“A lot of people told me, I needed to go to Monticello.”
So said Jody Dean, the head ghost hunter with the Hunting the Dead group. Dean has been “hunting the dead” for over 11 years now and recently visited Monticello to tour its haunted sites.
Monticello has been called “The Most Haunted Town in the South” or “The South’s Most Haunted Small Town.” Despite that, Dean says he hadn’t heard of Monticello until lately.
As a seasoned ghost hunter, Dean has been all over the Southern United States – he has investigated the St. Augustine Jail in Florida, the Bloody Mary Museum in New Orleans, La., and has traveled outside of the south to hunt the paranormal in the Stanley Hotel in Estes, Colo., the hotel which is known as the inspirational birthplace for Stephen King’s The Shining.
“I’ve been to all kinds of places,” says Dean, adding that throughout his hunting career, he has investigated thousands of hauntings, paranormal activities and unexplained mysteries.
Most of those investigations have taken place in the Southern United States, so Dean was surprised that he hadn’t yet heard of or visited Jefferson County’s small county-seat of Monticello. Recently, Dean said he had several people in the ghost hunting community approach him and encourage him to visit Monticello.
“I started researching online and saw all these stories of people having paranormal experiences in Monticello,” Dean adds.
So, Dean packed up his family and traveled to Monticello to witness the small-town’s hauntings first hand.
In Monticello, Dean and his family stayed in the historic 1872 John Denham House Inn, which is owned and operated by Monticello’s Pat Inmon.
“Then, I managed to meet the people at the chamber of commerce and convince them to let me do a session in the old jail,” said Dean, referencing Monticello’s Old Jail Museum. The jail, which was constructed in 1909, is known for its paranormal activity. While still in use, the jail served as both a place to keep county inmates upstairs, as well as an apartment for the sheriff and his family to live downstairs.
It was the jail that managed to seize Dean’s captivation, as he would film three different videos of himself and his wife-and-assistant, Alicia, in the jail. Dean’s videos showcase flashing lights, loud clattering sounds, banging on jail cell walls, whispered words and ghostly Electromagnetic Field (EMF) readings.
“It started off soft,” Dean said of his visit to the jail, adding that things escalated quickly the longer he and Alicia were in the upstairs jail portion of the building. “We could feel the spiritual energy, both good and bad. We felt a heaviness up there.”
Most of the building’s history is in its jail portion, rather than the sheriff’s living quarters down below and Dean confirmed that most of the activity was upstairs, rather than downstairs. At several points, while he and his wife were filming in the jail, Alicia expressed how she could feel “something” touching her and Dean says that he was able to audibly hear voices speaking, without the aid of equipment, during his visit to the jail.
“It felt pretty creepy,” he added.
In addition to visiting the jail, Dean also filmed an investigation at the John Denham House, where he and his family were staying.
“It’s definitely haunted, just not crazily haunted,” said Dean. “It has a positive, good vibe.” Dean said his EMF meters went off inside the house, he heard plenty of disembodied voices and sounds and his young son had a unique experience in one of the bedrooms.
The legend goes, Dean said, that a spirit in the John Denham House tucks visiting children into their beds and Dean says that his son, right before drifting off to sleep, felt the blankets tighten around him – as if invisible hands were tucking him in.
Next on Dean’s list of visited places was the Monticello Opera House. Located directly downtown, the Monticello Opera House is a sturdy brick structure that, Dean says, hosts its own otherworldly activities.
“It was pretty intense in there,” said Dean, adding that his experiences in the opera house rivaled – if not surpassed – the intensity of the old jail’s events. “I heard a lot of sounds and noises…especially backstage. When I was left backstage, I felt as though I was far from alone, and I was definitely the only person back there.”
The Monticello Opera House, formerly known as the “Perkins Block” was built in the 1890s by a Monticello businessman by the name of John H. Perkins. The red-brick building still bears Perkins’ name on the outside, although the sewing machine shop, general store, hardware and farm supply stores that were originally housed there have been replaced by stages and curtains.
Finally, Dean made an unplanned visit to the Old City Cemetery in Monticello – a place that Dean held great respect for by the end of his visit.
“It was…interesting. I felt like there were some old spirits in there,” he said. Dean described the interactions he had with the spirits of the Old City Cemetery as “Class-A EVP” – which stands for Electronic Voice Phenomenon. This occurs when sounds – particularly voices – are heard on electronic recordings, such as static or background noise.
Class-A is when the voices in the electronic recording are at their clearest and pristine.
“It was like, the spirits knew what I was doing and knew how to interact,” said Dean. “In a way, it was like they were trapped – but also at peace. It was a really cool experience.”
While at all four of these locations, Dean uses a combination of his skills as an empath as well as several tools. Two of his most used devices are his spirit box, a sound that generates white noise that induces paranormal voices to speak through it, as well as an EMF meter.
“I consider myself to be my best tool, though,” Dean adds, of his natural empathic ability when sensing spirits beyond the veil.
When asked how one gets started in this fringe career choice, Dean (who does ghost hunting and paranormal investigation full time) says that he got his start while watching paranormal “ghost hunter” TV shows.
“I thought it was just good comedy,” Dean said. He decided to start “ghost hunting” himself, but with a mindset of debunking the claims of others – instead, he had a paranormal experience that changed his life. After that, he started pursuing new cases and recording his experience. Along the way, his wife, Alicia, suggested he post those videos on YouTube for others to follow.
Now, Dean’s Hunting The Dead YouTube channel has 150K subscribers who have watched him investigate hundreds of cases, including his most recent Monticello adventures.
And what did Dean do before starting his career as a ghost expert?
“I actually worked in the funeral industry,” Dean says with a grin.
While Dean came to Monticello for the dead, he also managed to interact a lot with the living population of the Jefferson County town.
“Everybody here was friendly and nice,” Dean commented. During his stay, he managed to learn more about the town’s history and said that plenty of excited locals gave him suggestions on places to visit when he returns for another round of ghost hunting…and there will be another visit. While he had no idea what Monticello had to offer, Dean says he is making plans to return. He has compiled a list of reportedly-haunted sites he’d like to investigate when he passes back through. “I’m so happy I got to experience Monticello,” concluded Dean. “Hunting The Dead’s Jody Dean will be returning – I have plans on coming back and turning things up a notch.”
To view Jody Dean’s video footage captured locally during his investigations in Monticello, go to huntingthedead.com.
He has already posted videos of the Monticello Old Jail Museum and the John Denham House, and the video for the Monticello Opera House will be posted on his website on Sunday, June 14 and the Old City Cemetery will be posted on Wednesday, June 17.
Ashley Hunter – ECB Publishing, Inc.