Formerly the Old Noftsger Hill School, built in 1907, the property sits in the shadow of the Old Dominion Mine. Its large windows keep a watchful eye on the Cobre Valley below.
Upon entering, the scent of banana bread or some other delectable emanates from the kitchen. A large living area offers room to stretch out and relax. Quiet ambiance and quaint surroundings entice weary travelers.
But for some who stay the night, the mystery unfolds.
A foreboding feeling hangs in the air. Children's voices have been heard in the distance when no children were present. Phantom guests have appeared and disappeared. Footsteps were heard when no one was there.
"After the school closed in 1981, a lady who lived a few doors down saw lights come on and heard a telephone ring. (The building was vacant at the time.) Some neighborhood kids said this building is haunted and teachers are buried in the basement," says owner Rosalie Ayala.
Are ghosts really among the guests at Noftsger Hill Inn? Or is there some other explanation?
On a recent Saturday, investigators from Tucson's Lost Souls Paranormal Investigations set out to solve the mystery.
Lost Souls conducts scientific-based investigations of paranormal activity and uses tested mediums (those who can see or hear the dead) and psychics to gather information. Founder Amy Allan refers to her psychics and mediums as "sensitives" and says using them in scientific-based investigations is uncommon.
"We are unlike any other group out there," she says. "We take sensitives to use on the investigation, which isn't really done. It's unheard of in the parapsychology field that sensitives work together, are willing to be tested and are scientists. I've taken them both together, and that's rare."
Allan has strict requirements for sensitives working with her, including a three-month testing period and proven ability.
"I question anyone who walks through my door. I will first approach you as a scientist. I am going to test you as rigorously as possible. ... I've looked at all of the parapsychological research that's been done and pulled various testing techniques to use and expanded upon them. ... I looked at how to debunk a psychic, what people would try to do to pull a fast one."
Indeed, shady tarot and crystal ball readers need not apply. Who else is Allan not gonna call? Ghost hunters. She says ghost hunters are typically hobbyists who are only interested in running into a ghost.
"They use information improperly and won't typically have an education in the field," she says.
In contrast, Lost Souls are paranormal investigators who "are more scientific in approach. They know how to use instrumentation properly and have relevant degrees. They have done research," says Allan.
Allan has been on more than 150 investigations to date.
The investigation of Noftsger Hill Inn would prove to be one of the most intriguing.
The investigation starts at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 4 at the Krispy Kreme donuts on Oracle Road. Two cars pull into the parking lot.
The driver of the first car, Frank McManus, is the coordinator of the investigation. At this point, only he knows the location of the supposedly haunted site.
Driver of car two is Matt Anderson, the videographer for the investigation. His passenger is Tyson Nuss, the "equipment person" who will conduct various electromagnetic, temperature and compass readings before, during and after the investigation.
McManus informs the group the first destination is McDonald's in Globe. The two cars set out, driving north on Oracle Road.
McManus, a private investigator and retired officer from the Los Angeles Police Department, joined Lost Souls Paranormal Investigations almost two years ago. His firm, FSM and Associates, has partnered with Lost Souls on several cases. Although he does not consider himself a sensitive, McManus is willing to work with psychics and mediums.
"I am open to getting information from all sources if it is honest and ethical. ... Having worked in the field being a policeman, there are a lot of phony individuals," he says. "When I was first with (Lost Souls), I was very skeptical in the beginning.
"I gave them a homicide name; it was actually a double homicide. They got that it was a double homicide and came up with two additional names unknown to me. One of the names was the brother of the murder victim. The other name was a friend of the murder victim. They were able to come up with these names, which were not common. From there, I was able to figure out it wasn't a flimflam thing. They actually knew what they were doing. That was impressive to me."
As coordinator, McManus picks the location of the investigation but tries not to remember much information about the site. He has a list of all locations the sensitives have visited previously.
"I look at 50 of these. I purposefully look at a lot at the same time and make a list with the location names only. This way, I can't remember which is which," he says.
