Investigators hunt for the paranormal

Anderson invesigators form society to search for the paranormal.

Phillip Norris winds his way through a cemetery near Markleville, searching for evidence of ghost activity. With him is Richard Adams, who is speaking into a tape recorder.

Both are members of the Indiana Paranormal Field Research Society. They spot something unusual in the cemetery with their infrared goggles, which pick up what the human eye can't see.

The temperature suddenly rises. Norris smells marshmallows, as if someone had roasted them over a campfire.

"It's moving up the hill," Adams remarks, as they search for the source of the phenomena. They snap pictures and record the sounds, until the new batteries in the tape recorder strangely die.

Later, after the film is developed and the tape has been reviewed, Norris realizes he's experienced something unique. The photos have a warm red tint. The tape reveals a woman's voice clearly saying "Hi there," in a tired but friendly voice. There were no women with the investigation in the cemetery.

Norris said the likelihood of recording some kind of paranormal activity increases if a woman is with the investigation. Better results occur if a group is only about two or three people, but IPFRS may have seven or eight accompany an investigation.

Dwain Adams of Muncie and Norris collaborated to create the group last summer, but Norris has been ghost hunting for much longer. He's been interested in paranormal activity since he was six-years-old and saw what he thought to be a ghost in a Muncie grocery store.

Since that first encounter, Norris has spent thousands of dollars on ghost-hunting equipment, most of which he acquires from eBay. Instances of equipment failure are common.

"I've had five hour camcorder batteries die in ten minutes," said Norris. Among his equipment are electromagnetic field readers and digital cameras and a bionic ear, which is used to amplify sounds while they are recorded.

"If you feel like there's something around, just get a digital camera and start taking pictures," Norris said. "It's more average to not see anything, but you'll come out with pictures always."

Smells are especially important signs of ghost activity. According to Norris, the smells will be there one minute and gone the next.

"One room had a smell of Aqua Velva after-shave, and it was really strong through the room," he said. "Then it was just gone."

He said most smells are pleasant. Some common ones are lavender and lilac.

The IPFRS considers sudden temperature drops or increases an indication of possible paranormal activity. These kinds of slight variations that register with senses other than sight may not be immediately noticeable.

"We disregard the signs normally on a subconscious level," Norris said.

But when something unexplainable happens, people can react in different ways.

"There are those who want to believe because an experience is hard to believe without it, and those who don't believe at all who have their reasons," said Darrell L. Butler, a professor of psychological science.

A Gallup poll taken last year said a third of Americans believe in ghosts.

"The most interesting things are what we don't completely understand," Butler said.

The research-based investigations take a scientific role in deciphering the paranormal.

"Researches are not sure what's real but believe phenomena is worth investigating," Butler said.

IPFRS takes precautions with the evidence gathered. Loose camera straps are secured so they won't fall in front of a camera lens and distort the pictures. The weather is always considered before an investigation. Weather conditions are also recorded in the field.

"We just record the variations," Norris said. "Each place we go is completely different. There's no rhyme or reason to it."

Some paranormal investigators believe solar flares and moon phases contribute to increases in activity. The IPFRS also considers temperature, pollen count and dew point.

"These all add up to patterns," Norris said.

No pattern has emerged from the research the IPFRS has done so far, but a pattern can form by place.

"I don't know why people are scared," Norris said. "If you try asking them (the ghosts) to leave, they'll go away."

Another place to try is the group's Web site at www.ipfrs.com. Anyone can post experiences there and get feedback from visitors and members of the group.


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