Does it Matter if Black Moon Manor was a Fake?

Yesterday, Mysterious Heartland posted an excerpt of the book Echoes from the Grave by Larry Wilson featuring Black Moon Manor near Greenfield, Indiana. Shortly thereafter, a friend messaged me and alerted me to the fact that allegations of fraud had come out about the location and its proprietor, Matt Speck. The farmhouse was torn down in early December 2012. This may seem like old news to some of you, but I think it raises important questions about paranormal investigation and places that market to paranormal investigators.

I did a Google search and this article (“Black Moon Manor CONFIRMED as a fraud by the REAL OWNER!”) was one of the first to pop up. The article allegedly reprints a conversation between Dan Scheider from Ohio Gothic Paranormal and Walter Eastes, who owns the property. I use the word “allegedly” because I have no idea who the author of the post is, or who Dan Scheider is. For all I know, Dan Scheider has an axe to grind against Black Moon Manor’s proprietor Matt Speck and fabricated the entire conversation in order to discredit him. But for the purposes of this article, we’ll assume everything in this internet post is true.

In his email, Dan Scheider presents research that disproves many (if not all) the history related by Matt Speck about the farmhouse he called “Black Moon Manor.” Scheider goes on to accuse Speck of “spreading fraudulent information” about the owner’s family and “trying to make a buck by making up stories about your family.” (On a side note, if someone was doing that about my family, I would be rather annoyed.)

So according to Scheider, he spoke with Walter Eastes over the phone. Eastes told him (again, allegedly) that he rented the dilapidated house to Matt Speck for $100 a month (that’s incredibly cheap!). Speck told him he wanted to turn it into a haunted attraction, but he could not get the proper permits, so he started charging paranormal teams to investigate the place. The owner said the home had no sentimental value for him and he just wanted to tear it down (which he eventually did).

OK, so now that we know what the allegations are, let’s get into the meat of this article. As far as I’m concerned, any of the following possibilities still exist:

  • Black Moon Manor was not haunted and Matt Speck intentionally fabricated its history, as well as claims of paranormal activity.
  • Black Moon Manor was actually haunted and Matt Speck unintentionally related false historical information (that is the opinion of Amy Hansford who wrote this article and said “I do not hold Matt Speck responsible for the miss information. He seems to be just going by what others had told him.”)
  • Black Moon Manor was actually haunted, but Matt Speck intentionally fabricated its history.

Given that Mr. Speck leased the house with the sole intention of using it as a haunted attraction, I think it’s highly likely that he made up a creepy-sounding history for the property in order to enhance its appeal. That’s not fraud — it’s marketing. I also think it’s possible that the home just happened to be genuinely haunted.

However, if the whole thing was a fraud, and the house was not haunted, what does that say about all the “evidence” collected there by paranormal investigators? Wouldn’t that mean the techniques used to investigate Black Moon Manor were flawed because they produced false results? Or were the expectations of the investigators themselves producing the false results? If so, how can any evidence gathered on a paranormal investigation ever be accepted? In other words, if Black Moon Manor was a fraud, why didn’t every paranormal investigation team leave the place empty handed?

But there’s an even bigger question. Let’s say Matt Speck fabricated Black Moon Manor’s history and made up claims of paranormal activity. So what? Does that completely invalidate everything that was experienced there? And by “experience” I don’t mean just experiences of the paranormal variety. I mean all the time spent exploring, reading about, and participating in the experience of “Black Moon Manor.” A different way of asking this question is, does the fact that the 1993 film Gettysburg inaccurately portrayed the battle of Gettysburg mean you wasted 4.3 hours of your life watching it? (Gettysburg is one of my favorite movies, by the way.)

Calling something a “fraud” implies that everything about it is tainted and that it should be thrown in the wastebasket and forgotten. But what if it turns out that there never was any such thing as “ghosts” or “paranormal activity” — a fact that skeptics already believe. In that case, every place that ever laid claim to being haunted is “fraudulent.” That is something I believe everyone interested in this subject needs to take a long, hard look at. Because if your interest in the paranormal rests solely on proving its reality, you may be setting yourself up for a great deal of disappointment. There are many, many Black Moon Manors out there.

Finally, I would like to ask why we should be outraged when it’s discovered that a place like Black Moon Manor isn’t really haunted. Again, let’s say Matt Speck fabricated Black Moon Manor’s history and made up claims of paranormal activity. Who was harmed? You could say that the paranormal investigation teams who paid to investigate the place were defrauded out of their money. But don’t most paranormal investigation teams consider it good practice to assume a place isn’t haunted before they investigate, or to try and disprove claims of paranormal activity? So if the stories were fake and the results of their investigations were negative, they accomplished their goal.