McManus does not want to remember much about the site to prevent the sensitives from picking up information telepathically. This is also why only he knows the location of the site until the day of the investigation.
At 12:30 p.m., the group arrives at McDonald's. A quick meal is shared before heading off to the site.
Upon arrival at the bed and breakfast, McManus calls Allan, who is waiting at the aforementioned Krispy Kreme with passengers Teresa Ortiz, Rosalinda Ortiz and volunteer Eric Meyer. Allan is instructed to drive to the Globe McDonald's.
Sensitives travel to the investigation separately with a volunteer to allow time for McManus and company to set up equipment and perform initial readings. Sensitives are scheduled to arrive at the site only after this work is done.
Standard equipment for investigations includes an EMF or TriField Natural EM Meter, to measure electromagnetic frequencies; an RF or radio frequency reader; a mini-cassette recorder to record reads from the EMF and RF; three tape recorders and disposable cameras used by the sensitives; mini cassette tapes; a compass; walkie-talkies; a temperature reader; a motion detector; a video camera and tapes; a TV monitor; batteries; a battery tester and charger; and one notebook and pencil.
As the crew tests and sets up equipment, any clues about the site's history are removed. This is done to prevent the sensitives from acquiring information that will influence their readings. "We are going to look for anything that provides historical information about the school (to remove)," says Nuss.
At Noftsger, guests have written messages on the many blackboards that still grace the walls of the guestrooms. In a first-floor room, the message "a small ghost child plays in this corner" is visible on a blackboard; a crew member covers it with newspaper.
The initial set up takes about two hours, with Nuss conducting preliminary readings.
"We take EMF readings in the four corners and center of the room before, during and after the walk throughs. A baseline is established. Then we go around to see if things have changed," he says. Nuss also takes compass, temperature and radio frequency readings.
As her inn is being fitted for the investigation, owner Rosalie Ayala tends to her hostess duties. A friendly native of Houston, Ayala and her husband bought the inn in 2001. She is interested in the fact that her inn is considered haunted, keeps an open mind and even shares an unexplained experience.
"When I was in my bedroom one night, I thought my husband came home, because I heard footsteps across the floor. I turned on the light but there was no one there. Did I imagine it or not? I have not a clue what it was, but it was very loud. It was just bizarre," she says.
At 2:30 p.m., Allan and crew arrive at McDonald's and call McManus to report in. McManus says he'll be there shortly to escort them to the site. At this point, the video taping of the investigation begins while Anderson joins McManus on the ride to McDonald's. Nuss stays behind to finish the readings.
After a brief meeting at McDonald's, the group heads to Noftsger Hill Inn.
The three sensitives settle into one room, and a stationary video camera is placed in the corner to tape them, even as they sleep. Monitor Eric Meyer, a first-time volunteer with Lost Souls, joins them.
Meyer must stay with the sensitives at all times "to ensure the sensitives have no communication with each other (about the investigation). He makes sure they are not talking about what they are feeling," says McManus.
After a coin toss, Allan is chosen to perform the first walk through of the site. She is separated from Meyer and the other sensitives, who begin a Monopoly game to keep a healthy distraction from the ongoing investigation.
At 3:30 p.m., Allan opens a sealed tape recorder, cassette tape and disposable camera, sets her lapel microphone and begins her walk through.
Allan is the physical medium of the group, which means she is able to physically see and hear the dead. This ability started at a young age.
"When I was 4 or 5, I saw these shadowy figures on the closet door. It was a male and female outline. They would talk to me and were always there. It was unnerving for me," says Allan.
Similar experiences continued throughout her childhood and were not talked about in the family. Eventually, her deceased grandmother appeared and explained what was happening.
"I tried to ignore it and not deal with it. I did what typical teenagers do. (Eventually), I figured, well, either I am crazy or I have to deal with this. So at 18, I started talking to a lot of people about their experiences. I did a lot of research trying to figure out what was wrong with me," she says.
