Whether you enjoy watching paranormal television shows like Ghost Adventures or you’re an experienced paranormal investigator, learning about the history behind some of the most haunted locations in America is not just educational, it can be fun. For this month’s DEAD Time, I talked with an expert on haunted history, who not only tells the stories behind historical locations with a history of otherworldly activity, but he also strives to preserve those histories.
With over a decade of experience as a paranormal investigator, Conner Gossel created the popular Instagram account Haunted Historian and also hosts The Haunted Historian podcast. Conner travels the country to explore famous haunted locations and also showcases little-known locales to share the histories behind those venues.
Conner shared with me how he went from being a paranormal investigator for fun on the weekends to becoming the Haunted Historian with a substantial following on Instagram, his most frightening paranormal experience, and a lot more. Read on to find out what we talked about and make sure you check out Haunted Historian on IG to learn the histories behind the most fascinating and haunted locations in America!
Bloody Disgusting: You created the Instagram account Haunted Historian, which has over 73,000 followers, and you have a podcast of the same name. How did you first become involved with the paranormal?
Conner Gossel: I grew up in Beavercreek, Ohio outside of Dayton. It’s a very small town with corn fields and forests and not a lot to do. One thing my friends and I enjoyed growing up was watching the original Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures series. With so little to do on weekends, as we got older and had jobs and disposable income, one thing we wanted to do was go out and have similar adventures of our own rather than just sitting around and watching it. There were about fourteen of us then and it was really a novelty at first, just something interesting and unique to do together for a Saturday night excursion. It quickly became very real when we had the opportunity to go to the first location, which was Hill View Manor in New Castle, Pennsylvania. We experienced so much activity and about ten years later, there are two or three of us left who help out with the Haunted Historian page. It really spurred the creation of a compendium for like-minded enthusiasts.
BD: Why did you decide you wanted to cover haunted historical locations?
CG: As it relates to hauntings, I’ve always had an innate attraction to that genre and that field, the stories and the narratives that surround locations. I had a minor in history in college and I just decided to merge the two together and cover the families and the people and the venues of some not to often explored and more macabre histories in different parts of the country. It was really just sort of an outlet at first, to be able to stay in communication with friends and members of the paranormal community while I was away at college, and to have some kind of access to that horror world. I never anticipated that years down the line it would grow into so much more.
BD: How do you choose the locations you want to cover or investigate? Do you have a process that you go through?
CG: At this point, locations that we’re covering are planned out pretty well in advance, but what we’re typically looking for are locations that are a bit more off the beaten path. We’ve covered some very well-known locations like Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum or the RMS Queen Mary, but what we really focus on are locations that most people don’t know, that unless you grew up in that neck of the woods you were completely unaware that this venue existed. We do that, not only as a means to shed light on histories and hauntings that people have never really heard before, but to offer an outlet to investigators that gives them different venues to go to. That’s really become the primary focus, is how can we expand the paranormal field by focusing entirely on those venues that are kind of being brushed under the rug.
BD: Can you tell me about your most unnerving paranormal experience and how you handled it?
CG: I would have to say my most unnerving paranormal experience was in July of 2020, and I had a friend of a friend who owned what’s called Beach Army Hospital in Mineral Wells, Texas. I was surprised I had never heard of this massive, 90,000 square foot, Vietnam war era hospital on the outskirts of town. They asked if I wanted to come and check the hospital out because the family had become weary of going out there because of the amount of activity they had been seeing. So, they chained the doors and put me inside the hospital for the entire night by myself, which I absolutely would recommend to any investigator because you never know what can happen.
Outside of the general circumstances of my situation, the most startling thing to happen to me was that while I was exploring the cafeteria on the first floor, the psychiatric ward is on the second floor, and while down there you could hear doors up there that were slamming shut. I’d been shown this area by the owner, and it took two hands from a living person and a lot of elbow grease to slam these very heavy, very decrepit doors closed. The fact that they were doing it as if it was something as simple as the wind blowing was impossible, but at the same time was in fact happening and it just sent shivers down my spine. I stayed on the first floor for quite some time until that died down [laughs].
BD: What’s your favorite haunted location you’ve investigated?
CG: I think my favorite haunted location so far is actually one that we’ll be posting in the coming weeks. It’s one that we just did, and it was the first time anyone was allowed to come out there to do an investigation. It’s called Bogle Winery in Clarksburg, California and some people might recognize the name because it’s the parent company who created the nationally popular Phantom wine brand. Their entire brand is based around the haunting at the vineyard and the mystery surrounding that. This one in particular took months of coordination, but I was able to bring out a team member with me. As people will be able to read when the post comes out, it was just one of the most active and startling investigations of my entire career. Beyond just the story and the brand, for those who are aware of it, it lives up to its name. It’s more than just marketing [laughs].
BD: What do you think is the most haunted location in the country?
CG: My mind immediately jumps to the RMS Queen Mary. Beyond it being a pinnacle location that everyone knows about, it’s a venue that so many people have gone to that I know, and no one has ever left without an experience. What’s more, those who do go there looking for an experience, they don’t leave without something that’s so startling and so groundbreaking. I guess the easiest way to put it is that no paranormal enthusiast goes to RMS Queen Mary and leaves without dubbing that place as the most haunted location they’ve ever stepped foot in. It’s kind of the penultimate venue, the one that never disappoints. It’s not a matter of whether it’s a quiet night or an active night; when you go there it’s just a matter of what’s going to happen. That’s the benefit of having an estimated 100 spirits haunting a ship I suppose [laughs].
BD: Is there a location you have not been able to investigate yet, that you would love to investigate?
CG: I don’t know if it will ever be possible, but it’s in my home state and I’ve gone by it many times, but I really hope The Ridges Lunatic Asylum in Athens, Ohio decides to open its doors to the public. It’s the biggest venue of its kind in Ohio, if not the entirety of the east coast and it’s also under the tightest lock and key and is not open to the public. It’s been requested so many times by the public and TV networks and they actually have a pamphlet that they will provide to you or send you a PDF version of and it’s called Why We Don’t Let Paranormal Investigators Go Inside the Asylum. But the stories around it and the movies based on some of the patients from there talk about some very unique tragedies that have occurred on the site of the asylum, as well as on the adjacent Ohio University campus. We cover a lot of asylums and sanitariums and a lot of hospitals, and they get difficult to write about because to some degree they’re all very similar in what their narrative is. But The Ridges will always be a standalone location and I cannot tell you what I would give to be able to step foot inside of there for a night.