American Renaissance Church and Museum – Investigation

American Renaissance Church and Museum AKA Midway Cathedral, formerly Holy Child of Jesus Church

May 5, 2022

Windber, PA

 

Investigation

The small town of Johnstown, PA is much like that of any older town in this area of the state with a major metropolitan area, suburbs, and even some dark and hidden history. Windber, PA is one of those suburbs just outside of Johnstown and is the epitome of a blue collar, hard working town. Even as the railroad lines and roadways began to bypass this small and humbled town, the townspeople persevered and even thrived. However, come the 1990’s with a falling population and lack of direction the town began to slowly shut down and close up block by block.

This clear separation of currently occupied and active locations throughout the town and those areas which were boarded up and moved on was easily visible with our prior visit to the town when we stayed at the Grand Midway Hotel. To our amazement and wonder, even those dilapidated and abandoned buildings had a certain character and personality to them. This was no more evident than the church down the block, and recently under new ownership by the same man who gave new life to the Grand Midway Hotel. This church has a slightly confusing past and is now known as the American Renaissance Church and Museum. At one time, the name of this church was the Midway Cathedral but to go further back, and is most widely known as the Holy Child of Jesus Church.

 

 

Originally constructed as a Catholic church, the fourth in the town, in 1921 to provide a sanctuary for the sudden increase in population of Irish immigrants. To appease and draw these new crowds to the church, it was designed in a more classic style with sandstone and medieval design of a bell tower. In time, it gained the nickname of Castle Church as it clearly resembled an old castle to the locals. Whether it was the design, the preachers, or purely circumstance, the church was packed to capacity every Sunday and stayed that way for nearly 80 years.

Attendance and usage, including gatherings and get togethers, began to see a drastic decrease in the mid-1990’s with an older population and an ever decreasing younger population, the church had high hopes of staying alive. It even left its doors open regularly for nearly ten years but with a lack of congregation, and even more so with a lack of funding, the church had finally begun to fall into disrepair and was forced to close.

 

 

The owner of the awe-inspiring and ever popular Grand Midway Hotel, Blair Murphy made a move to purchase and restore the old church in hopes of returning it to its former grandeur. Blair saw endless potential here and was originally drawn in by its past and the cemetery outback which holds the former headstones of famous writers and actors with a macabre past including such figures as Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde, Boris Karloff, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker. Not only did Blair save this structure, but he added to it with an interesting collection of Anne Rice dolls and artwork by the French-American George Hetzel. This combination of history and artwork has led to the inception of events such as the DraculaCon Ball which helps draw in a young and fresh crowd to the area and raise money to support the local fire department as well as restoration efforts.

With the new energies of visitors and museum items combined with the history of the town, property, and even religious aspect, this church seems to tell its own story and leave behind its own legacy. Without much documented from a more personal and daily perspective, even nothing from any type of more negative, tragic histories, the stories left behind here are simply verbally passed down or put together by interpreting pieces of information provided by visitors or old guests to the church. Some of that information and those guests have passed on already therefore must be interpreted by the impact they made or the imprints they’ve left behind. 

Some of these supernatural stories claim the almost cliché occurrences of phantom footsteps and long-winded whispers heard all over the wooden constructed and art laden church. However, these pacing strides occur in locations where a priest would have given a sermon, up on the pulpit and the whispers seem to coalesce in the area the pews would have once sat as if a congregation were in constant vigil. The priest seems to be more intelligent as he also has been said to communicate while the ethereal whispers seem to be more residual as if a clear imprint of the former congregation.

To add to this mystique, out back of the church in the cemetery, shadows have been seen as if somehow connected to the cemetery of land itself rather than the church. These dark shadows seem to lurk behind trees but disappear once they hit the property lines.

 

A young girl seems to be remaining here in her afterlife as her voice has been heard here through open air as well as recorders. She is still unknown to this day but has seemingly been drawn more towards females and is much more open to communicating with them.