At the age of 22, Allan began visiting supposedly haunted sites to see what she would learn. During that process, she met parapsychologists who put her in touch with Dr. William Roll. According to Allan, he is one of the forerunners of parapsychology, who was, at the time of their meeting, a professor at the State University of West Georgia.
"He took me to Georgia and tested me. We worked on investigative methodology. He became my mentor as far as my studies. From that, I formulated how to test other individuals."
Allan stands firm in her scientific mindset; she considers herself a scientist first and sensitive second. Her work with Dr. Roll enabled her to formulate a new approach to parapsychological research, balancing science and spirituality. She conducts investigations to "gather as much data as possible for the method we are using."
During the walk through of the Noftsger property, Allan goes from room to room and reports her impressions.
"There's a guy named Edgar," she starts. "I have a pain in my neck. There's a female here named Crystal. She is associated with a suicide. There was a breathing problem. Lots of fluid in the lungs. ... There's a female child, 5 or 6, (who) stayed here. Her name is Rory ... Someone fell down. There was a bad accident. ... Becky is here. She's a teenager who acts like an adult. ... There's smoke. People are panicked and running out. Some kind of fire," says Allan.
More information comes to Allan as she walks through the inn. She reports other spirits present, detailing names and incidences. She stops and takes pictures along the way of rooms and corners.
Meanwhile, other team members perform their roles: Anderson videotapes the proceedings; Nuss takes readings; McManus asks questions to keep the information flowing; Meyer and the other two sensitives play Monopoly to keep distracted. This continues for more than an hour until Allan says she is finished. She switches places with Rosalinda Ortiz, the next sensitive to perform a walk through.
At 5 p.m., Rosalinda Ortiz opens her sealed recorder, tape and camera, attaches her microphone and begins.
Rosalinda Ortiz is the psychic knower of the group. This means she sees mental images of words and occasionally images. Her abilities also surfaced at a young age.
"When I was 8 or 9, I used to be able to see auras. ... I was more of a believer due to my family. My grandmother had a lot of experiences and told us about them.
"Ever since I was younger, I've been interested in the paranormal. I'm very scientific-minded, so I enjoy that Lost Souls uses a scientific approach. ... We have a nice balance between the scientific and spiritual. ... I would like to know if possible what is going on," she says.
Rosalinda Ortiz believes it is good to be a healthy skeptic. "We are all skeptics (at Lost Souls), because we use science to explain what is happening."
As she begins to walk through the inn, Rosalinda Ortiz recounts what mental images she is receiving.
Rosalinda Ortiz: I'm seeing a little girl, between 5 and 8.
Frank McManus: What is she doing?
Ortiz: She's playing.
McManus: How did she die?
Ortiz: Suffocation. ... I get a man.
McManus: What is his purpose?
Ortiz: To judge others.
Rosalinda Ortiz continues: "There's a female teenager with brown, short, curly hair. ... There was a big event here, a carnival. ... I feel a pain in my neck ... A lot of people died here. They were sick, breathing, TB. ... I get the feeling there was a fire that started in the kitchen. ... A little kid, I think it was a girl, fell and died. She could have fallen out of the window."
Rosalinda Ortiz receives more names than Allan, such as Lisa, Ellen and Julie--but she also hears the name Rory, as Allan did.
She finishes more than an hour later and switches places with her mother, Teresa Ortiz.
At 6:30 p.m., Teresa Ortiz unwraps her recorder, tape and camera, places her microphone on her dress and begins.
Teresa Ortiz is the psychic empath of the group. This means she picks up the feelings of others. She is also a knower, receiving visual images in her mind.
"I just walk wherever I'm drawn to. I stay and see what information I pick up, see what comes to me. It can be a physical feeling or it can be an internal feeling. ... Sometimes I get a neckache or headache. I feel certain pain. So then, I go with that, and see what information I get."
As a child, Teresa Ortiz heard about her mother's encounters.
"My mom was a sensitive and she would share her experiences. I was open to it. My grandmother was a healer and used massage and herb teas to heal others. I felt I had the same gift as my grandmother."
