The Appalachians and the Rust Belt have a rich past, from prehistoric mound-building peoples thousands of years ago to the French-Indian and Civil wars, and, more recently, aggressive industrialization from 1880-1980, and now, de-industrialization and depopulation. That’s why the Ohio Valley is “a plethora of paranormal activity”, says Kristin Lee, a psychic medium and owner of the Bellaire Haunted House in Bellaire, Ohio.
Lee is one of a half-dozen speakers Steve Hummel has invited for his Haunted Relic Expo at the Archives of the Afterlife Museum (1600 Third Street, in an old schoolhouse) July 18, 1pm to 8pm. Steve and the Archives museum are featured prominently in our movie Moundsville now out on PBS. “We’re holding this in the summer, because school is out, and now quarantine is over, and at Halloween, I have a lot of other stuff going on,” says Hummel.
The 37-year-old was the first person I met in Moundsville, when I pulled off the highway in 2013 and saw a sign that said “Paranormal Hot Dog Stand.” It was Steve’s business, which I profiled on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, the first step toward making the movie in 2018.
You’ll find these atypical small businesses all over the Appalachians and Rust Belt (Moundsville sits on the border of the two). They’re started and run by people like Steve, who have stayed in towns that no longer offer plentiful employment. Steve is an artist, entrepreneur, tour guide, Christian preacher and demonologist, paranormal investigator, and all-around hustler, who has cobbled together a living from side gig and rental income.
A lot of them are in the ghost business, appropriate for a place where many dream of going back to the more prosperous past. From my WSJ story:
“We’re seeing a rebirth of 19th-century spiritualism,” says parapsychologist author Pamela Heath. “It happens in times of stress and anxiety.” A parallel trend is the boom in full-time haunted houses. America Haunts, a trade association, estimates that there are now 1,200 haunted houses in the U.S., with annual revenue of $500 million. Both numbers have doubled in the past 10 years.
The phenomenon is prevalent in the Rust Belt. “People in these depressed areas want to escape reality,” says America Haunts organizer Ben Armstrong, who co-owns a haunted house in an old Pepsi-Cola bottling plant in Atlanta. “One of the areas with the most haunted houses is around Detroit.”
Spiritual activity is known to feed off human energy and activity, says Hummel. “If there haven’t been a lot of people around, there’s less energy.” That’s why a comeback for humans after Covid lockdowns also means a comeback for ghosts.
Lee agrees but warns: “We don’t call them ghosts, that’s Scooby Doo. We’re talking about spirits and metaphysics.”
Without people to interact with, spirits are bursting with energy, she says. “It’s like when you charge a phone.”
The sadness and anxiety around the pandemic have been hard on psychic mediums, says Lee. “The grief and despair have been draining for somebody,” she says. “These jobs have been hard. I’ve needed a lot of self-care.”
Speakers for the Haunted Relic Expo include Kristen Lee, Dave Spinks, Tom Moore, Adam Bonnett, Aaron Shriver and Paranormal Quest.
Special guest collectors include Ed Bowden, Chris Sanders, Derin Tin, the Keystone State Paranormal Society, Outsider Paranormal and Zach Moore of History Haunts and Legends Tours.
Admission is $5.
VIP Ghost Hunt is $10.
Vending is $20, includes one table and two admissions.
Hummel is also organizing a “Gospel Trumpet Revival” on July 11, at 4pm, at the same location. The goal of the day’s program, which includes music and preaching, is to “promote spiritual healing, the formation of lasting friendships and the salvation of God’s people.”
You can contact Steve Hummel at 304-231-7134 or firstname.lastname@example.org
John W. Miller