BOLIVAR, TN (WMC) - There is an abandoned jail built on top of a graveyard in Bolivar, Tennessee, where you and your friends can test your hands at being paranormal investigators.
EPIC Haunted Tours rents out the jail for anyone brave and curious enough to look into reports of hauntings at The Old County Jail in Bolivar.
A few members of the WMC Action News 5 team took up the challenge and joined the EPIC experts to investigate.
Before we ever broke out an EMF detector, digital voice recorder, or night vision camera, we met Ken Savage of The Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities (APTA).
Since paranormal investigations are designed to try and communicate with people who lived in the past, any true ghost hunter must seek to learn about the history of the area in question before beginning any investigation.
And if you want to learn about the history of Bolivar, Savage is the man to talk with. He's the regional vice president of APTA, and his family has lived in Bolivar for generations.
Savage explained how Bolivar traced its roots back to 1818. Although, then it was known as Hatchie Town, because it sat on the banks of the Big Hatchie River.
The town relocated because of the continued rising water of the river. In 1825, it was renamed Bolivar after the South American revolutionary leader Simon Bolivar.
One of the earliest settlers in Bolivar was John Houston Bills. The Pillars is a home that belonged to the Bills family for 140 years. The Pillars is now a museum that contains most of the original furnishings and family artifacts.
The home is filled with history that emphasizes the importance of Bolivar and it details the way life was in the first century of our country.
Savage gives tours of The Pillars as well as The Little Courthouse, where the town's first court clerk, Colonel Thomas Hardeman, worked and where Davy Crockett once delivered a speech.
The Pillars, The Little Courthouse, and many other historic locations in Bolivar are open to the public for tours throughout the year. The Pillars and The Little Courthouse are also available for rent through EPIC Haunted Tours for those interested in exploring the paranormal contained within those buildings as well.
After sharing the history of Bolivar, EPIC led WMC Action News 5 through a tour of the old jail.
The jail was built in 1958 and it served as the Hardeman County Jail until 2010.
In that time, the jail housed male and female inmates, it had solitary confinement cells, and it even served as the home of some of the county's sheriffs.
If staying in an abandoned jail isn't creepy enough, you should also know the jail sits over top of several graves.
Just outside the jail there are several headstones. Old land-use maps reveal the jail was built over part of the cemetery, and it's believed that the bodies were not properly relocated before the jail's construction.
EPIC has done several investigations inside the jail. They have recorded unexplained evidence through several different devices, including voice recorders and digital cameras.
The most active spirits in the jail include a black figure walking through the booking area, a sheriff thought to have died while living in the building, an inmate who killed himself in one of the holding cells (now called the suicide rooms), and a woman crying in the female cells.
Throughout the night, WMC Action News 5 crews had possible encounters with the sheriff, the inmate who killed himself, and a few other disgruntled spirits.
EPIC had cameras set up throughout the jail. A team member would constantly monitor the cameras during investigations.
Decked out with EMF (electromagnetic field) recorders, cameras, and audio amplifiers, WMC Action News 5 crews and EPIC team members went through the jail seeking connections with the other side.
At multiple times, devices alerted us to the potential presence of something otherworldly.
At the sheriff's door, audio devices picked up a voice responding to our questions of 'Who was with us' and 'What role you served in the jail,' with responses of 'Jimmy' and 'police.' There were two sheriffs named Jimmy, one of whom lived and died in the jail.
In one of the main cell blocks, we had a nearly 20 minute conversation with a man's voice who ultimately asked us to go get him a chocolate milkshake (Yes, we tried. But, Bolivar doesn't have any places that sell milkshakes at midnight).
There were also other times when we thought we heard cries or screams, a voice told us to 'run,' our EMF detectors went off, and we felt cold spots.
Overall, it was a fairly active night where we encountered a descent number of things we could not explain.
However, even the experts will tell you: unexplained evidence does not necessarily mean you've definitively caught a spirit. EPIC team members said it's important to try to debunk each and every experience. If you refuse to try and debunk or explain what you experienced, you're not really investigating.
After each session, each member of the team would debrief on camera to talk about what they saw, felt, and heard. We also would go back to the areas where we had experiences and do our best to debunk what happened. We tried to recreate noises we heard or blips we saw on our EMF detectors.
EPIC is still comparing the debrief videos and the recorded evidence to evaluate what, if anything, remains unexplained.
The bottom line: investigating the paranormal takes a lot more time and energy than watching someone do it on television. However, it's an experience skeptics and believers alike will enjoy.