Resolving Hauntings

Ghost hunters seek to resolve hauntings

from Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011 9:52 am | Updated: 10:01 am, Thu Oct 27, 2011.
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For Houston-based ghost hunters, things that go “bump” in the night aren’t reason to hide under the covers. They’re a motivation for adventure.

Armed with equipment a lot more hi-tech than a flashlight, these paranormal investigators seek explanation for the inexplicable.

“There’s a lot more going on than the general public knows about,” said Michelle, an inactive member of the Houston Ghost Hunters who wished to go by her first name only. “If people are truly having experiences, they are embarrassed or scared to talk about it because most people won’t believe them.”

A number of ghost hunters became interested in the field after having what they believe to be supernatural encounters. Pete Haviland, director of the state-wide organization Lone Star Spirits, tells of when he saw his grandfather’s ghost descend down the stairs when he was 12.

John Strohbehn, founder and director of Houston Ghost Town Paranormal Investigators, recalls a number of eerie incidences from his firefighting career, including walking across thin air over a completely burnt out floor. Others entered the hobby with a different attitude.

“I got into it to disprove it,” said James Sangster, founder and director of Houston Ghost Research. “But then I got growled at by thin air over at a church … something hit me, and I guess almost knocked me out was the way to describe it.”

Although they accept the existence of otherworldly spirits, the ghost hunters enter each investigation with the skeptical attitude that a supposed haunting has a rational explanation, like noises caused by a house’s structure or a witness’ paranoia.

“Most of the hauntings I’ve dealt with over the years have to do with a person or a persons in their home, broadcasting into their environment some traumatic experiences they’ve had or their stress relieving into it,” Haviland said. “When that happens, we do make things move, we can hear things and smell things from our subconscious.”

Haviland has studied this phenomenon, called “parapsychology,” since his college years. He is also fascinated by the concept of poltergeists, a German word for “noisy ghost,” more technically known as “recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis.”

“It’s how we deal stress and our own issues, our body puts off energy into the atmosphere around us and sometimes we manifest our own ghosts through letting off stress,” Haviland said.

Of course, the ghost hunters investigate their fair share of intelligent hauntings, which are cases more akin to those represented in horror films – ghosts that reportedly communicate with or appear visible to others.

To determine if a haunting has a supernatural cause, the ghost hunters review audio and video recordings from a client’s residence, looking for any voices, orbs or unexplained happenings. According to Michelle, most evidence isn’t clear until after the investigation, but she had one recent experience that led to her hiatus from the spooky hobby.

“The last investigation I got more than I bargained for. When you go out to people’s homes, you don’t really know if they’re telling the truth or embellishing their story,” she said. “It was an old 1978 trailer … we were in one room and were all standing still and we could hear a man speaking in the room and we could hear the floorboards creaking.”

Less than 10 percent of all haunting are abusive, Sangster said. His Houston Ghost Research group, which offers services at no charge, specifically deals with resolving “crisis cases,” in which the clients are being attacked or overrun by a haunting.

When it comes to more friendly ghosts, sometimes all people want is an explanation.

“A lot of times if we’ve been able to find out what’s going on with this person, they are comfortable to living with it,” Stronbehn said.

The investigators’ night job is just a side project to their everyday professions, Michelle said. The ghost hunting organizations background-check new members to ensure they can be trusted entering clients’ homes.

They are just people who want to help others, Sangster said.

“The focus of our groups isn’t to prove or disprove the existence of the paranormal or the spiritual world,” he said. “[Our clients] don’t need it proven to them. They’ve experienced it.”

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