The Michelin Man-Davenport, IA 8.20.2016

The Claims

  • The sound of footsteps only ever going up the staircase to the second floor—never heard going down.
  • Knocking on the upstairs bedroom door
  • Basement door opens by itself (naturally a very tough door to open)
  • Client’s dogs bark and wag their tails at nothing
  • A black, smoky, undulating entity that the client calls the Michelin Man due to the way it looks—physically seen by the client on several occasions
    • The Michelin Man has also physically held the client down in bed.

The Investigation

       The morning dawned earlier than I was hoping for, given that I knew I would be awake all night. But excitement and the soft fluttering of butterflies in my stomach had me up and about by 7:30AM.

       As the day ebbed on, the butterflies grew until my stomach was more like a storm tossed sea of nerves than anything else. Not only would this be my first investigation with Cedar Rapids Paranormal Investigations, it would be my first time meeting any of the crew, including our founder and Lead Investigator, Scott. I was ridiculously excited, but also ridiculously anxious. In classic Maggie-fashion, my mind kept forming new “what-ifs” to ruminate on during the hour and a half drive to Davenport from Cedar Rapids. What if they didn’t like me? What if our personalities clashed? What if I turned out to be an awful investigator and Scott ended up regretting taking a chance on me?

       I arrived at our client’s small, one-bedroom-one-bathroom house around 5:30, just moments after Scott and Susan (the only other investigator that would be joining us this evening) got there. Both greeted me with big smiles and hugs, helping me feel instantly welcome and already like part of the team. I don’t think either one of them knew how much that simple welcome meant to me.

       We sat and chatted a bit with our client—a younger man who enjoys videogames and pop-culture references (aka-my kind of person), but who also suffers from a sometimes debilitating medical condition. Though he never said it outright, you could tell he was afraid. Really afraid.

       We asked him first about the history of the house. Scott wanted to wait to discuss the client’s claims until Susan and I had a chance to walk around the house and get to know the atmosphere with an unbiased mind. Our client told us that the house had been built around 100 years ago and originally had been attached to the house next door. Back in those days, the structure was a church—though for what religion or denomination was unknown. The land that the house was built on was land that had once been a part of Fort McClellan—known primarily for housing around three hundred Native American Sioux Indian prisoners in the mid 1800’s.

       After doing some further research of my own on Fort McClellan and that time in Davenport history, I could go on for hours about the whats/whys/hows of the fort itself and the treatment of the Sioux prisoners. While they were not treated poorly by many peoples’ standards, there was a great deal of animosity between the people of Davenport and the fort. Fort McClellan officially closed in 1865 and the remaining 175 Sioux released. But the burial areas of the Sioux that had passed away while imprisoned at the fort were abandoned, left unmarked, and over the years forgotten.

       After learning about the house itself and the land on which it stood, our client departed for the house across the street where he would be staying for the evening with his two adorable little dogs. At that point, Scott set both Susan and I up with digital voice recorders so we could individually walk around the house and see what we could pick up.

       I can’t remember which one of us went first—timelines get a little choppy when you’re awake for close to 24 hours and running on pure adrenaline for a good chunk of that time. But what I do remember is my own walk.

       Noticing that our client’s bed had been set up in what once had been a dining area, I decided to venture upstairs first, wanting to figure out why he had moved from the upstairs bedroom. I thought maybe his medical condition made stairs difficult sometimes, but a part of my mind was also whispering that there was probably an experience he had upstairs that had frightened him so badly that he refused to sleep up there anymore.

       As I’ve stated in a part blog entry, I don’t know how much stock I put into the idea of true psychic mediums, but I do believe that everyone has a sixth sense that can be honed to fairly impressive levels—that prickle of hair on the back of your neck when you suddenly feel like you’re not alone, for example. From the things I have experienced in the past, I’ve grown to know my own “sixth sense” feels like a static energy mixed with a light breeze that tingles in ripples across my body. It’s a hard sensation to explain, but it’s 100% distinctive and unique—something I’ve never felt in places that didn’t have some sort of reported paranormal activity (even before I knew a place was potentially haunted).

       As I reached the top of the stairs, a wave of tingles, as I primarily refer to my sixth sense, crept over me. I noted it on my voice recorder and walked further into the second story—more a loft area with closets/storage space alone one wall—the ceilings matching the peak of the roof. Through the only door was the only bedroom—a room devoid of any traditional bedroom furniture besides a small dresser, a lone chair, and an empty bookshelf. The air was heavy in that room—oppressive. It was a hot summer day and the house had little or no air conditioning, but to me it felt like more than just heat making the atmosphere feel the way it did up there. I was having trouble catching my breath and had a “get out” feeling in the pit of my stomach, which I decided to heed.

       I ventured back downstairs into the kitchen area. Everything seemed pretty normal to me, so I was on my way back to join Scott and Susan in the front room of the house when a door to my right caught my attention.

       “Is this the basement? Can I go down there? Is that okay?”