Another, lesser known man has been communicating here more regularly as of late. Utilizing the Spirit Box, a local recorded the name “Mike” a combined seventeen times during their short visit. This man seems to be both anxious to speak and angry that he is forgotten about over time. 

Luckily enough, we’ve already explored this area thanks to our prior paranormal investigation and night’s stay at the Grand Midway Hotel, not to mention we’re only two hours away, we were able to get to the church a little early and get a feel for the location.

 

 

We’d be grateful if you share YOUR opinion and let us know what an outside view point would be on this evidence. Once you glance through the photos, watch the videos, and listen to the recordings, please send us an email or comment below on your takes.

As always, you have been warned, some of this is not for the faint of heart and can be slightly explicit:

 

Pre Investigation / Walkthrough

As we’ve been to the area and even stopped into the church thanks to the previous investigation of the Grand Midway Hotel, we knew exactly where we were going and had even toured the location during that first time to the area. As we arrived, Blair and his daughter greeted us and gave us full access to the building and the grounds themselves. As we unloaded our gear, we took a fascinating and amusing tour by none other than the five year old, life veteran to the town of Windber, Blair’s daughter. After we found some makeshift beds for the night, Blair passed along a key with a simple slán of “Lock up when you’re all done!” We set up some of our equipment ahead of time so we could just let the cameras roll and some of our light up devices to allow for visual interactions. We luckily followed our gut instinct here as we managed to capture one of the cat balls lighting up and some shadows and light anomalies moving throughout the areas, namely in the Altar area. This almost felt as if someone or something was just curious about the equipment moving around that area.

 

Photos:

  • This is a moment we picked up one of the cat balls lighting up based on a screen capture from a video.

 

 

Video 1 – Trail Camera 2:

  • At :01, the cat ball’s light could be seen turning on at :01.

 

 

Video 2 – Trail Camera 2:

  • Right around :01, this light inside the cat ball once again turned on.

 

 

Altar

On a lifted platform overlooking the open church where pews were once installed and a congregation once filled the now empty hall and shrouded in the shadow of a story tall painting of Jesus (soon to be in the Guiness Book of World Records, fingers crossed) combined with an ambiance of dim blue lights, this open area clearly showcased, at least at one time, a powerful and confident speaker uplifting and motivating his flock inside the gorgeous brick clad church. Anne Rice dolls currently flank this raised platform and podium simply because some unworldly force does not want them encroaching on this holy location. Each time Balir had placed these here, something odd had occurred whether they were pushed over, manipulated in some way, or simply moved off the area. Some other shadows were said to be seen here simply walking back and forth (one of which we believe we captured via Trail Camera!) as if someone is either protecting their location, still carrying on sermons, or simply a shadowy force making itself known. An old Irish Priest, the one who’s passing resulted in the final closing of the church, has been said to linger here as if he had given his all, including his own life, to keep this religious sanctum open and operating.

Our time spent in this location was separated as we both started and ended here. We also left up trail cameras in two different directions to attempt to capture anything moving or falling as previously described to us. This spot certainly felt different; colder, uneasy, unwelcomed. However, we did not capture much during our first attempt but did record some unsettling knocks and a moment where the K2 meter lit. After giving this area some time, we returned here with our Spirit Box. Our hope was that we were able to get acquainted with the property and possibly shake some things up. On this second attempt to communicate, we recorded some stray noises like more footsteps and knocks, but more intriguing, we captured a light whispering of the name “Dave.” During our time spent away from this area we left our Trail Cameras rolling and captured, to our dismay, a full bodied shadow moving across the screen right across the Altar where the former priest has been said to appear from time to time.

 

Photos:

  • Early on, we captured a dark shadow moving across the area behind the shelf.

 

 

  • During a Spirit Box session we caught a moment where a light anomaly moved across the Altar, paused near Dan, then continued back where it came.

 

 

  • To our astonishment, during a time period where we left our cameras record but physically left the building, we captured what appeared to be a full body shadow walking across the Altar where the former priest used to preach to his congregation.

