Hales Bar Dam is a complex of two buildings and an access tunnel. The buildings have no power and no water. Most of the buildings walls have large windows that are not covered with a fair number of broken panes, letting in much outside light, weather, insects, birds, and mammals.
Building 1 is the power house, the main structure that held the turbines, the electrical control room, and the administrative offices. Today it is used by the adjacent marina to store boats. It is a large structure, about three floors high with a fenced gate at one end, originally used to bring in the turbines but now used to bring in boats for storage on the main floor. Near the middle of the main floor is a spiral staircase that leads to two floors below. It is open but covered by trailers to prevent anyone from falling down the flooded stairwell. The bottom two floors were submerged when the dam was destroyed. The far end of the building is open water where fish reside and whirlpools occasionally form.
Building 2 is the electrical relay station and maintenance area. Painted signs underlining the danger are still visible, announcing 75,000 volt, 600 amp switches that were manually operated using wooden handles. Today almost all the equipment has been removed and either scrapped or transferred to a newer dam built downstream. The maintenance area consisted of three floors where Styrofoam blocks from the original marina piers are stored. These blocks were damaged in a tornado and removed to this location to build new piers.
The two buildings are connected by a service tunnel with three wings. The shortest wing of the tunnel connects the maintenance area with a longer tunnel near the switching room. The main tunnel has a bend in it and is divided into east and west sides. The west side is longer and has a wall dividing the tunnel into two halls, while the shorter east side is a single hall. Originally, electrical cables lined the tunnel and exited at the east end to connect to the electrical grid.
The group arrived on location at 2:00 pm on July 22, 2018, and signed waivers in the building that became our base camp: a large air-conditioned space with television, running water, refrigerator, and freshly brewed coffee. Some investigators have used the room as sleeping quarters as well. The manager next showed us the location of the clean bathrooms and showers and then proceeded to take us on a tour of the location, pointing out areas of danger and areas where claims of paranormal activity were made. At 2:55 pm the manager ended the tour and handed over the building and facilities to PIM.
Each PIM member proceeded to put on and activate their personal equipment. Every member carries a control recorder, a Zoom H1 digital audio recorder, that goes everywhere with the investigator. The control recorder is started and time stamped prior to all other equipment being started and time stamped. Also, it is the last piece of equipment turned off at the end of an investigation. Control recorders are used not only as another recording device but also to capture sound contaminations that an investigator might create during an investigation. The control recorders are placed in a Faraday cage. PIM’s main goal in using these cages is to block radio signals from interfering with their audio recorders, thus preventing false electronic voice phenomena (EVP). Time stamps, from a designated atomic watch, are used as a point of reference and make cross referencing easier during evidence review.
Along with control records, every PIM member is equipped with an Extech RHT50 data logger which was also started. The Extech data logger measures humidity, temperature and barometric pressure at one-minute intervals. This device allows us to graph these changes and compare data to other devices that might have measured or recorded an event.
At 3:08 pm two members went outside to record weather information using a Kestrel 3500 weather station (Table 1), while the others set up equipment. (For a full list of equipment used, see appendix.) Due to the open and airy architecture of most of the building, the team decided to focus the investigation on the tunnels. The tunnel baseline electromagnetic field (EMF) and temperature readings were taken using a single axis EMF detector (MEL-8704R SDD) (Table 2). All the equipment was placed at the junction of the east and west tunnels. A Sony HDR-CX160 full spectrum camera was placed facing the longer west side wing and a Sony HDR-CX440 full spectrum camera was placed facing the shorter east side wing. The tunnels were lit with a bank of infrared (IR) lights connected to battery packs. A static Zoom H1 recorder inside a Faraday cage was placed between the two cameras. The equipment was started and time stamped.
No trigger object bank was set up. It was noted that many toys were located at the end of the east tunnel in a small alcove leading to an old exit. The exit door was locked and cannot be opened but does have through-and through holes in it and a large gap between the door and the threshold. According to the manager, no children would have been allowed in these three tunnels as they housed dangerous electrical cables and relays. The tunnel that the children used to cross the river is now under water.
At 5:10 pm, the team concluded that the structure contained too much outside interference for EVP sessions (see list, Table 3) but that certain claims could still be investigated. In the meantime, PIM decided that the site offered a great opportunity to create educational videos about various topic in paranormal investigations and began filming. The filming lasted until 7:00 pm, when the team left the building for base camp, cameras in the tunnel still running. From the base camp, the team went to the hotel to check in and to eat supper.
