On a cold October evening a week before Halloween, a cluster of people convened at Ravenswood Mansion in Brentwood. As the mansion is usually not open to the public, this was a special event. Suddenly, a small group of people wearing identical shirts with logos that say “S.I.P.” emerged from the mansion, holding equipment for an investigation of the paranormal kind, but what could not immediately be seen was the years of experience they hold from many public and private paranormal investigations.
This is Southern Innovative Paranormal.
Southern Innovative Paranormal, or S.I.P., is a paranormal investigative group based out of Middle Tennessee that has been conducting investigations for over 12 years. S.I.P. members Connie O’Loughlin, Troy and Monica Clark and Braxton and Autumn Teal all joined the group at different points over the years. Braxton and Autumn are members of Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, and Connie is a member of Middle Tennessee Electric.The two-night event that was held at the end of October 2022 was called Murmurs at the Mansion, a partnership among S.I.P., the city of Brentwood, the Brentwood Historic Commission and Ravenswood Mansion to benefit the historic commission.
After the S.I.P. members introduced themselves to the Ravenswood tour group, they set the tone and expectations for the group on how they run things, Braxton said. This included introducing some of the methods and gear they use for investigations along with letting people know there were no trapdoors, hidden mirrors or tricks during the investigation.
“It’s very much a real style of investigation, and we can’t just make things happen, but we’re going to do our best to make sure everybody enjoys the time they spend with us,” Braxton said.
The S.I.P. members split the tour group into two, and one group stayed in Ravenswood Mansion, touring the downstairs and upstairs rooms, while the other group spent time in the basement.
The first group went through the mansion as the S.I.P. members discussed the history of the house and shared some of the audio evidence they’ve discovered while investigating the mansion.
After playing the audio clips, they then verbally went through their process. They explained whether they heard the evidence at the time of investigation or when going through the footage later and how they try to debunk audio clips to make sure the sources of captured noises aren’t one of the group members, a creak made by an aging house or an outside force.
“When we go on-site somewhere, we’re always trying to debunk everything,” Troy said. “I mean, not everything is paranormal. We go through every explanation as to try to figure out why something’s happening. And, even with that, just because I can’t explain it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s paranormal.”
One common debunk they come across is with electromagnetic field (EMF) detectors that are designed to make a noise when some kind of interruption in the EMF is in close proximity to the device. The EMF detectors commonly make sounds as police cars drive by, detecting the police scanners. Explanations like this are what S.I.P. pays attention to during their investigations.
After around an hour, the groups switched places, and the first group went down into Ravenswood Mansion’s basement where they all sat in a semicircle in the dark, unfinished basement only illuminated by the red light of a laser grid. Participants took turns putting on noise-cancelling headphones and listening to a spirit box, trying to pick out any words that might come through the static noise — all while having no idea of what was going on in the room. Participants were encouraged to ask questions in the hopes of initiating conversation.
S.I.P. usually begins investigations by introducing themselves and asking a question like, “Is anyone here with us?” and then, once they get a response, they try to ask more specific questions based on the location’s history to try to figure out who might be speaking to them.
Troy said that when you’re sitting in a silent room, you’re so aware of every sound, even ones you don’t normally hear, so it’s important to investigate and think critically about each noise you believe to be an anomaly.
“If you don’t go and look for the source, then you’re not investigating; you’re just there, you know, selling tickets and everything else,” Troy said. “And it’s not about that.”
The Murmurs at the Mansion public event was a relatively quick, two-hour look into Southern Innovative Paranormal’s reality as paranormal investigators. For them, the investigation is usually four times as long, with eight-hour nights where they later must meticulously review audio footage they recorded on multiple devices.
Connie said that the paranormal investigations you see on TV are completely different than the reality.
“We try to tell our guests that it’s not like you see on TV,” Connie said. “It’s obviously embellished, and they run screaming and do things that are just not the reality of paranormal investigating. It’s actually a lot quieter than you would think. For long periods of time, nothing happens.”
“It’s a lot of waiting, talking, listening — it’s just hours of nothing happening — and then it’s many hours of audio review,” Connie said. “If you’re going to commit to record when you go somewhere, you have to commit to listen to it.”
Troy said that when they record one night’s session, they each use two audio recorders for the eight-hour investigation; some are kept on their persons, and some are placed in different parts of the property. That’s 16 hours of audio for each of them to go through. “And you get to relive every piece of it.”
S.I.P. was founded around 2010 and is a small group of paranormal investigators. Troy is one of the founding members, and his wife, Monica, joined in after helping him listen to audio recordings from investigations and to spend more time with him.
The group’s passion is investigating historic properties. On top of public events like Murmurs at the Mansion, S.I.P. also takes on private, residential cases free of charge.
S.I.P. was originally based out of Rippavilla, a historic house museum in Spring Hill that has had its share of paranormal activity, where they held regular public investigation nights for many years. That’s how Connie, Autumn and Braxton joined the group. S.I.P. raised funds that were used for restoration projects at Rippavilla.
“It’s definitely a camaraderie; it’s a team atmosphere,” Braxton said. “I mean, outside of just investigating, we spend a lot of time together, whether it’s team Christmas parties or going out to eat and things like that. It’s grown into more of a family than just investigating.”
“We work really well together,” Troy said about S.I.P. “We’re like-minded and levelheaded. Doing this for a while, it’s hard to find people who are not over the top and tuned in to the TV episode where everything (that comes up in investigations) is paranormal.”
Braxton said he and his wife, Autumn, had investigated with other paranormal groups in the past and emphasized that Southern Innovative Paranormal has always been the gold standard: having a scientific basis and relying on concrete evidence on top of researching the history of each place to be as prepared as possible for investigations.
“We’ve had a lot of cool experiences,” Connie said. “We’ve all seen things, heard things, been touched in various locations. Things that cannot be explained.”
Braxton added that he thinks every member in the group has had an audio recording come back with an electronic voice phenomenon of a spirit calling them specifically by name, which he thinks is cool.
Monica said she once said “Monica in the house” to tag the audio recording for the noises she was making as she entered, and when she reviewed the audio footage later, she heard the voice of a little girl mimicking her, repeating back, “Monica in the house.”
“We’ve spent so many hours listening to audio recordings,” Connie said. “We’ve captured so many interesting things over a long period of time and over the years that, to me, that’s the best part of what we do: hearing things that were not caused by us or getting a direct answer back to a question we asked.”
“That just makes me want to keep going,” Connie said. “We’ve had a lot of validation over the years in a lot of different areas, and it’s just something you have to be there to experience.”
Southern Innovative Paranormal has investigated haunted locations in Tennessee, Kentucky and Alabama as a team. Places they have investigated in Tennessee include Rippavilla, Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, Old South Pittsburg Hospital, the Thomas House Hotel, the Bell Witch area in Adams and many more.
For more information on Southern Innovative Paranormal or to contact the group with inquiries about doing private investigations or public events, email [email protected] or visit the S.I.P. Facebook page, “Southern Innovative Paranormal.”