Ghost hunters spend a night at Lincoln High School

For Chris Maly and his journalism students, it was a night to observe and report.  For the team from Paracon Reconaissance and Exploration, it was a night to observe and record.

7:00 p.m.
Everybody arrives at the front door of Lincoln High School (LHS) – established in 1871 – existing building opened in 1913. Audio and video equipment, cameras, record deck and monitoring technology unloaded.

7:30 p.m.
Equipment is setup in six locations identified by Maly and his students via research and interviews.  The hot spots included the Ted Sorensen Theatre, room 300 (which was the library until the mid-1950s), the second floor outside main office, the first floor and the staff lounge.

8:00 p.m.
Brian Kent, founder of Paracon, orients the team to investigation protocol and the schedule for the night.  “There are different ways to investigate the paranormal.  Paracon approaches each investigation from skepticism.”

Maly notes that the journalist approach is to be objective.  His five students are participating to observe and report for publication on the LHS website.

Kent explains that the audio and video recordings will be debriefed and the results will be reported to Maly.  Depending on what is discovered, Paracon may request permission from LHS to post results on

Working with Kent are his brother John, his sister in law Lauri, and Cheryl, Marge, Matthew and Phil.  In addition to Maly and his students, there are two staff from Lincoln Public Schools – the LHS theatre tech Ben and a reporter from District communications.

9:00 p.m.
The base outside the Ted Sorensen Theatre is fired up and recording begins.  Kent designates groups to observe in assigned hot spots and the team gets to work.  The base is always monitored; a quad-split TV monitor displays the video cameras set up to feed the VHS record deck.  Some hot spots are completely dark, hallways are brightly lit.

The quad-split is monitoring camera one – focused on the stage; camera two – room 300; camera three – second floor outside main office; camera four - fifth row isle seat facing the stage.  Not on the quad-split are a digital camcorder set up on the first floor outside the library media center and the staff lounge, which is rigged with a “trap” that includes a motion detector.

Groups are equipped with audio recorders, digital cameras, digital thermometers, K-2 EMF meters (Electromagnetic Field) and walkie-talkies.  The rules are the same for everyone – no matter what the location.  Be quiet, be calm, be observant; write down your observations – specifying location, time, experience; stay with your group; announce yourself when you enter or leave a location; don’t scream, don’t run, don’t panic.

What is an experience?  It may be visual; it may be auditory; it may be sensory; it may be a change in temperature to cool or cold.

9:00 p.m. to Midnight:
The hot spots are monitored by rotating groups.  The theatre was selected because Maly and Ben, as well as LHS drama teacher Patsy Koch, have reported experiences.

According to Maly, one of his journalism students shot a digital photo in the dark theatre for an assignment about using flash.  That photo displayed an anomaly that couldn’t be explained.  As Maly and his student pushed the brightness level of the photo, a profile emerged.  No features, but the profile was distinct.

Ben’s experience was up close and personal.  Working late in the theatre, he was stopped by a pounding from inside a back wall that was scheduled for demolition during the recent theatre renovation.  The sound was clear and prolonged.  When Ben was able to move, he searched for anyone who might be in the area.  There was no one.

Koch reports having seen a figure sitting in the fifth row aisle seat.  She’s a believer, “110 percent,” according to Ben.  The drama teacher recounts her experience to her drama classes.  She named the figure “Matthew,” since it appeared around the time LHS staged “The Laramie Project.”  (The documentary-style play analyzes the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was murdered because of his sexuality.)

Room 300 is an LHS legend.  The presence is considered to be librarian Thelma Eaton from the 1920s.  Two of the hot spots were selected based on reported sighting of a one-time janitor on the first and second floors.  The staff lounge was monitored due to reports of equipment repeatedly unplugged during the night shift.

The time has passed quickly.  As the team packs up, there are stories.  On second floor, Kent observed the lower part of two legs pass through the reflection on the cleanly shined floor – as Ben heard 3 to 5 foot steps.  A drop in temperature was reported twice along the aisle adjacent to the fifth row seat.  The new batteries in walkie-talkies were drained within 60 to 90 minutes and digital cameras shut down.

Reality TV has raised the visibility of ghost hunting.  But for Kent and his team, there are personal reasons for the pursuit.  He and his brother report experiences in their Beatrice home from early childhood.  Some of the other team members also describe childhood experiences, while others are students of theology.  For all seven, they are looking for answers to questions about the after life.

Whatever did or did not happen in Lincoln High School from 7 p.m. to midnight on Saturday, June 5, 15 people from young to not so young held vigil.  Their experiences were both individual and shared.  And the end of this story is yet to be written.

Published: June 9, 2010, Updated: June 9, 2010


Click photo to enlarge

Brian Kent (far L) holds orientation in the balcony of the Ted Sorenson Theatre before the team goes to work.