It's the time of year when ghost and ghouls are on the mind. but for some folks in the Miami Valley, the spirit world is a year-round occupation. Community Voices Producer Lauren Shows takes us to Springfield to meet Darin Hough, who quit his job to open Ghost Hunting Source, a store that sells paranormal investigation equipment.
“Well, I've been selling the equipment online for about six or seven years now,” Darin Hough says, “And it's just gotten bigger and bigger every year, so I just thought I'd try and take the next step.”
Ghost Hunting Source's showroom, located in the old Robertson Building in downtown Springfield, hosts everything a potential ghost hunter might want. Darin says the most popular item Ghost Hunting Source sells is the EMF meter. EMF stands for electromagnetic field.
“Well the theory out there is that spirits are attracted to these electromagnetic fields. With these gadgets here it could give you a reading if there is an electromagnetic field going on,” he says.
For Darin, providing ghost hunting equipment is only part of the job. Outside of work, Darin goes on the hunt himself with his friend Steve Worthen. Steve says the first time Darin invited him to a ghost hunt, he jumped at the chance, and since then, he's been hooked.
“The 10 year old boy in me loves being in these old deserted buildings like a Scooby Doo cartoon,” Steve says.
Darin and Steve showed me some of the Robertson Building's abandoned factory floors above the storefront. Even in the daylight, they're majorly creepy. As they showed me around, my headphones and microphone amplified every sound, and I was sure I was hearing phantom footsteps.
Steve was quick to reassure me. "It's just dripping water," he said. According to him, it's the ghost hunter's duty to be extra skeptical. “You know, I don't go, ‘There's a ghost behind you!’ There isn't by the way, you can calm down.”
After my tour of the Robertson Building, Darin and Steve said I was welcome to tag along on a ghost hunt there in a few weeks. Obviously, I was in. But before I went on the hunt, I really needed to bone up on my ghost hunting knowledge.
I got in touch with another group of hunters, the Dayton Ohio Ghosthunters Society, or DOGS, as they're known. The group was co-founded by brothers Rob and Ed Fremder. Rob said Ed gave him the idea back in 2007.
“He called me up on the phone and he said, ‘Dude, you gotta see this, these guys are on TV and they've got all these computer gadgets and all this stuff, and they're looking for ghosts, they're talking to ghosts.’ And I'm like, ‘Well, yeah, we could do that.’”
When DOGS gets a request, they do their best to find conventional means of explaining whatever a patron is experiencing. Faulty wiring, electronics on the fritz, or even psychotropic medication could all convince someone there's a ghost in the house. But if DOGS can't find an earthly reason for your ghostly trouble, they'll come back and investigate further. Contrary to popular belief, no busting of ghosts will occur. Instead, DOGS instructs home and business owners to live in harmony with their haunts.
DOGS member Donna Garwood sent me off with some advice on how to prepare the upcoming hunt. “You open up,” she says, “You meditate. You ask the good lord to watch over you and don't let nothing get a hold of you.”
On the night of the ghost hunt, the Robertson Building was packed with hunters, and paranormal gadgetry beeped and clicked. Some of us headed down to the basement first, and gathered around pro ghost hunter, Theresa Lynch. She took out two mini mag-lite flashlights, which she unscrewed slightly, until they were between the "on" and "off" positions. She laid them on a trash can.
“Okay,” Theresa says, “If there's anybody here, spirit-wise, that would like to communicate with us tonight, there are two flashlights, if you could touch those, that'll turn them on, and that lets us know that you're here and ready to communicate. Anybody here?”
We got no action in the basement, so we all trudged up stairs, to one of the factory floors, which was clearly being used for storage. Among many other things, there were piles of old doors, giant streetlight bulbs, ancient cameras, a single cowboy boot and a jar full of liquid, nonchalantly labeled, ‘battery acid.’ The ambiance was spot-on.
Theresa tried the flashlight method again, but still no response. So, she brought out a piece of equipment often used by ghost hunters, known as a spirit box. The device is essentially a badly-working radio: it scans rapidly through AM radio frequencies, creating static. The theory is, spirits are able to use the white noise generated by the spirit box to communicate.
“So if anybody would like to communicate with us, if you'll just talk,” Theresa says.
The spirit box replies, “Hello.”
“Hello. How many years did you work here?” Theresa asks.
“Ten,” Theresa repeats, “Thank you so much for your answers and communication.”
It looked like things were heating up. We got some more chit chat from the spirit box, and even what sounded like a name: Robert. But the talk petered out, so another ghost hunter reminded ‘Robert’ he could still use the flashlight to communicate with us.
The flashlight switched on! I could barely believe it. Theresa asked the spirit to prove it was really there, and turn the light back off. And the light went out.
So what did I hear and see at the Robertson Building? Did the spirit box really transmit the thoughts of a ghost? Or was it errant chatter from talk radio or a trucker's CB? Maybe the vibrations of our footsteps made the flashlight engage. Maybe I didn't hear or see anything.
Nevertheless, everyone I met was kind and fun, and I had a great time.
And as I got into bed later that night, I imagined a man named Robert, forever destined to walk the lonely factory floors of the building where he had once worked, hoping for a night like tonight: when someone might walk in, and ask his name.