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Ghost Hunters Northwest members, from left, Chris McCauley, Doug Sanders and Dustin Wilson, collect their specialized equipment following a presentation of their methods and experiences in paranormal investigation at Cook Memorial Library in La Grande Tuesday evening. CHRIS BAXTER - The Observer
Paranormal specialists share high-tech methods at presentation in Cook Library
Doug Sanders of Umatilla is a paranormal specialist who laughs when friends compare him to characters on the 1984 supernatural comedy “Ghostbusters.”
Still, ghost hunting is no laughing matter for Sanders. Indeed the sense of responsibility he feels as a ghost hunter is sometimes almost overwhelming.
Sanders explained why Tuesday night during a presentation about the paranormal field and investigations by his organization, Ghost Hunters Northwest. The non-profit group specializes in using high-tech equipment to find spirits and ghosts. In operation for 15 months, it investigates homes and other buildings reported to be haunted.
Once paranormal activity is detected, team members attempt to evoke a response from the ghost. Sometimes this involves trying to annoy it, such as taking tools believed to be its favorites and throwing them around. However, members of the Ghost Hunters Northwest are leery of getting ghosts too upset.
“We don’t want to make the ghost mad because the owners (of the home or business) have live (or work) there,” Sanders said.
To date Sanders and his team have made two confirmed otherworldly connections. Ghost Hunters Northwest has found two buildings occupied by ghosts. They are a home in Umatilla and a restaurant in Kennewick, Wash., the Branding Iron.
“Both are definitely haunted,” Sanders said.
In each case the evidence is noteworthy. At the Branding Iron a video shows a flashlight coming on and off while a member of the Ghost Hunters Northwest team talked to an alleged ghost. The ghost did not speak but communicated by slowly turning on the flashlight when requested to. Also, an audio recording reveals an argument between a man and a woman at a time when no women were on the premises.
So convicting were the findings of the Ghost Hunters Northwest team in Kennewick that a Tri Cities area television station carried a report about the group’s investigation.
“Truth can be haunting,” one of the stations’ newscasters said.
At the Umatilla home, a video shows a fishing pole moving and an audio recording reveals an argument between a man and a woman.
The home and the restaurant are among about 15 buildings Ghost Hunters Northwest has investigated. In 70 percent of these buildings no evidence of paranormal activity was found and in 20 percent some evidence of it turned up, said Sanders, the lead investigator and co-director of Ghosts Hunters North West.
Also speaking Tuesday was the organization’s director, Chris McCauley, and investigator Dustin Wilson, all of Umatilla County. Each member of Ghost Hunters Northwest investigated the paranormal on his or her own for many years before forming the team. Sanders previously was president of the International Paranormal Reports Group.
Sanders became interested in the paranormal after he said he found himself possessed by a demon when he was 10. Sanders said it was exorcised by a Catholic priest. Demonic ghosts are the worst kind because they try to destroy families, McCauley said. They often will show themselves to only one member of a family and do things to pit relatives against one another.
“They want to destroy your way of life,” McCauley explained.
There other types of “intelligent” ghosts that try to communicate with people. Among these are:
• poltergeists, which make sounds and move things
• malevolent ghosts, which want the people around them to leave
The Ghost Hunters Northwest team, which does not charge any money for its investigations, starts each search by playing the role of skeptical inquirers. The investigators look for all possible non-supernatural explanations for a reported haunting.
“We want to debunk it,” Sanders said.
Team members look for off-center mirrors that might cause an odd reflection, an uneven foundation that could make people feel off balance or like they are being pushed, anything causing odd shadows and much more.
If no natural reasons for odd happenings are found, the team begins an investigation, gathering information electronically for hours. Electromagnetic fields are looked at intensely as part of this process. The reason is that ghosts are believed to give off strong electromagnetic fields. When an electromagnetic field disappears and returns, paranormal activity is suspected.
Team members later spend an average of 40 hours each analyzing their video, audio, temperature and other information they collected.
About 70 percent of the time Ghost Hunters Northwest finds no evidence of anything unusual. The home and business owners are told that no evidence of paranormal activity was found, but that this does not mean ghosts are not present.
“We never say it is not haunted. This is not fair to the people living there,” said Sanders, explaining that the individuals living in a building have a much better opportunity to observe paranormal happenings.
When paranormal activity is detected, team members will return and then try to communicate with the ghosts who may be present. Sanders said ghosts are often timid, so it is important not to be intimidating when trying to communicate with them. Instead it is often best to cajole and gently humor them.
Once McCauley was in a bar and he asked the ghost he suspected to exist there if it wanted to play a game of pool. A voice detected on a recording said, “I’d like to play a game.”
No investigations have been made in Union County, but Sanders said his team would be willing to investigate any homes or other buildings in this area if invited to.
All members of the Ghost Hunters Northwest team have full-time jobs. Their work with the paranormal is a sideline activity, but one that consumes much of their lives.
“It is a passion,” Sanders said.
Ghost Hunters Northwest is sponsored by C&C Second Hand in Hermiston.