By Tim Ghianni
NASHVILLE (Reuters) - Harriman, Tennessee hopes that ghosts, or rather ghost hunters, can raise enough money to restore an historic and reputedly haunted building.
One ghost hunter wants to use the "dark entities" supposedly haunting the 121-year-old Temperance Building, a former jail, to attract both tourists and paranormal enthusiasts to Harriman, which was founded by anti-alcohol crusaders in the 19th century.
Last week, by unanimous vote, the six-person city council agreed to let Ghost Hunters of Southern Tennessee -- G.H.O.S.T. Paranormal -- show footage caught during a night spent inside the city-owned building. It will be aired on January 27 on the web-based Paranormal Network.
This Tuesday, a council workshop is slated to consider ghost hunter Richard Ruland's plans to conduct paid tours of the building, with half the proceeds going toward its restoration.
The haunting is a part of local lore, said Mayor Chris Mason, who grew up in the town of about 7,000 residents. Ghost enthusiasts often visit the Temperance Building, but G.H.O.S.T. Paranormal "found an exceptional amount of paranormal activity" there, said the mayor.
Mason said he does not necessarily believe in ghosts, "but I don't not believe in them either."
Under Ruland's plan, ghost tourists would pay $299 for all-night visits by up to six people and $30 per person for three-hour tours.
He said he has no doubt the tours will be successful.
"It's a gold mine to have a different place to hunt," said Ruland.
The three-story brick and stone structure was built in 1891 by the Tennessee Land Co. when it began developing what was to be the "Utopia of Temperance," about 40 miles west of Knoxville in eastern Tennessee.
The stately building later became Temperance University before serving time as city hall, with a jail in the basement. Now it holds a few offices and the city museum.
Councilman Buddy Holley said the city council's session with G.H.O.S.T. was hardly normal.
"They showed us video that showed what appeared to be some apparitions, and they had some voices recorded," Holley said.
Holley is not sure if he saw ghosts on the video, but he is sure the talk of paranormal guests could help in the ongoing restoration of the historic downtown, which includes the Temperance Building.
It will take about $1 million to finish renovations and upgrades to the building, Holley said.
He said he also hopes it will bring some publicity to Harriman and boost tourism. "We're really interested in getting people to visit," Holley said.
Ruland, whose group is based in Dayton, Tennessee, is sure of what he and other ghost hunters recorded on the night of December 17, 2011, when they used cameras and other gear, including the Ghost Meter Pro, which detects electromagnetic fields.
"We actually caught a photo of what I believe is a full-body apparition down in the basement," he said. "We captured overall 50 voices... There were a lot of things in that building that were completely unexplained."
One voice, he said, even confessed to murder. "That building, everything in it wants to talk, wants to say 'hi,' wants to have communication with somebody," he said.
Most of the ghosts "aren't your grandma walking up and down the hall," he said. "Do I think I am dealing with human entities that are trapped there? Yes. But that's only about 10 percent of what's there.
"The other 90 percent would be the Wraiths, a term a lot of people wouldn't know outside my industry," Ruland said. "They are darker entities, once-human souls.
"In their death, they've been transformed into these mischievous, angry entities," he said. "They live on electromagnetic fields from electricity in buildings, from batteries, from people."
This particular crew in Harriman isn't dangerous, he said. "They just like to screw with people."
(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)