Terry Mark
Terry Mark
Terry Mark is The Elkhart Truth’s news editor and writes about sports, design, bicycling, science fiction and craft beer.

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On the trail of ghosts and other tales at the Bristol Opera House

Elkhart Truth journalists observed as a Mishawaka-based paranormal group investigated one of Elkhart County’s most-haunted places.

Posted on June 2, 2014 at 4:20 p.m.

BRISTOL — My eyes lit up when I learned that Elkhart Truth would be allowed to observe a ghost hunt — er, paranormal investigation — at the Bristol Opera House. You might say that the spirit moved me to ask if there’d be room for an extra observer — me.

The opportunity came about when Elkhart Truth voters selected a question about haunted places in Elkhart County as the Ask the Truth question they most wanted answered. Of the locations rumored to be haunted, five were selected for further reporting by Truth journalists.

The centerpiece was, of course, the Bristol Opera House, because of its rich history of unexplained activity. So on a recent evening, Ann Elise Taylor, James Buck and I arrived at the home of the Elkhart Civic Theatre to meet with a couple of theater veterans and an investigative team from Michiana Paranormal Investigations.

Anyone who has ever watched “Ghost Hunters,” the Syfy channel documentary series that follows exploits of The Atlantic Paranormal Society, would have recognized many of the conventions:

  • There was the tour of the building in which John Shoup, ECT’s artistic technical director, and David Dufour, executive director, showed the behind-the-scenes spaces and explained where potentially paranormal activity had taken place.
  • The MPI team busily set up its cameras and hooked them up to a DVR and large flat-screen monitor in the opera house’s lobby.
  • A few members of the MPI team checked the batteries on all of its handheld equipment — infrared cameras, digital voice recorders, motion sensors, devices that could measure electromagnetic fields and ambient temperature.
  • As the investigation started, one of MPI’s leaders, Jeff Price, briefed everyone else on camera positions and intended areas of investigation.

As the principal reporters on this assignment, Taylor and Buck accompanied investigative teams as they checked out places such as the women’s dressing room in the basement and the stage. I hung back and watched the monitors with one of the MPI team members and chatted with Shoup and Dufour. Besides sharing more stories about unexplained occurrences, Shoup, who is a bit of a believer of the paranormal, and Dufour, who is a skeptic, theorized on rational explanations for paranormal phenomenon.

There were, of course, more ghost stories, but also technical discussions of the equipment MPI uses, some mocking of the histrionics sometimes seen on paranormal TV series that have and a primer on what MPI’s psychic medium, Rick Bunch, does. It all had the feel of sitting around a campfire sharing, well, ghost stories, except we were sitting around a table in a theater lobby.



As the evening drew to a close, I accompanied Price and a cameraperson to several “hot spots” of paranormal activity. During that time, I learned that dim light can contribute to optical illusions, such as the curtain I thought was moving but was actually still, and that paranormal investigations can be tests of even the most dedicated follower’s patience. There’s far more inactivity than activity, but it’s the promise of finding those nuggets and the thrill of figuring out what’s really going on that keeps the investigators going.

In one spot, a rear hallway behind the theater’s stage, my two companions each said they felt a presence in their area. I have to say that I didn’t.

But what does that mean? Were their senses attuned for potential activity? Am I simply out of touch with the spirits that may be roaming the Bristol Opera House.

I’m not sure, but I’m open to continuing the ask the questions about haunted places.


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