Reports from a Firestation in Virginia


OK, this one caught my attention this morning —

Crews report ghostly happenings at Va firehouse

By LAETITIA CLAYTON Northern Virginia Daily

April 11, 2010

TOMS BROOK, Va. – Things do go bump at Toms Brook Fire Hall, and not just in the night.

There don’t seem to be certain times or circumstances that prompt the strange happenings, such as lights turning on and off, doors opening and closing and pots and pans flying off of shelves. But several people can attest to the fact that these things do happen–and they attribute them to a ghost they call George.

It’s been a quiet few days, or maybe i have just been so busy I have not picked up on any cases that made the press, but this one is quite interesting. Lights turning on and off always to me suggests an urgent check on the wiring: but I assume a Fire Department knows a thing or two about electrical safety. Doors opening and closing, pots and pans flying off shelves? Interesting, and obviously compatible with a “polt” interpretation – but also possibly with a wooden building being shaken violently somehow? I don’t know the building is wooden btw, I’m just wondering of there might be some structural problem. Tony Cornell’s fascinating experiments with shaking buildings apart were conducted on brick built Cambridgeshire houses as I recall: it could be all the above has sensible explanations. Still let’s look further…

Richard Funkhouser, who was fire chief at Toms Brook for 14 years, says he has seen George twice. “But there’s been a couple of other people that have actually seen him, and we all describe him the same way,” he says. “Floppy hat, little square glasses, with a riding coat.”

There is something about the apparitions dress sense that appeals to me – that may be a description of something 18th or 19th century – I’m no expert in the history of fashion — but it is clearly unusual!   I respect the chap for sharing his story, must be hard when you were a fire chief to go public with something like this — but sounds like he has retired now. The wording is a little odd “a couple of other people have actually seen him” seems to suggest that Richard has not — but he has twice, unless that was somehow ‘psychically’? I suspect this is down to my unfamiliarity with how Americans phrase things, or just the way the interview was written up.

George has been around awhile, too, Funkhouser says, as there were some sightings at the old fire hall, which was built in the early 1900s. Funkhouser believes George followed them to the new facility when it was built in 1983–and so does the Virginia Independent Paranormal Society, a local team of paranormal investigators who are very familiar with the Toms Brook Fire Hall.

So the ghost “moved house” with the firemen? I know that the Cheltenham ghost has occasionally been reported in buildings across the road, but even in the classic apparitional phase of that case she was seen all over the house and grounds.  A ghost that follows you about is usually considered a person-centred ghost, that is often a polt — though I have read enough accounts to not entirely dismiss the idea of haunted objects. Could the ghost be “anchored” to something that was taken from one building to the other? Is the ghost some sort of “totem” of the firemen, moving with them? Are the earlier and later sightings completely unrelated? Still this is interesting.

Shenandoah County-based Vips was formed in 1996 by Toms Brook residents Rusty Edmondson and his wife, Sharon, and their friend, Wade Ross, of Edinburg. All three are Civil War re-enactors and historians. They believe that George and many of the other ghosts they’ve encountered were Civil War soldiers.

I can see why given the dress of the apparition, makes perfect sense I guess. The team report their results from visits…

During their investigation of the fire hall last year, Vips found some mists, orbs and energy balls, Edmondson says, referring to terms used in the paranormal world to describe images and the like that are detected using various equipment. In one picture, they captured “almost the form of a body getting ready to go up the steps,” he says, and they picked up some “energy streaks in the bathroom.”

“He has a fetish for the bathroom,” Edmondson says of George.  “This ghost likes water,” Funkhouser agrees.

Not sure what to make of this. However with the next bit I am back on familiar territory —

When he was fire chief, Funkhouser says he had several volunteers leave the building and not come back until the next day after strange things occurred when they were sleeping there overnight.  “A lot of them are scared to death,” he says. “One of them, it likes to mess with him in the bathroom. It shakes the stall door.”

This sounds pretty typical – people get spooked when in the most isolated, er, vulnerable places. This does however to me sound an awful lot like a workplace prank, a ghostly tradition used to scare the new boys on the fire brigade. Just typical humour for firefighters, to sneak in and rattle the loo door while someone is using it, having primed the pump with ghost stories? Yet I did in the Gloucester case deal with a haunted loo, which was a central part of the manifestations, and indeed witnessed “in action” – the toilet seat rising and falling – by the CPRG team there.

Funkhouser got a call from one of the volunteers one night, he recalls, who said, “Some creepy stuff is going on down here.”  A soda pop fell out of the machine and onto the floor, the fire hall’s office door opened and closed, and the door to the radio room, which Funkhouser says takes a lot of force to open, was opened on its own.  “I’m getting the hell out of here,” Funkhouser says the volunteer told him, and he did–even leaving his coat behind.

This sounds less like normal hoaxing to me. Where is the fun in it? And how do you make the soda machine dispense like that? OK it may have just been broken, and if the chap in question was trying to buy a soda when it fell out it sounds a lot less mysterious: insufficient data. Still doors opening and closing might unnerve one…

And then there was Christmas night three years ago. Edmondson says he was in the fire hall waiting for his wife to pick him up when he heard the commode flush. He thought someone else was there, but couldn’t find a soul. Lights proceeded to turn on and off and doors slammed. Edmondson says he had finally had enough.  “I said, ‘That’s it pal. If you don’t want me to be here, I’ll leave.

Well I don’t know how familiar Edmondson is with the building. Given he is a psychical researcher, it is not hard to believe he could have been hoaxed by a sceptical fun loving fireman – but Christmas night is an odd time to play tricks like this, and again we see the doors slamming. Lights being turned on and off? Well thats possible from the fuses I guess, but… it certainly sounds spooky enough!

The rest of the article is about ViPs – I seem to recall seeing Edmondson on a CBS Reality Unexplained Mysteries segment about Gettysburg ghosts — but I look forward to hearing more of the ghost. Firestations often seem to have ghost stories though – the old Bond Street I believe in Ipswich firestation was reputedly haunted, and also the old Bury St Edmunds firestation, down by the Mermaid Pits — now demolished. Still, more of a haunt than a poltergeist this one. 🙂

cj x

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