Friday, May 8, 2015

Twelve months, 20 paranormal investigations - our best evidence

This is the first in a four-part series on our findings for WILD WEST GHOSTS, available now as a trade paperback from Amazon and Barnes&Noble. Also available as a Kindle e-book.

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Twelve months and twenty investigations later – what did we come away with, what conclusions have we drawn, and do we as authors believe in ghosts? 

Last question first: Kinda, not at first, maybe, sometimes, and now more baffled than ever when we try to maintain our skepticism.

Our paranormal project began as a book on haunted hotels in Colorado, and we approached the project as trained investigative journalists with an assignment from our publisher.

Sure, we were interested in the topic. After all, we once lived in a haunted house for nine years, and we’d encountered plenty of strange activity. (See our earlier blog on that experience.) It’s amazing how much the rational mind can justify in the aftermath of anomalous events.

Our haunted house
But here we were: researching, investigating, and writing about ghosts. Other people's ghosts – well, mostly, since we decided to include in the book our own paranormal investigations at each establishment.

Drawing on our formal forensic training as field investigators for MUFON (but that's another story!), we decided to approach investigations using an Instrumental Trans-Communication (ITC) protocol –utilizing instruments to register fluctuations in electromagnetic field readings at each site, to record electronic voice phenomena, and to videotape interactions we experienced using a flashlight.

In the process, we decided to test and use a number of so-called spirit boxes, an experimental technology only a dozen or so years old and akin to high-tech Ouija Boards designed for 21st-Century users. Plus, we tried to document much of our experience by camcorder.

Now, only a month away from the publication of Wild West Ghosts – an amateur ghost hunting guide to Haunted Hotels in southwest Colorado, it’s time to stake stock of the best evidence we collected during a score of investigations.

And it’s time to ask YOU to be the judge of what we found out.

We’re going to share four kinds of experience:
  1. Photographic evidence
  2. EVPs captured by audio-only digital recordings and by spirit boxes
  3. Video evidence recording interactions and responses
  4. Other sensory encounters we experienced but can’t explain
  For the remainder of this article, we offer several puzzling photographic exhibits.

Our Photographic Evidence

During our year of investigations, we captured three pictures that have us scratching our heads. The first was of an orb.

We’ve always had orb envy.

Lots of folks we know – both friends and paranormal colleagues – have really good luck in capturing orbs. Not us. Except during our first serious investigation. We were in the courthouse in Virginia City, Montana, in the original 1880s holding cells in the building’s basement. Missy, the on-duty dispatcher/jailer, was showing us around and letting us take readings and recordings during our initial sweep of the facility.

This orb followed the jailer
through several photos
In the basement we took a whole range of still frames using a Canon PowerShot S3 IS digital camera. But it wasn’t until we returned to base that we discovered several frames contained luminous spheres – and each time right behind Missy. We took a variety of shots from different perspectives and even some from the same perspective. But only those that also included Missy captured these orbs. 

When we later showed her the photos, she confided she regularly has the feeling someone (or something) is right behind her as she makes her rounds. When she gets that sense, she told us she sometimes turns around abruptly to see who’s following her, but she’s always alone. Or maybe not.

These have been the only anomalous orbs we’ve captured on stills but not the only anomalies our cameras caught.

During one of our earliest investigations for the book, we visited the Twin Lakes Inn in the village of Twin Lakes, Colorado, and Kym took a number of photos that contained blurry streaks. At the time, we thought nothing of it. But they were odd. They looked like motion blurs, sometimes with a single slanted striation running across the picture but others with five or six parallel streaks. However, the backgrounds were always in sharp focus. This really puzzled Kym since she’s been a long-time photojournalist and didn’t recall even taking most of those dozen or so frames.

Still, we were each trying out cameras on our two new tablets at the time, and she dismissed her photos as flawed – and deleted them! At the time it didn’t occur to us that these images might constitute “evidence.” Talk about N00bs. Sheesh. We still kick ourselves for deleting those pictures.

... in the "stretched" image?
Is that a figure in the
green image above?
And a face ...
However, Mark managed to capture an anomalous image on his tablet at that same inn but also not on purpose. It was days after the investigation that he noticed two frames that seemed odd, and for three reasons.

First, he also didn’t remember snapping either of them since they were focused on an uninteresting edge of a stripped-down bed in a room during our initial tour of the inn. In fact, it wasn’t even a room we decided to investigate.

Second, the pictures were out of sequence. Like most cameras, it logs and stores photos in the same sequence they’re taken. Always. But these two pictures were at the very beginning of the camera’s memory storage. That simply shouldn’t happen. The two pics were also only a fraction of the file size of every other picture that camera has taken. (We’re talking 45k files where all the others are the standard size of at least a meg each.)

One of the pictures shows only the corner of the mattress and part of the black frame of the wrought-iron headboard. But the other picture – for the third and oddest reason – includes a vertical swatch or strip of green superimposed over the edge of the bedboard. There seemed to be some sort of image in the green swatch, so we stretched it for a better look. The image resembles a person to us.

We’re not sure we’d have scrutinized the picture so closely had it not been for the unusual circumstances of capturing and storing this picture. Make of it what you will.

Our final anomaly on film occurred at the Spruce Lodge in South Fork, Colorado. We were conducting EVP sessions in a room on one end of the lodge’s second floor. Right before we went inside, we snapped a picture of a really cool looking mannequin in period dress posed at the end of the hall. All the while, we had the door open, not ten  feet from the mannequin.
Note parasol up
Note parasol down

When we packed up our gear and walked out the door, the parasol that had been in the mannequin’s hand now lay on the floor nearby. This photo capture is less an anomaly than a record of what we saw. The flooring was hardwood, which made for distinctive echoes with every footfall.

We never heard the parasol move or fall, and we were only a few feet away. But the lodge has repeated reports of objects moving on all three floors of the main lodge.

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Next week, we move on to highlights of our EVP sessions, with YouTube links that document some of the more startling interactions we recorded during our year of investigations.

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