Ghost Hunting!

I went ghost hunting on Friday!!! Yes, it deserves that many exclamation points.  I’ve loved ghost stories ever since I was a little kid (remember these gems?) and have long wanted to take a ghost tour or have an opportunity to participate in a paranormal investigation. The Utah chapter of the Horror Writers Association (which I recently joined) held our October meeting at the Benson Grist Mill in Stansbury Park. This location has been investigated by the Pod Goblins before, and they were kind enough to walk us through the basics of ghost hunting and lend us some equipment.

The Benson Grist Mill, a few minutes before we went inside.

The Benson Grist Mill, a few minutes before we went inside.

The timing of this meeting was especially perfect for me, as my debut novel DONN’S HILL is centered around a young psychic who works with a group of paranormal investigators in a famously haunted (but fictional) small town. This meeting gave me a chance to see how my own reactions to paranormal activity stack up against my main character’s reactions (spoiler alert: she is a hell of a lot braver than I am).

Here's a list of the equipment that we used on our investigation:

  1. EMF meters
  2. Audio recording devices (I used my cell phone)
  3. Camera (again, my cell phone)
  4. Ourselves

That 4th one, as explained by Jessica of the Pod Goblins, is the most important piece of equipment an investigator can have. And I’m going to go ahead and use that to justify why I fled from the mill after a mere 2 minutes inside when Kelly and I tried to venture up to the top floor by ourselves, climbing the three sets of creaking stairs where the mill’s famous “Lady in White” is frequently seen by visitors. You can check out the audio of that exercise in cowardice right here; the bleep is where I got the mega-jibblies and decided to bail. (Apparently, I swears when I’m scareds.)

We ended up going back into the mill just minutes later. This time, we tagged along with a group led by the amazing Terra Luft, who dares to not only converse with the spirits of the departed but even antagonizes them into speaking with her in the first place. We followed Terra into the basement, ducking beneath the giant 150-year-old millstones and between 12x12 wooden posts before setting up our equipment in a cold spot in the southeast corner. We stood just one story below the staircase I’d nearly tumbled down so recently in my haste to escape whatever had made my hair stand on end near the top floor.

Terra, trying to get a response from any spirits in the area

Terra, trying to get a response from any spirits in the area

Terra switched on her EMF meter, which is a special model boasting an additional “dialog mode” that continuously scans for field disturbances. The meter hisses while scanning, then goes silent when a presence is detected. Spirits are supposed to be able to affect the magnetic field, which allows an EMF operator to ask yes/no questions and watch or listen to the meter for a response.

We stood in the dark basement for a few minutes, listening to the meter hiss. Then, it went silent. A heartbeat later, a loud humming (possibly from a generator) kicked on from behind the door next to Terra. I won’t lie; we all jumped.

At first, I thought Terra’s meter was just reacting to the generator—or whatever was behind that door. But as she began to ask it simple yes or no questions (“Do you want to talk to us? One for yes, two for no,” and, “Do you want us to leave? One for yes, two for no”) and the meter hissed once or twice in response, and then when the generator switched off but the meter continued its odd behavior, I came up with a different theory:

Terra was screwing with us.

She was standing a couple of yards away from me, both hands in her hoodie pocket. Her daughter and a few other teenaged girls were in our group, and I could see the lure in wanting to give them all a good scare. My suspicions grew that she had the EMF meter in her pocket, and was pressing a hidden button to make it seem like the ghost was responding to us.

Then a few other investigators made their way into the basement, and Terra invited one of them to set his EMF meter down near hers so they could measure the devices’ responses against each other.

“Where is it?” he asked.

Ha, I thought. Now she’ll pull it out of her pocket and the jig will be up.

Instead, she pulled a bare hand out of her pocket and pointed to a spot a few feet in front of her. I couldn’t see what she was indicating; my line of sight was blocked by one of the giant posts that held up the floor above us. I leaned to the right, and my stomach plummeted into my Skechers.

Her EMF meter had been sitting on a horizontal beam, out of her reach, the entire time.

Yup. Shit got real.

Yup. Shit got real.

We were in that basement for a total of 45 minutes, during which time we communicated with that spirit (and possibly one other) several times. This is the exchange that gives me the biggest chills to go back and listen to:

Photo taken while Terra was communicating with...someone.

Photo taken while Terra was communicating with...someone.

I’ll admit it: I’m a believer. I’ve also added an EMF meter and a few other tools for paranormal investigation to my wish list. But after that mill basement, I’d reached my limit for the day. I was too freaked out and too exhausted (I’d just gotten over a nasty cold) to handle any more excitement, so Kelly and I retreated to a lighted pavilion to sit and chat with some of the other chapter members. Shortly after that, we headed home…but not before taking the Pod Goblins’ advice and sternly informing any spirits that might be tempted to follow us home that they were not invited or allowed to do so, just in case.

Have you ever had an experience with a ghost? Do you know of good places to do a little ghost hunting? Leave me a comment; I’d love to hear about it!