Sophomore Evan Butler, or “that free advice guy” is out to make a name for himself on campus yet again. This semester’s adventure: operation ghost hunting.
Finished with his days standing out on campus walk with a poster-sized sign that read “free advice,” Butler launched a paranormal investigation.
“I kept my free advice sign. I taped it on my wall. It’s memorabilia,” Butler said. “Hopefully, I’ll have memorabilia from this semester.”
With his free advice days behind him and nothing left but a sign and the memories, Butler is ready to move forward.
“I decided that every semester I wanted to follow my dreams. Every semester I’ll look for something larger than life. One semester I’m giving free advice, the next I’m a paranormal investigator. It’s a seize the day type of thing, which I encourage everyone to do,” Butler said. “I like to think that I’m larger than life, or that I can live a large life.”
Butler first thought of his ghost hunting idea over winter break. He had surgery and was confined to staying inside and took interest in his sister’s books about ghost stories.
He read that there are a lot of ghost stories in the state of Virginia and specifically in Fredericksburg. Since UMW is over 100 years old and was built near a battlefield, Butler decided to investigate.
His knowledge of the gruesome deaths from the battles of Fredericksburg and the fact that several people died on Sunken Road fueled his research.According to his high school history teacher, for each click of a metronome, someone died in the second battle.
After returning from winter break, he went to the library and at first had a difficult time because it was a challenge finding information amidst poor historical records. He succeeded after finding archives from the Bullet. He found the Dec. 8, 1938 issue. In it was an article about ghosts in Willard Hall based on accounts of windows opening and closing and movements in the hallways during lights out, the student’s bedtime. These strange occurrences were blamed on “the spooks”.
“It was a blast going through all those old newspapers with that old ‘30s lingo like ‘the spooks’. I thought it was made up, but it’s real,” Butler said.
In his research, Butler also found a more recent edition of the Bullet from last year, which was about spooky occurrences around campus, namely in residence halls like Mason.
Butler used this as a lead and contacted one of his friends, who had strange things happen to him in his room when he lived in Mason. They went to Mason and visited the exact room and talked to the current resident, who said he has also experienced strange phenomena in the room.
For his ghost hunting project, which Butler calls Ghost on Campus, Butler has been investigating leads such as the one in Mason and doing research. Before he visits a place, he always makes sure he knows the background information. For example, a recent case involved him going to the basement of Virginia Hall. After looking into the history of Virginia Hall, Butler found out about a rumor that a girl hanged herself in the basement decades ago, which could be a possible explanation for suspicious activity.
Butler had been relying on tips to aid his research. He has received numerous e-mails phone calls that have asked him for help. Butler will respond by meeting the person and conducting a short interview before doing more research.
“I asked them what happened, I ask them if something bad ever happened to them. Sometimes they say ‘no.’ Most of the time they say ‘no.’ Sometimes they say ‘yeah’ and that’s when things get interesting,” said Butler.
Butler will typically bring a camera man with him in case they catch something interesting.
“I film on location, anything can happen,” Butler said.
Butler has been relying on a small group of friends that trade off as being the camera man who assists him.
Butler prefers to do the interviews himself but is seeking more help for his investigations, namely people who have had spooky experiences.
He’s put the word out by telling his friends and friends of friends about his project, and has even gone door-to-door asking for tips.
He has also started a Facebook group called Ghost on Campus which he updates with videos of interviews and the places that are under investigation. Butler is even looking to form a club and will be handing out flyers in Seacobeck soon.
Butler’s main goal is to find proof of paranormal activity on campus. In these first four weeks of the semester, Butler has had a total of nine cases and is “open for more.”
Butler is currently investigating an account from one of his friends who had a creepy story about Mercer Hall. He is also following a tip from a Virginia Hall RA who contacted him after an eerie experience. Both of these new cases will be posted up on the Facebook group soon.
“Everything that’s interesting is online. They are some good stories if I do say so myself,” Butler said.
An even more recent case involves a picture that a student took in Willard Hall that appears to have something suspicious in the background, but Butler wants to check it out personally before posting anything up on Facebook.
Butler has been busy with the nine cases so far, but is already looking to expand. He hopes to move from interviews to actual overnight stays in peculiar places. Butler plans to set up cameras and voice recordings for overnight stays, but even he is not sure of what he will find.
“Probably a lot of Southern accents, I’ll give you that!” Butler said.
Any footage from overnight stays will be added to the Facebook group. The content that Butler has been posting online is completely dedicated to his research and he prefers to not appear in the videos.
“I want the focus to be on the subject, I don’t want the focus to be on me,” he said. “Everything I do is not geared toward me, it’s geared toward the community.”
Butler’s strong vision for Ghost on Campus has motivated him to plan ahead and to have a clear vision for the future of his project.
“I will continue doing this as long as there’s stories and as long as there’s things to investigate,” Butler said.
Despite his recent investigations and future planning in the realm of paranormal activity, Butler cannot claim to be a believer.
“I don’t think I believe in ghosts, nothing bad has ever happened to me. Maybe this experience will change that. Maybe that’s why I’m doing this,” Butler said.