Mark Holland once had a rock thrown at him by a ghost. He and his team of ghost hunters were in a small, dark room alone, heard a noise, turned on a flashlight and saw a rock coming toward them. As co-founder of Paranormal Research Ghost Investigations, or PRGI, it was the scariest thing he had seen in his 10 years of investigating the paranormal. And Holland has witnessed a lot, from shadowy figures to full-body apparitions to doors mysteriously opening by themselves and whispering coming from thin air.
Holland and his friend, A.J. Antuna, started their company after spending years researching the paranormal. After one of their many conversations about ghosts, the two decided to begin actively investigating local active houses—a term used in the field, meaning "haunted"—as a way to help people understand experiences they couldn’t quite explain. They recruited lead investigator Steve Gaston, who experienced things in his own house with Holland, his childhood friend—such as kitchen cabinet drawers opening by themselves and a baby rocker rocking itself—and PRGI was formed.
Just in time for Halloween, I talked to Holland about ghost hunting and how it stacks up to pop culture’s version of it. From movies like "Ghostbusters" to cartoons to reality shows and even shows like "The Walking Dead," we seem to be fascinated with the dead, the afterlife and how we, the living, fit into that other world.
Is paranormal investigation anything like "Ghostbusters"?
People ask us that all the time, I do have a "Ghostbusters" T-shirt I love to wear, but it is nothing like that. These ghosts (or "energies," as we refer to them) can interact with people, move objects and touch you at times; but they don’t come and eat all your doughnuts, which is really a good thing.
Why are people fascinated with ghosts, the dead and the afterlife?
I think most people are looking for comfort from departed loved ones. If they think they may still be able to contact someone they have lost, it seems to comfort most of the people we have investigated for. We do tell everyone it is not a game or a circus—the energy there can and sometimes does interact with them—but there are energies that will make you think they are one thing and turn out to be another, so we always caution people to be very careful.
What's the most famous haunt you've ever investigated?
We have been several places, but I would say the most famous is Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Lexington, Ky., or Octagon Hall in Franklin, Ky. Waverly Hills has the heaviest energy we have ever experienced, and we have seen multiple shadow figures there, been touched, pushed and heard disembodied voices all over the abandoned building. Octagon Hall is the most active place we have ever been. We get a lot of activity there during the day when we are setting up our equipment. We have seen multiple full-body apparitions, doors open, and experienced disembodied voices there also.
How realistic are shows like "Ghost Hunters" and "Paranormal State"?
Speaking only from our personal view, they do capture lots of great evidence on those shows, and they have an opportunity to further the field, which is great. I do believe some of the reactions to things are over the top a bit, but I also understand the need for ratings. We respect those teams for what they do and how they do it. They are afforded the opportunity to find answers for people also and continue to further the field of the paranormal. People ask us if we think they make up things all the time, and I would have to say no. From our perspective—as we have experienced a lot of the same type of activity—they have captured evidence of it for all to see. If they further people’s understanding of the field and help people realize it is not a circus or an act, but real happenings that we document, then we support them all the way.
Is there more business at certain times of the year, say like Halloween?
That is an interesting question. We have seen a pattern over the years that we have done this (over 10 years and counting) that seems to support more activity occurs between August and March. It may be the changing of the earth’s magnetic field during this time that supports that, the changing of the weather, a number of things. That is one of the answers we are looking to discover and document to support that theory.
What does an actual ghost look like? How do you know if you've seen one?
A ghost can be as solid-looking as you or me or can be seen as a shadow, both light of color and dark. We are studying to see if evidence supports any significance to the different colors of some of the shadow figures we have discovered, but there are occurrences of people actually talking to or saying hello to what they think is a person, but actually disappears after they vocally acknowledge the ghost. And it can be very startling if you don’t understand what you just experienced. When you see an apparition, your hair stands on end, you feel the chills all over your body, there could be (but not always) a temperature change, and your brain kind of freezes for a moment because you don’t understand what you just saw. It is an amazing experience when you do see one, and ... one of our objectives is to help people understand what they are experiencing and why.
And on another note, as promised, below is a slideshow of ChattaPop readers' Halloween costumes that they submitted. And thanks for sending in those photos.
Charlie Moss writes about local history and popular culture, including music, movies and comics. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.
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