By J. Chambless
CCIPR captured this image of a spirit at Pennhurst State School and Hospital in August 2015.
Bob M., hearing is believing.
He acts as an investigator and technical manager with the Chester County Institute of Paranormal Research (CCIPR), a West Chester-based group that for about a dozen years has attempted to authenticate manifestations of ghosts or spirits.
Bob M., who asked that his last name not to be used, is the group member who records the spiritual voices, growls and whistles called EVPs or Electronic Voice Phenomena.
different classes of EVPs, Class A, B and C,” said the 49-year-old
with a clinical, serious tone. Class A is an EVP where it's
definitive, where you and I hear the same voice, we know exactly what
it's saying. It's usually a direct response to our questions.
“Class B response is you think it said 'Larry' and I think it said 'Harry,' but we both agree it said something. Maybe there's a little bit of discrepancy in what we hear. And a Class C EVP is where it says something, and neither one of us is sure what it says. But we both heard something. There's something there, but it's too garbled or faded and we can't determine what it said.
It's a sound made on purpose. “Definitely there is intent there. From what? I can't determine that -- still even today, after doing this as a group for well over 10 years,” Bob said.
The CCIPR is currently comprised of five members, but membership fluctuates depending on life situations. The group does not charge for its services, and it exists to aid people who are having paranormal experiences in their homes by confirming their encounters.
“The purpose of our group ... the mission statement of our group, is to help people who are having these experiences, to validate their claims. It's never to prove the paranormal,,” Bob said.
“Let's say you contact my group, and you're having paranormal experiences happening in your home. We come out -- we never say it's a ghost; we never say, 'This is what we believe, this is what we don't,' because everybody has a different belief system. What we try to do is validate people's claims. So let's say you're hearing voices in your bedroom. Most people think, 'Geez, I'm going nuts.' We've had people on the brink of divorce. Because the wife was having the experience, the kids were having the experience, and then the husband says, 'My wife needs a psychiatrist. She's hearing voices, she's seeing things, she's going crazy. I'm tired of this stuff. I'm working hard, trying to make an honest living and I've got to come home and deal with this?'
“So, they invite us into their home. If we can, we try to capture stuff like EVPs or videos or multiple lines of evidence,” Bob said. “And when you present it to people, you see the relief: Finally, somebody believes me. I'm not going crazy.
“When we can bring validation to that, that's when many times you become their best friend, because the entire world doesn't believe them. And that's why we do this.”
Bob has had an interest in the paranormal for many years. He started pursuing his interest with friends who shared his curiosity while living in Florida in the 1990s and going to graduate school at Florida State. It was there he had his first EVP experience.
“We bought basic analog recorders with little cassette tapes,” he said. “We had some of the old high-8 cameras and stuff, and we used to bounce around in cemeteries and just kind of look for various places, run-down hospitals and asylums in that area.
“We were in a cemetery. I caught an EVP on my cassette recorder We were asking questions: 'Are there any spirits here?' And I got an answer. Me and another guy, Jeff, were there. We knew there were only two of us, and it was neither one of our voices.
He later returned home to Chester County, where he was born and raised, but the experience haunted him.
“When I came back here, it was always just sitting with me – 'Jeez, I should really research this a little more.' Because it was always on my mind. You have relatives that die, and you wonder, Can they hear you? Can they see you? Are they still with you? What happens when we die? What's the answer?”
He became part of the CCIPR in 2005.
Bob was raised a Christian, and
became born-again while living in the Sunshine State. Although some
in his denomination might take issue with his paranormal pursuits, he
doesn't see a conflict.
“Dealing with this thing, [some] see is occultist activities, like you're dancing with the devil,” he said. “I've been accused of all sorts of things. But I've never looked at it that way. I've always looked at it from the scientific viewpoint. I really believe that we're in the age of scientific enlightenment. Meaning, we finally have the equipment, the technology, probably within the last 15, 20 years, to really be able to communicate with spirits on the other side.
“For thousands of years there's always been ghost stories. But not until the last 15 or 20 years have people started capturing and validating their claims – 'I saw a ghost. Check out this video.'
“Like cell phone technology. Everyone has access to a camera immediately in their hands. So now, if you see something in your house, you can immediately film it or take a picture of it. Whereas 15, 20 years ago, you had to run and get the camera.”
