Ghost hunters employ technology, skepticism

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Ghost hunters employ technology, skepticism

Post by HauntedHRM on 19th June 2009, 4:59 pm

Ghost hunters employ technology, skepticism

Sunday, June 14, 2009
By Robert C. Lopez
Staff Writer

Melinda Waldrup takes a seat on the floor of the maid's quarters at Körner's Folly in Kernersville. She speaks into her tape recorder, noting the time: 9:15 p.m.

The lights go out. In the next room Caroline Rogers asks, "Is anybody with us tonight?"

A few seconds later, Waldrup chimes in.

"What was your life like here?"

Some ice in a cooler trickles down. An air conditioner hums. And Rogers thinks she hears some kids playing.

But there are no kids around.

Rogers and Waldrup are members of the Southern Paranormal and Anomaly Research Society, which recently extended its reach into the Piedmont Triad.

The group is affiliated with The Atlantic Paranormal Society of the Sci Fi Channel series "Ghost Hunters." Its Carolinas chapter has about 30 investigators, a half-dozen of whom reside in the Triad. They study alleged ghostly activities armed with audio recorders, infrared cameras, thermometers, electromagnetic field detectors and various other types of probes.

"People that watch a lot of TV get this idea that it's sort of just fun and games," said investigator Deonna Kelli Sayed of Greensboro. "But it's really a lot of work. Most of the time you're just waiting. You don't experience any activity. It's tedious. ... But it's really cool when you go somewhere and you ask somebody to knock, and something knocks back."

Ghost hunters, not ghostbusters

Sayed and other members of SPARS want people to know that they are not ghostbusters. They cannot and will not promise to rid a property of any stray poltergeists.

They do not perform seances. They don't claim to be psychics. And they do not run around screaming, "Run, dude!" or "Let's get out of here!"

But they do encourage a good degree of skepticism.

"When we go into a place, we don't assume it's haunted," Sayed said. "We actually assume it's not haunted, and we try to find explanations for what people would call paranormal activity. And if we're left with something we can't explain, we will say, 'This is possibly paranormal.' "

"Ghost Hunters," which follows Rhode Island plumbers Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson as they investigate ghostly happenings in their free time, has sparked a great deal of interest in paranormal detective work. SPARS co-founder Paula Hayes said she fields many calls from people who mistakenly believe they'll be on the show if they take part in an investigation.

Still, what SPARS investigators do is similar to what's seen on the show. They use much of the same type of equipment and techniques. They ask questions of any spirits that may be on the premises. And they spend a great deal of time watching live circuit feeds on their laptops.

What many viewers may not understand from watching the show, Rogers said, is that the investigations typically run eight to 10 hours. The hour-long episodes contain only the most exciting bits of an investigation.

"Many nights you're just sitting there in the dark, talking to yourself," she said. "So, you lose a lot of people that way. Those people are in it for the wrong reasons. They expect the hype. They expect to go and get something every time."

Wanting to reach out

Diana Logan, a 52-year-old hairdresser from Greensboro, got interested in the paranormal about 10 years ago after her son died in a car accident.

"I started wanting to reach out," she said. "It gives me comfort and a sense of satisfaction when we do catch something that might be from the other side."

Hayes said many investigators have experienced what they believe to be some sort of paranormal activity in their own lives, whether it be in the form of strange noises around their homes or a message from a deceased relative.

"Some people, they get into this more or less because they have questions about whether there really is life after death," she said. "Some people get into it because of the thrill of it, the excitement. Some people get in it for the scientific end of it. The debunking end. What causes this, what causes that?"

SPARS is made up of a diverse group, including Baptists, Muslims and Wiccans. Most members have full-time jobs, and some have been performing paranormal investigations as a hobby for years.

"We have teachers, we have scientists, we have computer people, we have medical personnel, we have historians, we even have people with legal backgrounds," Hayes said. "We teach each other. We have some that are stronger in some areas than others as far as knowledge of science or history or technical issues or whatever."

SPARS' Carolinas Chapter is based out of Greenville, S.C. The organization moved into the Triad last year when it absorbed a local group, Greensboro Paranormal Investigations.

Before investigating a building, the group will typically conduct a one-on-one interview with the owner to find out what's going on. They make note of anything that might be a hazard in the dark, as well as fuse boxes, appliances and other objects that might give off an electromagnetic field that can throw off their instruments. They also research the property's history.

The group doesn't charge to conduct an investigation, and many members use and share their own equipment.

