Iowa Paranormal was founded by husband/wife team of Steven and Amber Tracy, and is the Midwest’s premier paranormal investigation organization. Wanting to learn more about this company, Steven Tracy allowed me to interview him for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: When did you first become interested in the paranormal?
Steven Tracy: Unlike a lot of people who get into this field because of an experience growing up, I never had one. I grew up on horror films and my interest in the paranormal came from them. I then was going to my local library and checking out books that dealt with UFOs, bigfoot, ghost, etc.
Yanes: There are a lot of movies, TV shows, and other media that depict paranormal investigations. What are some examples of a story getting everything wrong?
Tracy: It seems every damn show or movie, whether it is “loosely” based off a true story or not, seems to have Lucifer himself running around the house killing people.
Yanes: On this note, have you come across one that gets a lot of things right?
Tracy: No…If as much activity happens on every one of our investigations that happens on any show or movie, we would be dead by now.
Yanes: What inspired you to start investigating strange and paranormal incidents in Iowa?
Tracy: In my late teens, one day I looked up online in the early days of the internet a website ran by this man named Troy Taylor, who ran the American Ghost Society. He was a paranormal author and historian. I bought his book, The Ghosthunters Guidebook. I joined the AGS (which I still have my membership cards from the early 2000’s). I began by investigating some local legends and cemeteries. I went on a few investigations with another team early on. Troy additionally ran tours all around the U.S. to locations where you could purchase a ticket to investigate the night and with that, I was able to check out a few locations here in Iowa.
Yanes: When did you realize that there was a need for Iowa Paranormal to be founded?
Tracy: My wife and I had started hearing about some of the local mansions in our hometown being haunted…several actually. Right around that same time (2008), I had started a new job and met a few people who shared the same interest. It was then that my wife (Amber) and I decided to start Iowa Paranormal.
Yanes: What are some of the coolest places you’ve visited in Iowa as part of an investigation? Additionally, are there any places in Iowa that you would never revisit?
Tracy: We have had the great fortune of investigating so many damn cool places over the years here in Iowa. Everything from some of the old Fort Des Moines Army Barracks to the old St. Joe Hospital in Ottumwa. The Squirrel Cage jail in Council Bluffs, the Farrar Schoolhouse… there are honestly just too many to list. We have investigated so many cool locations that have had amazing paranormal activity in them.
As far as any places that would never revisit, there are a few…. not because of scary shit going down while we were there, but due to owner issues… and I’ll just leave it at that!
Yanes: How much prep work goes into getting ready for an investigation?
Tracy: Many steps are taken in the preparation of an investigation. Obviously, the initial phone call or email. Let’s take for example a business owner contacts me. We must hear all the claims, dig up any history on the location, and interview anyone who may have previously experienced activity there. I like to have a documented game plan on every investigation. We have so much equipment that I need to have an idea of where each stationary camera will be placed, where we have each of our voice recorders as well. It is extremely exhausting, not to mention if the location is a ways away. Do we need to reserve a hotel? Do we need to request time off work? So much planning.
Yanes: All paranormal investigators hope to document evidence of the unnatural. What are some of your best documented encounters with the paranormal?
Tracy: One of the local mansions that I mention earlier; our team was on the second floor in the middle of the night. We were scattered out along the long hallway. I was sitting up against the wall next to the door that led up to the attic. A camera is right on me. I tilt my head to listen closely as I hear someone…or something walking down the attic stairs. Suddenly, the door opens! That was a good one…there was another time where we were at the Squirrel Cage Jail in Council Bluffs. Two of our investigators are heading up to the officer living quarters on the 4th floor. You see both enter the room and then a cabinet door opens up right next to them. As it startles them, they hear footsteps behind them running down the stairs to the floor below them, which we have a camera set up as well. Right after they hear the running down the stairs, our camera on that floor moves!…really cool piece of evidence. Over the years, we have also captured lockers slamming shut on command, voices talking right next to us, etc. We have all of this and more on our YouTube channel.
Yanes: Ignoring the paranormal for a moment, what are some of the biggest challenges of investigating the supernatural? How does this work impact your financial and personal life?
Tracy: I’m going to be real blunt about this. There are many challenges over the past 10 years of doing this and it does not get any easier.
When we first started this group, we took on every investigation…I did not care if some lady told me her dog was barking at a corner in her house, we were there…and a lot of them, nothing was happening, but damn it, I wanted as many cases as possible. Over the years, especially the last few, I have limited the amount of cases we take on. I have 3 boys and the first two, I feel now that I lost some time watching them grow. There would be times I would be on the phone 2-3 times a week for over 3 hours talking with people about cases. That adds up.
All the equipment over the years. The amount of voice recorders, EMF meters, all this weird ghost gadgets add up… in the thousands of dollars. Hell, the 2 main video cameras we have, which are amazing and can see crystal clear in the dark, were two thousand dollars a piece alone.
Travel is another factor financially and personally…All the hotels we have stayed at has cost a ton. We are in the southern part of the state, so most of our investigations require some traveling…up to over 5 hours just here in Iowa.
While I’m ranting about the challenges, another thing is when you are in a location at 2:30 in the morning in the pitch black with nothing going on, I at times start questioning what the hell am I doing? I have a wife and kids at home that need me…not to mention a nice warm bed!
So, after an investigation, I have to unload of the footage from the cameras and voice recorders to my computer…and then its review time…So imagine this…Let’s say we have a case where I set up 4 security cameras up along with 2 voice recorders, not to mention the 2 handhelds we have with us at all times. We investigate for 8 hours. So now, I have to watch the 4 security cameras for a total of 8 hours, which I will listen to a voice recorder at the same time. After all of that, another voice recorder must be gone over for another 8 hours. Then both handheld cameras must be gone through for a total of 16 hours…add all of that up.
Yanes: Finally, what are you currently working on that people can look forward to?
Tracy: With all the complaining I just did about the work involved, you would think I was going to quit… Not just yet! We have a lot of great things in the works for this year.
In May, we will be going a big public event in Burlington, Iowa at the old Apollo School. It was built over the first cemetery in Burlington. Before construction began, they removed all of the bones to another area; however, some say that the some of the remains were too brittle to be moved, so they had to stay…unfortunate, but the perfect recipe for a haunting.
Later this summer, Iowa Paranormal will be heading down to Kentucky to investigate the Waverly Hills Sanitorium! That has been my #1 on my bucket list for a very long time. We also will be investigating Edinburgh Manor here in Iowa and doing another public event at the Farrar Schoolhouse…hands down the most haunted location I have ever been too.
We are also working hard on getting the chance to investigate a location here in Iowa that will blow everyone away…. Stay tuned! Check us out at www.iaparanormal.com