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Full moonThe Tennessee Wraith Chasers (TWC) were in Gordonsville once again in December, inviting more than 50 of the followers of their cable television series Haunted Towns to join them at the Exchange Hotel Civil War Medical Museum for a paranormal investigation.

Despite a cold, snowy night, fans from all corners of Virginia converged on the former hotel and Civil War receiving hospital to join the four men as they spent nearly six hours in that building, its grounds and the former Virginia Central Railroad freight depot nearby, listening, watching and waiting for hints of what might still stir within those walls.

It wasn’t the first time the four men, three from Tennessee and one from New Jersey, have been in Gordonsville to drink in its history and sometimes tumultuous and tragic past.

And it won’t be the last.

If there was ever a town with a fertile environment for some bumps in the night, Gordonsville may rank near the top of the list, with the hotel and freight station area its epicenter.

For the duration of the Civil War the hotel served as a hospital for sick and wounded soldiers. The wounded and dying from nearby battlefields such as Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Trevilian Station, Mine Run, Brandy Station, and the Wilderness were brought by the trainloads. Although it was primarily a Confederate facility, the hospital treated the wounded from both sides. Twenty-six Union soldiers died there.

By the end of the war, some 70,000 soldiers were treated there, and hundreds died there. It is a place that witnessed unimaginable pain, suffering and death, not just from battle wounds, but also from disease that was rampant in the ranks.

It is just the place for the four chasers of spirits, Chris Smith, Brannon Smith, Doogie MacDougal and Mike Goncalves, to bring their listening devices and their experience in paranormal activity to bear. Their most recent engagement actually began on Friday, when they visited a number of historic places in and around Gordonsville, including the Confederate section of Maplewood Cemetery, where scores of Southern soldiers were re-interred from the Exchange grounds after the war, the Magnolia House, the Blind Preacher’s house, some old field houses, and a former brothel.

They were shown around by Angel May, administrator of the museum.

“When we were here in September,” Chris Smith said, “we weren’t able to get the whole scope of the area. When we go to a new place we talk to the owner and learn about the history of it and look through it.

“As far as an investigation goes, we do what is known as a baseline sweep on our meters, where you take background energy readings like EMF [electromagnetic force], power lines, [and] air conditioning.”

With that baseline in hand, they can better determine if something occurs inside a building that is not the result of some external source.

The group has been together for a few years now, originally brought together by their common experiences with the paranormal.

“We all come from different walks of life,” Chris Smith said. “Doogie and I used to work out in the same gym. We’re all kind of connected in the paranormal. We all had some kind of experience that brought us together and made us the team that’s the TWC.”

“We definitely think outside the box,” MacDougal said. “We’ve always said other teams do things their way; TWC does it a totally different way.

“Anything out there is definitely worth a try to see if you can get different answers. We took a lot of flak for trying to contain energy. They said we were trapping ghosts, but it’s one of those things that, hey, if it’s trapped in the walls, why can’t you get it outside those walls.”

The night at the museum was not without its adventures, according to May, who was present in the building until the group dispersed at about 2 a.m. on Sunday.

“We had EVPs [electronic voice phenomena] as the guests asked the questions...all kinds of things,” she said afterward.

The tape from a live video recording on some of the floors of the building had yet to be reviewed.

“We don’t know if anything turned up on video,” she said, “but when I was with another group, they had meters going off and things like that.”

The Tennessee Wraith Chasers have a substantial following on their Destination America cable network series.

And, they have substantial experience in the paranormal field, having conducted paranormal investigations at a number of historical sites, from Salem, Mass., the site of the infamous “witch trials,” to McDonough, Ga., the site of a deadly train crash.

“There’s something to it,” Brannon said. “You can’t scientifically explain it yet, but that’s what we’re working toward. There is no doubt that there is something we can’t see that is intelligent enough to interact with us.”

“We find a lot of answers in this field,” MacDougal added, “but the answers lead us to more questions.”

“We take what we do very seriously,” Chris Smith said, “but we don’t take ourselves very seriously. We like to have a good time; we like to cut up; we’re always pranking each other.”

The group has yet to decide whether Gordonsville will be the subject for one of their show’s segments, although they admitted that what they have seen and experienced in Gordonsville so far would likely make a good episode.

The visits to the town and investigations at the museum and other sites are basically an opportunity to give people who are interested in paranormal investigations a chance to interact with them.

And it gives the Wraith Chasers a chance to talk to those who might have even more experience in the field than they do.

“We can swap tactics and some stories with them,” Goncalves said. “A lot of these people are paranormal investigators themselves, some of them a lot longer than we have. It also gives us a chance to introduce The Exchange to the rest of the world, to people who have never heard of it.”

The public investigations also provide the museum with a bit of income, since the Wraith Chasers share a portion of the fees charged to participants.