 

 

Recording 1 – EVP:

  • The sounds of odd and random feet shuffling was heard minimally throughout but above all, at :58, we heard repeated knocks after we entered the side room to investigate another noise (exterior noises of cars being jumped).

 

Recording 1.5 – EVP Secondary Recorder:

  • The feet shuffling could also be heard here, but the knocks in particular were again captured at :18.

 

Recording 2 – EVP:

  • Around :32, we could be heard commenting on the K2 meter being lit as we attempted to get them to come close to it. This was the only time the K2 meter went off in this area.

 

Recording 3 – EVP:

  • A similar knocking noise was recorded at :05 here as we tried to get someone to come forward.

 

Recording 4 – Spirit Box:

  • As we returned we pushed for more activity, verbal communication in particular. Early on, at :06, we recorded the name “Dave.”
  • The sound of something falling over behind the Christmas Tree off the side of the Altar could be heard at :46 and an even louder knocking at 1:24. Upon investigating this area, there appeared to be more broken hands on one of the dolls above the piano.
  • Footsteps could be heard moving around the Altar at 2:03. 

 

Recording 5 – Spirit Box:

  • A pair of noises (More knocking perhaps? The identity was unknown) was heard at :05 and :15.
  • The name “Dave” was once again captured at 1:28.

 

Recording 6 – Spirit Box:

  • The word “Always” was produced by the Ovilus at :02 followed by the same identity of “Dave” was once again heard at :03.
  • A whistling sound was recorded at 1:21.

 

Recording 7 – Spirit Box:

  • “Dave” was heard once more, and for a final time, at :02.
  • We were then told to “Stop it” at :48 but a curious voice was then heard saying “Hey” at 1:34.

 

Video 1 – Stationary Trail Camera 1:

  • A shadow could be seen moving across the screen here, beginning at :01 on the left side of the Altar, moving fluently across the area.

 

 

Video 2 – Stationary Trail Camera 1:

  • As we sat on the Altar, we captured a light here at :03, moving toward Dan as he reacted to this unseen anomaly at that time.

 

 

Video 3 – Stationary Trail Camera 1:

  • This light reappeared on the left side of the Altar at :04.

 

 

Video 4 – Stationary Trail Camera 1:

  • In the center of the Altar, a light appeared at :02, and once again moved toward Dan as he can be seen reacting to this.

 

 

Video 5 – Stationary Trail Camera 1:

  • A dark shadowy object was seen moving at :03 and lasted until :09 when it disappeared.

 

 

Video 6 – Stationary Trail Camera 1:

  • There was an odd blurry movement toward the right of the Altar as if something was moving at :03.

 

 

Video 7 – Stationary Trail Camera 1:

  • A similar blur was seen in this same location on the right side of the Altar at :03.

 

 

Video 8 – Stationary Trail Camera 1:

  • Toward the bottom left, a light anomaly was seen moving at :01.
  • This light moved toward the right and disappeared at :07.

 

 

Video 9 – Stationary Trail Camera 2:

  • This secondary position captured a different array of unknown movements and a completely different viewpoint.
  • In the middle of the Altar, a light could be seen moving across the floor at :03.
  • At :07, this same light was seen in the same spot as if coming back from where it disappeared temporarily from the right near the bookshelf.

 

 

Video 10 – Stationary Trail Camera 2:

  • Above the podium, a light anomaly was once again spotted at :05.
  • Only two seconds later, at :07, there was a light seen moving in this same spot.

 

 

Video 11 – Stationary Trail Camera 2:

  • This similar light in the center appeared and disappeared numerous times almost as if attempting to get our attention. This occurred at :02, :04, and :06.

 

 

Video 12 – Stationary Trail Camera 2:

  • Starting at :02, a light was spotted on the left of the Altar and disappeared on the right.

 

 

Video 13 – Stationary Trail Camera 2:

  • A dark spot, possibly another figure, was spotted moving behind the shelf at :01.

