There’s a brick building with brick cells on the old Casper Army Air Base. It was built in 1942 during World War II, a psychiatric ward for the mentally unstable, a jail for the misbehaviors.
The brick building with brick cells has a bolted wooden door. It says “No trespassing.” The wood is peeling, shedding 70-year-old splinters in an area of Casper where deaths were accidental and common. Over 16,000 bomber crewmen occupied this airbase between 1942 and 1945, young soldiers quickly trained to operate four-engine bomber planes. Nearly 150 people crashed and died, many just outside the psychiatric ward.
Some say it is the most haunted place in Casper.
That’s why three members of the Casper Area Paranormal Seekers (CAPS) stood under a full moon Tuesday night, equipped with electromagnetic and heating devices, why a 9-year-old girl shined her flashlight at the bolted wooden door while the director and curator of the Wyoming Veterans Memorial Museum used power tools to pry it open, why this location is one of four on next weekend's Ghost Night at the Museums tour.
“This is not a positive, happy building,” Curator Douglas Cubbison said, lifting the door off its hinges.
There are no working lights inside.
I wore a headlamp. Others used their phones or gripped the handles of flashlights. We walked single file. Chunks of the ceiling were missing. Shards of broken glass and woodchips littered the floor, crunching under our shoes like a bed of tortilla chips. The building was long, especially at night. The rays from our lights were not strong enough to reach the end of the hallway, creating a cloud of constant darkness in the distance.
The first loud noise we heard was a rapid click, like a Taser or a wind-up toy. The noise came from a paranormal investigator’s camera.
“That’s the first time it’s ever done that,” Eddie Tillman said, looking down at his device. “And it didn’t do that until I tried to take a picture of this room.”
Eddie is the husband of Kaylie Tillman, who created CAPS with her late friend Susie Klungness. The room Eddie referred to was a cell, one of many that lined the hallway. Every cell had a door, each with a dead bolt that locked from the outside.
“They wanted to make sure these guys didn’t get out,” Cubbison said.
Inside each cell, the windows were boarded. There were stained, chipped toilets. There were radiators and pipes, covered to prevent injury or suicide. Some cells had graffiti on the walls from trespassers who’d managed to break in over the years.
One message read “STOP” in red spray paint. Another read “KILL KILL KILL.”
The paranormal seekers carried K2 electromagnetic field detectors, a heat sensor, a voice recorder, a camera and a night-vision camcorder.
Kaylie held the K2, a device slightly larger than a voice recorder. It measures electromagnetic fields using a barometer. There’s a green light. If it picks up a signal, it changes from green to yellow to orange to red, depending on the strength, just like the Fan-O-Meter on the Jumbotron at sporting events.
Kaylie walked slowly, focused on the green light, taking lots of pictures with the flash activated. She’s been doing this for eight years. She believes in ghosts.
“There’s no proof,” she said. “You can either believe it or you don’t have to. There’s no arguing about it.”
Kaylie, who will be one of the paranormal guides for the museum ghost tour, takes a lot of pictures because rarely do you see anything mysterious with the naked eye. The pictures, videos and audio recordings offer an opportunity to replay the event, assessing any suspicious behavior.
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There is one photo in particular Kaylie likes to show off. She took it somewhere in Casper. It’s a picture of three people in a hallway. There’s a girl wearing a pink shirt with a camera around her neck. To her right are two strangers, one inches away from holding her hand, the other leaning against the wall.
The only real person in the photo is the girl with the pink shirt.
“And if I didn’t take it,” Kaylie said, “I wouldn’t believe it, either.”
Waiting for something to happen is by far the creepiest part, because you don’t want anything to happen.
You’re looking for faces you don’t want to see, shadows you don’t want to find. You’re listening for footsteps and whispers, thumps and screams, waiting for a tap on the shoulder or a tug on the pant legs.
I asked Kaylie if I could hold the K2 device. “Are there any ghosts in here,” I said. “Anybody here?”
The light stayed green.
“Is there anybody here that would like to talk to us?” Kaylie asked. “If you get close, (the K2 will) light up so we know that you’re here.”
I walked the hallway alone for a few more minutes. Only a few of us remained in the building. Most of the group was already outside. I too headed toward the exit, until Kaylie called me back.
“It was lighting up in here,” she said.
I followed her voice, joining her and another paranormal seeker in a section of a cell that looked to be the shower.
“Is there somebody in here?” Kaylie asked.
The light moved three notches to orange.
“We are not here to hurt you,” Kaylie said, “We just want to talk to you.”
The light flickered again.
We asked more questions. Were you a soldier? Were you in here to take a shower? Did you die here? Did you die on this property? Are you still here? Can you please come back?
Whatever had set the K2 meter off left. So we did, too. We turned off our flashlights, walked outside, stopped our recording devices and put away our cameras, watching the wooden door bolt back in place, not to be opened again until Oct. 18.