Or, on the other hand, the team expected to find paranormal activity and did not, so they’re disappointed. But is there ever any guarantee that paranormal activity will take place? Of course not. Matt Speck can claim anything he wants to about strange things that happen there, but even if they really did happen, he can’t make them materialize on command. In my opinion, then, paranormal investigation teams got what they paid for — a chance to prove or disprove the alleged paranormal activity in the house. No one did (or ever could) guarantee they would find something.

As I mentioned earlier, I am more concerned that Matt Speck may have improperly used the property owner’s family while weaving his tales. If he had told Walter Eastes what he planned to do, and Eastes was on board with the plan, that would be one thing. But I have a problem with Speck incorporating Eastes’ family into the history of his (fictional) haunted house without getting Walter’s permission (if that is what happened). While unscrupulous and possibly unethical, however, I’m not sure it rises to the level of a criminal offense.

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Comments

  1. HI, I’m the Dan Schneider mentioned in the article.
    It does matter that Black Moon Manor was a fake. Actually it probably was not a fake, but some of the history perpetuated was very, very fake. It matters for many reasons. There were possible safety and liability issues (the proprietor was allowing people in the house without the owner’s consent), historical & genealogical issues with falsehoods billed as actual fact and the entire purpose and reasoning of allowing paranormal investigations at sites.
    The accounts of fraudulent history came to light as a result of investigating the actual history of the place dubbed Black Moon Manor AKA The Eastes Estate. Speck willfully and knowingly misled paranormal investigators just to make money of investigations. Making money from paranormal investigations is fine and usually great for the site because the money goes back into restoring and preserving the history and educating people about the site’s history, architecture, culture and people. It does not help preserve these things if the money is not used partially for basic upkeep, and the culture, people and history is fabricated. He was also doing it without the approval or knowledge of the actual owner. This could lead to serious liability questions if someone were to be injured. Other paranormal groups told him that the house needed some repairs before it became dangerous. Nothing was done to the house and the actual owner an elderly man that lived in another state wasn’t aware of the condition the house was degrading into the past couple years. The local historical society was constantly fielding calls about the false history that was perpetuated. Local folks that were related to the Estes family were not happy about their family history being drug through the muck. I had a long conversation with the local newspaper and was contacted by many folks that had issues with Speck at the Eastes house and other venues he tried to run in town. The local newspaper wrote a great article on the events which Speck refused to talk to them about.
    In my opinion the house probably WAS haunted. We actually had some unexplained things happen that we could not debunk. He would have had no need to embellish the history with a bunch of falsehoods. When actual history is conflicting with the purported history he was spinning, and then he would not answer questions, it makes you wonder what exactly is going on. Then you want to question your personal experiences. We did find a speaker in the attic, but it was not connected to anything. Had it been connected to something in the past on someone else’s investigation? He had originally tried to do a haunted attraction in the woods at the site (remnants were still in the woods), and he was currently supposedly running a haunted attraction at a different location at this time. When he tried his haunted forest attraction at the Eastes property (I refuse to call it Black Moon Manor, that was a name he made up) there was some issues (I can’t recall the specifics, getting insurance or something) and then he told the owner he just wanted to rent the place for storage, then actually started renting it out for investigations. He got it cheap because he was doing Mr. Eastes a favor by keeping an eye on the property. The land was leased out for farming, the house and garage were just sitting vacant becoming targets of vandals. So Mr. Eastes thought having Speck there would be a good thing. Mr. Eastes knew a TV show had filmed there. I believe 2 had filmed there. My Ghost Story and Ghost Adventures. At this time the Ghost Adventures show had not aired. He didn’t know people were going in on a fairly consistent basis. I had heard that after being announced on GA it became booked solid through the end of 2012. We investigated the week before the Ghost Adventures episode aired in October of 2012. That following week, after contacting Mr. Eastes, I contacted Jeff Belanger, the GA head researcher. He said they were going to address some (not all) of the same things I found.
