‘Ain’t afraid of no ghosts’: Local paranormal group investigates local, national haunts

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CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — A group of paranormal investigators, checking out haunted site across the area Saturday afternoon in celebration of Halloween.

The Rural Illinois Paranormal investigators (RIPS) make everyday feel a little bit like Halloween and love everything that comes with it. Director of the group Stacey Candler said she’s always been fascinated with the unknowns.

“I’ve always loved Halloween, ghosts, anything spooky,” Candler said.

For RIPS, their stories aren’t based on goblins, ghouls or other fictional creatures, but are true ghost stories of the undead. Stacey Candler started the group with her sister-in-law back in 2009 and in addition to their full-time jobs, investigate places with supposed paranormal activity.

“We travel all around. We do residential investigations, commercial, businesses. We take off a couple times of year and head out of state,” Candler said.

The group has investigated local paranormal legends such as the Peoria State Hospital grounds in Bartonville, Springdale Cemetery in Peoria, Havana Park District Gymnaisum building and Lawson Theater in Havana. Candler says the group has also gone to infamous places such as Waverly Hills Sanitorium in Louisville, Kentucky, Villisca Axe Murder House in Villisca, Iowa and the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis.

On Saturday, RIPS visited haunts they’ve been to before in Central Illinois as part of their Halloween Spook Crawl; making their way to Virginia, Illinois for an overnight investigation. Mike Surratt an investigator with the team said not every investigation will have tons of activity like people would see on Ghost Adventures.

“There’s a lot of sitting in the dark, just being quiet,” Surratt said.

Surratt said many times they don’t hear or see anything until after reviewing their footage, but recalls a personal experience at the old gymnasium in Havana.

“We were asking questions and all of a sudden I felt somebody put their hand on my shoulder and say ‘Mike, leave’. Well, I took off all of my stuff and I left,” Surratt said.

RIPS’ tours and hunts are more than just about the haunted and the undead. Group member and investigator, Brenda Bale said the team researches the history of their haunts and said it’s an important part of ghost hunting.

“To look at a place and so much of it is dwindling in this time, the buildings are dwindling, they’re letting them go and it’s just nice to be able to go inside and see if we can find anything that was lost and left behind,” Bale said.

The group says it’s a hobby that’s become a passion and knows there’ll be skeptics, but invites those who doubt to come along on a tour with them.

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