 

 

Video 14 – Stationary Trail Camera 2:

  • The Spirit Light was captured turning on as it was sitting on the floor around :01.

 

 

Basement

This area is a large, open floor plan , conducive to a cafeteria or even convention just like it was currently set up during our visit. Tables were spread out evenly, merchants names were lined along them, and even power and table cloths were set up ready for vendors to settle in. To match the dolls and unique atmosphere here, a mannequin of some type of undead unfortunate soul was seated right at the entrance of the room, prepared to greet all visitors. There is a full Kitchen toward the back of the room and a door just beside it opens up to a storage area lifted up a pair of steps.

There have been reports of just odd sensations and feelings here, particularly by a group of visitors who seemed drawn to this spot for no particular reason. As we set our gear on a pair of tables which were capable of viewing the entire room, we spread some cameras around the room as well as some touch devices like our K2 meter, Spirit Light, and Rempod. However, as we accomplished this, our backs completely turned from the area, we shut our flashlights off which should have blanketed the area with darkness but instead, a purple hue spread across the open floor plan. We realized this was not on before and we never even heard the clicking on of the lamp. This astounded us and we spent a lot of time attempting to debunk this to no avail. We also managed to capture the K2 meter spiking numerous times as well as a pair of phantom footsteps shuffling behind us. Ater this activity all died down (pun intended) there seemed to be a dead silence (pun also intended) so we felt it unnecessary to attempt any further tools or verbal communication in this particular area.

 

Photos:

  • There were two particular moments in this area that we captured images which intrigued us. The first shows the K2 meter spiking as we attempted some communication.

 

 

  • The second was a screen capture of the odd video which was completely white with some dark spots throughout.

 

 

Recording 1 – EVP:

  • The Ovilus produced some strange words like “Joke” at :08 and “Statement” at :12 but neither connected to anything in particular.

 

Recording 2 – EVP:

  • At this point, the K2 meter began jumping beginning with a moment when Derrick drew close at :03. As we attempted to debunk this using his phone, heavy footsteps, and even shaking the table slightly, none of these duplicated the meter activity and it once again jumped to life at :20 just as Derrick spoke.
  • This K2 meter activity continued at :51 and 1:15 as both meters turned on.
  • Two more times this otherworldly activity was produced at 2:07 and 2:20.

 

Recording 3 – EVP:

  • Around :04, the shuffling footsteps could be heard from behind us.

 

Video 1 – Trail Cam:

  • All throughout this clip, it was washed out with no volume. This was unable to be cleaned up but there are some darker spots as if there was something else in the vicinity as the camera was activated.

 

 

Balcony

Overlooking the entire open area of the church, an area where pews would have once been full with a congregation packed wall to wall and an enthusiastic pastor once preached awe inspiring life lessons and sermons, this balcony would have once been the location of a choir during mass and a sitting area for the pastor and his special guests. To this day, a few chairs are still strewn about, showing the location of the sitting room to the far side of the area broken up by a large conference type table and area to gather the choir. Large stained glass windows are predominant in this location, scribed below each of them is a former donor or patron’s name or family name. This area has been a particular location where footsteps and creaking of floorboards have been heard as well as the disturbing whispers when no one is nearby or even inside the building.

Since we were lucky enough to spend the night here, this is actually the location we opted to (attempt) to sleep. Prior to this, however, we did spend some time here in hopes of contacting the phantom that seems to just make noise and draw attention to themselves. Even though our Ovilus picked up a few words including a name, our verbal communication and evidence was very minimal. However, we did experience a few terrifying moments of loud noises including what sounded like someone trying to get in (or out) of the front doors of the church and something being tipped over or thrown below us. This was the moment we began formulating our theory of some poltergeist activity occurring here. Footsteps and knocks seemed to be predominant throughout the night as well as recorded quite a few of these in our stationary camera overnight as we slept. 

