Investigating ghosts in Delaware
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During October, we traditionally celebrate all things spooky. In the spirit of Halloween, it's fun to visit a haunted house or tell ghost stories. For Delaware City Ghost Hunters, October is just another month to commune with spirits.
Their ghost stories are everyday conversations. These brave souls work year-round to help people who are being troubled by paranormal activity. Their goal is to communicate with restless spirits and ultimately help them find peace.
“A ghost is just a trapped spirit that, for some reason, has not been able to cross over,” explained Wanda, the director of Delaware City Ghost Hunters. Since their start in 2011, the group has performed more than 50 investigations of haunted locations.
The members of the group are fascinated by the paranormal, and are driven to help people and spirits in need. Some of the members are “spiritually gifted,” while others are gifted with technical skills. The group includes psychics, empaths and mediums who can reach out and communicate with spirits. They also have members who handle the sophisticated ghost-hunting equipment.
You don't have to have special skills to be a member -- just a curiosity about the spiritual world and the willingness to do the work. And there is a lot of work to be done.
During an investigation, team members use their own cameras and recorders, and they take notes on any paranormal activity. After the session, members have to turn in a report, which involves going through all their photographs and reviewing any audio and visual recordings.
“We have a private Facebook page for members only, and everyone must post three photos that are the most significant (showing a shadow, mist, orb, etc.) so they can be seen and discussed among the group,” Wanda said.
The ghost hunters are currently interviewing prospective team members. “In the past, we've had people join our group and then decide it's not for them, which is totally fine,” Wanda said. “It was not as exciting as they thought it would be. We have had a few investigations that, frankly, were quite boring.”
Sometimes the team arrives at a house that has had activity and they find nothing. Wanda said there is little resemblance between what her group does and what you see on ghost-hunting shows. Sure, they both use ghost-spotting equipment and wait in the dark for a ghost to appear. Our night is a spirit’s day, and the time when they are most active.
“These shows are highly dramatized, and hours of work have been condensed into a half-hour period,” Wanda said. You don't see all the down time the crew spends waiting for something to happen.
Wanda explained how an investigation works. When the Delaware City Ghost Hunters group is contacted by someone experiencing paranormal activity, Wanda assembles a team best suited to the investigation. The crew visits the location of the haunting, and after setting up their equipment, they settle in for three to six hours and wait for activity to occur. During that time, members try to contact the entity through voice or thought. The goal of the investigation is to learn why the spirit is causing the disturbance, and then help the ghost find peace.
“When we contact a spirit, we ask if it wants to cross over,” Wanda explained. “If the answer is yes, then we'll tell it to stick around until the end of the evening, when we will perform a ceremony to help it cross.”
How can they tell if a spirit has indeed crossed over? “It's a feeling that is hard to explain,” she said. “It is almost like the air feels lighter, like the feeling you get when the sun comes out after days of rain.”
Sometimes, a team member will actually see the spirit leaving.
Etta Wilburn, the group's spiritual director, revealed how the ceremony works. “We ask God to open a light to give the spirit a channel to travel through. After they cross, we close the light,” she said. Wilburn also mentioned how, once a portal has been opened, other spirits may arrive to cross over, even if they weren't involved in the original haunting.
Some of the ghost-hunting equipment used by the group is specialized, but not all of it is. Many of us may have the basic equipment in our home for spotting a spirit. Mag lights are used as a way for ghosts to signal they are around. They are asked to turn the light on and off to validate their presence. Video recorders pick up shapes and movement, and voice recorders can be used by a spirit trying to communicate vocally. It helps to have special software to filter out noise, and discerning spirit voices can be difficult.
“Amy, our group historian, is an expert at detecting spirit voices,” Wanda said. “She uses the program called Audacity, which clears up background noise.”
K2 meters work on electromagnetic fields and light up when a spirit's energy is nearby. Laser grids project a gridded pattern on a wall and when a spirit passes in front of the laser, it disrupts the pattern. Motion detectors are also used as a tool for the ghost to signal its presence. The group even has a motion detector that looks like a stuffed animal. It is useful when trying to reach the spirit of a child.
The most exciting case Delaware City Ghost Hunters investigated involved two ghosts and a spirit from a cold case. A homeowner on Porter Road in Bear, Del. (we'll call her Janet), contacted the group. Janet and her family had been experiencing abnormal activity around the home. In addition to odd noises, they continually found cabinet doors and drawers opened. The activity seemed to increase when there were children in the house or when a pregnant family member was present.
Janet did not feel the activity was harmful or threatening, but she wanted the team to investigate and hopefully rid her house of the persistent spirit. The homeowner did give the group advance knowledge that the house had a tragic history. A woman had been murdered by her jealous husband in the house, and at another point in time, a disabled man had died in a house fire. Armed with those facts, but no details, the team arrived on location and set up the investigation.
While other team members tried to reach out to the male and female spirits, Wanda started meditating on the house, trying to get information on the haunting. A vision came to her of a very pretty, petite woman with short, blonde hair.
“She said her name was Sharon and she had a meek demeanor,” Wanda said. In the vision, Wanda also saw a yellow school bus and she assumed Sharon had been a school bus driver. Meanwhile, another team member felt a male presence and experienced a hand brushing over her leg. She thought it might have been one of the tech crew members walking by her, but when she looked around, no one was there. At the end of the evening, they held their crossing-over ceremony and helped the spirits into the light.
