By Charlotte Caldwell
SIDNEY – Some Sidney natives with a passion for the paranormal teamed up to investigate a former poor house in Winchester, Indiana, and the resulting documentary, “Phantom Farm,” is now available on Amazon Prime Video.
The investigation takes place at the Randolph County Asylum/Infirmary, and according to the documentary, the current building was constructed in 1899 after the first one burned down. It was eventually converted into a retirement home and closed in 2009 with five residents remaining. It has been a paranormal attraction since 2016 and it is estimated that over 250 people died there. The location has been featured on paranormal TV shows such as Destination Fear, Kindred Spirits and Paranormal Lockdown as well as multiple movies.
This is the first time the group in the documentary has teamed up on an investigation, but they all have experience with investigating and/or discussing the paranormal as well as film. Brittani Clark and Bob Hicks run the Tales from the Dark podcast with help from Austin Lawrence, and they discuss cryptids, conspiracies, the paranormal and more; Tyler Terry and Nathan Barnes manage Terror Barn films and Finding Nothing; and Lawrence is the author of Taylor Mill Horror.
This was Clark’s first investigation of that scale. Hicks and Terry have been investigating since their teenage years and have investigated graveyards, houses, and the Ross Historical Society in Sidney. Terry met Barnes while working at the Sidney Inn, now called the Days Inn, and they investigated the hotel several times while working there as well as a funeral home on Dallas Street which is now rental units. Barnes has also had paranormal experiences at his great-grandmother’s house on Linden Avenue – which might turn into a documentary in the future – and the former middle school, Bridgeview.
Terry saw the Randolph County location on a paranormal TV show and wanted to see if the evidence they captured was authentic. Terry and Barnes investigated there twice, and on the second visit, Barnes got scratched. Terry told Hicks about the scratch, and he wanted to see the evidence for himself. Hicks contacted Lawrence to join in, and they started working on a more official investigation.
“If nothing strange would have happened that night, the documentary probably never would have happened. It’s only because of the quality of the evidence that we decided to produce the piece,” Terry said.
Some of the investigations Terry and Barnes have done together were uploaded to YouTube, but this was the first that was picked up by a major streaming service.
“With it being the first project of this scale that I’ve worked on, there was a lot of learning involved and mistakes made and just pure procrastination from the weight of it,” Terry said. “I’d say it took about six months to finish if I take out all the breaks. Totally worth it though to get it right and take the time to learn new skills for the future.”
Terry said although it can be tedious to film paranormal investigations due to the technology set-up and tear-down required and post-production work, he loves it because he’s passionate about it.
“The way I see it is, yes it’s our job to capture every moment just in case one of those moments is a compelling piece of paranormal evidence, but it’s also our job to translate what it’s like to experience these beautiful historic buildings, or these beautiful human stories. Even if they’re not traditionally beautiful, for whatever reason, we love them. And if we can capture that fascination and put it on the screen, then that’s a gift to someone who either also appreciates it or has never considered our perspective,” Terry said.
“Phantom Farm” currently has 39 five- and four-star reviews on Amazon Prime Video with most of them mentioning how this documentary is authentic and not dramatized, unlike some paranormal content.
Terry said the team is excited about the initial reviews and encouraged people to leave reviews once they watch the documentary. He also questions the authenticity of some paranormal content but still watches them frequently.
“A lot of it should just be labeled fiction. I think you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you commit to consistently capturing paranormal evidence episode after episode and keeping it entertaining with network producers breathing down your neck. In that scenario, someone is bound to wire up a chair or throw a book across the room to keep the ratings up. I could never fully trust them,” Terry said. “I just prefer a quieter, slower, more careful and mindful approach. I don’t mind if nothing happens. The history, the effort, the potential and the atmosphere is enough for me. And that’s what I hope to capture as well as evidence if I’m lucky.”