 

Photos:

  • There was a screen capture of one of the light anomalies seen here in which the light moved across the open area, paused, then continued on their path.

 

 

Recording 1 – EVP:

  • Early on our Ovilus produced “Heart” at :18 and “Peace” at :19.

 

Recording 2 – EVP:

  • Another odd noise which we still cannot identify was the sound of  a windup toy echoing from below us at :10 followed by the word “Could” on the Ovilus at :20.

 

Recording 3 – EVP:

  • At this moment, we captured what sounded like footsteps shuffling below us at :01.
  • The Ovilus picked up a name here of “Chris” at :13.
  • Once more, the shuffling of footsteps was heard below us at 1:14.

 

Recording 4 – Spirit Box:

  • The loud door rattling occurred at :04 and we could be heard being startled following this moment.

 

Recording 4.5 – Spirit Box Secondary Recorder:

  • This door rattling could be heard even better here as this recorder was placed on the balcony closer to the doors and was captured here at :05.

 

Recording 5 – Spirit Box:

  • At about :07, the noise of something seemingly being knocked over or thrown below us. We spent a lot of time following this moment trying to pinpoint this noise but could not find anything.
  • We discussed what this sounded like and heard verbal communication of “What?” at :51.

 

Recording 5.5 – Spirit Box Secondary Recorder:

  • Again, as this recorder was closer to this area, this noise of something seemingly being knocked over or thrown below us was captured at :06.
  • Here, we also heard the verbal communication of “What?” at :52.

 

Video 1 – Stationary Trail Camera:

  • We spotted a light anomaly moving on the right side of the screen at :08.

 

 

Video 2 – Stationary Trail Camera:

  • This light once again appeared on the left side of the room at :06.

 

 

Video 3 – Stationary Trail Camera:

  • At about :07, the light reappeared here toward the right side of the room.

 

 

Video 4 – Stationary Trail Camera:

  • Toward the left, another light anomaly (which coincided with some of the footsteps we were hearing as we were on the Altar) appeared at :03 and moved toward the ground at :06.

 

 

Video 5 – Stationary:

  • After we left the area, we left another stationary camera here and the sound of the front door creaking (more like squealing) open was heard at :03 and, as if the handle of the door was clicking, we heard a rattle :09.
  • As if something was knocked down or even bouncing off the ground could be heard at 2:55.

 

 

Video 6 – Stationary:

  • The sounds of shuffling footsteps returned here at about 4:20.

 

 

Video 7 – Stationary:

  • Another eerily similar knocking noise was captured at 1:42.

 

 

Video 8 – Stationary:

  • We were unsure of what this loud banging sound was which occurred at 8:02.

 

 

Rear of Church

This area, in front of the bookshelves surrounded by the Anne Rice dolls and seemingly overseen by an ominous Grim Reaper – looking decoration, was once filled with pews and a regular assembly. At this point, there are three pews spread out and a few stray tables and chairs left around for the random array of events which occur here. Following our time spent around the church between the Altar and Balcony and hearing footsteps and knocks, we were drawn to this area where the noises seemed to stem from. This is no coincidence either as this is one spot where people feel watched and hear those all too familiar phantom footsteps. On occasion, shadows have been seen looming over this area. 

Early in the night, even before we spent any time in this area, our Spirit Light went off on multiple occasions. We did not note any communication here, verbal or otherwise, but after we left our stationary trail cameras pointed in this general area after we took a break (“Drop our shit and leave” ™) we did capture some moments where those eerie footsteps were heard earlier in the evening. 

 

Photos:

  • There was nothing notable in our still photography.

 

Recording 1 – EVP:

  • Nothing out of the ordinary was heard here.

 

Video 1 – Stationary:

  • After we let this camera record and left temporarily, we began to hear some strange noises throughout the videos. In this particular clip, we heard a knocking noise at 4:33.

 

 

Video 2 – Stationary:

  • The sound reminiscent of a door slamming was heard at 6:30 even though the building was locked up tight with no one else there.

