ASHLAND ’Tis the season for all things surreal and spooky, for an indulgence in our considerations of the things that go bump in the night. Some locations seem to lend themselves better to these considerations, whether it be the old decrepit house that has sat abandoned for decades, or a stretch of countryside or woods that seem somehow unsettling, and we shuffle more quickly past them toward more brightly lit and friendlier locales.
Even stretches of country roads where there is more distance between isolated homes can seem lonelier and more disturbing when the sun sets on the horizon and darkness reaches out to cover the land.
Then there are some locations that have witnessed the transitory presence of thousands if not millions of people. These locations — such as the Paramount Arts Center in Ashland — have been witness to the joys and sorrows, the laughter and the tears, of generations who have passed through its box office into the rich, comfortable interior to enjoy plays, live music, special events and all the assorted other entertainments we enjoy.
There are those who believe that all of that press of humanity, combined with the energy that fuels our lives, can leave a lasting imprint upon the location itself. And those who believe this also believe that this energy can release itself sometimes in the form of what most would consider a haunting. Is this truly possible? Do ghosts slip between the seats and behind the stage of the Paramount Arts Center? Well, on Friday, Oct. 22, Bill Brock will attempt to answer those questions. And he has invited the Ashland area to join him for the hunt.
“About 20 years ago, I started really getting into the paranormal and the Bigfoot/Cryptozoology thing,” Bill Brock said. “I got into it because my family are all from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and I had always heard about the Mothman growing up.”
Brock said his family all believed in the Mothman story, though there were varying opinions about just what the creature actually was. And those opinions, he said, ran the gamut from believing that the creature was an actual creature to one of his aunts (who was friends with one individual who reported a sighting in the 1960s) thinking it was a story manufactured by young people to cover their misbehavior.
“But my family always talked about it, and I grew up listening to the stories, and stories about the TNT area,” Brock said. The TNT area, for those unfamiliar with the stories, was the site of an abandoned munitions factory where the legendary cryptid was said to be sighted numerous times. “It really just fascinated me,” he said. “And then I became interested in Bigfoot, and I believed that I had the skills that you would need to go out and find Bigfoot.
“I literally lived in the woods from the time I was 11 to about 17 when I joined the Army. Every day, all day long, I was out there. So, I have good woods skills, and I have a degree in outdoor education,” Brock said.
“I know the woods, probably better than most. And when you combine all that, I think you have a pretty good Bigfoot hunter,” he said with a laugh. During the years that he hunted the cryptid, Brock said that he has had some really interesting experiences. He and five others had a sighting in Florida and captured thermal footage.
In tandem with his cryptid search, some of which is documented on the Travel Channel series “Monsters Underground,” Brock said he has also investigated the paranormal with equal fascination. His Bigfoot searches led to the Travel Channel reaching out to him and offering him a television series. Brock said he chose to be on that show because it gave him the opportunity to take the lead and call the shots, investigating a wide variety of creatures. It was through the show that he became good friends with local man Jeremy Bates, who was on Brock’s team.
“Through that show I had the opportunity to really dive into the paranormal, because it opened so many doors,” Brock said. He was able to travel around the country speaking at events (including a previous appearance at local Lexington convention Scarefest) and making more contacts in the paranormal research world. “I’ve been doing that for about 10 years now, and I go to tons of events every year.”
After the show aired, Brock met another individual, Cory Heinzen, with whom he also became close friends. Heinzen helped facilitate Brock’s ghost-hunting at several locations in Maine.
“I used to run a non-profit, where we took people with disabilities hunting and fishing. And Cory helped me get some of the same people on ghost hunts,” Brock said.
Brock said he and Heinzen attended several conventions together, and during one convention in Rhode Island they decided to go by the Conjuring House, where the paranormal activity took place that was documented in the movie, “The Conjuring.”
“We were walking by and were in awe because it was one of the most iconic haunted locations,” he said. Later, through contacts from mutual friends, Heinzen was given the opportunity to purchase the iconic house.
“So, Cory bought the house, and then he needed someone to stay in it for a while,” Brock said. And, of course, Brock himself was up to the challenge. The result was that Brock stayed in the Conjuring House for nearly a year, the majority of the time alone.
“I experienced a lot of things that I have no doubt were paranormal,” he said. Some of those experiences, he said, were typical poltergeist style activity with books flying off the shelves and random movement of objects through the house.
Now Brock is set to bring the wealth of experience and research he has amassed over the past two decades into the Paramount Arts Center. Brock and his team will conduct a ghost hunt on Thursday, Oct 21, that is closed to the public.
“I want to take a really small group in first so that I can pinpoint potential hot spots for paranormal activity,” Brock said. “And those areas are what we will focus on when guests are there on Oct. 22.” Brock said the Paramount has a fascinating history, and he is looking forward to uncovering paranormal evidence to add to that rich history.
The Ghost Hunt that is available to the public will be on Friday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m., but the doors will be open at 7 p.m. and snacks and drinks will be available.
Tickets are available to purchase at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/paramount-joe-ghost-hunt-2021-tickets-186819491127 or by calling (606) 465-8931. Some tickets may be available at the door, but space is limited and advanced purchase is suggested. This event is a fundraiser to replace the Great Sign.