Sunday, July 31, 2011

Things that go bump in the night


Where to start.

Last night I went on a paranormal investigation. Yep, I went ghost hunting. There is a house in the town where I work that has documented paranormal activity. According to the owners (who don't live there, BTW, nobody lives there full time, except maybe the spirits), there are voices, footsteps, lights going on and off, small items disappearing and reappearing, that sort of thing. It's a lovely old Victorian, build in the 1880s, and the couple who own it plan to turn it into a bed and breakfast. I did a story about it for our paper and they invited me to attend one of the investigation sessions that they open up to the public.

I think in the future I might take up tornado chasing instead.

It wasn't really scary at all. One part was seriously creepy but other than that, it was almost (almost, she says!) kind of uneventful. Interesting but certainly nothing out of the Ammityville Horror.

The event began at 5 p.m. Marsha and Tammy came with me. Marsha and I thought it would be a great birthday present for Tammy, whose b-day was last week. I mean, really, how often do you get to go on a ghost hunt for your birthday? Then I talked Marsha into coming, too.

We were supposed to bring snacks, since the event would last through the evening. I dipped Nutter Butter cookies in almond bark and added mini M&Ms for eyes. They looked like little ghosts. Yeah, pretty lame but they were cute. Two gals (twins) from Iowa City who also came to the investigation said they often make the same thing. We compared almond bark dipping techniques. One of the twins was hoping to land a $25,000 grant to study hauntings overseas. Where do you sign up for THAT program?

The first thing we did when the session started was to burn white sage to purify the area and eliminate any negative energy. It got smokey but not offensive. I figured my hair and clothes were going to smell pretty funky when I got home and the Farmer would probably wonder what in the world we'd REALLY been doing.

The group leader invited any "higher frequency" spirit people present in the house to communicate with us. Apparently this eliminates the troublesome spirits and plain old jerks.

Then we learned about the different pieces of equipment investigators use to document paranormal activity. One is a ghost box. It scans through radio frequencies and if you ask a spirit person a question, he or she may answer by speaking through the box. The spirit people were not into broadcasting their opinions last night. It was pointed out that the sun was still up at this point and most haunted houses become more "active" as the sun goes down.

Another piece of equipment is called an ovulus. It is a sort of electronic dictionary that contains 4,500 (I think) pre-programmed words. Again, you can ask spirits questions and they will respond through the ovulus. It wasn't always easy to figure out what they were saying because it's a computer generated voice, so not only is it tossing random words at you, they're really hard to understand. Sometimes they have obvious connection to the house or the people who are there that night. Other times they just sound like gibberish. At one point, the words "15 minutes late" came from the ovulus. The owner of the house had been 15 minutes late getting there. Weird.

Plus, when there's a large group of people, it's really hard to get everyone to be quiet at the same time, so many times, someone was talking when the spirits answered. And someone was always dropping something, fidgeting, squeaking their chair, etc.

They also had a digital thermometer for measuring cold spots and a digital recorder for recording electronic voice phenomenon or EVPs. Most of what we did last night was conducting EVP sessions, trying to capture unheard (but recordable) responses to questions.

You must need a keener ear than mine to pick up on EVPs. I couldn't hear a darn thing when they played the recordings back. Jennifer (owner of the house) shared some previously recorded EVPs of voices saying things but I was either deaf or oblivious.

The house belonged to a doctor and his family for three generations. We started in an upstairs bedroom. That first session included several cold spots, but none that I ever felt. The thermometer gave readings of around 90 degrees close to a (live) person's arm or shoulder, about 77 for general air temperature in the room (the window AC unit was shut off) and about 62 for the cold spot. So I guess they were there although I never felt one.

Several people said they smelled pipe tobacco. Yes, Doc Hollis smoked a pipe. The gal leading the session asked if the spirit(s) present (Doc Hollis and company) wanted to make contact with any of us, they could touch us. She amended that to "touch NICELY." I guess sometimes poking, grabbing and hair pulling is involved when spirits want to reach out and touch someone. Again, nothing for me. I could smell something smokey but thought it was just residual white sage smoke, you know how smoke gets in your hair and clothes and when you move it kind of drifts around. Yeah, like that.

After frequent breaks throughout the evening (so many folks could go outdoors and smoke cigarettes, seriously, we could have been done at least an hour sooner if not for the smoke breaks), we ended up doing the last session in the basement. It was dark outside by now.

