Events spur AF base to call in ‘Ghost Hunters’

By LISA BURGESS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 26, 2008

ARLINGTON, Va. — Rachel Castle stared at the woman standing behind her office door on a freezing cold December night.

“She reminded me of the way my grandmother would look when she used to go to work,” said Castle, public affairs specialist for the base.

“She wasn’t fat, not thin, just average weight. She had on a white shirt with a ruffle or bow hanging down the neck, and a blue polyester vest or dress.”

The problem was, the woman wasn’t supposed to be there, in an empty office that Castle had just locked up for the night.

And there was something else wrong. “She was three-dimensional, but the best way I can describe it, was she looked like a mannequin,” Castle said. “Almost waxy. It was just so weird. It scared me. I’ve never seen anyone like that.”

Castle, 30, who had slipped behind the wheel of her car in the abandoned parking lot of Building 70 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, could not take her eyes off the woman.

“I must have stared at her for at least five seconds,” Castle said. “I kept thinking, ‘Am I really seeing this?’ My brain kept trying to process it.”

Finally, terrified by the immobile figure, Castle drove away.

Not ‘making things up’

It was just one more sighting in the long, haunted history of “Wright-Patt.”

Over the years, people of all ranks and ages have reported unusual activities on the base: lights, televisions and computers turning themselves on and off; voices whispering their names; people appearing where no one should be.

Castle’s Building 70 is known mostly for its unexplained footsteps, whispers and murmurs.

Castle told of a woman who asked to be identified only by her first name, Val, and who doesn’t believe in ghosts.

One day, Val “was making fun” of Wright-Patt’s alleged haunting, Castle said.

Soon afterward, Val “heard someone call out, ‘Hey, Valerie!’ And no one ever calls her that. They all call her Val,” Castle said.

Immediately afterward, Val’s printer started — but what it spit out was material from a computer in another office that wasn’t physically networked into the machine.

As Val walked past the office television she had just turned off, “it turned back on,” Castle said.

The most active building on the base is Building 219, a one-time hospital converted to office space.

Castle said she has spoken to 14 Air Force and civilian workers who have seen or felt something on the site.

“These are all people I consider very credible,” Castle said. “They’re not just making things up.”

Among them is a member of the bases Judge Advocate Corps, who declined to be identified or have his colleagues identified. According to Castle, the official told her that during a meeting of five JAG officers in a basement room, the sounds of “a loud and disruptive child laughing, running and playing” began bothering the group, Castle said.

Irritated at the interruption, the chief of the legal department sent one of the JAG officers, out of the room to tell the child to stop.

The officer “looked all over. He even went upstairs and asked if anyone had seen a child,” Castle said. “But no one up there had heard it, or seen anything. There was no reason for a child to be in the building, anyway.”

The basement was the morgue when the building was a hospital.

Building 219’s third floor, which used to house its operating suites, is also an active spot.

One night several months ago, Castle said, a senior janitor had propped open all of the office doors there while emptying the trash cans.

Suddenly, “they all slammed shut at the same time,” Castle said — even though the windows were all closed.

The janitor fled the building, and since the episode, no one on the cleaning staff will work in Building 219 at night, Castle said.

The oldest building on base is thought to be haunted. Known as Arnold House and built in 1841, at one time it was home to Air Force legend Hap Arnold and his family.

Yet Arnold House, which is now a mini-museum, also seems to be the quietest of the three haunted locations, with most of its ghostly activity restricted to footsteps sounding up and down the stairs, and the faint sound of children laughing, Castle said.

A recruiting tool?

Late last year, with national interest in the paranormal growing, Wright-Patt officials began to wonder if there was some way their own ghosts might serve as a potential recruiting tool.

They decided to invite the producers of “Ghost Hunters,” which airs on Sci Fi Channel, to come film an episode for the series’ upcoming fourth season, which begins in March.

It was the first time the show had ever been invited to an active military installation, according to its hosts, Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson.

Asking “Ghost Hunters” to come to the base was a calculated risk for the Air Force, which might appear ridiculous to those people who don’t believe in ghosts, Castle said.

However, the show boasts an audience of 3 million people between the ages of 18 and 34, “which is the Air Force’s target recruiting audience,” Castle said.

So in mid-January Hawes and Wilson spent three days on site, filming.

The Air Force did, however, draw the line at allocating cash for the paranormal experiment.

“One of the requirements was that it was not going to cost the Air Force any money,” Castle said.

Wilson and Hawes refused to say whether they found proof that the base was, in fact, haunted.

However, Wilson said, “People … are going to be very surprised. It was a great investigation, probably one of our best.”

Spooked out?

Doors slamming shut and electronic devices turning on by themselves, apparitions appearing in locked-up rooms, voices heard when nobody’s around: These and other eerie occurrences prompted officials at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio to invite the hosts of the Sci Fi Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” program to investigate.

A team spent three days at the base in January and will air the episode some time after the show’s fourth season begins in March.