Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lots of (Living) Souls Around

We had a full house tonight-before and during the investigation. And while a new method of gathering EVP proved interesting, that was all it proved. With no accompanying EMF activity, it's dodgy at best to say we were chatting with the dead. As usual, though, there was no shortage of unexplained phenomena to document and question.

Earlier in the evening, Dan Sturges gave one of his occasional "Paranormal 101" lectures that map out the basics as they apply to his ongoing investigation at the house. With nearly 50 folding chairs taking up temporary residence in the front parlor, the capacity crowd filled the room with far more living souls that it's used to accommodating.

We had high hopes for the night's activities once the lecture was done-because strange things often happen during or after such public events. From holiday parties to musical recitals to their annual Ghost Tours, many people (some unfamiliar with the place's haunted history) report sudden chills, feelings of being watched, mischievous taps on the shoulder from unseen hands and three dimensional spectral apparitions.

Maybe it's because there are more potential witnesses around. Maybe it's because all those crashing atoms and crackling electromagnetic signatures are turning the place into a paranormal capacitor. Maybe it's because the Tredwells were a sociable bunch who liked to play host and still enjoy a good party. My guess is sometimes it's all of the above and sometimes it's a few of those reasons, and other X factors, overlapping at the right place and the right time.

One thing's for sure, though - new blood (or "unjaded energy" as Dan put it), and new methods of gathering data, frequently yield unexpected results.

Tonight's new blood, joining Anthony, Dan and me: Laurence - a paranormal investigator who first visited the Merchant's House in 2009; Yoshi - Laurence's son, who recently experienced some experiences Dan says "warrant further investigation"; Darci - a friend of Dan's who'd never been to the house or on a paranormal investigation; and Jason - a shaman in training.

Tonight's new method of gathering data came courtesy of Laurence. An Ovilus, he explains, "translates, or interprets, EVP by displaying words pulled from a list of 714." Those words appear on the screen a maximum of three per time. Laurence was using a digital hand-held Ovilus as well as an iPhone app version. The results discussed in this blog all came from the hand-held device.

As for the difference between previously captured EVP (see the April blog) and what we observed on the Ovilus, Laurence says, "When you're doing EVPs, you're imprinting the 'voice' of the ghost directly onto the recording device. With the Ovilus, it's supposedly the thought of the entity pulling the word out of the dictionary - so it makes it kind of a longer process. It's the difference between me telling you words and me typing words. That's purely speculation, of course. Exactly how that works, no one knows. So what is it detecting, or I should say why it is reacting by displaying certain words is unknown."

With this disclaimer in mind, I was set to dismiss the device as nothing more than a Ouija Board that required batteries. Dan also brought up the good point that even if we could prove we were speaking with a ghost, the conversation would still be limited to those 714 words.

That said, the Ovilus did provide a few goose bump moments. In the Tredwell matriarch's bedroom, Anthony's name came up on the screen as he addressed a question to Eliza. Asking her if she knew what happened to him recently, the device generated the word "leg." He had hurt his leg the previous Monday.

Dan asked of Eliza, "Are you comfortable with us in this room?" The Ovilus said "safe." In Seabury's room, Dan asked "Gertrude, were you born in this room or the rear bedroom?" The Ovilus said "died." Gertrude was born in the house, and died, in the front bedroom (which we refer to as "Seabury's room").

Good old fashioned EVP, in the form of a few notes of piano music, was captured by a voice recorder while we were all in Seabury's room. At the same time, a video camera was trained on the first floor parlor piano (the one that passersby on the street have heard play for years, both before and after it was restored to functional condition). Interesting to note that the keys do not appear to move while the music is heard on the tape. Also interesting that on a hunch, we set the camera, let it roll and left the room-based on Dan's certainty that he heard the piano play during last month's investigation.

While all seven of us were in Seabury's bedroom, Both Anthony and Yoshi heard noise, seemingly coming from the floorboards in the adjacent bedroom. Creaking sounds are nothing unusual, especially with a house as old (and with as much wood) as this one-but in the exit interview two days later, Anthony explained why this particular incident caused him to call it out to the group: "We were in Seabury's bedroom and I was referring to a lot of floor squeaking in Eliza's room...I remember a couple of times saying, "What's that; knocks or creaks.'

Photograph by Bob Estremera

Yoshi's recollection backs up this account: "Anthony said he heard a couple of creaks, and I peeked over to where the fireplace in Eliza's room was, and I heard the same thing; a kind of creaking-like someone is sneaking around, and they take one step and it makes a creaking sound. It was noticeable, not like expansion; at least that's what it felt like."

No EVP was captured which accounts for the sound. Like the piano music Dan heard in April, this seems to be yet another incident where in a room full of people, only a select few hear that unexplained sound. Anthony, who recalls hearing some creeks in the hallway before the floorboard incident, pointed out that the noise both he and Yoshi heard was "unusual for me...because when I walked into Eliza's room, these sort of sighing, squeaking floorboards continued. Normally when I've heard something the house, it's a one-time thing-or by the time you get there, it stops."