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While 'haunted,' 'ghosts,' 'spirits' and 'apparitions' may not seem to be terms one would expect to find applied to a scientific investigation, the folks at the Munroe Falls Paranormal Society are very comfortable using them. They are fully aware that skeptics abound and they know that the whole subject is fraught with controversy and doubt. Nevertheless, they spend hours of time and thousands of their own dollars purchasing equipment to investigate, and to find real evidence of hauntings.
Eric Haney, and his associates in the MFPS, consider themselves professionals in the world of paranormal investigating and answer many calls a year from people seeking answers to phenomena they are experiencing for which they have been unable to find an explanation. Most of the time he and his colleagues are able to help these people with a single phone call, taking their information and then explaining their experience with common and reasonable causes. It is the other times that might make you get the shivers.
Talking with Haney, and his colleagues, Jennifer, Scott and Tony, it quickly becomes obvious that they are very happy, eager even, to disprove or find a harmless reason for some of the strange phenomena that people contact them to resolve.
"We are more in the business of debunking than we are in ghost finding," Haney says. "And more often than not, there is a good explanation for what people may be experiencing that has nothing to do with ghosts."
Take 'orbs' for example. Haney explains that orbs are whitish, sometimes fuzzy, ghostlike spheres that seem to appear out of nowhere on photos.
"Orbs are nothing more than a reflection of light off of dust particles or water droplets," he says. People who try to attribute a paranormal cause to them might be his pet peeve.
What Haney and his crew do is more scientific in that it is measured, recorded, and investigated and most times, the cases are debunked by the discovery of harmless causes. His cap does have the familiar 'Ghostbusters' ghost peeking through the letters of the MFPS logo, but that may be more a sign of his sense of humor.
To better understand what they do, it is helpful to become acquainted with a few terms and theories. Paranormal investigators rely greatly on measuring something called EMF, or electromagnetic fields. EMF is a very real physical field, not visible, but measurable by highly sensitive, specialized meters. Because nearly everything in nature gives off some amount of detectable electromagnetic energy, it is theorized that ghosts or apparitions are also composed of energy. The theory is that when a spirit manifests as an apparition or an entity, it requires a change in energy which is why people sometimes feel weak or dizzy and batteries can become completely drained. Haney says that "energy is energy -- whatever form it is in and spirits will pull energy from whatever is around and utilize it to manifest."
Therefore, theoretically, their presence can be detected by these meters. Electromagnetic fields, in and of themselves, can cause some very real symptoms in humans ranging from headaches and nausea to feelings of paranoia and outright hallucinations. When someone is experiencing these symptoms, and the cause is unknown, the MFPS will investigate using their meters. Very often, they will find that the causes for the sensations experienced can be readily attributed to something as benign as an appliance or wiring that gives off a large EMF.
Haney tells of a client having strange symptoms.
"We had a caller who would awake in the middle of the night seeing a large dark mass near her bed. In addition to headaches, nausea and dizziness, she had a sense of paranoia, that something was imminent. We went in to her bedroom with our EMF meter and found that it was caused by her old clock radio by her bed. The outdated appliance was emitting very high levels of electromagnetic energy and were suspected to be the cause of her symptoms. She replaced the clock, symptoms disappeared."
Another device used by the folks at MFPS is a recorder used to record something called electronic voice phenomena (EVP). Haney describes EVPs as "something that was not heard by those present at the event, but recorded and heard later on the recording."
In one visit to the old Farnam Manor in Richfield, which is a usual spot for sightings, they were able to obtain an EVP of a child who drowned in a cistern in the house. They recorded a voice saying the name "Emily" which was the name of the girl who drowned.
Feeling spooked yet?
In a room in the Akron Civic theater, Haney and Jennifer relate another instance where, "way back by the bathrooms, we were taking some baseline readings in a room. Jennifer called out to the others in the room, 'Can I get a light here?' At the same time, she also experienced some weakness and dizziness. Later, when the EVP was listened to, in addition to Jennifer's voice, the team heard another voice saying, 'Where are you?' followed by, 'Light light, cut the night.'"
