On the Paranormal Beat

 

It’s just after midnight, and as usual, I’m in the dark. Except tonight, I’m sitting at a table in the Twisted Vine restaurant in Derby, watching Bridgeport police sergeant James Myers trying to make contact with the ghost of a young girl that’s reportedly been seen by patrons of the establishment.

“If you’re here, can you make the lights on my meter light up?” asks Myers in a clear, authoritative voice, holding up an EMF meter (an electromagnetic field detector). “Prove to me that you’re here and light it up.”

The meter doesn’t register any activity, but that doesn’t seem to deter Myers and the other police officers, firefighters and paramedics present. They’re all members of the East Coast Paranormal Police [ECPP], a ghost-hunting investigative team organized by Myers. (Myers also works independently under the banner of 826 Paranormal, named for his badge number.) Also deployed on the table is a digital voice recorder to capture EVPs—electronic voice phenomena believed to be direct communications with spirits in the form of faint voices or mutterings recorded on seemingly blank electronic devices and audible only during playback. Multiple recorders have been running throughout the night, and their results will be analyzed by team members over the next few days.

Despite my lifelong curiosity about “the unexplained,” this is the first time I’ve ever been on an actual ghost hunt. Myers estimates he’s investigated over 150 supposedly haunted places, only about 20 of which yielded anything “unusual.” “I’m a believer,” he admits, “but I’m also a big skeptic. If I don’t see it, I don’t believe it.” He adds, “At places where something is going on, I sort of get a tingling. The hair on the back of my neck will stand up.” Tonight, he’s not feeling it.

Despite skepticism about the Twisted Vine’s claims, the team dutifully checks over the entire building. Some team members think the source of the haunting is Edward N. Shelton, founder of the bank that the restaurant now occupies; others speculate that the aforementioned spirit of a young girl could be related to a flood in 1955, when bodies were dislodged from nearby Elm Street Cemetery and stored here until they could be reinterred. Creepy!

In addition to the digital recorders and EMF meters—areas of high electromagnetic activity have been linked to odd sensations and hallucinations similar to what people describe during ghostly encounters—ECPP uses six infrared cameras to monitor “hot” spots, and tonight, there’s a handheld-camera crew recording the action for use in a possible TV pilot. Team members are also using digital cameras, hoping to capture spirit mists or orbs—round blobs that aren’t initially evident but show up later in images. Some think orbs are otherworldly entities; others dismiss them as simply the reflection of a camera’s flash off dust particles, a product of the flash-to-lens angle.

It was actually orb photos that first led Myers into the paranormal realm. Having been an art major in college, he would often bring a camera into some of the more interesting historic buildings on his Bridgeport police beat, then post the images on his public Flickr.com account. A couple of viewers suggested that he might’ve captured something unusual, and that led to an encounter with famed ghost hunter (and Monroe resident) Lorraine Warren, who has encouraged his pursuit of the paranormal.

In the restaurant’s fourth-floor attic, the team comes across a Ouija board just sitting out on the floor. Although Myers believes the boards can “open paths to dark things,” he is suspicious of this one’s convenient placement, which seems to suggest more earthly involvement. Once shunned, these days paranormal groups are being invited to restaurants and historical sites in hopes that something supernatural may spur business by luring curious customers. Despite a full examination, however, ECPP finds nothing compelling enough to suggest that the Twisted Vine is “haunted.”

A week later, I’m with Myers and fellow Bridgeport officer (and ECPP member) Martin Vincze at the Poli Palace, Majestic Theater and Savoy Hotel complex in Bridgeport. “This is my baby,” laughs Myers, who along with ECPP has visited the abandoned buildings multiple times and recorded enough orbs and shadow figures to convince him that something unusual is up. Vincze tells me of one experience: “We were up in the hotel doing EVP work, and we were asking, ‘Is anyone here? Can you say hi?’ When we played it back, you can clearly hear the voice of a young girl answering us, ‘Hello!’ No doubt about it.”

The structures—opulent venues in their heyday—now look pretty much as you’d expect a haunted locale to look: debris-strewn halls, crumbling walls, broken windows, shattered fixtures and plenty of eerie dark corners. I don’t see or photograph anything not of this world, but it doesn’t take much to imagine it.

“I don’t consider myself a paranormal investigator,” Myers says. “I consider myself a police officer who investigates the paranormal. With police work, you have to build your case with evidence. It’s the same thing with the paranormal. You have to work to a point where you say, ‘Well, maybe it is something.’ Before that, you have to say, ‘Well, this is what it could be. It might not be anything paranormal; it might actually be something natural and explainable.’”

For more info, visit 826paranormal.net.

On the Paranormal Beat

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