Haunting in Hopewell
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Nov 4, 2013, 12:20
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Chris Balassone,with Tri-City Paranormal, leads visitors through a “haunted” tale.
HOPEWELL — The vacant store front at 232 E. Broadway in downtown Hopewell has a tragic history. In 1946, it housed a flower shop owned by Ms. Powell, whose daughter, Samantha, 7, was a constant presence. Soon the mother and daughter were the characters in a horrific story that still haunts the downtown.
One night, Ms. Powell was in the shop with her daughter and through a fit of forgetfulness, had to run out to her car. Though she only gone for a few moments, she came back to her daughter’s screams and to find Samantha’s throat cut. The days passed and Ms. Powell fell into a deeper and deeper depression.
A client of the flower shop came by one morning to find the door locked, all the lights out and Ms. Powell’s car still parked outside. Knowing that something was not right, she called the Hopewell police to come investigate. After gaining entry into the shop, the police found Ms. Powell had hung herself in the back room of the shop with a rope.
“What we’re trying to figure out is, the case was never solved, is it that Ms. Powell killed Samantha and then killed herself because she couldn’t deal with it or was it someone else that killed Samantha,” Chris Balassone, group director for Tri-City Paranormal, asked the visitors to the haunted house. Suddenly a bang comes from the corner of the room, prompting screams.
With all the lights out, except for the small light coming from Balassone’s flashlight, the group made its way through the building, watching Balassone conduct an investigation to find out what haunts 232 E. Broadway. Creaks in the attic, objects falling off shelves, bangs and booms off the walls and haunted laughter filled the store as group went through the investigation.
The lights come on and suddenly the story changes.
“I like that they had a story behind it. It got you interested,” said Evan Kaufman, director of the Hopewell Downtown Partnership. “I think storytelling is a lost art. Everybody loves to hear a good story and I think they came up with a good story.”
Though the terror felt by visitors was real, the bumps, the creaks, the haunts and the story of Ms. Powell and Samantha, were all staged by Tri-City Paranormal for the Halloween season. On Wednesday night, Tri-City Paranormal led visitors through the house, teaching them about how they conduct a real paranormal investigation, even demonstrating how they use their equipment, but used the story and noises to add a tinge of terror.
With the help of Lisa Wiggins, owner of Gardener’s Gate in Hopewell, Kaufman brought the night of haunts to downtown. Wiggins, who has worked with the group before and enjoys the world of the paranormal, even became part of the story, hiding in the attic waiting to scare visitors as they walked through the building.
Tyler Adams, tech specialist with the group, came up with the story and spent time figuring out how to bring the haunted element. Adams, along with other members of the group, hid in all corners of the building, using simple items, like a pole and fishing wire, to create loud bumps, and creaking doors. Both Balassone and Adams said that this haunted house was different from what many people frequent on Halloween.
“When you go to a haunted house, you know there’s going to be blood, gore, guts and people will jump out,” Adams said. “The best part is how we do this. We take stuff from our real situations, situations where if this would have happened that would have scared the mess out of me. That’s what we try to bring to the table, what would scare us and that’s what we try to stage.”
Balassone said haunted houses bring “shock and awe.” He said that night is was all about “dark and quiet.”
“It’s more messing with your mind than your surroundings,” Balassone said. “We let you do it to yourself. We don’t do a whole lot.”
Michelle Holsopple and her husband, Jay, were on one group tour of the house and came out with smiles, though Michelle did admit she screamed quite a few times.
“There wasn’t anything that was predictable,” Michelle said.
Between the two, Jay is the bigger fan of the bumps in the night and enjoyed the haunted house, noting his favorite part was seeing his wife jump and get scared.
“The last time she squeezed my hand that hard, she was having a baby,” Jay said.
Tri-City Paranormal, who is based in Central Virginia, was formed in 2004 and since that time, the group has conducted free paranormal investigations for clients all over the state.
A year ago, the group became part of Ideal Event Management, and in that time have been traveling all over to places like New York and Georgia, teaching people about paranormal investigations. Soon, the group will be coming back to Hopewell to investigate a staple building in the community.
“We’re getting ready to do an investigation when the Beacon [Theatre] opens up,” Balassone said. “We’re going to do some things over there with them and a couple of investigations we’re getting ready to line up for the rest of the year.”
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Tyler Adams with Tri-City Paranormal leads visitors through a “haunted” tale.
Even though Kaufman said he is a difficult person to scare, he hopes to expand on the haunted house next year.
“Hopefully in the years coming we’ll have events on each of the holidays and we’ll do it bigger and better, have monthly promos going on along with other festivals … start to recreate the downtown as the center of social activity,” Kaufman said.