'Haunting in the Heartland': Steve Shippy encounters powerful and malevolent spirit at haunted Malvern house

'Haunting in the Heartland': Steve Shippy encounters powerful and malevolent spirit at haunted Malvern house
Rebecca Stanek and James Heard's Malvern residence (Travel Channel)

Little towns with a history spanning centuries seem to be a hotspot for the paranormal for some inexplicable reason. America is full of towns that are pinpointed on the map for being notorious for the ghosty tales they underpin. Take Malvern for that matter. Established in 1869, the small town in Iowa evolved over time because of an expansive rail system that brought in commerce. The family-oriented town, where everyone basically knows everyone, has a population of 7,621 people. It's hard to believe that Malvern may be haunted, but locals swear it is.

Rebecca Stanek moved to Malvern with her two kids Kaleb and Luke, about three years ago as a newly divorced woman. She wanted to start over and purchased a quaint-looking house that she said she was drawn to from the start. Eventually, she met James Heard, and the two are engaged to be married. Rebecca claims that things started to become eerie for them in the house when James moved in.

In this episode of 'Haunting in the Heartland', Steve Shippy travels to Malvern, Iowa to help Rebecca and James battle their paranormal woes.

Malvern circa late 1800s (Travel Channel)

The storage room

James said they'd hear a knock, bang or footsteps, while Rebecca has sensed an unseeable presence and seen apparitions around her on several occasions. Their younger child, Luke, refuses to sleep alone because he's seen things that have terrified him.

The slew of activity worsened when they began hearing noises in the basement. The first time it happened, says Heard, they were sitting up in bed and heard noises from downstairs that sounded a lot like a heated argument. When Heard went down to investigate, he found nothing. 

Rebecca is particularly disturbed by the storage room in the basement that makes her sick and light-headed, every time she comes by it. In a particular incident, she heard a loud growl coming from the basement as she made her way up to the main floor.

The sightings

James told Steve about a spine-chilling experience he had one night. As he was trying to fall asleep, he sensed a weird presence in his proximity. Upon opening his eyes, he saw the figure of a little girl adorned in what looks like a white nightgown standing at the foot of his bed. Her eyes were demonic-looking and completely black. She cocked her head all the way to the side and uttered the words "Play?" terrifying James to the bone. Malvern residents often talk about seeing a similar apparition of a little girl at the cemetery.

Inez and her older brother, Hugh (Travel Channel)

When the family of three first moved in, Rebecca said her younger son refused to sleep in his own bedroom. Upon enquiring with him, she realized he was too spooked out to be sleeping in there alone. He said he'd hear a child whisper the words "I can hear you" and informed him of a "scary lady" in his closet. He described her as a witch, who has a bloody appearance and tried to wake him up.

Inez Gibson

Inez, with her brothers Hugh and Otto (Travel Channel)

James' brother, Josh Heard, a paranormal investigator looked into the history of the house and the property that it sits on. His research findings told him that the spirit of the little girl that everyone claims to see could be that of Inez Gibson.

The story dates back to the 1900s. Inez's parents were divorced and she had two brothers, Hugh and Otto. Neither of their parents could care for the two children and so they moved to Malvern where they were adopted by their aunt and uncle, who were grocers in town.

Inez supposedly grew hostile towards her mother who once wrote to her saying she'd come back for the kids when the weather turned nicer. Inez was quoted saying, "I would rather die than go back and live with my mother."

On December 21, 1900, 12-year-old Inez was outside playing with her 8-year-old brother and told him she would head back upstairs. He followed her some ten minutes later to find her hanging by her jump rope in a closet.

Obituary in a local newspaper in 1900 (Travel Channel)

These events transpired in a house that stood on the currently empty plot opposite to Rebecca's residence. Inez's shocking death haunted the town for years to come.

The investigation

Steve and his team set up equipment in various parts of the room and immediately noticed the devices go off, as well as the temperature in the room getting colder.

They received stronger responses in the storage room in the basement and the devices even malfunctioned because of a mysterious interference, which shocked Steve. He concluded that the spirit they were dealing with was indeed very powerful and intelligent enough to drain his equipment.

But he believed the spirit tormenting the family is not that of a 12-year-old child since it does not seem to be curious or mischievous, but rather malevolent. He also visited the cemetery that Josh told him is the final resting place of Inez and used the Geoport to establish contact with the spirit. He received instant responses every time he mentioned the name 'James', which makes him believe that the spirit is targeting him in particular.

Catch 'Haunting in the Heartland' every Friday at 11 pm ET/PT on Travel Channel.

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