Paranormal Activity

Interested in paranormal investigation? We spent the night in Pythian Castle with a team of paranormal investigators. Learn how you can try a little ghost hunting out for yourself.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article was fact checked and accurate at press time, but 417 Magazine cannot guarantee its accuracy indefinitely.

Pythian Castle owner Tamara Finocchiaro openly admits that she isn’t a paranormal professional. Not at all. She doesn’t claim to have a sixth sense, and you won’t find her roaming around the nearly 40,000-square-foot castle she calls home with anything like a digital recorder or an EMF reader. But she has still had plenty of inexplicable things happen to her at Pythian Castle since she moved there in 2003.

“You can’t be here long without having some experience,” Finocchiaro says. “That’s just a given.” Finocchiaro says she has heard something calling her name, bumped into masses, heard whistling and heard things being thrown from floor to floor, just to name a few instances.

Finocchiaro has no doubt that she, her mother and her dogs aren’t the only ones who live in Pythian Castle. After all, it’s nearly 100 years old, and in its time it has been an orphanage and senior citizens’ home, a hospital service club used for entertainment and more. It was owned by the military and once housed prisoners of war. More than 80 people have died there. Many believe there is a whole lot of energy at Pythian Castle, making it the perfect spot to have a paranormal investigation.

Pythian Castle offers overnight ghost hunts in coordination with Paranormal Task Force (PTF), a Missouri-based, nationally known paranormal research and investigative non-profit organization that investigates locations for purported paranormal activity. PTF, based near St. Louis in Arnold, Missouri, has conducted approximately a dozen overnight ghost hunts at Pythian Castle since 2007. Gregory Myers, president and investigative coordinator of PTF, says Pythian Castle has produced a plethora of experiences for himself, PTF and the visiting groups. The team has captured a variety of paranormal activity there, including full-bodied and shadow apparitions, disembodied voices and other sounds, unexplainable environmental disturbances (such as moving hot and cold spots), phantom cigar, floral and gunpowder odors and more.

Every Overnight Ghost Hunt starts with a historic and haunted tour of the castle lead by Tim Piland. After the tour, PTF’s lead investigator meets with the group and discusses housekeeping and safety rules, basic investigative protocols and logistical information. Then, the guests divide into three smaller groups that undergo a series of three one-hour rotations to each level of the castle: The basement, the main floor and the second floor. During this rotation period, guests can explore on their own or with PTF investigators. At midnight, guests eat a tasty midnight snack and attendance prizes are raffled, and then attendees are allowed to investigate for paranormal activity throughout the castle on their own until 4 a.m.

Curious what we found on our visit? You can read about our adventure online to pump yourself up for your own Pythian ghost hunt. In the meantime, a teaser: We may have had a chilly, unseen visitor down in the basement.

Spending the Night in a Castle

I’m not afraid to admit it: I believe in ghosts and paranormal activity. That’s why I was oh-so-excited (and a little scared) to do the hands-on reporting, er, investigating, for this story.

Kevin O’Riley, our staff photographer, and I arrived at Pythian Castle a little before 7 p.m. on the night of the ghost hunt. The evening had very appropriate chilly, rainy weather. Just seconds after walking through the castle’s front doors, I realized that I was with a group of very serious paranormal investigators. All the guests had backpacks and briefcases of equipment. They were toting around digital cameras and recorders and notebooks. I overheard them discussing other hunts and experiences, already snapping photos and searching for orbs. I knew these people were hardcore, and I knew Kevin and I had a great adventure ahead of us.

The evening started with speaker Tim Piland, who did a fabulous job of telling the castle’s history and getting us all excited for what was ahead of us. Piland even shared a story about when he stayed the night in the castle alone, and it gave me major goose bumps. (I’ll save that for him to tell.) Then, Piland took us on a tour of the space and told us about different activities and events that happened in the rooms over the years.

After the tour, it was time for the first rounds of exploring and investigations. Our group was in the basement first, and I was excited: To me, it felt like the creepiest floor in the whole castle. Our group made its way to a back room and used a digital audio recorder to ask any questions to any unknown paranormal presence. Our PTF leader asked a series of questions, all on a recorder to be reviewed later. Then, all of a sudden, one of the guests in the corner of the room said he felt a drastic change in temperature. Another guest took two temperature readings: One about 10 feet from him, which read around 67°F, and one next to him, which read about 45°F. I got freaked out for the first time of the night.

Next we moved to the second floor. There wasn’t much to report about during this hour, as nothing unusual happened when we explored the main level of the house. Not for Kevin and I, anyway. But it was after that hour when we took a 10-minute break that I had my single most terrifying moment of the evening. I went to use the bathroom, and I was the only person in there. I know this for a fact, because I even did the duck-and-look trick in search of feet. Well, after I went in the bathroom, I opened the stall door and then turned around to shut it. It let out a loud squeak as it shut, and approximately two seconds later, the stall door two doors down let out the same squeak. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I rebuttoned my pants as fast as I could and bolted out of the bathroom and down the hall to find someone to come to the bathroom with me.

After exploring the third floor and eating some tasty pasta, it was time to do the open investigation. This is where Kevin and I were at a little bit of a disadvantage: We didn’t have any of our own equipment. Rather than tagging along and ruining someone else’s night of paranormal investigation, we made friends with Heather and Rob Richardson and Kira Pfeifle of Webb City’s 60th Street Paranormal and agreed to do a follow-up with them later. “We thought the whole evening was really interesting, and the history was really neat,” says Heather. “Everywhere we go to investigate, we try to learn the history first.” Heather says they didn’t hear or see anything that night at the castle, but after they went home and later reviewed their recordings and photos, they learned that their recorder did catch a noise that sounded like a gasp and a voice saying “Help” while it was sitting in a room on the main level. “Also, we got a picture that looks like a full-body apparition,” Heather says.

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