Athens Review, Athens, Texas

In the News

February 13, 2012

GHOST HUNTERS: Paranormal team visits Palestine, checks out locations

Athens — Many have heard ghost stories in Palestine of old houses and buildings — the old jail, the old Carnegie Library, Bowers Mansion and probably more famously today — the old Palestine Memorial Hospital,  which is closed and fenced to keep trespassers out on the corner of Sycamore and Angelina streets.

For the past several years, teenagers found it a “rite of passage” to tour the old hospital and tell ghost stories. Today, a no-trespassers-allowed tour will cost you a trip to jail as the police and community have cracked down on unwanted guests since 2010.

Just ask the Sonshine Paranormal Investigators of Fort Worth — they spent the night in jail last year after getting caught at the old hospital.

While they didn’t enjoy their night in jail, the Sonshine Paranormal Investigators came back to Palestine last weekend to discuss the results of their paranormal investigation at the old hospital along with the results from a requested investigation of the Museum for East Texas Culture, which previously served as a school from 1916 to 1976.

About the Team

The Sonshine Paranormal Investigators  — whose small team includes Clay and Barbara Henderson and Kirk and Eva Jones along with a few others — started doing investigations in 2009 after their 11-year-old son was killed in a jet ski accident.

“We wanted to know that we would see our son again some day. What we found turned our world upside down. Now we try to help others understand the paranormal and prove or disprove whether they have paranormal activity in their homes or businesses,” Clay Henderson said. “We try to use the latest in technology as well as inventing our own techniques and equipment. The results have been amazing.”

What started out as curiosity has led to an interesting hobby that has lead them down many paths — investigating a haunted bed and breakfast in Arkansas and walking through cemeteries late at night. They’ve felt chills, reported being “touched” by spirits in various locations and in general, have felt presences that were paranormal.

Old Hospital Site

Pioneer Palestine businessman George Anderson Wright and his wife Mary Henry Wright lived in a beautiful Victorian home built in the late 1883. George Anderson Wright was a former Palestine mayor who was in the general mercantile business for many years. He also was involved in the organization of the First National Bank of Palestine in 1887, and served as the first president of the bank. He passed away on Nov. 5, 1939 in his home.

“Research done by the Wright’s descendant, great-great-grandson Steve Sussdorf has shown that this was one of the grandest homes between here and Galveston during its era,” Clay Henderson said. “It was known as Mary’s pride and joy. It was tore down in 1940 — what a crying shame for something so beautiful to be torn down.”

Mary Henry Wright died in 1943.

The Palestine Memorial Hospital was built on this property in 1951 — where it remained open for a few more decades. Closed for years now, the property’s most recent owner donated the property to a non-profit group based in New York. The Palestine City Council upped the security on the old hospital site in late 2010 due to various complaints.

Hospital Findings

Upon their visits to the Palestine Memorial Hospital, the Sonshine Paranormal Investigators believe there are several apparitions which take form in the old building.

After finding evidence of apparitions on some of the pictures they took and doing their research on the Wrights at the museum, the team believes two of the apparitions are none other than George Anderson Wright and wife Mary Henry Wright.

“One of the pictures we have — the apparition has the face of George Anderson Wright. There are three other apparitions in the photo with George, but none of their faces are legible. We have another picture of a woman who appears to be Mary Henry Wright,” Clay Henderson said. “Another photo has a small child I would guess to be 4 to 5 years old standing in the hallway showing a picture of his mother from the 1800s. Doing my research on the Wrights, I believe the Wrights had a family of German immigrants and I am thinking this child was one of the immigrant children. Another picture shows a woman dressed in 1800s attire but you can’t see her face.

“All the apparitions in the hospital appear to have nothing to do with the hospital but appear to have something to do with George and Mary and the mansion that they tore down to build the hospital,” Clay Henderson continued.

Photographic evidence isn’t all. The team also took EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) recordings.

“We have tons of EVPs and video. On one of the ghost boxes, the name Wright came up,” Clay Henderson said.

In fact, on the day they were arrested for being in the old hospital, their EVP recordings including some strange words right before the police arrived, including “police,” “danger,” “escape,” “cage” and “orange.”

“I think they were trying to tell us to get out of there,” Clay Henderson joked.

During their visit to the old hospital, the investigators asked if the spirit they felt in the room was Mary Wright.

The EVP recording picked up the word “yep” in a woman’s voice. They also had something thrown in their direction upon asking questions.

Museum Findings

While doing their research on the old hospital and the Wrights, the paranormal investigators visited the Museum for East Texas Culture for information.

Museum Director Dan Dyer agreed to allow the team to do an investigation on the museum, itself a historic structure.

“When Clay approached me about doing an investigation here at the museum, I thought ‘well it can't hurt anything.’ It seems that every time we have a tour with students on a field trip, two or three of them ask me it this place is haunted, I guess because it is an old building,” Dyer said. “I have never had anything happen in here that was strange, although it is a little creepy down stairs at night when the lights are out. Now  if anybody asks I have something to tell them.”

The investigation team took photographs, EVP and video recordings. They found some evidence of video as well as on the EVPs at the museum.

On video, it appears there is something paranormal in the auditorium, appearing as a small light that follows the team members as they leave the room and then it appears to race to the balcony where it disappears.

In a photograph, they believe an Indian girl can be seen — though they have no explanation for why she would be there.

In the boiler room on EVP, they heard the words “slap her” and later “I’m scared.” Leaving the boiler room, the EVP “wait, don’t leave yet” was heard.

Another EVP recording “I ain’t afraid” was picked up after one of the team members said outloud in the dark room “please don’t be afraid” as if she was speaking to the spirits.

In another area, an investigator said “I understand why you love this place.” The EVP picked up “we’re home” in a distinctive voice.

In the log cabin room, investigators separately thought they heard metal clanking when it shouldn’t have been.

Other EVPs in the museum include a conversation between a small child and mother where the mother tells the child to “be quiet.” Later, the child voice says he hears the train.

“You really have to listen to the EVPs,” Eva Jones said, noting that she may have to listen to hours of EVP recordings to pick something up and then repeats it over and over to make out what is being said.


Upon returning to the Museum for East Texas Culture to discuss results with museum personnel, the Sonshine Paranormal Investigators did a sweep through the building to see if they could debunk some of the evidence they found of paranormal.

“We try to see if there is a reflection or if there is something we didn’t realize was there at the time that could give us the result we have in the photographs or on the video,” Clay Henderson said. “We do try to debunk  as much as we possibly can and find out if there is a logical reason behind it.”


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