The investigation of Hales Bar Dam began at 8:49 pm. The cameras in the tunnel were checked and timed stamped again. The team carried a Flir TG165 infra-red (heat) detector to document temperature gradients and to detect animal heat signatures. The team also carried a bat detector (BatBox Baton), a specialized microphone tuned to ultrasonic sound waves which are then converted to sound frequencies the human ear can detect and played through a speaker incorporated in the detector. The sounds are usually a series of clicks emitted by bats using echolocation.
At 8:53 pm the team went to the second floor of Building 2 where the spirit of a little girl is said to reside. The room was full of sounds of frogs, crickets, and dripping water from the afternoon’s thundershowers.
An EVP session is the practice of asking questions followed by a ten-second gap of silence, in the hopes of capturing a response via an audio recording device. Rarely is a response heard by the investigator’s ears and when a response is heard by human ears it is called a disembodied voice. An EVP session begins with a time of control silence when ambient noises are noted. The team began an EVP session on the second floor of Building 2 but the session was quickly stopped due to the high level of natural noise interference.
At 9:03 pm the PIM investigators went to Building 1 on the main floor where the turbines were located. The team began a sound session, playing Cherokee words and period music with the hope of eliciting a response. The sound session ended at 9:12 pm. The team then went to the second floor of the main building where the electrical controllers and offices were located. A pool of standing water on the second floor was reflecting a complex pattern of diffuse ambient light and the team noted that the birds flying around the floor, along with the light reflection, could explain some of the shadows reported by other investigators.
At 9:22 pm the team went to Linda’s room, a room in the office complex on the second floor of Building 1, said to be visited by a woman who likes to tease men by pulling their hair. The team stayed for a while and conducted a brief EVP session but there was too much outside noise contamination. In addition, the team went towards the conference room where many birds were flying during the day and accidently upset some of the birds, who took flight around the inside of the room. The Flir picked up birds in the building, but no bat sounds were detected by the Baton.
The team next went to the tunnel complex where the three wings meet at 9:33 pm. The battery pack for the light bank for the camera facing the east wing (short) tunnel was alarming and the equipment covering that wing was turned off. At 9:43 pm the team sat in the tunnel where the three wings meet to begin an EVP session. It is claimed that “Big Boy,” a 7 ft 3 inch shadow, resides in Building 2 and will enter the short access tunnel. There were many water drop sounds echoing throughout the tunnel, and one member noted that the rhythm matched that of footsteps. At 9:44 pm the sound of people trying to enter the tunnels at the far end of the east wing was heard and two members went to investigate. When the two members reached the end of the tunnel and turned into the alcove, the far end of the tunnel was noted to be illuminated with the faint glow of light reflecting from their flashlights. Two members who were still seated at the junction point of the three tunnels observed that the faint glow allowed them to imagine shadows.
At 9:55 pm the investigation was stopped, the equipment broken down, and the team left the building at 10:02 pm.
Hales Bar Dam holds many claims of paranormal activity and PIM was excited to visit and investigate the location as part of its 2018 Expedition. The Dam site has a rich history covering the native American inhabitants, the changes in the river from an unnavigable and dangerous waterway to a major commercial pipeline, the building and the builders of the dam, the structural challenges caused by the unique local river bedrock, and the children that used the dam’s tunnels to cross from one river bank to the other.
The investigation presented challenges because of the open architecture of the buildings. The structure is an old decommissioned dam and was not built with public access in mind. As such, the structure does present some areas where a visitor could get injured. The manager was good at highlighting those areas during the day visit and placed caution tape at certain locations, but groups need to be careful when investigating at night. During the rainstorm much water entered the structures and resulted in noise contamination. Additional natural and human noise contaminations were noted, eliminating the team’s ability to conduct EVP sessions. The buildings contained much ambient light and even at night there was outside light entering the buildings. The play of light, water, and nature created opportunities for pareidolia (see below) where a team member imagined phenomena that were not substantiated upon further investigation. PIM did not note any activity during their brief investigation. However, a single, short investigation is probably not adequate to uncover the paranormal claims at Hales Bar Dam, and PIM hopes that groups continue to study the site, knowing the unique challenges this incredible site presents.
PIM would like to thank the manager for his time and generosity, giving us free reign over the structure during our visit and for providing a wonderful and safe base camp at Hales Bar Dam.
Pareidolia, from the Greek para (besides) and eidolan (image, form or shape): A psychological phenomenon where the mind perceives a familiar pattern where none exist. Common examples include animals, faces and objects seen in cloud or rock formations. Other examples include hidden messages in recorded music or ambient sound. The phenomenon is the basis for the Rorschach inkblot test, an attempt to gain insight into the mental state of a person.