Last night I spent the evening sitting in the dark in a Civil War-era home, surrounded by infrared cameras and digital voice recorders. It was part of a "Ghost Hunting 101" class put on by Kansas City-based Premiere Paranormal Researchers.
My husband heard about the event on Facebook and I signed us up because he loves that kind of thing. My entire worldview revolves around skepticism, but I figured it would be interesting to see what the whole ghost hunting thing entailed.
We all met in an outbuilding of the John Wornall House at 5:00 p.m. and the researchers gave a presentation about the various tools they use in their investigations. They're all hobbyists with an interest in ghosts and the supernatural, and they attempt to measure physical phenomena such as electromagnetic shifts, temperature changes, images visible on camera, and EVP, electronic voice phenomena, which seemed to be the basis of many of their "success stories."
Here's Cassi, Mykala and Valerie, wearing their "Got Ghosts?" t-shirts.
They gave us a rundown of the history of the house, including the fact that the Battle of Westport during the Civil War was fought on the grounds and the house was used as a hospital.
After the introduction, they set up all their equipment in various rooms of the house.
In addition to the three ghost hunters, we were part of a group of ten curious onlookers. We divided into three smaller groups and spent time sitting as quietly as possible in various rooms of the house, each accompanied by one of the researchers.
You'll never believe what happened in the children's room upstairs! Well, maybe you will because nothing happened. That was supposed to be the most haunted room, even according to a couple of employees of the estate. We also sat in the other bedroom, the living room, the kitchen, and the upper level of the carriage house. Nada.
Maybe ghosts are like fish and they get shy when you have too many chatty fishermen in the boat.
A couple of the people at the event were rather fixated on the "orbs" you could see with the infrared camera, but it was easy to tell that they were just dust kicked up when someone moved around or the furnace kicked on.
There was some interest in a blur that could be seen on camera in the kitchen, but it seemed to mostly correspond with when someone opened or closed the door. The electromagnetic readings in the kitchen were rather high, but electrical wiring was the most likely reason for that.
I was neither surprised nor disappointed that we basically spent the whole evening in a warm, dark, quiet place. It was really rather peaceful. The brick walls of the house were a foot thick in every direction, so it was amazingly soundproofed. I wish my house were so silent.
We wrapped up at about 10:30 p.m. and the evening was declared "quiet." Another couple we know had come with us, so we ended our evening with a hearty breakfast at IHOP.
So for now my skeptic hat remains firmly on my head. I know lots of people have great ghost stories (heck, I thought the house where I grew up was pretty creepy), but I'm pretty sure most of them are the product of our own perceptions.
But if you have a good, scary ghost story, I'd love to hear it.