Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Could you give us a sign of your presence?"

This isn't about "proving" God exists.

Actually, it's about the ghost hunting trip I joined this past Friday.

If you've never seen Ghost Hunters, this is a group that travels all over the country to investigate people's claims that their places of residence or work are haunted. To aid in their investigation, they make use of technology: digital voice recorders, digital cameras, thermal imaging cameras, gauges that measure temperature and energy. There's theory behind all of it that I won't go into.

The team carries all of this with them (along with several stationary video cameras that they place in strategic places) as they move from area to area, long into the early morning hours. Teams of two branch off and spend time in each area, and ask questions such as the one in the title: "Could you give us a sign of your presence?" "Is there anyone here who'd like to speak with us tonight?" "Is there something that you'd like to tell us?" "How long have you been here?" "If anyone is here, could you make a noise?" When the team is satisfied with the amount of time that they've spent in the area, they move on.

This doesn't always produce monumental television moments. There have been plenty of things that happen during the recorded investigation on the show, but usually anything they've caught doesn't surface until they've gone over the hours of video and audio later on.

That's a lot by way of a setup, but it's to give you an idea of what I generally did on Friday night.

I was told beforehand that we'd be investigating an old plantation house. The team wasn't given much information heading in, but the assumption was that we'd be spending most of our time in the house moving from room to room.

Two things would later be revealed:

1. The house has been converted into several apartments by the owner, so our investigation of the house would be confined to one partially-finished apartment in the basement, and

2. The owner wanted us to investigate a couple places outside: an old barn, and the concrete remnants of a building out in the woods. This last place was a very barebones shelter sort of structure, with four walls, a roof, several large rectangular holes to serve as windows with one in the roof as well, and stairs leading down into it.

I didn't know this and had gone with the "we'll only be inside" assumption, so all I wore to this thing was a zip-up sweatshirt that wasn't exactly made from the thickest material. This will become significant later on.

Once we got there and were led around for an extensive tour, we broke up into three teams that would rotate among the house, the barn, and the concrete thing.

My team began with the barn. We set up our digital recorder and then stood and waited in silence. We took turns asking questions, leaving enough time in between for possible answers being taken by the recorder. At one point, I thought I'd felt a cold spot, but it very well could have been a breeze (the barn was quite airy). Another guy thought he'd heard footsteps and the other thought he'd seen some shadowy movement. For me, this part was pretty inconclusive.

We then had the joy of moving out to the concrete thing. I'd felt okay in the barn, but I was really starting to feel the cold while we tromped through the woods out to this place.

It's here that I have to explain another term, the "witching hour." This is the name for the belief that at a certain hour of the night, the door between worlds is the thinnest and thus spirits are more likely to materialize. Apparently this happens around 3 a.m. (it also doesn't recognize Daylight Savings). I'm not sure how much I believe that bit, but it would come up during our hour in the concrete thing.

Our team began swapping stories about personal experiences during this leg of the investigation. The others were especially interested in why a pastor would be interested in this stuff...I was described as "open-minded" by another team member (a church member, in full disclosure). I told of the experiences that I and other family members have had, including the "ghost tour" of the Lemp Mansion in St. Louis that Coffeewife and I took a few years ago. We even discussed theological views of ghosts a little...whether they're all angels and demons, whether they're wayward souls who haven't found their way "over," and so on.

The conversation stopped short, however, because we all noticed that the room seemed to be a lot darker than when it started. The moon was in full view, but we had realized that its light wasn't doing much good where we were. We sat for a little bit...and I'm fairly certain that I saw some shadowy movement in front of me. Shortly after, I felt as if someone was standing behind me, even almost as if there was something lightly touching the small of my back. Another team member would later share that he thought he saw a shadow move back and forth behind me. I was encouraged to check my emotions; to take a moment to calm myself in order to not mistake any of this for my own feelings. At any rate, this was near the end of the hour, and we needed to move on.

The house yielded nothing and was quite boring. But I was very happy to get out of the cold.

I spent all of Saturday recovering from spending two hours outside without a coat. I'm still dealing with a cold, and Coffeeson seems to have caught it.

I'm also still dealing with what I experienced in that concrete structure. I know of at least one EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) that was caught that night, though it was near the barn. I asked about findings from the woods, but they haven't reviewed much of it yet.