In Feb. 14 IssueBy Derek AaronRussell County News Editor
A Russell County family was featured on A&E’s hit ghost show “Paranormal State” this past Monday night, looking at the case of a possible haunting at a home in the northern part of the county.
Jeff McGaha, his daughter, Sierra, and his mother, Linda, were all part of the episode entitled “The Anniversary,” which, according to the network, went like this “ever since a close-knit Kentucky family moved into their new home, they’ve been visited by the spirit of a young girl. Jeff, his daughter and his mother have all had experiences, ranging from full-bodied apparitions to an audible cry of ‘mama, mama, mama’.”
The network’s Web site states that with the help of psychic Michelle Belanger, Ryan Buell and the Paranormal Research Society “uncover the story of a 100-year-old murder, and the uncanny connections echoing throughout the generations.”
McGaha said it was different seeing himself and his family on television and that nothing was prompted on their part for the episode.
“The team and the camera crew were all very nice and polite,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for nicer people.”
The Paranormal Research Society, a professional organization dedicated to exploring the unknown that originated at Penn State University, filmed throughout the county and in the McGaha home Dec. 4, 5 and 6 of last year.
He said he never anticipated that the PRS would come to town when he e-mailed them about his situation last fall, but about a week later they made contact and said they’d like to come to the area. At first, the family had some doubts about bringing in such a group to deal with his family’s ordeal.
“I’ve never been brought up to believe in ghosts,” McGaha said. “I disputed this up until late August or early September when my mom saw her standing in the window.”
He said that his mother and two other girls, who are friends of his daughters, seen the figure of a little girl and that they all physically described her “95 to 98 percent” the same to him.
“I believe in God and I believe in angels but I didn’t believe if you died your spirit could hang around,” he said.
Buell and his show castmates interviewed the three members of the family who’ve all had paranormal experiences in the new home as well as researched the case at the public libraries in both Russell and Adair County.
McGaha’s wife, Vickie, and his other daughter, Megan, have also had paranormal experiences in the home but were not featured in the episode. He said that a total of nine people, including his four family members, have had chilling experiences in the home, which was moved into in Dec. 2007.
“I won’t say that I’m a 100 percent believer now but I’ve definitely crossed the 50 percent mark and am leaning that way,” he said. “There is a lot of stuff that has happened here that I just can’t explain.”
While in Russell County, Buell and the PRS dug out the well-known story of the murder of 8-year-old Nannie Womack in Russell County, a crime that was committed more than 100 years ago. The PRS concluded that Womack’s murder occurred just a few miles from the McGaha residence and that it may be Womack’s spirit that they have come in contact with at the house.
According to reports from several publications and books on the topic, Womack was found assaulted and murdered around three miles from Russell Springs in late 1908, near where the McGaha house now stands. Local Delvin Wilson, a nearby McGaha neighbor, took the PRS crew to the supposed murder scene on his land during one of the episode’s segments. Allegedly, local man Elmer Hill was suspected of the crime. After being detained and later moved to a jail in Monticello, a lynch mob discovered his whereabouts and forced the jail to hand him over, according to reports.
He was hanged by the mob in Jamestown with his body not discovered by authorities until the next day.
According to “Paranormal State,” as Hill murdered Womack she was supposed to have said the words, “mama, mama, mama” as she died, the same audible sound that McGaha had heard in his home.
McGaha said he had heard of the Elmer Hill incident, but didn’t know the name of the girl he had allegedly killed or that Womack went to school at Mt. Olive, located just a short piece from his home.
“I had no earthly idea,” he said.
McGaha’s mother, Linda, told the paranormal investigators she had seen an apparition in the home’s window and, using a sketch artist, eerily depicted a figure that resembled that of Womack, according to old photos of the young girl. Linda also picked Womack out of a series of old photos. McGaha’s daughter, Sierra, a freshman at Russell County High School, said in the episode that she has had numerous encounters with the being and that she had been frightened to the point of not being able to sleep in her own bed at night.
Her father said the occurrences do not happen every night.
“You might have something two or three nights a week and then you might go two or three weeks and not have anything,” McGaha said. He said the occurrences seem to happen most often after one of his daughters, either Sierra or Megan, have a sleepover where several girls are in the house at once. The subsequent nights result in visits from the little girl’s apparition along with footsteps and noises, according to McGaha.
“When you have kids and they’re afraid, you step out of your normal bounds to try and figure it out,” he said. McGaha said his family never felt physically threatened by the presence, rather just uneasy about the figure’s unanticipated visits.
Out in the community, McGaha said he has received mostly positive feedback from the A&E program, probably “90 percent,” he said. He said he had even received a positive call from someone as far away as Cocoa Beach, Fla. about the program.
“You’re gonna have your doubting people and those that will make fun,” he said. “I know what we saw.”
While the occurrences have slowed in the new year, they haven’t stopped completely. Buell advised the family to pray for the presence, according to McGaha.
“And we did,” he said. “I don’t see how it could hurt to pray for anybody.” When asked if he had found his answer in “Paranormal State’s” findings, he said “we’re pointed in the right direction.”
“I don’t know if it is Nannie, but there is a lot of evidence for that.”