Before leaving, Wanda asked the homeowner if she knew the murder victim's name and what she looked like. Janet did not know, but said that her mother had met the sister of the murdered woman and would give her a call. The victim's sister confirmed that “Sharon” had a petite build, and was pretty, with short, blonde hair. And while her given name was not Sharon, it was the name she preferred to use. It was also revealed that Sharon had worked as a school bus aide.
It was a good investigation. Spirits and been contacted and crossed over. Facts were validated and the homeowners were happy. But that is not the end of the story.
After every investigation, the group historian, Amy, does exhaustive research on the site of the haunting to validate information gathered during the case. The Delaware City Ghost Hunters try to debunk the material gathered during an investigation, such as photos and voices, as a way to maintain their integrity as an authentic ghost-hunting organization. Every member of the team analyzes each other’s findings and every photo is scrutinized to make sure orbs and shadows are not just a trick of the light.
During her research on the Porter Road property, Amy discovered a news article from 1967 about a female corpse that had been found in a ditch just yards from the residence. The case had never been solved. Amy wondered if it was more than coincidence that a body had previously been found so close to the site of a current haunting. It had been more than 30 years, but ghosts tend to hang around – especially when they are unhappy. Amy called Wanda and told her about her findings, but did not share any details except that the body was female and the proximity to the house where the body was found. Wanda said, “Amy asked me to meditate on the story and try to reach out to the spirit of the dead woman.” She wanted to see what information Wanda could get from the spirit.
“So I meditated and just started talking to the universe,” Wanda said. “I said there is a spirit haunting a house on Porter Road. If you would like to have your story told, please communicate with me telepathically. I'd like to see you in my mind. Show me what you look like and tell me what happened to you.”
Wanda closed her eyes and waited. Then an image of a girl appeared in her mind. “I could see her body and arms were wrapped up very tightly in some sort of cloth, but I was able to see her face and her hair,” she said. Wanda felt the girl was of European descent -- Greek, Italian or Puerto Rican based on her caramel-colored skin. She also had dark hair and dark eyes.
“I got the name Katie,” she said. “That is usually how it happens; the very first name that comes to my mind is what they are trying to tell me.”
Wanda said to the spirit, “I feel like your name is Katie and you are between the ages of 18 and 25. If this is not correct, give me another vision.” But the vision did not change.
When she called Amy back with the results of her meditation, Amy sent Wanda the article that included an artist’s sketch of the victim. The data in the news story confirmed that the victim was between the ages of 18 and 25 and appeared to be of European descent. The artist’s sketch resembled the girl Wanda saw in her vision. The body was found in the ditch, tightly wrapped in a cloth.
Intrigued by this new information, Wanda called the Porter Road homeowner back and told her the details. She suggested they hold a séance to reach Katie.
On the night of the séance, Wanda only brought team members who had the ability to reach out to spirits. In addition to the team, the homeowner and her mother were present.
“We put a candle on the table with a hurricane globe around it so it would not be disturbed by the air,” Wanda said. She meditated and told Katie that they wanted her to come back and share more information with them. They asked her to flicker the candle in response or blink the K2 meter – once for yes, and twice for no. Katie confirmed she was present through the K2 meter.
Those present started asking her questions, and by the end of the evening, Katie's story had been pieced together. The ghost hunters learned that Kate was the daughter of a southern minister. An out-of-wedlock pregnancy resulted in her father sending her north to have a abortion. A bad infection set in and Katie died. Those responsible for her death dumped her body in the ditch.
“We kept asking Katie if this information was correct and she would respond through the meter, 'Yes, Yes, Yes.'” The team could not get a clear sense of where she had actually died. However, one of the members kept getting a vision of the word Florence, followed by two letters.
"We asked Katie if she was from Florence, S.C., and she replied, ‘No,'” Wanda said. At the end of the séance the ghost hunters did a house clearing and prayed for the spirit of Katie to cross over. Wanda said, “Katie was an earthbound spirit who wanted people to know her story. She had never been laid to rest and was not at peace.”
Wanda asked her to please validate the story one last time by making the candle flicker. The flame started flickering wildly. “At that sign, I broke down, crying uncontrollably,” Wanda said. “It was like I was experiencing Katie's energy being released. She was so happy that someone finally knew what had happened to her. I told Katie to rest in peace and said, 'We will pray for you.'”
After the ceremony, Wanda felt that Katie had truly passed over. In the days following the séance, one of the members was researching cities named Florence and found Florence, N.J. The group later learned that the cloth the body was wrapped in was stamped by a dry cleaner located in New Jersey.
Checking in a few days later with Janet, Wanda was happy to hear there had been no more activity in the house. She followed up six months later and was told the same. “That was probably the most interesting and moving investigation we've ever done,” Wanda said.
Delaware City Ghost Hunters provide their services free of charge, though donations are always appreciated. The group is completely funded by the members, and they hold a few fundraisers throughout the year. Each October they have a ghost tour (This year it is in Middletown on Oct. 21 and 22), and each spring they participate in Delaware City's yard sale to raise money for new equipment. The organization accepts donations of goods to be sold at the yard sale. Details, news and upcoming events can be found on the Delaware City Ghost Hunters Facebook page or their website (www.delcityghosthunters.org).