Teresa Ortiz says everyone has these special abilities.
"We all have a gift. It's just some people are open to it. Some acknowledge it and some don't. I think we all have the capability of being sensitives."
Teresa Ortiz begins her walk through, placing her hand out, feeling her way through the process.
"I see two little kids, 6 or 7 years old. ... I see a very stern man. ... I feel negative energy from the ceiling. It's giving me butterflies in my stomach. The roof fell in. Something fell. I see people falling. ... A lot of people are rushing out, in a hurry to get out in a panic. Lots of chaos. A fire started in the kitchen. ... Getting a woman, she's a teacher, Julie. ... I feel a hand on my shoulder. ... My neck is killing me all of a sudden."
Teresa Ortiz' walk through continues for more than one hour.
Nuss performs readings after her completion. The gang regroups, decides on a restaurant for a late meal and heads off into the night.
Unbeknownst to the sensitives at this point, there are correlations in the information received. All three felt a pain in their neck; all three sensed people falling; all three sensed a fire had occurred there. Allan and Rosalinda Ortiz picked up on breathing problems, the female teenager and the name Rory. Both Ortiz women picked up the name Julie.
Newspaper clippings report a carnival occurring on the grounds on Oct. 6, 1949. Judge Clifford C. Faires gave a talk at Noftsger Hill on May 25, 1926. Rosalinda Ortiz reported on the carnival and "judge" in her walk through.
A fire did occur on Dec. 15, 1939, but not at Noftsger Hill School. It was at nearby Globe High.
At 11 p.m., the group calls it a night. The video camera is set in the corner to record the sensitives and any possible paranormal activity. Monitor Eric Meyer stays in the same room.
Upstairs, McManus, Nuss and Anderson bunk in one room; their walky-talkies and cell phones are left on. I bunk in the next room and sleep until 6:45 a.m., when I am awakened by a knock at the door.
As I open the door, Frank McManus is standing there with a puzzled look on his face. He informs me the sensitives left early in the morning because of a harrowing experience during the night. He does not offer details and says, "Amy (Allan) didn't even want to stay in the town. They blew out of here already."
I pack up and leave with McManus and the others, wondering what events occurred while I slept.
Days after the investigation, the group reflected on the strange events that occurred in the middle of the night, starting at 3 a.m.
Rosalinda Ortiz remembers it clearly. "I woke up at the same time Amy (Allan) did. I felt like it was supposed to be morning, but it wasn't. We both looked out the window, and it looked light outside. But when we looked to where there weren't curtains, it was dark. It was weird."
Moments later, Meyer and Teresa Ortiz got up. Allan heard a woman outside urging her to come out. The group went outside and investigated. The Ortiz women soon became sleepy and went inside; Allan and Meyer accompanied them to get a tape recorder. Meanwhile, Meyer was repeatedly trying to contact McManus and company upstairs.
"If any of them wake up, I'm supposed to get a hold of Frank (McManus). I had that walkie-talkie. It has a call button. I was pushing the call button, and you could hear the beep, beep, beep for every button I hit. You could hear everything upstairs, but no one woke up. ... It is odd because no matter what you do in that house, everything reverberates. ... In the dead of the night, when you take a footstep, you can hear it creek all around the house," says Meyer.
While McManus and company slept soundly, Allan and Meyer returned outside for more paranormal activity.
"The rest of the town is there--at least 100 people. They were really, really sad. People were lined up. They were screaming out stuff. It was overwhelming. When you are dealing with that much energy, it's extremely agitating," says Allan.
Allan and Meyer remained outside for one hour, recording Allan's experience. Upon returning inside, Meyer and Allan returned to their room with Meyer still trying to contact McManus--to no avail.
To his surprise, Allan then bolted out of the room.
