(Please note that I have changed all identities involved in this account)
Whenever someone I don’t know—a psychic, a medium or anyone claiming paranormal powers—offers to take me on an investigation, I start feeling just a tad nervous. You enter the twilight zone of truth vs. fiction, the authentic vs. the fabricated and entertainment vs. fraud. My husband and I participated in a ‘paranormal’ investigation of a historical site recently, and we were fleeced in what I can only describe as a good, old-fashioned hoodwinking by someone swearing to be clairvoyant/sentient/audient and so on. We lost 50 bucks and a few hours of our lives, but the lessons were priceless.
Our ‘guide’ played for us some ‘class A’ EVP, and immediately my hackles rose. One of the EVP was so clearly faked, that I was convinced the whole thing was a joke; but the punch line never came. After years of listening to EVP, I’ve discovered that they have certain characteristics. A good EVP does not sound like something you can (easily, anyway) recreate. It has an ‘otherworldly’ quality to it, and at times the real clips sound slightly distorted or mediated by either distance or their particular frequency. Figuring out the difference comes from experience. The laughing children on the fake EVP were an insult to anyone who spends hours slogging through audio; but the real fun was yet to come.
While standing in a dismal hallway, our psychic announced that a female ghost was present, and we would know for sure that she was with us by the scent of her lavender perfume. One of our tour mates—a cop, no less—heard a distinctive spritz before we were inundated with a very worldly scent, concentrated around the psychic who, for the rest of the night, dragged around that flowery cloud everywhere he went. At this point, I was starting to feel depressed. This was so obvious, so silly, that I continued to believe that at some point our guide would burst out laughing and declare that he was just kidding. That didn’t happen.
We wandered off to an abandoned house and were regaled with stories about a fourteen-year-old girl who died there. We stood around the living room, my husband filming in night vision mode, when I heard the strangest squeak. It didn’t sound like anything paranormal, but the third time I heard it, I declared it an equipment noise. It was then I noticed that my husband was moving his camera to follow our psychic. Every time he focused on him, our guide moved out of camera range. This little dance went on for the several minutes before the medium declared that it was time to move on. My husband and the cop informed us that the bizarre squeaks were actually our guide attempting to throw his voice; however, he had trouble disguising his facial expressions as he tried to recreate the sound of a fourteen-year-old girl ‘communicating’ with the investigators.
I was thoroughly discouraged by this point. I wanted the whole thing to stop, but I plodded on so that we could see other abandoned properties and maybe take some cool photos. It was hard to believe that something so ridiculous was happening to us, something so obvious and cheap. We finished up that portion of the so-called investigation, and I took a break in the lobby to drink tea and discuss the evening’s antics with some other guests on the tour. Everyone was surprised, but the reactions were different: some were offended, as I was, others found the whole thing amusing, and others professed that they were having a good time regardless. Within a few minutes, we were summoned to an old bathroom with communal showers for a ‘big surprise’. I dragged myself down the hallway and into the abandoned area of the building, feeling as if all my energy had been drained from my body. I suspected that the ‘surprise’ was not going to be pleasant for me.
I walked in and saw that a few members of our tour group had already experienced the ‘surprise’; one lady was trembling on her husband’s lap. There was, apparently, a stone-throwing ghost that was terrifying some of our group. As we all settled in, my husband set up the camera and our guide told us about the gang-rape of some poor soul that occurred in this bathroom. Stories of rape are not entertaining; it sickens me if they are fabricated in order to produce an emotional reaction and prepare us all for paranormal trickery. Indeed, that is what happened: rocks sailed across the room, warmed by our psychic’s hands. He was throwing them around the room while my husband attempted to film his hands. One member of our group was staring at the floor in what looked like despair; another was laughing; I sat there in stunned silence. When our guide announced that one of these rocks had hit his wife ‘square in the head,’ I was also worried.
Part of the show in the bathroom included random K2 spikes that appeared every 32 seconds. This, of course, was ‘proof’ that something paranormal was happening, according to Mr. Medium (later, about three of us returned to that bathroom and debunked the K2 hits: they were caused by the Wi-Fi signal that waxed and waned in different areas of the building. Our guide surely knew that the bathroom was a Wi-Fi hot spot). By that point, none of us really believed anything he had to say. When our guide realized that my husband was trying to film his hands, he decided that our ‘investigation’ was over, and he finally left us alone. We all wandered back to the lobby, where I threw a monumental fit.
Looking back, I should have expected that fraud was bound to happen some time in my paranormal career. However, I was not prepared that night to be lied to in such a grievous way. I always give people the benefit of the doubt. Even if I think someone has interpreted an event as paranormal when I don’t think it is, I respect everyone’s reading of reality. I keep an open mind, I always strive for complete honesty and I have never in my life invented a paranormal event or phenomenon. I could be mistaken about some of my data, but I would never represent something as paranormal when I know that it isn’t. This ‘event’ was called an investigation (NOT a ‘show’ or a ‘tour’, even though I have referred to it that way in this post) and there were paranormal investigators in that group of people, all of whom had paid for an experience they expected would be genuine.
I felt betrayed. My intelligence was not only insulted, it was mocked. A true investigation is a spiritual experience by definition. If you seek spirits, you are attempting to make contact with real people who are—by the grace of God—willing to contact you in some way so that you might believe in and understand the realm of non-physical existence. As such, a genuine investigation is a communion with the souls of those who have passed on, and it something that deserves awe, respect and gratitude. Anyone who has had an authentic paranormal experience knows that such moments can be intensely beautiful and change your life.
I have experienced such moments many times alone and with my investigative team. Imagine watching spirits form all around you in a distant and lost little cemetery; imagine watching your equipment go crazy when you are in a building with no power sources whatsoever; try to feel what I did when I uploaded a picture of a filmy, undulating spirit in the old pantry of the San Juan Capistrano Mission. I have countless such moments of grace and power in my life, and I have those experiences to thank for discovering just how much I believe in God and the pattern and purpose in all of life. That is why it is not only unnecessary to fake phenomena of this nature; it’s an act of emotional violence to spiritual seekers everywhere. It’s more than simply a lie. It’s an offense.
If that is the case, why don’t I come out with names, dates, locations and exact details so that this person and his operation might be revealed? I wanted to, originally. There were members of our group that did not want me to drag this into the light, and I respect their wishes. I believe that the truth will come out, at some point, and perhaps those involved in such a demeaning show will think twice before trying such chicanery again. It was quite clear to our psychic guide that most of us were well aware of his actions.
I want to end this by warning those who find paranormal phenomena fascinating (and might be interested in paying for a ‘paranormal investigation’) to be careful and always use your critical reasoning and logical brain. Know who your guide is, don’t be afraid to do some of your own research both on the people leading you around an abandoned building and the site/stories themselves. Don’t depend on a group who profits from a haunting to tell you the absolute truth; many will, perhaps most, but there will always be the unscrupulous character, who—like the medium of old who used elaborate contraptions to create fun séances—is not above throwing some rocks at your head in a dark, stinky bathroom.
Better to go see a scary movie and know what you’re paying for.
—Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD