Steve Hummel, 36, is a West Virginia artist, museum director, paranormal investigator and archivist, filmmaker and tour guide. His museum Archives of the Afterlife is one of Moundsville, WV’s top tourist attractions, with 292 reviews and 5 stars on Tripadvisor.
Steve’s also one of the stars of the Youtube channel Paranormal Quest which investigates the paranormal, from demonic dolls to haunted houses, around the region and has over 26,000 subscribers, and of the movie Moundsville (which you can rent for $3.99 here.)
Steve’s a small-town West Virginia guy with city street smarts who sees no contradiction between his lifelong Christian faith and ghost hunting. “Scripture talks about people with different kinds of spiritual gifts,” he says. “I think I have a gift for discerning people and energies, good or bad, and for feeling comfortable or uncomfortable based on the spirits around me.”
The objects in Steve’s collection carry with them the spirits of the people who used or otherwise interacted with them, like Catholic relics.
Moundsville is one of the best places in the U.S. to hunt for ghosts because of the long history of human settlement there, says Steve:
We believe that some of the energies and entities we discover are there because of Native Americans. The whole Ohio valley was pretty much burial ground. So you have these haunted relics that carry energies. We haven’t heard any non-English voices yet, but a lot of times people make the claim there’s something that doesn’t want them around. We’re thinking it could only possibly be Native Americans.
How do you meet a ghost? I ask.
It varies, depends on where you’re at, depends on a location, on which item you’re looking at. Get a voice recorder. That way you can document it. A phone could work, although I don’t think the microphone is as good as a high-end Sony digital recorder. Start out by asking questions: What’s your name? What year is it for you? Are you male or female? A proximity meter can help, too.
Steve was the first person I met in Moundsville, standing behind the counter of a store on Jefferson Ave. advertised as a “paranormal hot dog stand.” It sold franks in one room and in another carried a collection of spooky items. Steve had owned a gym, too, and was trying to improve business at his diner, a story I told in the Wall Street Journal in 2013.
His new museum is the Archives, featured in our film and housed in an old Moundsville school building, which he says “provides good spirits”.
Steve has deep roots in the town, being a descendant of its 18th century founder, and his story reflects the fortunes of the Rust Belt. He decided to stay in Moundsville, despite the dwindling opportunities following the closure of factories in the Ohio Valley in the 1970s and 1980s. “If it weren’t for friend and family, I might consider a different location, but this is where I’m from,” he says.
Where once his ancestors could count on factory jobs, Steve is a hustling entrepreneur who has to eat and kill his own game. It’s not the easiest life: Steve, divorced and single, lives on only a $1,000 or so a month. He doesn’t have health insurance.
He stays with his grandparents and takes care of them, renting out a house he still owns for $475 a month. His Archives of the Afterlife, in an old school building, charges $3 per visit. It gets 100 to 200 visits a month. “If I could do anything, it would be to expand tourism in this town,” he says. “Tourism and sales, that’s what I know how to do.” He also sells acrylic paintings. (Call or text Steve on 1-304-231-7134 if you’re interested in buying one.)
Another admirable thing about Steve is that he is committed to developing his skills. This year, he earned a degree in spiritual warfare and demonology from the Omega Bible Institute in Monroe, LA. That took six months and cost $750.
It doesn’t matter how hard life has become in a small West Virginia town. Steve is always hustling. That takes a special kind of spirit.
John W. Miller