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My very first ghost hunt

My very first ghost hunt

Dave and Brian, WRPR team members, watch video displays of cameras set up throughout Rios Furniture in October 2009.

POSTED October 31, 2009 12:07 a.m.
As I waited outside of Rios Furniture for a team of paranormal investigators, I went over a mental list of everything I knew about ghost hunting. Outside of books, reality television shows, and the movie “Ghost Busters,” I actually didn’t know much about it. That was why I was here, sitting out on Main Street at 9 p.m. on an unseasonably windy October night. I wanted to learn as much as I could about ghost hunting.
My new-found fascination with paranormal research was not purely out of personal interest. The Turlock Journal planned a special Halloween section, and I was assigned the topic of ghost hunting. So here I was, waiting on a group called Western Region Paranormal Research to show me the ropes of studying haunted buildings.
I didn’t have to wait long for Barbara Rubis-Johnson and her team. I was surprised to see so many people and so much equipment. Nine people were soon busy at work setting up video cameras, several viewing screens, electro-magnetic frequency (EMF) readers, and other high-tech equipment that I didn’t recognize. It was time for the ghost hunt to begin.
Fred Schumacher, WRPR’s electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) specialist, said that the preliminary walk-through establishes the building’s baseline EMF levels. Once baseline is established, the group measures any activity above that level. Fred also asked me to turn off my cell phone. He explained that incoming calls could register on the equipment.
“My interest is to determine what scientifically is causing this,” he said.
Barbara told me that sometimes they just use electronic equipment, and other times they have their “sensitives” walk through the area. Sensitives are people who report feeling the presence of spirits. Iesha Bayona, a WRPR sensitive, said that she is able to physically feel the presence of a spirit.
“I guess the best way to describe it would be an electrical tingle,” Iesha said.
I walked to the back room of Rios Furniture with Iesha, wondering why the place was considered haunted. The show room full of furniture didn’t seem particularly creepy. In the movies the windows would probably rattle, or unplugged lamps would flicker on and off. But nothing like that was happening. It seemed like a normal furniture store to me.
“I guess people sometimes smell cigar smoke, and hear footsteps,” Barbara said.
Iesha had been sitting outside during the set up. She said that after trial and error, the team found that it was better not to have the sensitives in the area while they were setting up.
“They wanted us to walk in fresh, if we were around the energy while setting up we would eventually tune it out,” Iesha said.
Iesha went immediately to the back room of the building, where the freight elevator was located. She said she was feeling a heaviness in that area. We noticed a flight of stairs leading up to the second floor, but they were blocked by stored furniture. After much searching, we found a door on the other side of the store that hid a second flight of stairs.
The upstairs part of the building was obviously used for storage. Some of the light switches didn’t work and we had to use flashlights. We walked the up-stairs door of the freight elevator, next to a room that was probably once an office back when this was a JC Penny building.
“This room feels like a hot spot, the air is heavier and thicker in here,” Iesha said.
The time I spent following Iesha around was probably the closest thing to ghostly activity that I saw all night. Paranormal research is not what it seems in the movies, it’s a lot of electronic equipment readings, and voice recordings. Then hours and hours of listening to audio recordings, in hopes of hearing an EVP, a recording of a ghost voice.
After a lot of walking around, Iesha pin-pointed some areas where the team should do some voice recordings. I sat with Fred and his wife, Julie Schumacher, as they asked a few questions to whatever ghost might be in the room. Fred later analyzed those recordings and sent copies to Barbara.
“Two recordings by two different people in different parts of the building said the name James,” Barbara said.
She said there were other recordings taken at the building that sounded like voices.
Each team member had a different reason for pursuing paranormal investigations. Julie and Fred both have backgrounds and interest in science.
“We want to be able to prove that they are out there, or that they are not there,” Julie said.
Barbara has a more spiritual interest in the paranormal.
“I’m getting up there in age, so I want to know what’s on the other side, what I have to look forward to,” Barbara said.
Every team member, however, said that they were just looking for some evidence of spiritual, ghostly, or paranormal activity. They wanted data to support the things that so many people believe in.
“That’s what paranormal research is all about, to just find the answers,” Barbara said.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.

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