ALBION — An Albion couple with a penchant for scaring people hosted a famous ghost hunting crew as they looked for evidence of paranormal activity at the old Albion State Normal School Campus.
Heather and Troy Mortensen, owners of the Albion Campus Retreat and the Haunted Mansions, allowed Zak Bagans and the Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures” crew to scour the buildings on the campus and do an in-depth investigation last month.
The Mortensens signed a contract with the show that prevented them from letting anyone know the crew was in Albion on July 18-20.
“They didn’t want to be bombarded by fans and have their work disrupted while they were filming,” Troy Mortensen said. “So we kept it quiet.”
During the investigation the ghost hunting crew chose to focus on Comish Hall, which the Mortensens say is one of the most haunted buildings.
Heather Mortensen describes herself as a skeptic.
“I don’t normally believe in ghosts,” she said. “But things have happened here that can’t be explained.”
Heather has heard people speaking to her and footsteps when no one else was in a building. Before there was electricity on the campus, the couple saw lights in windows.
The production team conducted thorough research on the campus, and the crew interviewed people who had connections to it, she said.
Former campus caretaker John Kay Powell of Albion was one.
Powell said that while many people focus on Comish Hall, his most chilling encounter happened during daylight while he was mowing the lawn at Miller Hall before the Mortensens owned the property.
There was a horizontal pipe coming out of the building that could be hooked to an irrigation hose and as he was mowing the lawn, the pipe slid out from the wall another two feet — right in front of him.
“The building was all boarded up at the time and I thought there must be some kids in there,” Powell said. “So I got off the riding lawnmower to check, but all the doors were locked.”
After musing over the event he concluded “it was just a ghost, I guess.”
Over the years, he said, there has been ample talk about Miller Hall being haunted, which was the men’s dormitory when the campus was a school for teachers.
During WWII all the young men were at war and Miller Hall was boarded up and used for a spook alley for Halloween.
Soon, Powell said, there were rumors circulating that there was “something in there helping things along.”
The college was established in 1893 by the Idaho Legislature and closed in 1951 due to lack of funding. The school was reopened by a Christian college but closed again in 1969.
It sat vacant for decades.
The Mortensen’s first ghost report happened right after they purchased the property in 2007. An excavator operator working on the property said he saw a young girl in the windows of one of the buildings.
“He wouldn’t go into the building,” Troy said.
After they got the request from the show to film at the campus, Heather said, she had to do some research to find out who they were.
But the experience, she said, turned out to be a good one.
“Zak is really intense,” Troy said. “He is all about it, and he takes it very seriously.”
While Aaron Goodwin, he said, is very personable and fun loving.
Heather said it was a difficult decision to let the show come because they wanted to film during the retreat’s busiest time of year.
The retreat rents buildings for family reunions and other events, and Comish Hall is rented for special occasions like weddings and parties. Each fall the Mortensens turn five of the buildings on campus into the Haunted Mansions, complete with props and actors in ghoulish makeup.
“And they were very concerned about our guests getting in their space while they were working,” Heather said.
During the preliminary investigation, the Ghost Adventures crew honed in on “a very strong presence” in Comish Hall, Troy said.
Most of the reports of unexplained activity stem from that building, Troy said, and many include sightings of a pale woman with dark eyes bustling between the kitchen and the living quarters.
The description, he said, matches that of a woman who was the cook at the school for 40 years.
The Ghost Adventures team picked up voices on their electronic devices in the building, Troy said.
Different crews came in each day, and they performed reenactments that included an event that happened on a closing night of the Haunted Mansions where eight staff members came running out of the gym after they saw a large dark shadow of a man going into the balcony.
“It was really cool to watch the whole process as they filmed,” Heather said.
The episode will air at the end of October or first of November.