Posted in Ghosts, Halloween, Paranormal, Southern culture, Spirituality

Ghost Hunt! (In which I tag along with a merry band of paranormal investigators and two psychics.)

These old general stores, reputed site of a shoot-out, are on the same property as the house owners believe is haunted.

Many people would consider live music a bonus to living in a house. The problem, so far as Diana Gates of Sandy Mush, NC, sees it, is that this particular music isn’t coming from the living.

On the day a guest heard guitar music playing upstairs, there was nobody else in the house. Nobody.

Gates, who married the property owner and moved into this 1890s farmhouse 12 years ago, reports other signs of haunting. “Two years ago I saw a zig-zag ball of light over my son’s crib disappear through the ceiling,” she said during a recent phone interview. Other people in the house have seen a similar light, or have found items in a different place than they left them. A year ago Gates saw “a large shadow” come through the front door and move down the hallway; at the exact same instant, her Chinese pug (that had been snoozing peacefully) “started barking like crazy.” But the final straw came just a few weeks ago, says Gates. “I was coming out of the laundry room and saw the shadow of a person’s arm and shoulder reaching for the back door handle.” No one else was home.

Now convinced the property was haunted, Gates was faced with the decades-old question: Who ya gonna call?

She called Tony Ruff, founder of the Cold Mountain Paranormal Society. And since Tony knew I was hoping to write a column about ghost-hunting, he invited me along. (See last week’s article for the backstory, including tales of my and Tony’s brushes with the paranormal.)

I was excited about the offer but had no idea what I was getting myself into. CMPS has investigated over 35 different sites, mostly at the owners’ behest; I was the newbie here. In desperation, I turned to television. A few episodes of “The Ghost Whisperer” and “Ghost Hunters” demonstrated the keys to a successful hunt were (1) ample cleavage and (2) repeated use of the question, “Dude, did you hear that?” I was ready!

On the night of the hunt about 20 of us caravanned out to the property. The owner’s niece was there to show us the old general stores on the

This photo taken by CMPS members shows mist and orbs, both believed to be supernatural in origin.

property, where it is rumored there was once a deadly shootout, as well as the farmhouse. The property was haunted chic, with just the right amount of creaky stairs, old family photos, and creepy dolls. (In fact, Diana Gates refers to one room as “the creepy doll room.” If you’re going to name a room that, you’re asking for trouble.)

The investigative crew, scrambling from cars and trucks, fell into various categories. The techno-geeks fiddled around with electromagnetic field (EMF) meters, night vision goggles, heat sensors, and even iPhones loaded with various ghost hunting apps (I’m not kidding) such as Ghost Radar, an electromagnetic sensor and word-generator designed to aid ghostly communication. Self-professed psychics were already calling out information they were receiving: A female spirit in the store used to be a seamstress! A little boy who had died of fever was peeking at our group with interest! There used to be a shed here! A stream! Some Cherokee! Lights flashed as photographers rushed to areas indicated by the psychics, hoping to capture images of orbs or mists.

(“Those could be light leaks, lens flares, refractions from direct flashes, any number of things,” Professor Cathryn Griffin, head of Western Carolina University’s photography program, told me during a recent phone call. “We’re inclined to see pictures where there are none.” However, these photo glitches speak of a whole different reality to ghost hunters. To see pictures from this night, including possible shapes in the mists and orbs, find Cold Mountain Paranormal Society on Facebook and click the “Like” button.)

I entered the sitting room of the farmhouse with approximately half of the group. They set out their various electronic doodads and stood or sat around in a circle. The only light was from the hallway and the EMF reader, which blinks a spectrum of light running green to yellow to red, depending on emissions levels. One psychic informed any spirits in the house of our intentions to learn about them, and how they could use the gadgetry to communicate with us. Then the group got down to business.

“Is there a spirit here with us?”

EMF blink.

“That’s a Yes!” someone called out.

“I’m getting a male,” said the psychic.

“Gun,” called out the guy reading from his iPhone app.

“Were you a soldier?”

“Hide,” said iPhone guy.

“Were you a deserter?”

“Yes!” EMF girl said.

And that’s how it went. The questions lasted a long time as we moved from room to room. Conflicting information was chalked up to there being more than one spirit in the room. Through this process, the group determined that one spirit had come with someone from the group (a deceased uncle and war veteran), while another was a man of African descent who had been accused of stealing fuel from the general store. A female ghost had lost a child to illness and enjoyed watching the current children of the homeowners. (Perhaps the light above the crib?)

During the 4 hour investigation, I watched in fascination. These people were having a blast, but they were always respectful of each other and of the unknown, trying to make sense of a world many of them had glimpsed through near-death experiences, or accidentally, or an amalgam of belief and curiosity. Did we discover and define the supernatural in the farmhouse that night? That doesn’t really matter to me. Like Professor Griffin indicated, our minds will always try to find meaning in the chaos. The search for answers, in my mind, is an integral part of living.

And isn’t it nice to think there’s an app for that?

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Angela Dove is an award-winning columnist and author of the true crime book, No Room for Doubt: A True Story of the Reverberations of Murder (Penguin Group, 2009). She welcomes your tales of the supernatural either here or at



Award-winning humor columnist and author of the true crime memoir _No Room for Doubt: A True Story of the Reverberations of Murder_ (Penguin Group, 2009). Inspirational speaker on issues of survivors' rights, women's issues, and general you-can-do-it-ness. Marketing consultant.