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The Turlock Merchantile

Turlock, CA

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Paranormal investigation heats up at Mercantile

By Kristina Hacker

POSTED:   October 29, 2010 8:03 p.m.

The Journal accompanied American Paranormal Investigations on their trip to the Turlock Mercantile in September 2008. The following is the story published about that investigation.

Over the decades the Turlock Mercantile, a downtown landmark since 1902, has changed ownership and housed various businesses from the original dry goods store to professional offices to the mix of retail stores that are there today. During the building’s century of history, it has gone from a wooden structure to being the brick building of today. The upstairs has been utilized as both a boarding house and business offices at different times.

Hundreds of people in the past century have carried out their life’s work at the Mercantile and some even called it home.

It is no wonder considering the building’s rich history, that some of the Mercantile’s newest tenants are convinced that the old ones have never left.

Stories of strange sounds being heard at night and even the sight of ghostly apparitions have surrounded the downtown landmark since the 1970s.

“Initially, I didn’t think much of the stories,” said Trina Walley, director of the Turlock Downtown Property Owners’ Association and Mercantile tenant. “But as I started to hear more stories and several of the experiences matched with other people’s, I started getting curious.”

A few months ago, Walley, along with former co-workers Annette Buck and Errol Schmall, launched their own investigation. The amateur “ghost hunters” left a tape recorder running inside an upstairs conference room hoping to document the weird noises that Mercantile workers had reported hearing.

Walley and her group got more than they bargained for when rattling noises began and the front door alarm went off right in front them. Even more spooky were the sounds of footsteps and a six-digit phone number being dialed the recorder picked up and the unexplained ending of the tape, even though the reels were still turning.

The group didn’t quite know what to make of their findings, so when the opportunity arose to have a professional “ghost hunting” team take a look, they readily agreed.

American Paranormal Investigations, a non-profit group out of Sacramento, began their look into the happenings at 200 West Main St. with a preliminary investigation on Aug. 30, 2008. The Turlock Journal was invited to observe the team’s formal investigation of the building that began on a warmer than usual evening earlier this month. Along with lead investigators and API co-founders, David Bender and Ann Overhiser, eight others brought their paranormal expertise to the investigation.

The night’s work began with the placement of digital video recorders in the main level of the building and in the hallway of offices upstairs. A motion sensor was also placed next to the iron-wrought gate that workers had previously heard rattling on their own.

Throughout the night investigators used digital cameras to capture still shots.

“We take pictures that cover every corner of every room we have access to,” said Overhiser. “Then we look for any anomalies.”

Photographic anomalies are then cross-matched with any personal experiences.

“A picture by itself doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Overhiser said.

While the video recorders, cameras and audio recorders were being set up throughout the Mercantile building, debunking specialists Brad Smith and Gary McKinney began their investigation. The two searched the entire structure noting air conditioning vents, heat sources, possible trespasser access and electrical wiring. They jumped up and down on different parts of the floor looking for ripple reactions from the movement. They found that if the side door in the rear of the main building was jiggled, the windows in the very front of the building shook as if an earthquake had hit.

An hour and a half into the investigation, the team’s sensitives arrived. The sensitives’ job was to relate any feelings they had about paranormal activity. The sensitives, Marcie Grover and Jason Lindo, were given no information about the history of the Turlock Mercantile or paranormal experiences people had reported. They were only given the address of the building.

Both Grover and Lindo were relieved to see the long hallway with many doors on the Mercantile’s second story. They each said they had gotten an image of the building’s hallway while waiting at Starbucks for their investigation to begin.

Grover and Lindo then split up, each wandering in a different part of the building while another investigator wrote down everything they said. Grover began her investigation upstairs. She related seeing images of a 1930s office worker and a Korean War veteran that she said worked as a janitor in the building at one time.

When Lindo began his look into the upstairs, he said he heard people from different decades speaking in many languages. He suggested that what he was hearing was from when the building was used as a boarding house, as he could also hear children crying and being comforted by women. Lindo also said he picked up on the dedicated office worker and the war veteran.

Later in the evening, Bender did a pendulum session in the center of the main floor of the building. During the session he and Walley asked questions of any spirits that may be hanging around, particularly of one of the building’s founders, Horace Crane. According to Bender, “yes” answers were indicated with a circling motion of the pendulum, with the pendulum swinging back and forth for a “no” answer.

When asked if the spirit rattling the gates and making noises was Crane, a “yes” answer appeared to be given.

Before long it was far past midnight and the API team packed up their equipment and headed home to review all of the evidence they had collected. After two weeks of listening to the more than six hours of audio information, reviewing all photographic images taken by the 10 investigators and staring at video images of the entire night, API had their initial findings.

The team captured audio recordings of bumps that they concluded had no natural source and seemed to occur in response to questions asked of Horace Crane. They also captured what they call “electronic voice phenomena” of a female voice saying “Shelby” immediately after an investigator asked if there was a Shirley here.

A photograph of an orb was also captured near the side rear door of the main building. That particular photo was taken after investigators stated hearing a rattling sound in the area and felt a cold spot.

“Overall, with all the evidence, with all the personal experiences and auditory events throughout the night...I think (the Mercantile Building) is an active location,” Overhiser said. “Horace Crane is a prominent spirit there, among others.”

“The findings definitely match the stories to help explain what’s going on and why,” Walley said. “My favorite part is the association with Horace Crane and how he’s still playing pranks for a good laugh. I mean, who doesn’t like to do that every once in awhile?”

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

American Paranormal Investigations’ Ann Overhiser snaps digital camera shots of the Turlock Mercantile Building during a September 2008 investigation.

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