Despite a lack of lore associated with O’Bleness House, when Nick Lantz moved in during freshman year, he quickly found his new home was haunted.
Nick’s mother, Deborah Lantz, is a psychic medium and was the first to take notice. It was then that Lantz’s floormates came to know him as the “ghost guy.”
An interest in the legends of Athens and a background in the paranormal led Nick, a fifth year senior studying journalism, to Ohio University, and it eventually led him to write his first book, Ghosts and Legends of Athens, Ohio.
According to his mom, Nick was aware of ghosts even as a child, and as a medium, Deborah said she attracts spirits.
“It’s a normal day in our house to hear a door slam and footsteps upstairs,” Deborah said.
After burying her gift for “years and years,” it was the experience of living in a haunted house that brought Deborah’s gift back to the forefront.
“As a child I thought I would be taken away in a padded van by two men in white,” Deborah said. “I used to think I was crazy.”
Since then, Deborah began work as a professional psychic medium, and at 15 years old, Nick began accompanying her on ghost hunts. Nick acted primarily as a researcher, while Deborah would communicate with spirits, find out why they were there and help them move on.
Nick has also given lectures at conferences across the country and done consulting work for TV shows on SyFy and Lifetime.
In his sophomore year, a publishing company, aware of his reputation in the paranormal field, reached out to him, Lantz said. It wanted to publish a book about the legends of Athens. When it eventually dropped the book because the university would not allow the use of pictures, Nick decided to self-publish.
For more than a year, Nick researched, poring over the “spook files” in Alden Library and records at the Athens County Historical Society and Museum. He posted fliers across campus and interviewed locals about their experiences. The book was a “grassroots effort,” he said.
Nick dedicated the biggest portion of the book to the The Ridges. Nick said he didn’t want to just talk about it. He wanted to experience it.
For an entire night, Nick, Deborah, a team of urban explorers and a paranormal research group led an investigation in The Ridges. They brought mel meters and K2 meters to measure electronic magnetic fields, thermal cameras, night vision equipment and audio devices, Nick said.
Right after setting up the home base, Deborah said they heard the scream of a woman.
Nick said they also made contact with a ghost named Margaret during an electronic voice phenomenon session. When playing back recordings, he said they heard a faint female voice say "It’s cold in here.” The connection made sense in context of the history of The Ridges, Nick said. Margaret Schilling, a patient, famously went missing and died there during the winter, leaving a body stain that is said to be haunted to this day.
While in the basement, Nick said they found a room containing the diary of a former patient written across all four walls. Again, they did an EVP session. They asked two questions. The first was “Are you afraid?” The answer was “no.” The second was “Should we be afraid?” The answer was “yes.”
“I’ll never go back,” Deborah said. “I don’t like going into prisons or places where people suffered great pain.”
When connecting to spirits, Deborah said she is very vulnerable, and Nick’s energy is grounding.
“There is a very protective energy around him,” she said.
Nick said the experience at The Ridges was unusual because he wasn’t expecting anything to happen.
“I was definitely pretty skeptical at first,” he said.
He said that skepticism was important when approaching the research for his book.
“People probably assume that I’m a lot more a believer because my mom’s psychic and stuff,” he said. “Because I’m sort of raised into that, I’m ultra skeptical. I just know what to look for.”