Friday, February 25, 2011

It Takes Three: The Search for Elusive Evidence

I like Dan Sturges. He's thoroughly grounded and admirably obsessed and built like a mighty brick pizza oven - and he's pretty easygoing for a guy who could neutralize you with a slightly aggressive flick of his pinky finger. I've never seen that happen, but one can imagine.

What I like best about Dan, though, is his almost casual dismissal of things that hurl me into a tizzy (unexplained creaks, bumps and cold spots).

Maybe I cling to the smallest shred of evidence because this is only my third time tagging along. But Dan and his cousin Mike and Board of Directors member Anthony Bellov have been doing this for four years now. So their standard for what qualifies as "credible evidence" seems sky high to a newcomer like me.

Dan's investigations at the Merchant's House Museum - like so many things in life - are noble, often futile quests for an elusive gold standard.

In baseball, it's the triple play. In horse racing, the Triple Crown. In religion, the father, son and Holy Ghost.

So what Dan is really looking for on these investigations is an event that's been vetted through three sources: psychic, electronic and historic.

Say, for example, we're in the downstairs kitchen area - and our psychic claims to be in touch with a long-dead cook. Then, say, we get an EVP of the cook's voice and some concurrent activity on the EMF meter. Then, say, Anthony confirms that there was indeed a cook who matches the psychic's description.

That's the kind of thing we're looking for (and almost had in March). Taking this scenario as a whole, Dan still wouldn't say it's incontrovertible proof of an eternal soul. But three's a magic number, folks; and when psychic/electronic/historic accounts complement one another, it becomes increasingly difficult to dismiss the event as insignificant.

But it's incredibly difficult to achieve. At least not tonight. But a psychic in attendance, Diana Navarro (, did have a late-in-the-game shared experience with Anthony.

As our group stood scattered between the front and rear parlors, the final room-by-room pass of the night was nearly complete. We had all the usual equipment (EMF meter, digital audio recorders, video) and were asking all the usual questions ("Is anybody here with us tonight?").

For all that effort, we got nothing - not in the moment or later when Dan did the tedious work of reviewing hours and hours of audio and video.

It seemed like the right time to call it quits - when, at 11:28pm, Dan and Anthony were asking a series of questions about Gertrude's suitor (whom she was forbidden to marry because of religious differences).

Anthony and Diana were standing in the doorway between the two parlors, when Anthony said, "I heard something clinking; something coming from upstairs."

In her exit interview the following day, Diana described that same moment: "I started to hear flatware clinking. Anthony and I looked at each other and we sort of nodded like, yes, I heard that too - and we both decided to move into the hallway. I looked up towards the stairwell and I could have sworn I saw some kind of shadowy, smoky cloud movement."

Photo by Bob Estremera

Anthony recalls: "I didn't see a human form - but I kept seeing motion, as if it had been a foggy night and somebody walks by and the fog would have swirled. I saw movement of air that seemed to be flowing down the stairs. Now this is counterintuitive, because I had the door to the basement open to let heat in the house. So if anything, hot air would have been rising up the stairs instead of flowing down them."

That cloud or mist or swirl snaked its way from the first floor stairwell and into the basement. We followed with all our equipment and all our questions and nothing else happened.

But the experience made a dent in the usual calm demeanor of Anthony - who noted, "From that point on until the end of the evening, I continued to feel this change in the energy of the house. It sounds like cheap science fiction - but it seemed at that point as if the house were listening to us or watching us."

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