    This entire event didn’t come about because I had an ax to grind. It came about pretty much by uncovering what was happening over the course of an investigation. I admit wasn’t very happy with how the night was handled. Speck never showed up to get the rest of his money from us, deliver our firewood or give a tour the house. This was after we drove a couple hours, then had to wait by the gates. Realized he wasn’t showing and called multiple times. He just gave me the combination to the lock over the phone to get in and said he’d be out later with our firewood. He never ever showed up, or answered\returned our phone calls that night or the next couple days. I tried to be civil and just wanted some answers and clarification. Since wasn’t returning calls, I posted on the Manor Facebook page. He became irrational and defensive and began the name calling. Still totally ignoring the questions of his version of the history. The historical society got involved, distant Eastes family members and locals got involved. I believe I still have transcripts of it all, it’s a quite entertaining read. As a paranormal investigator we went in wanting to find evidence of a haunting. This process involves doing background research on the property and previous occupants. I found things that made no sense, I could not get any answers from him, except about what genitalia and other body parts my head resembled. So I contacted the real owner, Mr. Eastes, to get answers and through that phone call I unknowingly let him in on what was really going on at his property. I didn’t search him out to rat out Speck’s shenanigans. I found his name as owner, and also found his email address. I contacted Mr. Eastes for answers that Speck wouldn’t give me. I emailed Mr. Eastes asking questions about the alleged history of the house and the finding I had that did not match up. I included my phone number and he called me. I didn’t know the actual owner (and the one who probably would have been sued if anything happened in the house) was not privy to what was happening on his rented property that was 100+miles away. I got my answers that what was reported on the website and (I believe) My Ghost Story were “100% baloney”. Mr. Eastes got answers to questions he didn’t know he even had. During this phone call, Mr. Eastes said he should just tear the house down after all this. He was not happy that his family heritage was becoming a twisted urban legend. He somewhat relented on this after talking with some fine folks that wanted to preserve the house, but after an inspection, it was determined the costs were too much and it was razed.
    There are places billed as historic sites that are haunted and places billed as haunted attractions, some places are historically haunted sites 11 months of the year and a fun haunted Halloween attraction in October (such as Ohio State Reformatory, Moundsville Prison, Waverly Hills Sanatorium) they don’t have a problem promoting the Halloween frights and fun for one month with the actual history the rest of the year. They don’t mix and match to meet market demand. We don’t pay to investigate people dressed in monster and zombie masks roaming the prison because of the leaking radiation (a story line a few years back from the haunted attraction at the Reformatory), we go there in an attempt to find something to correlate with the known history. So luring people in with a false history, and allowing them to pay to investigate, then getting upset because the investigation proves things are false, defeats the purpose of allowing investigations in the first place. If you plan to sell a “Haunted Experience” you bill it as that. If the history is being falsified by the people running a site, how do we know other things taken as evidence isn’t also faked? As I mentioned, we did find a speaker in the attic. It makes the paranormal field in general look phony and untrustworthy. Speck was not promoting it as a haunted attraction (like your typical October haunted house, although he did do some sort of “Lock-in” event that I’m sure violated a lot of health and safety laws. Apparently people would pay to get locked in the house and have to find clues to the keys to unlock the locks to get out. I’m sure that is in violation of multiple safety & fire codes). Black Moon Manor (his fictitious name) was promoted as a historical site that was haunted, and invited people in to investigate for a fee. He did not like the outcome of what our investigation uncovered. There was no TB ward, no cemetery behind the house with hundreds of TB victims buried. The doctor in question that actually had ties to the house was actually one of the founders of a prominent Indiana medical association. He would not admit he made it all up to drum up interest. I wanted real facts, and I eventually got them from Mr. Eastes. If Speck would have answered my questions initially and not ignored and avoided them and then resort to calling me many, many colorful things. I would not have had to track down Mr. Eastes to get the real information for my investigation, in turn exposing him. I was doing my “job” as a paranormal investigator\amateur historian and simply investigated to the best of my abilities. I like to say I was Scooby-doo to his Old Man Speck under the mask. He would have got away with it, if not for us meddling kids.
    Are ghosts real? Who knows, there is centuries of circumstantial evidence, that is why people like myself chose to sit in abandoned purportedly haunted buildings in the hope we may capture some sort of undeniable evidence of paranormal phenomena. When you discover a person willfully altering the site history for entertainment reasons you wonder what else is false. I will say that was a very different and ultimately a great learning experience for me.

  2. Through the magic of the internet I purchased the Echoes from the Grave book mentioned in the article for my Kindle. There are pages of the false Black Moon history. So if the author didn’t do good research for this investigation, how can the rest of the book be taken with anything less than a whole shaker of salt?

Trackbacks

  1. […] note: Dan Schneider of Ohio Gothic Paranormal wrote the following in response my post: “Does it Matter if Black Moon Manor was a Fake?” He explains, in detail, how he came to uncover the real history of the Indiana farmhouse […]

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