According to Bob, whose full-time job is teaching high-school special education, the basis for the CCIPR is science, despite some of its having developed psychic or “sensitive” abilities.
“Some people have [psychic] abilities, but that's just another tool in our toolbox,” he said. “But we rely on our equipment and we rely on the best technology we have. There's no such thing as ghost-hunting equipment. [What we use] are just environmental instruments that have different sensors that gauge different changes in the environment, whether it's electromagnetic fields, temperature or humidity. They're just basically weather instruments, in a way.
“But the theory behind it in the field is that spirit energy has the ability to manipulate the environment, so a lot of times when people have paranormal experience, there will be fluctuations in the electromagnetic fields in the environment.”
In addition to confirming the existence of a spirit to homeowners, the group has spent time in areas believed to be heavily haunted, such as Gettysburg. The deaths of about 51,000 people in this three-day Civil War battle left the area awash with spirits, Bob said.
On its website, the CCIPR has a recording it says is a little girl spirit in the basement of an orphanage in Gettysburg, responding to a direct question. This 2009 recording was the first time since the 1990s that Bob heard a voice he believed to be a spirit.
A one-time member of the group sensed there was a child ghost in the basement and asked its gender. When asked again, a clearly spoken “Yes” is heard, leading the “sensitive” to confirm it was a girl.
“When you're looking for audio evidence, you're looking for direct communication, in which you ask a question and they say something right back to you,” Bob said. “This is the holy grail, you might say. Getting direct feedback to a question you asked. So it has to be an intelligent source.
“When I caught this on my recorder, all our jaws dropped. For me, audio communication is the best proof of the paranormal. It takes so much energy for spirits to manifest themselves physically. I don't know if it's because of the frequency that they're on or what, but EVPs take a lot less energy to kind of communicate with you through an audio device than it does to appear in the corner of your house.”
There are three kinds of hauntings, he said.
“A residual haunting, which most of Gettysburg is, is also not a ghost. You may see an apparition. It's like a movie looped over and over again. So, same time every year, at Pickett's Charge in July, you'll see a group of seven Confederate soldiers marching across the field. You can't interact with them, they don't know you're there. There's no intelligence there, it's just energy that's harbored into the environment and it just loops back. That's a classic case of a residual haunting. If you're going to have one, that's probably the best ghost to have, like grandma comes down the steps at 3 o'clock every Sunday,” he said, laughing. “They're not going to hurt you.”
The second kind, Bob said, are “intelligent hauntings,” like the little girl spirit in the basement.
“It interacts with you on a personal level. You can communicate and it gives a direct answer back to you. It seems to know what you're doing,” he said. “It may or may not understand that it has passed on. It thinks it's alive and that it's in its own house and it wants you out. They're trying to get your attention in some way. They can manifest physically, but sometimes they don't.
“Then there are the demonic cases. That's not a ghost – never inhabited a body living on earth. Whether you believe in demons or not ... personally, I do. But they're very rare. And what's a demon? It's your interpretation of your belief system.”
Bob advised against using a Ouija board or any type of divination cards. “You're opening yourself up to [demonic energy],” he warned. “That stuff seems to draw more negative energy. To me, it's like playing with matches.”
One of the most haunted houses the group
worked on was a home in Avondale, Bob said. It was built in the
1800s. “The people were renters,” he said. “We caught balls of
light shooting out of the walls, EVPs ... We're sitting in a living
room, and the spirits were chiming in on our conversation. We
couldn't hear it until we played back the recording.”
Bob said there's something he'd like the public to remember about his group.
“We're not the Ghostbusters,” he said. “We're investigators and we're there to validate your claim solely. Now, we can recommend people in the field that we know who can give your home some kind of spiritual cleansing. But don't look to our group to do it. We're a scientific-based group. We're here just to validate your claims, so you don't think you're going crazy.”
Author note: Fifteen minutes into the interview for this story, the electricity suddenly went out in the building where it was being conducted. It was early evening, so the lack of light plunged Bob and I into darkness. The weather was calm, there was no one working with electrical tools and nearby buildings hadn't lost power. Three minutes later, the electricity returned. Coincidence? Perhaps.
More information about the Chester County Institute of Paranormal Research is available at www.ccipr.org.
Natalie Smith may be contacted at DoubleSMedia@rocketmail.com or www.DoubleSMedia.com.