In addition to the EMF and EVP devices, the society has an impressive and expensive collection of monitoring and measuring tools to use in their investigations. Infrared cameras which can capture images in low or no light; thermal imaging cameras that record the heat generated by an apparition; POV cameras which are worn on the bodies of investigators and even the lowly 35 mm camera all record the appearance of apparitions. They use vibration meters, thermometers which assess both ambient and surface temperatures, and sophisticated laser grids which throw a grid of laser beams onto an area and flicker when they are crossed.
Skeptics would be hard pressed to explain how these investigators are measuring "something" if nothing is there. Haney explains that this science of the paranormal is a young science and there are few if any standards. He is happy to be disappointed which makes his claims more interesting. Since scientists have hypotheses which they test using collected data, non-believers can console themselves that the investigators are merely collecting evidence. Nonetheless, the MFPS is pretty busy collecting data and have amassed quite a collection of "evidence."
When a person first calls the MFPS, a case history will be taken over the phone by one of the associates. Very often a solution can be found during this phase of the investigation.
"We try very hard to find scientifically explainable causes for the phenomena that people are experiencing," Haney says. "Most of the time, the culprit is something that we can explain. Other possible causes for 'hauntings' can be traced to drugs, alcohol, faulty wiring or psychological issues."
Once information is taken over the phone, a site survey is scheduled for the investigators to take a look. More than one team alternates during a single investigation to get a more rounded, fresh look at the situation. Using their equipment, baseline readings are taken at the site. Thermometers are used to test for sudden changes in temperature and cold spots because it is a theory that when spirits pull the energy from an area, the temperature drops nearby. The investigators do not rule out other causes, checking for leaky windows and drafty doors.
Once measurements and recordings have been taken, if there is still no "logical" explanation for what residents are experiencing, the associates at MFPS do some background investigating work. They will look at newspaper archives, police records and consult former residents of the premises going all the way back to when the structure was built. Haney tells of a time when this process illuminated a very sad story. He had received a call from a family who was seeing an apparition in their home.
"Several of the family members reported that they saw a little boy. The mother of the house was experiencing being touched and the feeling that her hand was grabbed by a child. Their own child told of seeing a little boy in the house. One evening, the mother was sitting on the couch, when all of a sudden it was like a small child sat on her lap. She freaked out and called us a few minutes later."
Haney goes on to tell that after conducting a site visit, complete with all the measurements and recordings, the follow-up investigation through property records and police records yielded reports of a former resident of the house, a 6-year-old boy who was killed on one Halloween night while trick or treating with friends. Initially they were afraid that it might be a legend, but they have become convinced by the evidence that the apparition was indeed that of the little boy.
There are two different types of paranormal apparitions. Haney explains that the residual type of "haunting" is the presence of an energy that is "not really there." It is theorized that the energy is leftover from some very intense occurrence, often, but not always a death, that happened in that location in the past. Reports of seeing soldiers in uniform, brides and children who may have had a very stressful life event have left an imprint on a place or thing. These apparitions may replay the same action over and over again, like a tape recording. They are connected to a place or a thing and remain there in that place.
An "active" haunting has intelligence. It will react and respond to the person seeing the image. There is a mutual awareness by both the viewer and the apparition and it will interact with you and the environment around you.
"They may knock on walls, or move tables," Haney says. He and his partners, Scott and Jennifer, relate a time when the team was called in to investigate sightings at a residence in Streetsboro. Scott was sitting in a chair in front of a door when he distinctly felt his hair being pulled from behind.
"It was just a little tug," he says.
The next day, Haney himself was at the same location to continue the investigation, unaware of the hijinks of the day before. He sat in the same chair and got his hair pulled as well. They laugh this off as if it were nothing, and to them, it may be.
After all measurements have been taken and investigations are complete, the team formulates a plan to help them. Sometimes people just want confirmation or explanation. Other times people want a solution. The role of MFPS is most often to educate people about what is going on to bring them peace of mind and a sense of control. Haney and his colleagues do not charge for their services. They are insured against any mishaps during the investigations, and are a remarkably well-educated group. Haney has a degree in electrical engineering and works as a computer programmer. His associate, Scott is a network engineer with a masters in history, and the group contains other computer programmers, insurance professionals and even a meteorologist.
Skeptics, believers and the curious can take a look at Haney and his associates in action by clicking on the "Mysterious Midwest" icon on their website -- www.Munroe-Falls-Paranormal-Society.com. The website also contains a wealth of information and links to some very interesting data.v