Investigating bumps in the night

Ghost hunter John Garcia (right) explains how to use an infrared illuminator to Jennifer Sesler and Colin Boyd after a presentation about the paranormal at Hurt-Battelle Memorial Library in West Jefferson.
West Jefferson resident Trouble Douglas examines gadgets used to detect paranormal activity.

Imagine walking into a room and seeing someone standing there, not speaking but giving off bad vibes, only to have them vanish in the blink of an eye. Or picture taking a look around an empty room one minute, then being shoved by an unheard and unseen presence the next.

While these are not everyday occurrences, they can be an occupational hazard for people who moonlight as ghost hunters.

“This is a hobby for us,” said Sam Clark. “We all have full-time jobs that don’t involve ghosts. This is something that we do for free.”

Clark was one of three members of the Central Ohio Paranormal Society (COPS) who visited Hurt-Battelle Memorial Library in West Jefferson Oct. 22 to talk about their experiences and explain their pastime.

When called upon to do an investigation, the COPS team always assumes the place is haunted, then follows steps to try to debunk their suspicions.

“One of the first things we do is identify any possible mechanical, environmental or human explanations for reported phenomena,” Clark said.

“We always rule out orbs,” said fellow investigator John Garcia who works in the information technology department at DeVry University. “Orbs are the single most misdiagnosed sign of a haunting.”

The next step in the identification pro-cess is to gather as much video, audio, or photographic evidence as possible. The COPS team uses six cameras for still pho-tography, seven cameras equipped with NightShot technology, thermometers, elec-tromagnetic field meters, motion detectors and 15 recorders and microphones.

“If there is sufficient evidence, we get more background information on the site,” Clark said, noting that local libraries are a treasure trove for such information.

“We can find out if the house was built on a grave site, or do a background check on the building,” he said.

If the evidence points to mechanical, environmental, or human causes, a highly detailed explanation is written for the clients. While most cases end up in that category, there are a few that suggest a haunting is taking place, Garcia said.

“There are two types of hauntings: intelligent and residual,” he said. “Intelligent hauntings are what most people think of. It’s where an object interacts with you, such as turning the lights on or off, or making a noise. Those are pretty common.”

Garcia likened a residual haunting to a tape playing back.

“The key to a residual haunting is the object doesn’t interact with you; it just pretends that you are not there.”

When they speak to groups, the COPS team offers up visual and audio evidence of what they deem to be actual hauntings.

At Hurt-Battelle, they showed a photo of a Grove City residence where a suicide took place years before. In the photo, COPS members are sitting in a room with an apparition showing in the window to their right.

“There was an extension on the home, so it couldn’t have been anyone walking around outside,” said Mike Robare, co-founder of COPS. He said they tried every-thing possible to debunk the apparition, but couldn’t.

The COPS team also played for the audience at Hurt-Battelle an EVP (elec-tronic voice phenomena) recording on which they picked up sounds unheard by their own ears.

“Every now and then, we’ll get voices that frequently is intelligible, and some are even responsive to the questions that we ask,” Garcia said.

According to the COPS representatives, one of the most haunted places they have visited in Ohio is the Malabar Farmhouse, located outside of Mansfield. That is where Clark says he saw a woman stand by one of their cameras, glare at him, then disap-pear. Malabar Farms is also where the group picked up voice recordings of an unknown person telling them to “get out.”

Clark offered some advice for would-be ghost hunters or potential haunting victims: It is never wise to anger the spirits, as some have a penchant for following you home if you do.

To learn more about the Central Ohio Paranormal Society, go to their Web site at

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