Ben Grainger, United States Marine 1st. Sergeant with over 30 years of service, Veteran of the Iraq War and—the bloodiest fighting of the war—the Battle of Fallujah, retires to Connecticut.
Ben and his Wife Tess buy a house in Meriden, Connecticut. Ben is still carrying a lot of grief and feeling of responsibility for the men in his platoon, including his Commanding Officer, who were killed in Iraq. While the house is very comfortable, Ben was even more attracted to a large, two story barn behind the house, he immediately saw an opportunity to turn the barn into a gathering place for fellow veterans and their families. He didn't imagine the barn would become a regional attraction, with many veterans and families of fallen Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Air Force personnel, traveling to Meriden with mementos of their loved ones to place in the barn. Soon, the barn was overflowing with uniforms, pictures, flags and other military memorabilia. On holidays, veterans and family members of the fallen would gather to drink a toast to their lost heroes.
Ben became a counselor of sorts to veterans from the New England area and beyond, who needed someone to talk to who shared a common experience.
As time went on, Ben began to notice some peculiar activity in the barn. Shadows would seem to dart from nowhere, sometimes at night voices could be heard when no one was in the barn. Footsteps were heard on the stairs that led up to the second floor "Museum" area that houses the artifacts of the fallen. On a wall where pictures of fallen Marines hang, a picture dropped off the wall in front of witnesses but landed upright several feet away. A few days later, a Marine veteran tragically took his own life. It was if they were making room for a new picture.
Although some of this was witnessed by others, Ben began to question his own sanity and contacted G.O.N.E.R.S. and asked us to investigate.
During my initial interview with Ben, I was impressed by his sincerity. We talked for over an hour as he recounted his 30-year career in the Marines. He had been everywhere and done it all. He had served three tours as a Drill Instructor and was a combat veteran several times over. I remembered something that was told to me many years before about senior staff Non-Commissioned Officers: They don't make First Sergeants from "average" Marines.
Ben told me how his unit was assigned Convoy Escort, to respond when a convoy was under attack. If any of his men were wounded, he would personally drive the ambulance to the field hospital so if they died, "The other guys would not carry the guilt or feel responsible for not getting to the hospital in time to save them." The word Hero is thrown around a lot but here, before me, was a genuine hero.
Ben recounted the first few times he saw unusual things happening in the Barn. One night when he was on the ground floor of the barn with a few friends, they distinctly heard the, "the clinking of glasses" upstairs. Ben also said they heard footsteps on the floor above and it began to sound, "…like a party going on," they rushed upstairs and found…"nothing, no one was up there." This unnerved some of his friends and they decided it was time to leave.
Several times, items brought by families of the fallen and placed in the Barn would mysteriously move to a different location, from shelf to shelf or wall to shelf.
Fleeting glimpses of shadow figures would be seen by several people at various times.
Ben was now openly questioning whether he should continue with the Barn or close it up and, "move on with my life". He said to me, "I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. Is this something they would want, or is it disturbing their rest?"
During our investigation, we were able to confirm what Ben and the others had witnessed. Several times we recorded footsteps, sounding like someone walking with heavy boots, coming up the stairs. Nothing visible was there. A shadow figure moved in front of Investigator Pat Murphy, circled and stood behind him briefly, then darted off and was recorded on video just as Investigator Kellie Gilbert recorded an EVP of a male voice saying, "Dave…." Several class A, EVPs were recorded in response to questions. I talked to whatever/whoever was there as Marine to Marine. While I was seated at a table asking, "Why are you doing this? Why are you here? Give us some kind of sign", a shadow figure that was so dense and well formed, at first I thought it was one of my team members, approached, stood next to me for a few seconds, and then shot by me toward the staircase, knocking me back in my chair. I shouted, "Whoa!" startling the other investigators. I took this to mean, "Yes, we are here fellow Marine and there is your proof." I was suddenly overwhelmed by a great sadness and feeling of empathy for these spirits. I knew then we would do whatever we could to bring them some peace. If anyone could help them, it would be Karen.
Proof of life beyond
When Clairaudient Medium, Karen Hollis arrived, we turned on the lights and invited in a group of veterans from the local area who had been waiting in the house with Ben and Tess. I have seen Karen in action on investigations many times but this night she was at her best.
The first thing Karen said upon her arrival was that on the drive over she kept hearing the name Dave. "Dave… Dave is here," she said. "Tell Ben,"' Dave is here.'"
I noticed a strange look come over Ben but he said nothing. Later, we would find how significant the name Dave is to Ben.
Without any possible prior knowledge of places, dates, names or events, she named some of the spirits who were in the barn. She went into great detail about one in particular who was shot through both shoulders and killed in Fallujah. She said his name was Dave and he told her, "I was the first". When Ben heard this, he was visibly shaken because unknown to us, a Marine named Dave was the first to be killed in Ben's platoon. Karen also told Ben, "Dave says he doesn't blame you, it wasn't your fault." Again, we had no way of knowing that Ben had secretly blamed himself for Dave's death. As his immediate superior, Ben had believed he was somehow responsible or could have done something more to save Dave.
This was perhaps the most emotionally charged investigation I have ever been on. I believe it was a catharsis for Ben by learning that Dave didn't hold him responsible for his death and also Ben saw that he wasn't losing his mind.
For whatever reason the spirits of those killed visit the Barn, whether it's because they feel welcome, at home or because of the positive, loving energy that is brought there by Ben, their families and other Veterans, Ben has found peace with himself and renewed strength to continue his mission to comfort the families and friends of the fallen.
A few things brought out in Karen's reading I think are important:
- The story of Dave is key. Apparently Dave's mission was to let Ben know he didn't blame him for his death.
- Karen also had the distinct impression that the spirits in the Barn wanted Ben to continue to make the Barn a refuge for Veterans, their families and friends of the fallen. In fact, she said, "They would like to see these memorials all across the country, so people don't forget about us."