       Scott gave me the affirmative, so I attempted to open the door. Stuck. Very stuck. Scott came to my aid and he was able to wrestle the door open. Neither one of us could believe how hard it was to open. Nothing paranormal about it—just a door basically too big or swollen for its frame. I climbed down the steep steps into a dirt basement and was greeted with a wave of tingles—different from upstairs, though. Down here it felt lighter…more like a curious nature than an oppressive one.

       I turned off my recorder, officially having seen the whole house, and made my way back upstairs.

       As I stated earlier, I can’t remember if I took my walk first, or if Susan did. The order doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that we both felt our sixth sense sensations (for her—the feeling of being unbalanced, or having vertigo) in the exact same locations of the house. Then Scott filled us in on the client’s claims in detail.

       Our client had abandoned the upstairs because of the sheer amount of activity he experiences up there—up to several times a month. When he used to sleep upstairs with his bedroom door closed, he would be woken several times a night to insistent knocking on the door, and the sound of footsteps climbing the stairs. He stated that he never heard footsteps going down—only ever up. The activity and constant nightly interruptions led him to move his bed downstairs…where different activity started up. He began seeing a form—a smoky, dark mass in the general shape of a human, that would come toward him or just watch him. He nicknamed it the Michelin man because of the way it looked when it would appear, but there wasn’t anything friendly about this entity. It definitely scared our client—feelings of dread would accompany the apparition, and it had even held him down in bed on a few different occasions. Lately, the basement door had begun opening on its own, as well—and as we knew from earlier in the night, that door was nearly impossible to open.

       We found out that the nextdoor neighbors (in the house that had once been attached to our client’s) experienced nearly identical activity and knew of a reported death in their house of a man named Hugo that may have been connected with the Michelin Man entity in our client’s house. Scott had tried to see if we could investigate the neighbors’ house as well, but with no luck.

       Scott also told us that he had checked with our client regarding the medications he takes for his condition and whether or not the Michelin Man could be a form of hallucination or some sort of psychosis. Our client had done his due diligence and was checked out and cleared by a doctor. His experiences were definitely not caused by medications or a mental condition of any sort.

       By this time, it was around 7PM—we unpacked our gear and decided where to set up our four infrared night-vision static cameras. One would go in the upstairs bedroom, perched on the bookcase with a view of the whole room. The second would be placed at the top of the stairs on a tripod with a view of anyone coming up the stairs as well as the majority of the loft area, including the bedroom door. The third would be placed in the dining area beside the client’s bed with a view of the closed basement door. And the fourth would be set up on a tripod in the basement itself. We also set up a REM pod next to the bedroom door—so that if anything seen or unseen broke the electromagnetic field around the REM pod’s antenna to approach the door, we would see it on our camera and be able to hear its alarm from downstairs.

       Our first order of business was what CRPI calls a Sit-and-Listen. We set several digital voice recorders around the house and then took our place in the front room, where we sat as quietly as possible for about 45 minutes. This allowed us to get used to the natural noises of the house—settling cracks, the refrigerator, etc. At the end of the Sit-and-Listen, we went straight into EVP work. Scott wanted each of us to spend some time upstairs to see what we could make contact with, if anything, in the form of EVP work. I volunteered to go first, hoping to make a good impression and so that my wits didn’t have time to fail.

       The first thing I noticed at the top of the stairs was that the air wasn’t as heavy anymore—the atmosphere not so oppressive. I sat down in front of our infrared camera and began asking questions to the empty air, recorder in hand.

       The purpose of EVP work is to hopefully catch an EVP—Electronic Voice Phenomena—that responds intelligently to the questions the investigator is asking. EVPs are voices that only the recorder picks up…voices the investigator doesn’t hear with his/her own ears. If we were to hear an actual voice that did not belong to any of the crew, it would be considered a Disembodied Voice—which ideally would also be picked up on the voice recorder for further review.

       I asked general questions—“How many of you are here? Can you please tell me your name? Do you know how you died, or that you are dead? In what time period were you alive? Why do you stay here?” I also delved into more personal, case-related questions—“were you a parishioner when this building was a church? Were you a priest? Are you the one who knocks on our client’s bedroom door at night or climbs his stairs?”

       Though I wouldn’t know it until after the investigation was over and I had a chance to review my audio files, I did catch one EVP response to the question, “Do you like scaring our client? Or are you just trying to get his attention?” Immediately after I finished speaking, a small, childlike voice responded with “attention!” I about fell off the couch when I heard it on my recorder. It was one of the coolest moments for me—proof that not only could I sit all by myself in a pitch dark room, but I could review my own evidence and actually find legitimate responses.

       As I asked question after question, the atmosphere of the room began to change—getting heavier again—the air growing thick. In the back of my mind, a voice was whispering, “That REM pod to your right is going to go off at any time now and scare the bejesus out of you.” I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was about to happen, and I was getting really uncomfortable. Though I tried to ignore it, the discomfort was growing into anxiety and I eventually chickened out and ended my EVP session.

