Ghostly tales raise interest in gallery

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 13, 2011

SALISBURY — By day, the house at 1031 Highland Ave. will be an art gallery.
By night — and by reservation — the house will offer tours into the unknown.
The anecdotal evidence just became too much for David Harrison to ignore.
“Maybe I’m a landlord to a paranormal house,” he told himself after hearing a series of tenants over the past 18 years speak of weird happenings at his rental property near Rowan Regional Medical Center.
One night, a renter came home late from work when the rest of house was sleeping, and he met an older woman at the bottom of the stairs who he assumed was a house guest.
Upstairs, he woke his sleeping wife to ask her who the woman was. There was no house guest, the wife told him — and no more evidence of the woman.
Other tenants also reported seeing the apparition of an older lady, strange whispers at night about fire, the appearance of black clouds in a hallway and children running up and down the narrow stairs.
Harrison recently spoke to a young pizza delivery man who reminded Harrison he once lived in the rental house as a youngster. He told Harrison that after he left the Highland Avenue address, he was constantly followed by black smoke, causing him considerable distress and prompting his parents to seek out a priest for an exorcism of sorts.
What bothered — or should we say, intrigued — Harrison about all the stories was that none of the tenants knew each other, yet they all described similar phenomena.
“Something is in this house,” Harrison says.
He is even more persuaded after asking James Milbee, Jennifer Mayes and Danny Little of Carolina Association of Paranormal Studies to conduct their own investigation.
“I think it’s a very active house,” Milbee says after three separate investigations.
“Very,” Little adds.
So Harrison, owner of Harrison’s Florist, is doing what any red-blooded American businessman would do. He’s going to offer Friday and Saturday night paranormal tours through 1031 Highland Ave. at $15 a head.
During the day, the house will be an art gallery with works of local artists such as Betty Sedberry, Wayne Wrights, Curtis Waller, Glenn Yost and Clyde. The gallery will be open from noon to 6 a.m. Tuesday-Saturday, with a grand opening June 25.
Harrison credits Sedberry for helping him structure the gallery rooms.
The whole enterprise will tie in perfectly, Harrison says, with tourism, history and downtown ghost tours in Salisbury.
“My entire life, I’ve always wanted a tourist attraction,” he adds.
The name of his new enterprise: Highland Avenue Art Gallery and More.
Harrison already has affixed signs in the downstairs gallery offering people the chance to get married in a paranormal home, or receive discounts on flowers if they take a tour, which will last from 8:30-10 p.m.
Formed two years ago, CAPS also will have an office upstairs. It has put together a DVD of what it found during its three investigations at the Highland Avenue house. Throughout the short video are sounds identified as whispers, humming, doors opening or closing and movements, such as someone walking or going up and down stairs.
There are times the investigators made out what the ghosts were saying.
They interpret some of the phrases as “There’s a fire,” “It’s over there by the window,” Right here,” “Over here,” “My eyes are having a real hard time looking up” and “You shouldn’t have done that.”
From a camera set up at the top of the stairs, they also recorded a transparent, liquid-like figure moving quickly from the bathroom toward the kitchen, where it turned on a black light (which Milbee says had not been working).
The most intriguing noises came when the team had walked outside, closing the door behind them but leaving the recording equipment turned on. That’s when the recorders picked up the most distinctive sounds of someone walking around the gallery and going up the stairs.
Mayes says there’s nothing evil about the paranormal activity in the house.
“It’s all about the fire and trying to communicate with us,” she says.
Now part of a city neighborhood, the property dates back to 1910 and was once a country farmhouse, Harrison says. He believes strongly there was a fire in the house’s early history and that the fire has some connection to the paranormal activity.
He has documentation on the house back to only 1950 and says there were no fires during that period. But when he tore down a damaged drop ceiling in one of the rental house’s room downstairs, Harrison exposed charred boards of the original ceiling.
Upstairs, he also can show visitors blackened rafters on each side of the house.
Milbee, Mayes and Little say they go into their paranormal investigations with a highly critical eye, knowing a lot of things can be explained naturally. Their preliminary work often involves making sure sounds people report hearing aren’t things such as pipes knocking or houses settling.
When they’re in doubt about any of the evidence collected, they leave it out.
They rely on electromagnetic frequency detection meters to measure for abnormal modulations in electricity. They also have infrared cameras, digital recorders and computer software to help with their interpretations of electronic voice phenomena.
Much of their work — CAPS doesn’t charge for its investigations — is about making people feel better or helping paranormals move on, Mayes says.
CAPS offers a website ( and even has T-shirts for sale. When they aren’t investigating paranormal activity, Milbee and Mayes work at Tiger World.
Milbee says the investigators have found paranormal activity in about 90 percent of the places they visited so far.
Harrison is going the “art gallery and more” route with his property because he had tired of getting the house ready for new tenants and art galleries were one of the permitted uses in his medically zoned district.
The nighttime Highland Avenue house tours will be limited to 10 people because of occupancy requirements, Harrison says.
He also will ask visitors to sign a release so he is not held accountable for loss or damage to personal property or emotional stress that occurs “due to a paranormal experience.”
Harrison has had his own unexplained episode at 1031 Highland Ave.
He was on the front outside roof over the porch one night, cleaning windows, when he reached back into the house for his bottle of Windex.
It wasn’t there.
Harrison went inside, checking everywhere in the empty house for the glass cleaner, without success. Had he taken it outside with him?
Harrison checked the gutters and the ground below where he had been on the roof.
To this day, Harrison still hasn’t found his Windex, which can only mean one thing:
These ghosts do windows.
To schedule a tour of the Highland Avenue house, contact 704-636-8134.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or