Anyone who has done paranormal research knows that investigations are typically hours of boredom intermingled with a few minutes of excitement. Most of the excitement is due to prosaic reasons: a breeze or creaky floorboards... but some of the time it is not.
Those unusual incidents are the ones that keep investigators going. I have experienced some incredible things on investigations and have been with others who have. When it happens, it definitely changes your perspective on life in a hurry.
My new science fiction novel, The Tesla Gate [Open Road Media, $16.99], deals with what might happen if ghosts were suddenly among us in huge numbers. And I had no shortage of creepy experiences to draw on. These are the scariest moments of my career.
#1: A Father's Voice
Of my personal experiences, I will save the best for last. I will start with EVPs, which are Electronic Voice Phenomenons. These are recordings that collect ambient noise in the room during an investigation, or they can be interactive: the investigators will ask questions to an alleged entity. Usually nothing out of the ordinary is sensed by those present during the recording session. But when the recording is played back and analyzed, well, it can make your hair stand on end.
I have recorded several incredible examples over the years, but there are three that really stick out. First, we did an investigation at a home where an old man had died of lung cancer just months earlier; the house still reeked of cigarettes and death. One of the investigators asked if he was mad and wanted us to leave. The response we picked up on the recording was a very angry and raspy, "Yes." The homeowner, who was the deceased man's daughter, broke down in tears when she heard the recording and identified it as her father's voice.
#2: The Jovial Ghost
In 2010 we investigated a 120-year-old home that now houses a museum. The original owner of the home died in the 1930s. He was well known in the community and famous for his jovial and boisterous laughter. During an EVP session, someone asked if he liked to laugh. On the recording we picked up a loud belly laugh from a man. I was the only male present in the house at the time.
#3: Still Singing
Probably the most incredible EVP recording I've heard occurred at a tuberculosis sanatorium. There is a particular hallway where people have had experiences with a little girl. Hospital records from the abandoned sanatorium are sketchy at best, but it is believed that a little girl and her mother died there sometime in the 1940s. We had just finished an EVP session and were packing up our equipment to move to another section. I left my recorder running on a wooden platform as we packed away cameras and other equipment. When I went back and listened to my recorder the next day, my jaw practically dropped to the floor. As we were quietly talking amongst ourselves about the equipment, a little girl can clearly be heard singing, the volume going up and down as if she were moving around. Finally, just a few seconds before I shut down my recorder to move on, she can be heard a short distance down the hall in a sing-song voice saying, "I'm down in this room."
#4: Come Join Us
While EVP recordings are fascinating and probably the best evidence collected for paranormal phenomenon, they do not compare to personal experiences. Very rarely does anyone ever see anything, but hearing and feeling are both every bit as, if not more, terrifying.
I have heard plenty with my naked ear, and I think all of those incidents occurred at the tuberculosis sanatorium. The building is six stories high, including the basement, and longer than a football field. At the end of one investigation, I and another investigator went to the upper stories to collect our stationary night vision cameras. Everyone remained on the first floor packing away other equipment. When we reached the 5th floor, we made our way to where the cameras were and just before we got there we both froze.
There was suddenly a conversation going on around us as if we were surrounded by people. But we were the only ones on the floor. Even though we couldn't make out what they were saying, we definitely heard human voices.
#5: All Alone
On one trip to the tuberculosis sanatorium, I stayed with the equipment on the first floor while everyone went upstairs to inspect the building. About 10 minutes after they left, I heard the most miserable and terrifying moaning I had ever heard in my life coming from the hall. It sounded like a woman in severe pain. I quickly checked the hallway, and of course no one was there. That was not the first time I had heard the woman's cries of agony; I had heard her on a previous investigation, but it that had been a brief experience while several other people were in the building. The second time left no doubt about what I heard. The room used to have the ghastly purpose of performing experiments on tuberculosis patients.
#6: Go Away
There have been times when we've actually had to halt investigations for safety reasons. I kid you not: I was at an investigation in October of 2009 at an old bed and breakfast in Hot Springs, and one of the women in our group suddenly got unexplained scratch marks on her back. Five perfect lines appeared like they had been cut from five sharp fingernails on an invisible hand. We helped her dress the wound, and then immediately left.
#7: A Chilling Hello
Probably the most amazing thing that happened to me: I was leading a visiting TAPS (The Atlantic Paranormal Society of Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International,) group from Texas on an investigation in the tuberculosis sanatorium. I was grabbed by my elbow and jerked backward by something unseen, and that is no easy task considering I'm a fairly big guy. Afterward, it felt like my elbow had been submerged in ice water. When my elbow was examined by the thermal camera it was indeed 15 degrees colder than the rest of my arm. It was a very interesting and chilling experience, no pun intended.
Was I ever scared from any of these instances? I can definitely say they were fascinating. There's no doubt in my mind that there are things that go bump in the night. Sometime you set out to find them, sometimes they find you.