Tuesday, February 27, 2024

A ‘haunting’ Veterans Day tribute

Ghost hunt to benefit veterans, Pecan Valley Centers

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A local paranormal research team is combining Veterans Day with a ghost hunt — creating a spooky and unique tribute to the men and women who fought for our country.

Research and Investigation of the Paranormal (RIP) is holding an all-day event on Saturday, Nov. 11, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Granbury Square Plaza, 205 E. Pearl St., followed by the ghost hunt event from 7-11:30 p.m.

The ghost hunting group was originally founded by Greg Stephens, a former first sergeant E-8 and senior non-commissioned officer in the Army.

For the past 13 years — the “lucky” number as Stephens calls it — RIP has been hosting ghost hunting events, with 100% of proceeds benefiting Hood County veteran programs and nonprofit organizations.

“I do this annually to raise money for veteran services and for mental health and suicide awareness for our veterans, law enforcement officers, and first responders,” Stephens told the HCN. “It’s not just the military that sees (tragedy) every day. Our law enforcement and paramedics see it too on a daily basis more than we do most of the time. That's my way of giving back, using my platform that I have to spread awareness and do what I can.”

Last year, proceeds from RIP’s ghost hunt benefitted REBOOT Recovery — a 12-week, spiritually-led worldwide ministry group that helps veterans, law enforcement and first responders overcome trauma.

PECAN VALLEY CENTERS

But this year, Stephens will finally get to collaborate with close friend and event recipient Joshua Morrison, who is the veterans program manager for Pecan Valley Centers for Behavioral & Developmental Healthcare.

“I'm super pumped for it,” Morrison said. “As many years as I've known Greg, this is the first time we've ever been partnered up for anything, so I'm grateful that they chose us to be their charity for this year.”

Morrison explained that Pecan Valley Centers receives grants to help veterans with financial assistance and provide mental health services to veterans’ families.

"I have a contract with the state for claims and benefits assistance, but then there's the other stuff,” he said. “We build anywhere between 25 and 30 wheelchair ramps for veterans every year because a veteran will go to the VA hospital, they'll lose a leg, they'll get sent home with a wheelchair, and the VA says, ‘Oh yeah, we'll get you a ramp in the next year or two.’ Well, what do I do in the meantime? So that was a need we identified right away, but there's no grants that exist for that, so we have to do fundraising."

DAY EVENT

Vendors for the day event will include best-selling authors Teal Gray and Susan Hill, along with local author Brandy Herr, known for her “Haunted Granbury” novel.

Gray will also be performing tea leaf readings at noon, followed by a musical performance from Anthony Price and the Southern Front Band from 1-4 p.m.

“I’m not a big medium person, but Teal is pretty accurate,” Stephens said. “Anthony is amazing. He’s 16 years old, and he can sing classic country like nobody’s business.”

T.E.X.A.S Rescue (Texas Equine Xperience and Sanctuary) — a nonprofit organization that rescues, rehabs, and rehomes donkeys, horses, and mules — will also serve as one of the vendors for the day event.

“I just signed a partnership with them, where we're going to help them establish their equine therapy program for veterans and first responders, so my therapists will be providing the services to them free of charge, and they will provide the horses, donkeys, and facilities," Morrison said. “It's a great partnership that we're really looking forward to.”

EVENING GHOST HUNT

The ghost hunt will officially kick off at 7 p.m., as RIP will be joined by Wraith Chasers Chris Smith and Mike Goncalves as they investigate The Gordon House, Merry Jayne’s, Bijou House of Beauty, and Shad Ramsey’s studio apartment.

Ramsey was a well-known community photographer in Granbury and was a huge supporter of RIP. He passed away on Nov. 9, 2021.

In honor of his memory, RIP held a ghost event last summer, with proceeds benefiting the RALLY Project, a nonprofit organization that supports many veteran causes locally including the Field of Flags.

“Shad loved everything we did and was a huge supporter and friend,” Stephens said in a previous article to the HCN. “When he passed so unexpectedly, we wanted to find a way to honor him.”

Stephens explained that each ghost hunt will last about 35-40 minutes, with attendees leading the investigation.

"When I do these types of (investigations), the people that paid money for tickets, I'm not going to make them sit and watch me ask all the questions,” he explained. "It's going to be their hunt. They're going to be the investigators. We're just going to be there to help them along."

Stephens added that he always tries to debunk paranormal occurrences to see if there’s a logical explanation.

"We try to debunk everything we can, especially once we hear the stories," he said. “We try to see, ‘Well what could make that happen?’ where it's a rattling window or a breeze that comes through. I won't put anything out there on social media that people will have the chance to try to call me crazy or stupid.”

PARANORMAL ENCOUNTERS

He recalls one unique experience that he was unable to debunk at the Aston House.

Brandon, Stephen’s son, was holding a picture of the former owners of the Aston House. Using a structured light sensor (SLS) Stephens witnessed the husband come out of the picture and stand next to Brandon.

“Not too much surprises me after all I’ve seen, but that was a first,” he said.

Another previous experience took place at The Gordon House, when Brandon was playing his guitar but stopped — spurring a disembodied child voice to say “Please, don’t stop playing, Brandon.” The voice was not heard during the investigation but was later audible during a playback of an audio/video recording.

“We will have merchandise booths set up, and we will actually have several of the — we call them K2s — EMF readers for sale,” said Perri Parker, RIP coordinator.

GOOD VIBES, GOOD TURNOUT

With attendees coming from Massachusetts and Indiana, Stephens is hoping for a good turnout and that the weather will cooperate.

“We're gonna do it anyway regardless (of the weather),” he said. “I always wanted to do it on Veterans Day. It just would never coordinate outright, but this time it did and we're gonna blow this one out of the water.”

Morrison added that he is thankful for Stephens for choosing Pecan Valley Centers as the event recipient.

“I exhaust my grants every year,” he said. “We average $200,000 a year in financial assistance, about 2,000 hours in free mental health services for veterans, dependents, and surviving spouses, and then we assist about 3,000 veterans with claims and benefits a year.”

Since Pecan Valley Centers covers six counties — Erath, Hood, Somervell, Parker, Johnson, and Palo Pinto — Morrison said every little bit counts.

"We're the largest grant recipient in the state for a regional provider, so nobody in Texas gets or spends as much as we do on veterans,” he said. “The unfortunate thing with grants is a lot of those funds, generally speaking, 90% go to administrative, their salaries, and overhead. We use less than 30% for salaries, and we give 70% to the veterans and their dependents. That's not common. Usually, it's the opposite, so we're just fortunate we're structured in such a way that we don't have to do that. We're blessed in that way.”

Tickets for the day event are free, while tickets for the evening ghost hunt are $99 each.

To purchase tickets or to donate, go to tinyurl.com/RIPLLC online.