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The fright club
Paranormal investigators are out and about in record numbers. You can call them any time, day or night. Just donít call them ghostbusters.

A ghost is a ghost is a ghost

The word "ghost" derives from the Middle English word "gast," which also means "scare" ó as in:


"Jesus! You gasted me!"

But not all ghosts are scary. Kristyn Gartlandís son had an imaginary playmate for a while, who turned out to be a friendly ghost named Mike. Sometimes a dead relative will return in an attempt to comfort the bereaved ó Gartland says her grandmother did this. Or a dead person may want to convey information, as when the ghost of Hamletís murdered father returned to point his bony finger at Uncle Claudius. Investigator Fran Ford recalls the time a relative came back to say that there was a power tool tucked away in the basement, and he wanted his brother to have it.

Then there are those who walk the earth for no good reason whatsoever. These are the spirits who have somehow gotten lost on the way to the afterlife. These ghosts are caught in an earthly state of limbo, and they need help crossing over to the other side. "We crossed over a little girl," says investigator Nancy Caswell. "She was about four years old and her parents had crossed, but somehow she had been left behind. She didnít understand. She was just a child. Itís like a toddler wandering around a mall."

Some ghosts not only donít know where they are, they donít even know theyíre ghosts. "Iíve had several times where I really ticked a spirit off," says Caswell. "One of the tricky questions I ask is: ĎDo you know you are dead?í One time I got a resounding, ĎNO-O-O!í " And some spirits are even more ignorant than this. "There are intelligent hauntings," says Derek Bartlett. "And there are what I call residual hauntings. A lot of energy is released in life, and some of this energy gets left behind. Itís like a movie playing over and over. An apparition might walk through a wall, but it doesnít interact. It doesnít know itís there. Itís just energy."

Then thereís the appalling energy released by the evil spirits, the inhuman spirits, the demons. These spirits usually show themselves in the form of poltergeists, possessions, or both. For demon hauntings, the big guns are called in. "Usually, the ones where exorcisms are performed are the possessions or the poltergeists," says John Zaffis, "where you see actual destruction taking place. Those are the types of cases you donít forget."

So how do you know when youíve got a demon problem? "A human spirit can only move an object three, 10 pounds max," explains Jason Hawes. "An inhuman spirit can move an object 300 pounds or more. Iíve had a fridge slide out, couches move." And demons are far more likely to be bullies. "People have been pushed, scratched, bitten," Hawes continues, "shoved downstairs, stuff like that. Theyíre evil." Paul Eno agrees that demons are evil, but disinterestedly so. "I think of them as paranormal sharks," he says. "Itís a sterile feeling, uncaring."

With demon hauntings, the more scared you get, the stronger they get. Demons, say those in the business, are parasitical. "They come in and feed on people," Eno says. "They literally feed off emotions. When a person is surrounded by negative energy, when the environmental factors are right, these entities come in and play frisbee with the fine china, rip the covers off at night, anything to push your buttons, and what they are doing is eating. The point is, you can get rid of them with positive thinking, with support from friends and family, with lots of love."

Skeptics, meanwhile, would argue that of course you can get rid of ghosts by changing your outlook, because ghosts are not real. Even those in the field accept that this is often the case. "Iíve advised people that their ghosts may be a major appliance," says Eno.

"Look at a cloud in the sky and you see a giraffe, the other guy sees a race car," says investigator John Horrigan. "Some people are so traumatized by life, and this becomes an outlet. Itís comforting for them. ĎThatís not a squeaky door, itís Dave, itís Kevin, itís Grandma, sheís still with us!í A lot of this is manufactured in the mind."

ó CW

I. The haunted condo

When Kristyn Gartland says she has personal demons, she really means it.

A Somerville native, Gartland recently moved from Reading to Wakefield, and sheís afraid that the spirits who haunted her previous home have followed her. "It seems ridiculous to say this is a safety issue," she says, sitting at the kitchen counter of her new apartment, "but these things can be pretty mean when they want to." She lights up a Marlboro Menthol Mild. "I need to find out if I actually did bring them with me."

To help answer this question, Gartland has recruited The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS), a Connecticut-based group of investigators whoíve been tracking Gartlandís ghosts for a couple of years now. Tonight, the TAPS people will be dropping by the new apartment to do some preliminary sniffing around. If all goes well, theyíll conduct a room-to-room blessing ó complete with the sprinkling of holy water and the muttering of incantations. "Theyíre very professional," Gartland says. "Very professional and very caring."

Gartland doesnít immediately strike you as the hauntable type. A blond-haired, blue-eyed, elaborately tattooed 27-year-old, she has a carefree manner and a droll sense of humor. She often talks about her ghosts in an offhand way, as if griping about intrusive in-laws: "Theyíd turn the heating off in the middle of winter," she says. "Iíd tell them, ĎCut it out! Itís cold!í " But Gartland also has a six-year-old son, which is what made her call TAPS in the first place. "He would wake up screaming in the middle of the night," she says. "I was afraid for him. I didnít know what [the spirits] were capable of."

So far, Gartlandís ghosts havenít proven themselves to be especially malicious. There have been the requisite cold spots, flitting shapes, bumps in the night, whisperings, and a single "excruciating shriek." Household items have been moved, TV channels changed, windows opened, and thermostats meddled with. On one occasion, Gartland saw the figure of a boy running down her hallway. When she followed the child into a bedroom, he crouched behind the bed, his eyes peeping above the mattress.

"That," she says with some understatement, "was creepy."

The kicker for Gartland, though, was when one of the ghosts started to get a little fresh. "I was in the shower, and I heard this bang," she says. "I went out to see what it was, and when I came back there was the imprint of a face on the bathroom mirror. Inside the shower, someone had written hello. It was scary, but it was more of a privacy thing. I know it sounds goofy, but I didnít want them to see me naked. They were in my bathroom, even though they had been asked not to be."

Though nothing as dramatic as the shower incident has happened at her new place, Gartland says she can already feel "something," and when three TAPS "field researchers" arrive, there is a palpable sense of relief. "Whatís been happening?" asks Keith Johnson, a kind-faced, 20-year veteran of the ghost-hunting business. "Start keeping a log," advises Fran Ford, who herself is furiously scribbling notes. Rich Einig, meanwhile, fiddles with the infrared camera he hopes will capture an apparition or two over the course of the night. And then the fiddling and the scribbling stop.

"That jacketís moving!" Einig says, pointing to a coat hook.

"Thereís a fan on," Gartland replies.


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Issue Date: June 20 - 27, 2002
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