       In hindsight, I wish I had stayed. It’s so easy to call myself a chicken now in the broad daylight as I type this up—say that it was all in my head. But there is something distinctly eerie and unsettling about being in a dark room all by yourself half-expecting something to knock on a door or climb the stairs—something you can’t see—something you don’t fully understand. It’s frightening, but it’s a fright that I’ve begun to overcome thanks to pushing myself more and more in investigations that have taken place since this one. Practice makes perfect, right?

       Susan and Scott each took turns holding EVP sessions of their own in the upstairs as well, and then we set about other experiments with different sorts of equipment. We set up a Boo Bear in the client’s bedroom at one point alongside a voice recorder. Boo Bears are little stuffed bears that are able to sense environmental changes (heat, coldness, volume levels, touch) around it, as well as speak on its own. Things like, “Count with me! One…two…three…four…” things meant to trigger a response from any entity that may be near it. We also did a couple Spirit Box sessions, had two different versions of the Ovilus running at various points in the evening, and held several different EVP sessions besides our initial ones in the loft area.

       Susan and I took some time to do an EVP session up in the client’s bedroom as well. That was a neat experience for me. Susan is a seasoned investigator and brings a more personal element to EVP work than I think I would have thought of on my own. She speaks gently and always shows any spirit that may be present a level of dignity and respect that I personally feel many other investigators out there lack. It’s easy to forget that many spirits were once living, breathing beings who still have feelings that can be hurt with careless questions or rude behavior. I loved learning from her that night.

       The last major experiment of the night was an SLS Camera session in the loft area of the upstairs. An SLS Camera is a portable device that connects with a tablet, and contains a variety of sensors including ultrasonic distance detection, thermal temperature, and light frequency. The device reads the energy levels in a room and is able to pick up and “map” any human form, whether the human eye can see one or not (it makes this in a stick-figure type display on screen). Scott was working the SLS cam, and Susan was in the bedroom while I was in the loft area. To our complete shock and delight, a figure mapped standing on top of a bookcase immediately in front of me! The night had been quiet, so this was a really awesome capture for us. We asked for the figure to come down and stand in front of me on the floor, and it did so. I stuck my hand out in front of me, and—though it may have just been my imagination—the air did feel colder where the figure was standing. We tried to interact with it a bit—asked it to raise its hand in the air, but to no avail. I think the whole sequence of events lasted maybe 3 minutes, but it was one of the coolest moments of the whole investigation.

       Around 5:30-6AM, we officially wrapped the investigation and tore down our equipment. The night had been amazing—just about everything I was hoping my first investigation would be (though not as much interaction as I had hoped). We still had 12 solid hours’ worth of video review across 4 different static cameras (48 hours’ worth of review total), all the audio files from the various voice recorders, and the SLS cam interactions to carefully pick through. While we hadn’t experienced basically any of the claims of our client first hand, we were still hopeful that we’d receive some interesting captures on our gear.

The Evidence

       We ended up with several very interesting and very relevant EVP responses over the course of the night, several of which seemed to be from children—the voice I captured on my own recorder being one of them. Several of the EVPs seemed to point to our client being seen as a friend to those who may dwell within his house. Of course, there was also the mapping of the entity in the loft area during our SLS session. Our reveal to the client has yet to take place, so I don’t want to disclose too much here, but I will say that I have some theories on this house and why we didn’t experience any of the client’s claims first hand.

       It’s my personal belief that the entities that present themselves to our client (with the exception of the Michelin Man) are really very attached to him—like him a great deal and just want to interact with him. I think they were so quiet the evening we held our investigation because he was not in the house; instead, they were left with complete strangers and weird technology. I also feel, based on the fact that the next door neighbors experience very similar claims of activity to our client’s claims, that the entities can and do come and go between the two houses that once made up the church. I personally feel that the Michelin Man’s bad energy may indeed be Hugo, a former resident that passed away in the house next door, and that his spirit may have been hiding over in the neighbor’s house during our investigation. I also feel that holy land, whether or not a church still resides on it, remains a thin spot between our world and the next—places where spirits may go to pass “into the light” or just leave our world. To me, this is one way to think about the sound of footsteps only ever going upstairs, and the knocking at our client’s bedroom door—perhaps his room contains the portal or vortex that spirits need in order to cross over. Once again, all theories that cannot be proven without much more research and investigation.

       In general, we feel that the Michelin Man himself may just be a strong, negative human entity that is, like the others, simply trying to get the attention of anyone who will listen—or may enjoy frightening our client and the nextdoor neighbors, perhaps feeding off of their fear. But given that he has not physically harmed anyone (no scratches, no pushing into walls, etc), we don’t feel that he is a threat to our client’s safety at this time.

       We are still hopeful that we’ll have a chance to investigate the neighbors’ house sometime soon, or maybe both houses at once, so we can investigate further into some of our suspicions about the residences and those who may be haunting them.

       For now, I think it has helped our client to know that we did not feel that he was in any danger from the entities in his home, and to know that he can call us any time he needs—even if it’s just to know that he’s not alone.

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