Haunted home? Family faces spirits

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Bruce Collins of St. Meinrad formed Interstate Paranormal Investigations after he and his family began experiencing strange, inexplicable events in their newly built log cabin in 2008. Collins thinks the spirits that haunt his house may be of Native Americans who were killed and buried in the woods on the land where the cabin was built. He said his family has gotten used to the feeling of being watched.

Herald Staff Writer

ST. MEINRAD — The evil spirits first appeared in an upstairs bedroom.

It was July 10, 2008, and the Collins family had just moved into a spacious log cabin in the middle of the woods, a few miles from the chiming bell tower of Saint Meinrad Archabbey.

As the day was winding down, Gavin, a rambunctious boy with a curious gaze, was left to play by himself in a bedroom on the second floor. His older sisters, Chloe and Olivia, had climbed over a baby gate and wandered to another part of the house.

Downstairs, their mother, Danielle, scrubbed dishes in the kitchen. Her husband, Bruce, had left to work the night shift at AK Steel in Rockport.

Without warning, Gavin tumbled out of a second-floor window, plunging several feet before a picnic table broke his fall.

“I looked out the window and that’s where he was,” Danielle said, “laying on the table, not moving at all.”

Gavin, then just 2 years old, was airlifted to Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville. It was a nasty spill, yet amazingly he escaped with no broken bones.

It was widely assumed that the fall was an accident. It also was assumed that Gavin was alone in the bedroom. But when Bruce began asking questions, his son said something puzzling: “The boy pushed me.”

“I was like, ”˜What’s he talking about?’” Bruce said. “I kind of brushed it off, thinking, ”˜Ah, whatever.’”

Around that time, Olivia, then 5 years old, had lurid nightmares, telling her mother the bad dreams often involved what Danielle described as “cannibals” who told her she was going to die. In another dream, she was stabbed by her mother. All the children claimed to have seen strange faces lurking in their house.

The longer they stayed, the worse it became: Lights flickered on and off, doors would mysteriously slam shut, and a strange scratching noise could be heard throughout the house. Worst of all, the family felt as if someone was watching them.

Bruce and Danielle are convinced their house is haunted. For five years, the couple have tried to rid their property of evil spirits, seeking help from psychics, paranormal investigators and the church.

“You name it, we’ve tried it,” Bruce said. Yet weird stuff still happens “on a day-to-day basis,” he added.

So why stay? If the couple believe their home is possessed, why not move?

The reasons are many. Although the house is still fraught with paranormal activity, the energy isn’t as malevolent as it was a few years ago. The evil spirits seem to have subsided, and the ghosts that remain are friendlier.

“I think it’s because we’re not letting it feed off our energy,” Bruce said.

Before, the family would freak out whenever they heard a knock or a bang. Now, it doesn’t faze them.

“We’ve learned how to deal with it,” he said.

The couple also didn’t want to give up what they had worked so hard for. This was supposed to be their dream home, a quiet, peaceful place where they would raise their children. Rather than give in, the couple decided to take a stand.

“I would not let that make us move,” Danielle said.

When the spirits were tormenting his family, Bruce began taking online theology classes, hoping that religion would provide an answer to his paranormal problems. He found solace in spirituality, eventually becoming an ordained Baptist minister.

He also began reading about other paranormal cases, studying the work of Ed and Lorraine Warren, the fabled duo who investigated dozens of bizarre cases like the Amityville horror story and the haunting in Connecticut.

Bruce and Danielle have starred on two reality TV shows, A&E’s “Paranormal State” and the Biography Channel’s “My Ghost Story.” Bruce was touched by how many people have offered to help his family.

Last year, as a way of paying it forward, he assembled a crackerjack team of ghostbusters known as Interstate Paranormal Investigations. The nine-member crew has worked some 50 cases, offering its services free of charge.

“I want to help people who are going through things I went through,” Bruce said.

Standing on his deck on a recent afternoon, Bruce peered into the nearby woods. Before the Collinses bought the property, nothing but trees stood where their house now stands.

He has found arrowheads in the woods and believes that some of the haunting spirits are those of Native Americans.

“The stuff that happens all the time, almost like clockwork, I think is what they call ”˜residual energy,’ and I think that’s a lot of the Native American spirits,” he said.

“It isn’t necessarily malevolent. It’s just still here,” he said of the residual energy. “The malevolent — I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know what it was.”

And if the malevolent spirits were to come back? Would the family stick around?

“If it gets as bad as it did,” he said, “I would consider leaving.”

As he scanned the woods, a light breeze blew through the trees, causing the leaves to shiver.

Contact Tony Raap at traap@dcherald.com.

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