Bedford Paranormal
Sweet Briar Investigation

Paranormal Investigation at Sweet Briar College

We were honored to be the first team allowed to investigate Sweet Briar. After reviewing the interview videos I had felt that we needed to consider three types of possible paranormal activity on the campus.

The first type was often portrayed as playful, mischievous, or benign. These stories sometimes included having something moved, or having someone seeing a small girl. These encounters might have initially startled someone, but turned out to be harmless. The small girl at the Art Barn or the floating lights in the horse pasture would be examples of this type. I had read many stories on the internet about harmless pranks by the ghost of a girl that many felt was Daisy. I had to agree with some of the students though that had a theory that the small girl that is sometimes seem in Victorian clothing is probably not Daisy. Daisy passed away when she was an older teen while the small girl is said to look much younger. Who could this young girl be and what does she need or want?

The second type seemed to be more on the lines of a residual where the ghost or entity appears to be reenacting an event while it seems to be unaware of who is around them. The best example of this type is the girl that passed away in a dorm bathroom many years ago and occasionally acts out her end. We would not ask to investigate this because the semester had started and we did not want to bother the students in any way.

The third is the one that seemed to need careful consideration and was the only one that seemed to bother the students. While we were told that it would never directly interact with someone it would follow students and watch them. It was clearly aware of them and made all the students that I had talked to uncomfortable. I had never read anywhere about this entity some of the students called “Top Hat” and some called Lucian. One student followed up her interview a few days later with an email to me warning me about Lucian. She felt as if he was possibly dangerous and that we should not go looking for him. To be honest when I had heard my first story about Top Hat and how he watched the students from darkened areas such as bushes I was concerned that maybe some person was stalking the students. However as I listened to more stories about him I became more convinced that he was what they believed him to be.

Before we started the investigation Joe, Brooke, and I met at a local restaurant called the Briar Patch for dinner and to go over the plan for that night. The food was great and our spirits were high. We had waited a long time for this opportunity at Sweet Briar.  We had brought along two camcorders. One was set up for night vision while the other that was not was to be used outside at the graveyard since we respected the law concerning being  in a cemetery after dusk. We also had our infrared camera system, two voice recorders, and a digital camera.

We started out by checking in with security. Officer Cash was very helpful and asked us to meet him at the Museum where we could set up out infrared camera system.

The Museum

Officer Cash unlocked the museum for us and talked to us as we set up the four camera system and the laptop that they feed into. These cameras were rated to see for 25 feet in total darkness so we felt as if they would have no problem covering the hallways and rooms. We placed the first camera just inside the hallway on your left as you enter the building looking down the hall. The second would be placed as that hall turned to the right and the other two in the far room. We also placed a voice recorder near the second camera. We were interested in the museum because of reports that a music box would occasionally play, sounds would come from Daisy’s harp, and that footsteps were sometimes heard. Also one student who had worked at the museum told us that she had once seen Indiana in the back part of the museum. With so many of Daisy’s and Indiana’s personal possessions here there might be a chance of one of them making an appearance. Once everything was in place and running, we left the building so that Officer Cash could lock it up.

Sweet Briar House

Sweet Briar House is a residence so we did not ask to investigate the inside. However we were curious about a place in the yard where Daisy and her Mother Indiana were seen in 1927 by two faculty members. There had been a fire in the home where the college President and a few faculty members lived. As darkness fell a faculty member saw the pair walk out of a large circle of boxwoods and into the home. Later that same evening another member of the faculty saw Daisy and Indiana come out of the house and walk back into the same planting of boxwoods.

We parked at the Alumni Building and walked over to the circle of large boxwoods. Brooke and I took some photos while Joe walked throughout the circle trying to capture EVPs.

Sweet Briar House is an impressive home. We have been told that Indiana has been seen on the porch protecting her home against her brother Lucian. Lucian or “Top Hat” has never been seen near the home due to her diligence. I would hope that at some point brother and sister could let go of the past and coexist, but that doesn’t seem to be the case yet. It is good to know that Mother and daughter were seen walking together in 1927, reunited after many years of Indiana grieving. After Joe had finished his EVP session we left for Monument Hill.