"... All of a sudden she just jumps up and runs out the room. I hear her go up the stairs. So every horror movie I'd seen came back to me. I look up the stairs, and there she is, just standing there--deathly white, holding a stuffed animal. That is like the stereotypical horror film. I thought, OK, she's possessed. I don't know what to do. And the worst part is she's giggling, too. She's standing there, at the top of the stairs, in her nightgown, giggling. ... So we banged on the door (to McManus' room) thinking what are we going to do? ... I was nervous because she was being so loud. I thought the owner was going to come and yell at us. ... We went back down and started calling and calling. That cell phone was so loud," recalls Meyer.
Allan laughs at this recollection and says she was not possessed, only highly agitated.
Eventually, at 5:45 a.m., McManus answered his cell phone. He and the others did not hear any noise before that. This was highly unusual, since they have been easily awakened during other investigations.
Allan informed McManus that she needed to leave the scene, for fear of physical illness due to her experience. Allan and the other sensitives departed while McManus and crew prepared to go.
The investigation was over--at least phase one.
For several weeks after the investigation, Allan and company examined the materials gathered at the site. Trained eyes reviewed video, pictures, transcripts, temperature, radio frequency, compass and EMF readings. McManus conducted research to see if there are correlations between past history and what the sensitives recalled.
In the end, a scientific abstract will be prepared and published. As of press time, this has not been completed.
However, Allan has a preliminary conclusion as to what occurred at Noftsger Hill Inn.
"We'd have to make the loose conclusion that it was environmental factors that were influencing us--that our brains were being influenced by the environment. ... First, there is a lot of copper there. And the compass could not gauge; it wasn't settling at all. ... The EMF was fluctuating often. Based on the research we have, how the walks went and my experience, I'm leaning toward environmental factors.
"You can't discredit what the environment holds. There was a high electromagnetic field. The theory is high geo-magnetic fields cause hallucinations," says Allan.
She says scientists have performed laboratory tests where subjects exposed to high electromagnetic fields have seen things out of the corners of their eye, felt like they were being touched and heard whispers.
Dr. M.A. Persinger, of the Laurentian University (Sudbury, Ontario, Canada) Biology Department, conducted a series of experiments over several years that demonstrate the ability to induce the sensing of a presence both in and outside the laboratory. Allan says many parapsychology professionals have studied the results of these experiments.
Cindy Barber of the University of Colorado has studied Persinger's work. "Weak electromagnetic fields (about one MicroTesla) were applied across the temporoparietal lobes ... A significant increase occurred in the number of presence experiences in both normal and exceptional (who report many paranormal experiences in everyday life) subjects. ... The proposed model of how magnetic fields induce haunting experiences is that stimulation causes a drop in the temporal lobe melatonin and serotonin levels, which induces temporal lobe micro-seizures. During these micro-seizures, messages may be sent to the left hemispheric sense of self from the right hemispheric homolog. This results in the experience of a sentient presence. ... This case study further suggests the link between magnetic fields and paranormal experiences, and provides a potential explanation for modern haunted houses." (These remarks are contained on Web site dubinserver.colorado.edu/prj/cba2/index.html.)
Allan says she has to balance what she perceives with other variables that possibly could be occurring.
"If there are environmental factors, (scientists) have to say it's environmental. If there are none, they say there is something going on here we can't explain. It's possibly haunted," she says.
But Allan wants cohesion between the scientist and the sensitive within her and her associates.
"I am creating a methodology that takes into account all aspects of the field--the science, the sensitives and making it as sound and controlled as it can be in a field environment. ... We really want to know why us. What is this; where is it coming from; what is it all about. We want to take an active approach. Through science we can do that."
Allan, the scientist, must concede that the environment at Noftsger Hill Inn influenced her brain, although she has clear recollections of what she experienced.
But how does she explain why others did not see or hear anything unusual? Or why the sensitives detailed similar names and incidences?
"It is very interesting and requires further study. ... I'm not in this to say there's life after death. I am in this to understand what is going on with myself and my friends. To do this, we need to stick with science and maybe we'll find answers there."
Allan does have further ideas about this phenomenon but is not ready to disclose her findings at this time.
Therefore, the explanation of the happenings at Noftsger Hill Inn remains an unsolved mystery.