supernatural.

Followell is former employee of the Pioneer Playhouse and said that although she is skeptical, she believes the place is actually haunted. Despite her skepticism, she was still eager to investigate it as many of her former coworkers said that they felt uneasy and like they were being watched when they were alone in the backstage area.

“I don’t try to go into any location with any expectations,” Followell said. “Theres something in ghost hunting called the power of suggestion. If i think I’m going to see The Countess back stage if I hear a noise I might say its her instead of something rational like an animal or person. We’ll see but I try to keep an open mind.”

Once on location, the hunters set up their equipment around the stage and backstage areas. They use equipment such as infrared cameras, lasers to detect movement, devices to record audio and devices to detect electro-magnetic fields known as EMF readers. Petrey explained that it is commonly thought among ghost hunters that apparitions create and manipulate EMFs.

They also use a technique known as the Estus Method to detect spirits. One ghost hunter puts on noise canceling headphones that are connected to a device that rapidly scans through radio signals and the wearer listens for any audible dialogue while the other hunter asks questions in a separate area. The headphone wearer then repeats any dialogue heard out loud.

After the cameras were set up, the hunters began to explore different locations around the playhouse to see what they could find. The first area they examined was the village. Followell thought it might be a good location to detect a spirit because of the many antiques on display. They first went to the upper level. Despite the eerie feeling caused by the many props including caskets and mannequin limbs scattered about, their EMF readers detected no activity in the area and they had the same results on the lower level.

When they moved to the rehearsal room the hunt started to get interesting. Their EMF reader started to detect energy. Followell at one point asked any spirits to touch the reader on the count of 3. The reader began rapidly spiking a mere moment after she finished her countdown. Having their first hit of the night, the hunters eagerly moved upstairs where a thump was heard in the back of the second floor room. Despite the incident that occurred downstairs, the hunters could not recreate it upstairs and believed an animal such as squirrel jumping onto the roof was the most likely explanation for the noise.

It was then they went to the stage area where they used their Estus Method for the first time. This was when the hunt began to get truly spooky. While Followell sat on the stage wearing headphones with her eyes closed, Petrey made his way to the center of the audience area. It was when he was on the steps that Followell heard “on the steps.” As the method continued she heard, “I’m excited”, and ”back Sunday night.”

At a point, Petrey and I heard a noise back stage so we decided to investigate while Followell continued listening to the device. As we went backstage Followell heard “closer”, “I’m here”, “further back”, and “costume shop”. When Petrey asked if we should go to the costume shop, Followell immediately heard “I advise you.”

“This is crazy, we’ve had answers before, but never intelligent responses like telling us where to go,” said Petrey.

The hunters moved into the costume shop and continued using the Estus Method. Katie again wore headphones and sat in a closet while Petrey roamed through the area asking questions.

While in the shop, the creepiness continued. It was this point Followell heard “I’m near you.” She also heard something that she couldn’t quite make out which was either “You can’t tape this,” or “You can’t take this.”

After moving into the clothing storage area, Followell heard “listen” and shortly after “Did you hear it?” At another point Petrey touched a dress that was hanging after which Followell immediately heard “He touched it.”

At this point, whatever was there seemed to get tired of us being there. It expressed, emphatically, that it wanted the recording equipment turned off and they stopped receiving intelligent responses shortly after. It was at this point the hunters called it a night.

Reviewing their camera footage later, a shadow figure can be seen walking along a balcony and returning a short while later, The figure appears at roughly the same time they started getting intelligent responses from the Estus Method. Followell returned to the scene during the day to investigate further. She was trying to debunk the figure and come up with a rational explanation such as potentially someone from the campsite who heard the investigation and wanted to see what was happening. She also thought it could be someone from a high school reunion that was also happening on the grounds the night of the hunt go out to smoke or possibly looking for a trashcan.

“I did come into this expecting nothing,” she said. “To have some things that are questionable happen to us makes me curious and want to investigate further. It’s really tough because the Scooby Doo lover in me wants it to be something thats truly there. I have to be skeptical especially with out door locations because we can’t know who or what it was. At this point I don’t know who it could have been so I’m going to have to call it inconclusive. I don’t know if it was The Countess or just something wanting to check us out.”