Monument Hill

We took the short drive up to Monument Hill to take some photos, video, and conduct a short EVP session. After we exited the vehicle I thanked the family for allowing us to be there and for helping so many people gain an education. The view of the campus from this site was beautiful and we stood silently for a few moments taking it all in. Then we walked through the iron gate and into the family cemetery. It was very quiet as we took some photos and read the markers. We then decided to start the EVP session. About halfway through the session you can hear the three of us discussing an odd smell that was suddenly there. We each tried to put forth a guess as to what it was but couldn’t place it. After a minute or so it was gone. We continued on with the EVP session. After another ten minutes we again paid our respects to the family and left the cemetery.

Slave Cemetery

The slave cemetery has an understandably sad feeling in it. To be forcibly separated from family and having to face a life of hard work with no personal gain must have been such a heavy burden. The trail to it had impressive scenery, but as we drew close to it we were reminded of the life these people led. We stopped to read a plaque the college had placed to honor the dead and then we respectfully thanked those buried at the site for allowing us to be there. It was a fairly open area surrounded by woods with an occasional tree within it. We picked out some of the more obvious graves containing a simple head stone and foot stone. None had any writing or carving. We then began an EVP session as we slowly walked through the open area. We noted many wooden stakes that had numbers on them throughout the cemetery where someone had mapped the graves. We finished the session and took some photos. As we walked back down the hill and past the lake I looked across the hill and wondered who had been there in the past and if anyone was still around. For further information on this and other slave cemeteries, Sweet Briar offers an informative brochure titled Slave Cemeteries and Mortuary Traditions.

Babcock Theater

From the front of the Theater you can see Sweet Briar House. I was interested in the Theater mainly because this is one of the places where Top Hat or Lucian is more commonly seen. While it was still a little light I showed Joe and Brooke where a student had seen him outside near the building. We also talked about some of the other stories associated with the building such as misplaced or moved items. We hesitated in front of the building to take a few photos outside. We started in and placed the three cases that contain the bulk of our equipment in the lobby. I was curious to see if anything would be moved while we were in other parts of the Theater. Joe and I walked slowly down the aisles to the stage area, taking a few photos on the way. Just as we reached the stage Brooke signaled to us to return to where she was sitting near the top row of seats. When we reached her she told us she had heard some noises from the lobby. We quietly entered the lobby in the general direction that she had indicated. We couldn’t hear anything so I walked to the left and Joe to the right. As I approached the stairway I could hear a mechanical type of clicking coming from somewhere near the top of the stairs. I walked back and asked Brooke if this was what she had heard, but she said no. We stood around for a few more minutes and heard nothing so Joe and I decided to explore the second floor. We walked up the flight of stairs I had approached a few minutes before and found the second floor in darkness. I switched the camcorder over to night vision and continued on. Straight ahead were a couple of offices so we turned left, our only other option. The large room we entered resembled a practice room with a line of folding chairs. Joe took several photos as we passed through it. We exited the room and found another office and the door to the control room. We stayed out of both out of respect and took a flight of stairs back to the main level and then to a lower level where we entered a “smoking room” Finding nothing unusual we left the smoking room and entered the Men’s room which gives you access to the Music dept though another door. Here we found practice rooms

 

 

with pianos in them for the students. We decided to conduct an EVP session in this hallway. After about ten minutes we went back up to the main level by a flight of stairs by a staircase at the end of the hall. This floor had more offices and what appeared to be a chorus room with three rows of ascending chairs and a piano. We conducted another short EVP session in this room before heading back to the lobby. We took a water break and decided to check out the stage area. We walked up onto the stage and turned left to find ourselves in a break room or lounge called the Lee room. We thought it would be a good place to try and collect more EVPs so we had a short session.  From here we went behind the stage and down some stairs at the far end of the building. This took us to some dressing rooms and a set storage area. We had decided to keep our recorders on while we were in the theater and hoped to catch a short conversation or an unusual sound. We quietly explored the floor starting with the storage area and then the dressing room area. As we walked through the Men’s dressing room I thought I had heard a voice in front of us in the hallway. We stood quietly for a few moments but we didn’t hear anything else. We left this floor and returned to the stage area. We then went upstairs by a staircase on the other side of the Lee room. We found a meeting room and more offices so we decided to return to the main floor.

