Who you gonna call?
By KATHRYN EDDY
CORRESPONDENT | June 24,2013
Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
This monument, known as Black Agnes, in Montpelier’s Green Mount Cemetery, is believed to be haunted. Scores of people have reported odd paranormal activity at the gravesite.
We’ve all heard things go bump in the night, seen something out of the corner of the eye, or felt the hair go up on the back of the neck. But for those who are plagued by constant sightings or strange noises, feelings or smells that make comfortable living impossible, these are not easily dismissed.
When that happens, who do you call? Vermont Paranormal Investigators, or VPI.
No matter where you are in the state, you can consult with this team dedicated to finding answers to what can sometimes be “troubling experiences.”
“If you have something going on in your house or business that you can’t explain, please call somebody. You’re not going crazy,” says Steve Waldo, VPI’s tech manager and an investigator. “It’s a huge step for a lot of people to take, to contact these strangers, professional as we may be. We do spend quite a bit of time reassuring people that we are going to do our best to explain what’s happening. A lot of times, it’s a naturally occurring thing.”
An investigator for the state during the day, and former police chief in Ludlow, Waldo uses his expertise to carry out thorough investigations of homes and businesses around Vermont. The team has had 23 investigations, including 12 businesses, in the four years since the group was formed.
As soon as VPI receives a call (they never seeks out places to investigate), an investigator will ask the home or business owner to begin a journal, making a record of anything seen, heard or smelled, where and what time of day an incident occurred, who was present, and even what the weather was like. Because they all have day jobs, the team tries their best to schedule a night to travel to the home or business within two months of the call. However, if children are involved, “We do our darndest to get there as quickly as possible. When we had a call from a day care, we jumped on it,” says Waldo.
Once an investigation is scheduled, generally a Saturday evening, the team reviews the journal to determine where the hot spots in the house or building are — the places where most incidents occur. They set up a home base in an area where there is little or no reported activity and then place visual and audio recording equipment throughout.
VPI uses infrared cameras, which can portray a room that is pitch dark as if it were in daylight; these cameras send footage back to a DVR system the team has at their home base. Digital audio recorders also are set up — often the team begins recording as soon as they pull into the driveway — and these can record sounds that a human ear doesn’t pick up.
They use temperature guns to monitor surface temperature fluctuations, and a forward-looking-infrared device known as a FLIR that firefighters, HVAC technicians and the military sometimes use for locating people. This not only detects heat fluctuations and cold spots, but also displays the results on a video monitor. Cold spots are often thought to be ghosts or similar entities because, as the theory goes, they draw surrounding energy and leave the area cooler. VPI can use the temperature guns to trace the sources of cold spots, which can often be a drafty window. The team has a number of different electro-magnetic field detectors, with different sensitivities and displays.
On a daily basis, home owners are exposed to a mix of electric and magnetic fields — from our microwaves to our cellphones to our radios, etc. Our bodies are also a source of small electrical currents created from the chemical reactions that govern our bodily functions, such as digestion or brain activity; our nerves operate via electric impulses. In short, EMFs are all around us, all the time.
But why are EMF readings important to a paranormal investigation?
Some people believe that EMF activity is indicative of spirits, but VPI has a different, more crucial reason for taking EMF data.
“Lots of EMF waves give you a creepy feeling, like when you swear someone’s watching you, but you turn around and no one’s there,” says Waldo. “EMFs saturating your brain, especially for a prolonged period of time, are interrupting your brain signals and can cause you to see things out of the corner of your eye.”
A few studies have been conducted in Canada and Norway that have included experiments in which participants were exposed to varying levels of electro-magnetic field waves; hallucinations were one common symptom.
So it was no surprise when the team was investigating a house in Barre, where a woman reported waking from a deep sleep to see an apparition, and found there was an unshielded electrical cable six to eight inches from her head in the wall at the top of her bed.
A similar situation in another house they investigated — the family was seeing full-bodied apparitions in the hallway — revealed that the old electrical wiring they had replaced after a rodent issue had never been disconnected by the electrician.
“So there was electricity going through bare wires. Why that house didn’t burn down, well, they were very fortunate that it didn’t,” says Waldo. “They had another electrician come in and disconnect and, needless to say, they were very pleased with our work.”
The team also visited Emily’s Bridge in Stowe, and found that the rocks surrounding it and in the footings of the bridge emit EMF waves.
“Standing in that space, the creep factor would be pretty high, and if you know the story, then even more so,” says Waldo.
After taking video footage, various readings and recordings during the investigation (sometimes until 4:30 a.m.), it’s time to go home for review.
“That’s the part they don’t show you on TV, that they just spent three days staring at a monitor — it’s extremely tedious,” says Waldo.
The team reviews (and re-reviews) the audio and video recordings, making note of anything out of the ordinary, and then puts it on a DVD for the homeowner as part of the report they eventually present.
“We try to see it through a very objective viewpoint, to see if we can explain what it might be through some kind of natural occurrence. If we can’t explain it any other way, we say, ‘We don’t know what this is, we don’t have the means to explain it,’” he says.
There have been a few unexplained sounds and voices, as well as video of a closet door opening and shutting on its own (twice) — all of which they post to their website, provided the owner has given consent. At the beginning of every investigation they enter into a confidentiality agreement with the home or business owner, which can be customized to the client’s comfort level. VPI might be permitted to share some information with others or no information whatsoever and deny ever having been to a certain home or business, consistent with the agreed-upon confidentiality contract.
Ultimately, VPI has brought a lot of relief to their clients, free of charge.
“That’s kind of why all of us are involved, because we really want to help people,” says Waldo. “It’s interesting, it’s challenging, sometimes it’s fun. We are taking the skills we have and putting them to good use.”
That does not, however, include exorcisms.
That’s a different phone call.
For more information on VPI, visit www.vermontparanormalinvestigators.com.