A purportedly haunted property in Malvern, Iowa, will be the spooky star of a supernatural reality TV series this week.
Malvern Manor will be featured Friday night on TLC’s “Paranormal Lockdown,” a series in which ghost-hunting hosts Nick Groff and Katrina Weidman stay in various haunts for 72 hours and try to commune with the metaphysical.
In looking for the “malevolent entities of the mysterious Malvern Manor,” Groff and Weidman took a small crew and nifty collection of equipment — night vision lenses, vibration sensors, audio recording devices and various other gadgets and gizmos — to Malvern, a town of about 1,100 that is some 40 minutes southeast of Omaha in Mills County.
“I feel like all these people are watching me,” Weidman said upon entering the building for the first time. “Like I’m not really supposed to be there.”
Malvern Manor has a storied history. It was built in the 1880s as the Cottage Hotel, the town’s first hotel, according to historical records.
The hotel, about 10,000 square feet, went through a handful of owners. In the middle of the 20th century it was converted into a nursing home and later a group home. Long after the building had fallen into disuse there were rumors of strange happenings.
When paranormal investigator (and now Malvern Manor co-owner) Josh Heard entered the old hotel a few years back, he felt it immediately: This place was haunted.
“It blew me away,” he said. “We had experienced more there in two hours than we had in the past two years of investigating. From that point, I was hooked.”
Creaks, cracks, unaccounted-for footsteps, voices and shadows. Heard and others say they have experienced a wide range of spooky phenomena.
In the fall of 2015 Heard had convinced the previous owner to reopen the building for tours. But the following spring, the owner — Wabash Properties — was looking to sell the property. Heard was distraught, but happenstance intervened.
Kurt Fricke, a Farmers Insurance agent in Omaha, caught Heard talking about Malvern Manor on the radio. Fricke and his family went to check it out and experienced all manner of activity: “moans, screams, the eerie feeling of getting watched.”
“I always watched this stuff on TV,” Fricke said. “I thought ‘Ah, it’s TV. It’s baloney.’ But after the first time at Malvern Manor, I was, like, ‘Oh, my gosh, this stuff is real.’ ”
The second time Fricke and his family went to Malvern Manor, Heard told them the property was being sold and that the tours were most likely ending. Fricke, with no previous experience in owning a haunted house, asked how much the building was going for.
Heard and the Fricke family purchased the property for $75,000 in May, and the tours have continued year-round.
Heard said the spring and summer are fairly busy times, and, of course, Halloween is an active time. But bookings are deadly slow in the winter. The exposure from the “Paranormal Lockdown” episode should help business pick up a bit.
Heard said the TLC crew came to Malvern Manor last fall for about four days of a “run-and-gun” documentary shoot.
After Groff and Weidman’s 72-hour lock-in had come to an end, the crew spent another day shooting re-enactment footage, which will be interspersed in Friday’s episode.
This was how Heard’s 8-year-old daughter, Isabella, landed a role on the show. She plays Inez Gibson, a 12-year-old girl who in 1900 committed suicide by hanging herself in a closet in Malvern Manor. In the episode, the hosts try to communicate with Inez’s spirit.
Isabella was “just on cloud nine,” her father said. “But you want to talk about one of the freakiest things in the world? It’s watching your daughter act like she’s being hung in a closet. Her mother stayed in there with her while that was going on. I was, like, ‘I’ll just go outside.’ ”
Watch the show
“Paranormal Lockdown” episode on Malvern Manor; 8 p.m. Friday on TLC
More information: tlc.com/tv-shows/paranormal-lockdown
Cost: $10 a person for a one-hour guided tour; overnight investigations start at $300