First in Fright

The First in Fright Paranormal team during its investigation of the Lincolnton Fire Department in January.

LINCOLNTON – While based out of Hickory, First in Fright Paranormal is becoming very familiar with Lincoln County.

Founded in 2018, First in Fright is a team of five paranormal investigators who search for answers and evidence at locations known for their ghost stories, including several sites in downtown Lincolnton.

While First in Fright is relatively new, the foundation for the group was laid in 2015, when team member Ryan Burleson participated in a two-hour public investigation of the Waverly Hills Sanitorium in Kentucky.

“The things that I saw there and the things I encountered were absolutely amazing and it just blew my mind,” he said. “At that time, I kind of thought to myself about how cool it would be to be able to do this as a hobby.”


The First in Fright Paranormal team will return to the Lincolnton Fire Department for a second investigation Friday, May 10. 

Upon returning home, Burleson convinced his brother, Andy, to join him on an overnight investigation of the Waverly Hills Sanitorium the following year. Like his brother, Andy was hooked by his first experience, and the two spent the five-hour drive home contemplating how to make a hobby out of paranormal investigations.

Soon after, the other three team members – Alex Gaddy and Jeremy and Carol Humbert – were introduced to the thrill of investigating the paranormal through trips with the Burlesons to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in West Virginia and the abandoned Old South Pittsburg Hospital in Tennessee.

With all five team members now itching to do more investigations, the group decided to make it official while playing video games together on Xbox Live one night.

“We all quit dreaming and thinking and wondering how awesome it would be to do this as a hobby, and we became First in Fright Paranormal,” Burleson said.

First in Fright has since added an official photographer in Melany Dawn Adams, who travels with the team that has spent the past 15 months investigating claims of paranormal activity across western North Carolina.

“It’s the unexplainable that got us hooked,” Burleson said. “Everyone has a ghost story or something they’ve experienced that they can’t explain. Our experiences literally coaxed us into wanting to get equipment so we could search for those answers. I guess you could say our curiosity was killing us and we had to start buying equipment to help us better understand the unknown and show people what we were experiencing.”

While the entire First in Fright team has had encounters with the paranormal, the group enters each investigation with a healthy bit of skepticism. The team also live streams each of its investigations on its Facebook and Youtube pages so the public sees everything happening in real time.

“We want to be an honest paranormal team,” Burleson said. “There’s been several times where we’ve done live investigations and nothing has happened. We hate it for our audience, and we appreciate them watching, but we can’t just make something happen. We live stream our investigations to show people that we can do this with integrity because we don’t have anything to hide. We want our audience to come along with us and experience that same thrill because not everyone can be there.”

First in Fright has drawn quite the following in Lincolnton through its past investigations of City Hall, the Lincoln Cultural Center and the Lincoln Country Club.

The team has more Lincoln County investigations on the horizon, including a return to the Lincolnton Fire Department Friday, May 10, which was investigated in January. First in Fright will tackle another local fire department two weeks later, when it visits the South Fork Volunteer Fire Department Friday, May 24.

First in Fright will investigate other local spots throughout the summer, although those locations haven’t been revealed yet.

The team has, however, announced its second investigation of the Lincoln County Courthouse, which is set for Saturday, Sept. 28. The investigation will be broadcast live at Untapped Territory and GameSwap in downtown Lincolnton, each of which are just steps from the courthouse.


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