Note: Saturday night multimedia journalist Trevier Gonzalez joined Corpus Christi Spook Central Paranormal, a South Texas team of investigators focused on providing scientific explanations of the unknown. This was his experience.
I was told early-on that paranormal investigations are actually more effective when you go in “blind.” As someone who tries to avoid being clueless on new subjects, that was a little troubling. But, it makes sense now.
They don’t jump to conclusions. For this particular team, they want to help people reach closure or answers with evidence as solid as they can get. Generally, they don’t work with psychics or mediums, and share no interest in “cleansing” spirits.
It was still daytime. I still had time. As much as I enjoy scrambling to write down fact last-minute facts for an interview — the fact that I still had to wrap up another story allowed me to make amends with that. Needless to say, I was “blind” on this one.
After making the trip to Port Aransas — about 40 minutes — I found the perfect parking spot adjacent to The Tarpon Inn. It reminded me of a hostel, but with a lot more older influences in the building’s design, and variety of people rather than a bunch of young adults trying to find a cheap stay.
The front door of every room was met with its own vintage rocking chair right outside. It was about a half hour before sundown, and the voice of a man singing about Port Aransas from the courtyard echoed throughout.
I eventually met with The Tarpon Inn’s manager, Amiee Van Winkle. Although her name drew a striking resemblance to an ex of mine, she radiated nothing but kindness — she even reopened her lobby to talk with me despite it being closing time. She knew this place inside and out.
She said the Inn was built in 1862, as Union barracks during the Civil War.
“And I did say Union,” she reaffirmed. “The Confederacy did not have any control down here — the Union had control over the port.”
Van Winkle said in 1886, it turned into a hotel and it’s been that way ever since. Even according to previous reports — before my time here — The Tarpon Inn is one of the oldest hotels in the state of Texas.
That history is something CC Spook Central Paranormal’s co-founder Monty Prescott would later tell me is important.
“You cannot have the paranormal unless you have history and this hotel has a lot of history,” he said. “Even this land here has a lot of history, so it just makes it even more interesting to see what you do capture.”
The Tarpon Inn’s most recent closure was in 2017 due to Hurricane Harvey, although they it did reopen just eight months later.
Van Winkle said she has managed the inn since Harvey, but she’s been a part of it since it was purchased by Lee Roy Hoskins in 2008. She’s heard her fair share of stories since then. Although, much like her kind spirit, she believes the spirits at the Inn are just guests who aren’t ready to check out.
She always enjoys hearing the reports she hears from guests.
“We’ve had guests tell us at the lights flicker at night, we have had doors open and shut by themselves,” she said. “(And) noises — like sounds like someone talking.”
Van Winkle mentioned one experience when she received a phone call.
“I will get a phone call in the middle of the night with a guest saying, ‘Hey Amiee, can you tell them to tell the kids to stop running on the porch,’ and I’ll ask, ‘Are they running right now?’
‘Yeah, yeah, they’re running.’ So I jump on the cameras and I’ll look — and there’s no kids running on the porch.’”
Those reports of children running along the porch happen often, Van Winkle said.
Despite those happenings, she reassures guest to not be afraid, and for those curious — to give it a shot.
“Don’t be scared of anything that is here. It is all here because they love it just as much as you do,” Van Winkle said. “You may not experience anything, but then you may experience something (so) you have a story to tell years down the road. And, if you do stay here, and you have an experience, please come tell our front desk, because we want to know the stories.”
As our interview reached its end, it was sundown. Time for me to join their team of investigators. In total, there was four — the founder and lead investigator for Corpus Christi Spook Central, Margaret Prescott, her son, Monty, as well as investigators Shawna Davis and Sylvia Mills.
We had three rooms to ourselves tonight. 34, 36 and 40. This was the team's third investigation at this location.
At different times, these rooms had what was called a “spirit portal,” which appeared to be an electronic device that somehow manipulated sound waves so that the paranormal can communicate via sound. It looked like a semi-rigged transistor radio — although I hope that observation isn’t offensive.
To say the amount of devices being used is overkill would probably be in bad taste.
“We use those all in harmony hopefully, to try to get some type of response that might correlate with the stories or the history of the location,” Monty explained.
The sounds the spirit portal emitted were harsh and repetitive. Unending, too. Only rarely would a semblance of a voice come through. Some were more audible than others.
Margaret had told me they had already heard a child’s voice coming through.
“I’m not sure if his name was Freddie, but that’s what he was telling us — Freddy,” she said. “A couple times, a child had said, ‘Mommy.’”
They had also gotten the name “Edward.”
“And even hearing like a small child laughing, like giggling through the box and then you get this really sweet little ‘Hi’ and I thought it was adorable, but again — it’s sad because if this is like a child that is stuck here they shouldn’t be here, they should go on,” Margaret said.
Monty went over some of their other equipment, a thermal imaging camera, a set of closed-circuit cameras tied to DVR systems and a REM Pod, which looks like a fancy coffee can with an antennae.
Fittingly enough, according to a paranormal coffee shop (no, really) a REM Pod radiates an electromagnetic field to create energy for spirits to communicate through.
There was also an Ovilus, an electronic device that somehow makes letters from energy — which I describe as an electronic Ouija Board. With use of this little device similar to a BlackBerry, we got several words to appear onscreen. Metal. Property. Haste. Rabbit. Even the word “Wave” just moments after I had waved my hand.
Upstairs, in a larger room calls out to a girl named “Molly” had also been made.
I asked questions too. Among a few, there was one that struck me.
“What is your favorite animal?” I asked.
I really wish I had brought a toy bunny.
There were also multiple voices overlapping, although they were all pretty inaudible like a Zoom call that just wasn’t meant to be.
We had also been told to get out a few times by an older, male voice.
It took hours to get to that point, but Margaret reassured me that patience was key in making contact.
“Doing this after 16 years at all the investigations that we’ve ever done, I would probably say 90 percent of the time, you may not get anything,” she said. “But you have that one 10 percent that you can actually capture some thing — that can make you go ‘Wow.’ It’s an interesting field.”
There weren’t any moments were I was knocked over or got possessed — and that’s OK. Most of the team explained to me that — even in some popular media where paranormal investigations are overplayed, its important to remember that these spirits were once alive.
With that, they make a point to approach each paranormal investigation with respect, as well as a healthy dose of skepticism.
“You have to be a skeptic,” Monty said. “You have to have that open mind that not every place you walk into has has activity or is haunted, so when you leave that location, you have that tangible evidence that you’re able to show the owner or bring closure to a story or left one, you’re able to really tie everything together into one story that now has the story, the evidence and the ending.”
Corpus Christi Spook Central Paranormal conducts investigations throughout the state of Texas at no charge. More information can be found on their website.