- Special Sections
- Public Notices
"I heard what sounded like cowboy boots walking down the hallway toward me. The floor was concrete, and the boots were clicking, clicking, in the darkness.
“I called out, 'Who’s there?' There was no answer, and the footsteps came closer and closer. I couldn't turn around, because there was no out way out behind me. And the boots got right up to me, and nothing was there."
The words are Anna Simpson’s as she describes one of the first times she investigated Waverly Hills in Louisville, an abandoned, nineteenth-century hospital that many have said and written is haunted. It’s a place not many people would want to visit at night.
But Anna Simpson did. You may know her as an elementary school teacher and girls golf coach at Shelby County High School, but the experience she recounted from the Waverly described a time when she had been scared on her other "job" – as a ghost hunter.
"It was certainly one of my most memorable experiences," Simpson said. "We had a private investigation that night, and there were about twenty of us. We [she and one other person] lost everybody, and we were being very quiet, listening for our group, when the footsteps started coming toward us down that long, dark hallway; there was no electricity in the building.
“When we left, we found out that everybody had gone to White Castle, and we were the only two people left in the building!”
Simpson is a member of the group Sight and Sound Paranormal, which goes to facilities to investigate reported paranormal activity. That’s not exactly what you would expect of someone who is by day a perfectly ordinary, levelheaded second-grade teacher.
“I teach second grade at Wright Elementary, and a couple of students know [about her ghost-hunting] because I’m friends with their parents, but I don’t really talk about it at school,” Simpson said.
She avowed her devout Christianity but said, “Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of ghosts and spirits.”
Simpson said one reason she enjoys being a part of the Shelby County-based group, headed by Thomas Hood, originally of Shelby County, who now lives in Louisville, because she likes to separate true paranormal phenomena from incidents that are grounded in explainable incidents.
“Our team right now, we really want to find answers,” she said. “I think we [society] all are believers of ghosts, but we know there are people out there that will try to trick you. Also it [ghostly event] could be something explainable, like faulty plumbing or something electrical – there are many different causes for things to go bump in the night.”
Simpson said she does not frighten easily, even when she can tell that spirits are nearby.
"You can feel this sort of electrical energy; it makes your hair stand on end," she said. "It really gets your adrenaline pumping."
Simpson's group has investigated a number of places, both public and private, including the Henry County Courthouse and Old Jail in New Castle, but in Shelby County, she said most of her experiences have been in private homes, except for a couple of businesses, including the Paisley Pig, an antique mall on Main Street in Shelbyville.
Though she declined to say where it took place, she told of the only other time she was "nervous" at an investigation in Shelby County.
"Recently we were in a local business, and I was scared, because I got this gut feeling, like 'uh-oh,' she said. "It was dark, and I thought, 'I don’t like this.' And then I saw something.
“The best way I can describe it is, you know how on a really hot day how the heat comes off the pavement and it shimmers? There was this gray mist. It was transparent, and you could see through it, but it was shimmery, and it just came right down toward us and then it just disappeared.
“We presume it was some type of spirit, but we didn’t pick up much on the recorders. But there were five of us there, and we all saw it."
Her ghost-detecting equipment is not very sophisticated, just digital recorders and night cameras, she said, but the results would surprise you.
"One time this guy said something was in his attic. 'I know it’s haunted,' he said – but it was just raccoons. Sometimes other things that appear to be orbs aren't really. It's just dust or bugs, and people mistake them for something paranormal," she said. "I got a photo of a real orb at Waverly Hills, and you can actually see a face in it. But my computer crashed, and I lost it."
Simpson said that the most positive evidence of paranormal activity that she personally has encountered is sound-oriented.
"I would go more with voice recordings, especially if we have to question and we get a direct response to that question within five seconds," she said. "Sometimes we can hear it and sometimes you can only hear it on the recording. Sometimes we have heard laughing, and sometimes it’s right in your ear. Sometimes when you’re recording what’s going on, and you go back and you listen to it, you hear this random voice answer questions that you’ve asked. And no one was there when you asked it."
Most times when she asks questions, she hears nothing until she plays the tape back, she said.
There have been a few memorable exceptions.
"One time I asked if anybody was there with me, and this voice answered, and it sounded like it was an old man, and it said, 'I’m right here,'" she said. "It freaked me out, because it was like, right in front of my face – it sounded that close, and it was very clear.
“That experience was at a farm in Shelby County. We presumed it was a man who used to own that land, but we never got a name."
She told of two other times she heard spirit voices, both years ago.
"It was in the old Sentinel News building where the Needle Nest is now, when I was in high school," she said. "A friend and I went in the bathroom, and we knocked on a stall door, and a voice said, 'Wait just a minute.' And we waited and waited, and nobody came out. Then we opened the door, and nobody was in there.
“Then, when I was in college, I did a research paper for a folklore class on a Shelby County house on Kentucky Street and Zaring Mill," she said. "I knocked on the door, and there was a voice that came right out of an open window, and it said, 'Hold on, I’m coming,' but nobody came.
“The next day, I met with the people who lived there, and they told me they had not been at home when I was there. I told them what happened, and they said, 'Oh, that was probably the maid,' because supposedly a maid and a butler haunt the house."
Will she be doing any investigations on Halloween night?
"I don't know," she said with a grin. "Maybe."