“Who you gonna call?” was the catch phrase made popular in the 80s comedy thriller, “Ghostbusters”. The gizmo-friendly ghost busting team led by Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd blasted their way into American pop culture, investigating — and then capturing — evil spirits running amok in New York City. With proton packs in hand and special devices to capture and hold these pesky poltergeists, the city was made safe once again, or at least until the sequel hit the screen.
Today, seeking out the spirit world has taken on a much more serious attitude with “Ghost Hunters”, a popular cable show leading the charge up the creaky stairs. Actual detection devices for investigating the paranormal world are now available. EMF meters — sensors that detect and measure changes in the electromagnetic field — are standard equipment for these new, real ghost busters.
It is believed by some people that spirits can effect changes in the EMF, announcing their arrival, and some people claim that at times they can even use these fluctuations as a means of communication with us live folks, answering simple “yes” and “no” questions. Sound recorders are used to reveal electronic voice phenomenon (EVP). Thermometers are used to detect temperature changes that are also considered to be a sign of something ghostly nearby. Still and video cameras, and motion detectors, some outfitted with night vision capabilities, stand watch for the unusual, centuries-old dowsing rods are employed in the new realm of paranormal investigation.
Such special services are not exclusive to big cities or television programs. Albany has two such organizations “alive and well” so to speak, traveling the haunted trails of Southwest Georgia, in search of ghosts. Dougherty County Paranormal Investigators (DCPI), based in Albany, was founded in 2007 by Kyle and Stacey Folds, Tami Cortez, and Ashley Miller. Their team has grown to nine since that beginning. The second group, South Georgia Paranormal Investigators (SGPI), powered up in 2008 with four original members, and today have fourteen investigators, with half based in Albany and the other half in Warner Robins. Neither group charges for their services. It may sound like something out of a movie, or just folks out for a little creepy fun, but both DCPI and SGPI take what they do very seriously.
“Our team takes more of a scientific approach to investigating rather than the ‘gut feeling/medium’ approach. We don’t use Ouija boards or séances,” said SGPI Director, Tripp Robbins. “The evidence we gather is not influenced by any investigator.”
Robbins says that his group has investigated haunting as far away as Jacksonville and Destin, Fla. “It’s has been an awesome ride so far,” said Robbins, “and we are already scheduling investigations for next year.”
One of the more memorable investigations by SGPI was at Oakland Hall in Eatonton, Ga. The home was used as a temporary headquarters by Union Gen. William T. Sherman during his infamous march to the sea in late 1864. According to Robbins, the investigative team was able to capture many EVPs of voices from residents of the home long since past. The faint sound of Taps being played was detected on another recorder. The SGPI team, using an EMF device also had an awesome Q&A session with a spirit of a former house maid.
Folds said that DCPI prefers to offer their services to individuals and families that have something unknown in their homes. Such a mystery can obviously cause a lot of stress and fear that Folds says they like to help resolve if they can. “We just try to help people deal with things they cannot understand, and explain things, perhaps giving them some peace of mind,” he said.
Yet, probably one of the most noteworthy investigations by DCPI was conducted in June at Albany’s Bridge House, the community’s welcome center and Convention and Visitors Bureau headquarters. In 1857, Albany founder Nelson Tift hired Horace King, a former slave and master bridge builder, to build a bridge across the Flint River. The Bridge House originally housed offices for Tift and the toll taker on the first floor and a theatre called Tift Hall on the second floor. Witnesses at The Bridge House, including some employees, reported activity in the building including the elevator opening by itself, locked doors opening and shutting by themselves, and the fire alarm sounding for no apparent reason. Knocking, footsteps and odd noises were reported from upstairs and employees are reluctant to go into the basement because of strange noises.
Folds said a fascinating element of the Bridge House investigation occurred when a photograph taken during the visit revealed what appears to be a shadow figure, yet no source for the shadow could be determined. Folds says members of a photography club that he spoke to could not explain the image his DCPI team captured.
CVB Director Lisa Riddle said, “We met DCPI while the building was under renovations and they requested an opportunity to investigate.”
Once the new welcome center and CVB offices were open, Riddle said many visitors asked if the building was haunted since it was so old. Since the DCPI investigation did find signs of spirit activity, Riddle has begun making contact with other such locations in and around Albany.
“We hope to team up with other haunted building owners to provide an ongoing self-guided ghost tour of the area”, said Riddle, “as well as special guided ghost tours possibly in the future.”
There’s is one aspect of ghosts that cannot be disputed; they can be great sources of tourism revenue for those communities cursed or blessed, depending on your point of view, with haunted houses.
DCPI and SGPI are part of a larger network of paranormal investigative groups and organizations across the state and country. It is a passion of curiosity and excitement that calls these detectives of the dead to do what they do. Interest in the subject of ghost hunting has been quickly rising, and Folds said that DCPI makes itself available to civic groups for speaking engagements such as its recent presentation to the Camilla Chamber of Commerce. The equipment for this strange quest is expensive, the road trips and investigations take a huge investment of time and money. If there are ever any funds generated by such groups, it is usually through the sale of T-shirts and other promotional fare.
You can see what the DCPI team is up to by visiting them on the web at thedcpi.com, and the SGPI squad is online at georgiaspirits.com. This Saturday, on Halloween night, SGPI will be web casting a live paranormal investigation in which online visitors can interact with the investigators by logging on and asking them questions during the investigation. So the next time you think you saw or heard something bumping around in the Albany night, you know who to call: the girls and boys with those ghost-sniffing toys. Beats screaming your lungs out.
Written by Lon McNeil. Mr. McNeil is an Albany independent marketing consultant. Find him online at AlbanyOnPoint.