 

 

Video 3 – Stationary:

  • There seemed to be a flurry of activity in these moments as knocking was heard a total of four times: 3:20, 5:36, 5:48, and 9:42. The final moment also paired up with another sound of what we could only guess was the door slamming again.

 

 

Video 4 – Stationary:

  • An odd clicking sound was captured at 6:41.

 

 

Video 5 – Stationary:

  • Another combination of knocks occurred here at 3:34 and 7:14.
  • This was followed by the sounds of shuffling footsteps at 7:28.
  • Finally here, another knocking was heard at 7:55.

 

 

Video 6 – Stationary:

  • As if something was moving off screen toward the Altar, we heard strange noises at 5:48 and 6:22.

 

 

Once we spent some significant time reviewing our evidence, sharing our experiences, and even digging a little more into the history of the property of the American Renaissance Church and Museum, we feel we encountered enough supernatural experiences and recorded ample amounts of paranormal moments in our evidence review to confidently conclude that there is a compelling amount of energy and paranormal activity that occurs here; the only question that remains up for debate is “What type of entity could this be?” 

With a lack of finite written documentation of this old church, most information which has been gathered has been either passed down with a verbal tale or minimal news articles which may or may not be completely based on fact. More particularly, there is very little known about the Irish pastor who presided over the masses here or why this church truly meant so much to him. He apparently held this church close to his heart but once he passed away, it immediately fell into disrepair and was abandoned by the leaders of the church. Some of the stories which have occurred here quite frequently include footsteps and voices stretching out mainly from the Alter as if someone were still preaching here. To our utter amazement, our trail cameras captured a full bodied shadow of what appeared to be someone walking all the way across the Altar, then paused and turned back. That was clearly the most incredible find of the evening, at least in this location, however we did capture some other anomalies that should not be overlooked. Early on, a cat ball which is motion activated lit up. We attempted to debunk this by stopping near it, sitting by it, and even stomping our feet to see if it could have been any type of movement that we produced which made it light up; to no avail. During our time spent here specifically to investigate, we recorded knocks and footsteps which could not be duplicated by any means. After reviewing all of the evidence regarding this location is when we began to surmise that this wasn’t just a poltergeist or just any type of residual energy but rather a combination of both.

 

 

The building itself seemed to hold an intriguing amount of changing energy from room to room and even from time to time. This was felt the most predominantly in the Balcony area as if something would enter then exit, each time changing the atmosphere itself. While spending time in this area, both during active investigations as well as sleeping here, we did receive some names through our Ovilus but the most activity which occurred here were the random array of noises including footsteps, knocks, and two particular moments that truly stand above and beyond the rest and both were captured on our recorders. The first was a loud rattle sound as if someone was shaking the door attempting to get in or out while the second was something more specific as if something was being knocked over or thrown across the room below us.

While we spent some time down in the Basement, we never received any type of communication but did hear a pair of shuffling footsteps behind us almost as if someone followed us but the incident which surprised us and caught us so off guard that we didn’t even have our equipment running to catch it. As we shut off the lights to begin our investigation down here, we anticipated that it would be completely pitch black. We were shocked when there was a purple glow to the room emanating from a nearby lamp. We know for a fact that this light was not on previously and, after testing it afterwards, we never heard a clicking of the power or noticed any loose cords or wires that may have shorted it out.

 

 

The question posed previously of “What type of entity could this be?” was raised during the night combined with the time spent reviewing the footage and recordings. The majority of this activity was not verbal, rather knocks and footsteps were heard numerous times through the night on top of inanimate objects and projectiles were thrown around the area. With this data (evidence and experiences) we have concluded that these interactions combined with the unique energy and history lead us to a conclusion that the property is an intriguing combination of residual activity and even poltergeist activity. Throughout the building we believe that all of our recorded evidence, as well as our personal experiences, pointed us in this direction and backed up this claim and led us to believe that both of these entities call this former church an eternal home.

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