They're not alone: Ghost appearances keep life interesting for local family
By Kathy Chaffin
Five people live in Kim and Steve Etters' house on Kerr Street ó and, they believe ó at least that many ghosts.
Three have made their presence known enough times to earn names: Princess, Sweaty Boy and Mr. Atwell, the name of the man who built the house.
Princess is described by the Etters children ó 20-year-old KatiEarl, 16-year-old Casiann and 14-year-old Chase ó and a family friend as being a little girl with no eyes and long ringlets who is always wearing a long white Victorian gown and white satin slippers.
Sweaty Boy, according to several eyewitness accounts, has eyes, but his neck and head appear to be wet. He's usually seen wearing overalls and a red shirt.
Mr. Atwell, a man of small stature, has brown hair and is wearing dress pants, a shirt and a vest.
The first sighting happened in the fall of 2001, a year after the Etters moved into the 6,000-square-foot, three-story house. It happened in the downstairs formal sitting room after Kim had brought some tiles from an upstairs fireplace to use around a fireplace there.
"I saw a shadow walk by the room," she says. Thinking it was her daughter, KatiEarl, she asked her a question, getting no response.
"KatiEarl, if I'm going to talk to you," Kim says she said, "you better talk back when I ask you a question."
KatiEarl was in another part of the house.
One weekend in September 2002, Kim's sister brought her three sons ó ages 3, 5 and 8 ó to stay with them for a few days. Before her nephews left to return home, Kim says the 5-year-old asked her, "Are the cops going to come take that dead body out of Chase's closet?"
"It was sort of a random question," she says. "I didn't know where that came from."
The following Tuesday, Kim, an assistant principal at China Grove Elementary School, says she and the children heard a "thump, thump, thump, boom, boom, glass-breaking noise."
Casiann says she was on the third floor and ran downstairs, meeting KatiEarl running up from the first floor. They found what they believe was the cause of that noise in KatiEarl's second-floor bedroom: a picture of a ballerina, the glass broken, lying in the middle of the floor with ballet trophies sitting up around it in a circle.
KatiEarl's soccer trophies, however, were on the other side of the room, she says, most of them turned on their sides.
Sitting on KatiEarl's bed, Casiann recalls, was the little girl who they would name Princess.
"KatiEarl and I screamed bloody murder and ran down the stairs," she says.
By the time they found Kim downstairs, she says they were hysterical. When a family friend offered to accompany the girls to KatiEarl's bedroom 10 minutes later, she also saw Princess.
Kim says she said, "Girls, get out of this room now."
In the meantime, Steve, a music professor at Catawba College, was getting ready to lead his first Community Band rehearsal when his family came running into his office.
"The kids are crying," he recalls. "Kim's saying, 'I want to move. I'm not spending one more night in that house.'"
Though that was the most dramatic paranormal activity, the Etters family and their guests continued to see Princess, Sweaty Boy and Mr. Atwell, as well as other ghosts, and hear unexplained noises such as footsteps and tapping. At one point, Kim says KatiEarl said, "Mom, I can't handle the high-pitched noise."
Kim says she once called a minister and told him about the ghosts.
"He said, 'Kim, this is not my league,'" she recalls. "'You may need to call a priest.' "The Etters also began to notice pennies being moved and materializing all over the house, and their family and friends reported finding unexplained pennies in their vehicles after visiting.
Word that the house was haunted spread among friends in Salisbury, including Katie Scarvey, LifeStyle editor at the Post.
That's why when Joe Wright of Paranormal Scene Investigators (PSI) of Rutherford County contacted Scarvey about setting up an investigation in a historic Salisbury home at no cost to the owners, she offered to contact the Etters family to see if they were interested.
Eager to find out more about the strange occurrences in their home, they contacted Wright.
After setting Saturday, March 29, as the date, Wright asked the Etters family to turn off their heat so ghosts would be forced to manifest close to the energy of team members and their equipment and would ultimately be more visible in the videos and photography. Wright and four PSI team members, including his wife, Jo, and their son, Chris, arrived around 5 p.m. and spent more than six hours in the house.
Wright had already talked with the Etters family about the sightings and occurrences and asked team genealogist/historian Kim Woods to research the house's history and its previous residents.
He and four team members spent another hour interviewing family members again upon arrival, after which Steve took Joe and cameraman David Harrill to visit the nearby Old English Cemetery, where former residents of the house are buried.
Upon returning to the house, the PSI team unloaded thousands of dollars' worth of equipment, including 14 video cameras and numerous audio recorders, which they placed in strategic locations on all three floors.
The Etters children left to spend the night with friends while Kim and Steve stayed behind, supplying team members with tea and homemade cookies, then Krispy Kreme doughnuts and coffee.
Once the equipment was set up, Joe, David and Chris, who handles the electricity for the team, walked through the house every hour or so with electromagnetic field detectors and digital air thermometers to detect any changes that might indicate the presence of ghosts while Jo and Kim watched on computer screens showing multi-camera views.
As the hours passed and the temperature dropped ó the low that night dipped way into the 40s ó the team continued the routine.
After encountering some unexplained smells, an unusual vomiting episode by the Etters' cat, Angel, and a close call when Jo almost fell down the stairs, the PSI team packed up after 1 a.m. to go study their tapes.
Returning a few weeks later to go over their findings, Wright played tapes of two definite Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVPs) and several other EVPs that are still under review. The first occurred when PSI member Kim Woods asked, "Are you unhappy that we're here?"
The response was "Uh-huh," Wright says, and appeared to be the voice of a small child.
A "yes" whisper, in what sounded like a little boy's voice, could also be heard after Casiann recalled seeing a boy she thought was her brother when she was outside the house looking in a front downstairs window.
Also, several photographs taken during the investigation showed orbs, unexplained circles of light.
Based on the voices and other findings, including pennies that materialized during the investigation, Wright ruled there was enough evidence to verify "an intelligent haunting" and other paranormal activity in the Etters' home.
Steve says he and his family were pleased with the findings.
"It's always nice to have confirmation of what you believe is happening," he says, "so people don't think you're crazy or you don't think you're crazy yourself."
The scientific way the PSI team went about the investigation was especially interesting, he says. "They try to debunk sounds and images and when there's no other plausible explanation, their only conclusion is it's paranormal."
Since then, Steve says the paranormal activity has continued in their home.
"We're still finding pennies," he says, "and we're still seeing things more peripherally than anything else up on the third floor. And the kids still hear sounds."
After all this time, though, the paranormal activity at the Etters home has become, well, almost normal.
For more information on the Etters investigation, log onto the PSI Web site at paranormalsceneinvestigators.com.
Sarah Hall contributed to this story.Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.