This was the creepy part. Just being in the basement of an old house is creepy when the lights are ON. We were in a small room with only one doorway. When Jennifer turned off the light, yeah, it was dark but there was a little ambient light coming through the doorway from windows elsewhere in the basement. I could see her white T-shirt sleeve in front of me.

Then suddenly it got really dark, the total absence of light. The gal leading the session called it "darker than dark." I couldn't see my hand in front of my face. So help me, if a spirit had touched me (nicely or otherwise) I probably would have had a serious bladder malfunction. Marsha did touch me once, just to make sure I was still there, and so did Tammy. That was okay. I was glad THEY were still there!

And again, people said they could smell tobacco smoke and feel cold spots. It was so close and hot in that room, I would have welcomed a cold spot! I could smell smoke again, not modern day cigarettes although heaven knows there were enough smokers in the group. I wasn't standing next to any of them.

The ovulus had a few things to say and again, it was hard to understand, although it chirped out "girls, twins" and a few other observations about our group. We all had the chance to ask the spirits questions - good grief, I have a hard enough time talking to live people face to face!

The basement experience was the end of the night. I went home, not knowing if I was disappointed or relieved. I went to bed and couldn't sleep. I kept thinking about the pipe tobacco smell and the burning sage smell and how I thought they were the same thing at the time, just drifting off the person sitting next to me as she moved. Finally, I went to the bathroom and took the shirt I'd worn that evening out of the hamper. I sniffed it. It was NOT the same smell.

Did I really smell Doc Hollis' pipe tobacco? Maybe. Maybe not. For every real "haunting" there are probably a dozen frauds. How hard would it have been to stage some of the things we experienced? Who knows.

It was an interesting night and I'm glad I did it.


  1. That's really cool!

    If you had gone to one where there was a ton of activity, you'd be more likely to think that the whole thing was faked.

    That's very, very interesting about the different tobacco/smoke smells. For coolness sake, I choose to believe you smelled Doc Hollis' pipe tobacco.

    My dad is very into the hauntings of Gettysburg. He has several books on it and can recite tons of info on it. He's gone to Gettysburg several times and always stay at the same bed and breakfast, which is "haunted". It was there during the war and even has bullet holes in the walls from the war. Snipers stayed in the attic, and I'm pretty sure the only civilian casualty.

    Anyway, it's supposedly still very haunted. They
    Have candlelight ghost walks. My brother saw and smelled a ghost, and another woman who was there at the same time says she saw a soldier. There weren't any reenactments that day.

    I ate dinner there once (our 2009 Malamute National was in Gettysburg) but didn't see anything. But, I DID get to go to the battlefield on the night before Halloween. I went to the (supposedly) most haunted spot on the battlefield, Devil's Den. I couldn't believe the number of people who were there ghost hunting! They had all this equipment in their cars and trucks. They take their stuff very seriously. I didn't see anything, but I DID catch an orb in one of my pictures from that.

    By the way, that's an awesome birthday present. I'd love ghost hunting - or tornado chasing.

  2. It really was fun! I was so well behaved! That's really hard for me. At one point I asked why most of the activity was in the basement. They said it's basement or attic (we didn't get to go up there), because of the absences of live people. It's also an easy 'access' point, or from Harry Potter - a port key! No, I didn't say that out loud, but since we'd just seen the HP movie Friday night....I sure thought it!

    Dr. H's room was pretty small, I'm guess a full bed would almost fill it up. There wasn't any furniture in it at the time, but there were 15 chairs and 13 people (Yikes....should have though about that ahead of time!!!), so it was crowded. At the time we were using the ovulus with the 'ping' noise that the spirit person had to touch in order to 'validate' their presence. We could ask questions, so I asked, "Do you ever thing your room is too small", he answered with one ping. That was suppose to be a 'yes'.

    We couldn't seem to get two pings, a 'No' answer out of him. I asked him if it was snowing outside right now. No answer. RATS!!!

    It was fun. Would I do it again? TOTALLY! But, I'd hope for more action next time. At least turn the flashlight on downstairs! They said it was pretty common for the little boy 'Edward' to do that.

    It was a GREAT Birthday idea! I loved it!!

    Next about a hot air balloon ride????? LOL

  3. Oh yes, one other fun question when we were using the ghost box. I asked, "Were they ever pets in the house." 'four' was the reply. So, one of the twins asked, "Were their cats?" - 'of course'. It was awesome!

    Jennifer, the owner was great. She explained that we were not going to get spirit people that were going to jump up and down while waving saying, "I'm over here!!" I think that might have been fun!!!

  4. How fun! I want to go on a ghost hunt.... a girl here I know that does agility has been on them. :)