The world's strangest house

The SPARS investigators gathered at Körner's Folly during Memorial Day weekend. Setup takes several hours, as investigators run extension cords and place cameras throughout the house.

Built from 1878 to 1880 by artist and interior decorator Jule Gilmer Körner, the place dubs itself "the strangest house in the world." It has 22 rooms on seven levels, and an eccentric layout with narrow passageways and ceilings as low as six feet. Körner (pronounced Kerner) used the home as a showcase for his business, so each room has a different design.

SPARS investigator Iris Carter of Summerfield said she'd always been curious about the home, and the group approached the house's executive director Bruce Frankel about checking it out.

"I was a little surprised, but they were very professional when they called," Frankel said. "They didn't take this lightly, so I thought it was worth talking to them. They came, walked through the house and decided that it was worthy of investigation."

Outside, the porch is strewn with tackleboxes, clip boards and tote bags. Group members have a sense of humor about what they do. One instrument is labeled "The Ghost Meter." A bumper sticker reads "When Staying Dead Is Hard to Do." One investigator, who is also a pastry chef, prepared a big ghost-shaped cake.

About 9 p.m., they break into four teams, each stationed in a different part of the house and the maid's quarters.

Investigators turn out the lights and ask questions such as "What is your name?"; "Where are you from?"; and "If there is anybody in here, can you knock on the wall?" They hope to elicit a response in the form of electronic voice phenomena, faint speechlike sounds usually nestled in the background noise on their recordings. (Hayes said analog cassette recorders work well for this task, as they don't filter out the noise.) They also use geophones, which can detect vibrations.

After about a half-hour of sitting in the maid's quarters, Waldrup orders the lights turned back on. The investigators walk outside to see if they can find an explanation for what they heard. Behind the Körner property is a house with a large backyard but no children in sight.

Later on, Waldrup goes into the Körner sewing room. She thinks she hears something and then goes to check it out. The LEDs on her EMF (electromagnetic field) detector start pulsating.

She steps forward. It stops, but then a few seconds later it starts again.

"Look at it, it's like a heartbeat," she said.

After about a minute, it dies out.

The group will spend several weeks listening to the recordings and poring over the data, after which they will meet with Frankel to reveal any findings.

For his part, Frankel says he has never experienced anything out of the ordinary inside the house, but staff members through the years have reported hearing unusual sounds inside. Much of that, though, can be chalked up to wind blowing through or bats, Frankel said. Still, he said he's looking forward to seeing the results of the investigation.

And staff members said that regardless of what the SPARS detectives come up with, they'd still be leery of spending a night inside the place.

"I've never seen anything," Kelli Landing, an office intern at Körner's Folly, said. "But the house is so big. If I were in there by myself and something popped out, I'd come flying out."

Contact Robert C. Lopez at 691-5091 or robert.lopez@news-record.com

http://www.news-record.com/content/2009/06/12/article/ghost_hunters_employ_technology_skepticism
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Re: Ghost hunters employ technology, skepticism

Post by AutumnSims on 21st June 2009, 12:10 pm

Sadly TV does that, people might see a brief(Very brief!) amount of time of the pre-reveal work. Ghost Hunter, Most Haunted and Ghost Adventures show the ooohs and awws of Paranormal Investigating. I mean, who would watch a show to see you just sitting on your butt watching video, listening to audio and looking at pictures.
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Re: Ghost hunters employ technology, skepticism

Post by HauntedHRM on 21st June 2009, 9:42 pm

Yes, exactly.The general public has no idea whats going on behind the cameras.
For example: They could be there at the location at 5pm and sure they could be filming until 3 or 4 am like they claim.. but how many breaks, redone scenes, and set up shots are they doing during that time frame.
It's not as it seems on tv and honestly I'm OK with that, I just wish people would stop defending the shows as being more then entertainment..
Razz
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Re: Ghost hunters employ technology, skepticism

Post by AutumnSims on 23rd June 2009, 12:54 pm

And not just when they get to location but all that is required before you investigsate
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Re: Ghost hunters employ technology, skepticism

Post by AutumnSims on 27th June 2009, 1:34 pm

HauntedHRM wrote:It's not as it seems on tv and honestly I'm OK with that, I just wish people would stop defending the shows as being more then entertainment..
Razz
The only credit I believe they can claim is, doing investigations in a scientific manner as opposed to the more traditional investigations with mediums and seances. Like that of Most Haunted fame.
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Re: Ghost hunters employ technology, skepticism

Post by Zic on 6th July 2009, 6:07 am

I don't watch alot of those shows. But when i do they are sometimes interesting.

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