We took another water break with Joe sitting in the upper row of seats while I was in the Lobby. We were resting, but also listening. I heard an unusual noise from the area where there was a small room that might be used for ticket sales. It sounded just like what Brooke had described earlier. I walked over to the area and found the thumping coming from two large pipes that went from the floor to the ceiling. I walked over to Joe and told him I had found the noise source and that it was mechanical. He looked at it and agreed. We turned to look into the small room and saw a rosary hanging in it. Did a visitor lose it or was it kept here by someone working here? I noted that none of the equipment left in the lobby had been moved during our travels in other parts of the theater.

We decided to head outside and have an EVP session where Lucian had been sighted. We exited out the front doors and turned left. As we walked I noticed how quiet the campus was even though the students had moved in that day. The only sound came from a bell tolling. We turned left again and walked down through the grass towards an alcove type of area. It was fairly large with many foundation plantings and some trees. It was also surrounded on three sides by the building. This was the area that Top Hat had retreated to when the student had seen him. We had brought flashlight but kept them off most of the time. We took photos and some video as we slowly walked to covered the whole area. We then stood quietly for a few minutes before starting to walk back towards the parking lot. I had only taken a few steps when I felt something hit the back of my left hand. It didn’t hurt but I thought it was odd. I wasn’t near any plants or bushes so I knew I hadn’t brushed up against anything I told Joe what had happened and turned on my light to look around. I found a twig or branch about the diameter of my pinky finger at my feet. I thought someone might be playing with us so Joe and I looked through all of the foundation plantings but found nothing. We stood quietly for a few minutes before heading back to the front lobby. Once there we packed everything up and headed for the library.

Library

The library was closed, but Officer Cash was good enough to open it up for us. We had heard several stories about the Browsing Room in the library. It’s a beautiful room on the main floor with several overstuffed chairs and sofas. A few students and a faculty member had told us of how a lamp in this room would sometime flicker, turning on and off. The first student to tell me about this assured me before I could even ask that yes she had checked the cord and unplugged it to make it stop. It did for a few minutes and then she said it continued for a little while longer. Other students and another faculty member had told us stories about the Stacks area. The Stacks are several lower floors where the shelves go from floor to ceiling. We had been told how books had moved be themselves on these floors.  Joe and I walked through the darkened main floor from the check out desk towards the Browsing Room. There was enough light to make out the many portraits lining the walls high above us as we walked. We entered the Browsing Room and both of us compared it to walking into a refrigerator. We set up a voice recorder on a coffee table. This was to run during an EVP session and as we explored the lower levels of the stacks that we had heard so much about.  At this point we realized that we had left something at the Theater so Joe left to retrieve it while I waited in the large darkened room watched over by so many portraits. I looked at them as I walked around and wondered who each was and what part they had played in the College’s history. Once Joe had returned we went back to Browsing room and had a lengthy EVP session there before heading down to the Stacks. The first thing we noticed was while the main floor and the one above it were dark; the Stacks were all brightly lit. We had been told that those working here felt more comfortable this way. We slowly made our way down through the different levels sometimes stopping for several minutes to listen as we tried to cover all areas of the floors. We then made our way back up to the main floor and then to the stairway that led to the floor above it. This floor had a row of tables and a large evergreen tree.

We then noticed that the agreed time to leave had arrived so we packed everything up and returned to the Security office. Once there an officer agreed to meet us at the museum so that we could retrieve our four camera system and voice recorder. We talked to him about the college in general and he told us a story of how one night the alarms for the museum had gone off as if there was an intruder present. Security was sent to investigate and as one guard approached the building they could see the shadow of a person moving around inside. However, when the museum was unlocked and searched no one was to be found. We put the cameras and laptop away and headed out the door. As I reached it I stopped to look back thinking about what an interesting history this campus had.

 

 

 

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