St. Mary’s Arts Center, the former hospital and orphanage for the 1870s’ silver boom town of Virginia City,  Nevada, isn’t the most haunted place I’ve visited, but it’s still quite active.

A passerby may mistake this three-story, red brick building as a large, stately mansion with its long driveway lined by parched, thin trees. A large, white wooden porch and second floor balcony adorn the front of the arts center that faces town-ward, looking up at the cluster of buildings perched upon Mt. Davidson.

I’ve visited St. Mary’s four times. I can’t say much has happened to me there, besides the sensation of always being watched. But others have. There are stories of the White Nun who’s said to haunt the halls and stand on the balcony. It’s believed she’s called the White Nun, as she was both a nun and a nurse, and nurses of that time wore long, white uniforms.

In the former chapel (or the White Nun’s room—I’ve heard the small space described both ways) while conducting EVP, a team member’s turned-off cell phone rang. No one was on the line, which caller ID listed as “private.” On another hunt, a teenager saw a shadow person amble down the basement hall. And during our first ghost conference there, one small group had the kitchen door slammed in their faces.

But the last time I visited St. Mary’s, the spirits sought my attention. And it worked. We were holding a ghost hunt field trip there the week before Halloween. Since we’d be using the building until one a.m., the caretakers asked me to turn off all lights and lock the building before we left.

Once we cleared the building of participants, I set out to turn off the lights while my associate tidied the check-in area and boxed our supplies. My first stop was the top floor, where the old mental asylum with its barred window is located. I switched off each light, including the kitschy Halloween decorations of illuminated skulls, bats and such. As silly as the holiday accessories were, it added another layer of eeriness to the evening.

P1000523I worked my way through the other floors and the basement, systematically entering each room, unplugging every decoration and flipping off each light. At 1:15 a.m., having darkness follow me through an old, empty building was disconcerting.

As we exited through the old wooden, double doors, I slammed them to ensure the building was secure.

When we reached the car, I turned to gaze at the dark building, part of me hoping to see something. Part of me hoping not to see anything.

A light in a second floor room popped on.

I assumed the caretaker, who lived on the grounds just behind St. Mary’s, entered the building to check up on us.

The following Monday, I sent a thank you email to Angela, the caretaker, and mentioned I saw her turn on a light.

Her response surprised me. “It wasn’t me. I was sound asleep and didn’t go back into the center until morning. The spirits must’ve been playing with the lights again!”