On the hunt for ghosts

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Beacon Falls Paranormal Society members Matt Dowdell, Kim Dahn, and Kevin Larocque, and investigate Gunntown Cemetary in Naugatuck, looking for signs of paranormal activity. The investigators appear ghostly because of a camera trick involving a flashlight and a slow shutter. - LARAINE WESCHLER

NAUGATUCK — On a brisk October night, Kevin Larocque and Matt Dowdell parked their car outside Gunntown Cemetery.

Established in 1790, the cemetery has long had a reputation for being haunted. People have said they heard music in the cemetery and seen apparitions. The members of the Beacon Falls Paranormal Society were there last Friday night to substantiate those claims.

As they waited for the third member of their group, Larocque and Dowdell started assembling their equipment; a digital video camera with an infrared light, a full-spectrum camera, several voice recorders, flashlights and a K II meter to measure the electromagnetic field.

Dowdell demonstrated how the KII worked, waving his cell phone in front of it to make light up. Anything with an electromagnetic current, from a fuse box to a television set will set the meter off. But in the middle of a graveyard, with the cell phone back in the car, the only thing that could set it off would be, ghost hunters believe, paranormal energy or spirits.

“When you get a sudden spike where there shouldn’t be — there’s obviously something there that’s causing it,” Dowdell said.

Once everyone was ready, the group passed through the open gate in the low stone fence surrounding the graveyard.

It was a clear night, but the stars provided little light as the group picked its way among the tombstones, watching their meter and feeling for anything abnormal.

This wasn’t the first time the group was investigating Gunntown.

“It all started out with us joking around with a $23 RC recorder,” Larocque said.

Two years ago, the two men, both in their mid-twenties, got permission to check out Gunntown.

“It felt weird,” Larocque said. “Do to previous experiences, we became sensitive to all kinds of energy.”

That night two years ago, the men turned on their recorder and started asking questions of the spirits they suspected inhabited the area. They asked the spirit if it was annoyed by their questions. When they listened to the recording later, they said they heard something respond, “Yes.”

“And that’s really when we got hooked,” Larocque said. “It was not like a question you think someone would answer.”

After that, the Beacon Falls Paranormal Society started getting professional. They bought more equipment to find evidence of paranormal activity, created a website and took out an ad. Word started getting around and they started investigating other areas — the Green Lady Cemetary in Burlington, Little People Village, and some private residences.

“In all honesty, we’re looking for proof,” Dowdell said.

Dowdell wants to rule out all other possible causes for oddities before declaring a site haunted.

“When it comes down to it, there’s not proof of what it is. But when you do this so many times and you listen to so many audio tracks, there’s a definite distinction between a cricket and a raccoon and a clear and audible voice that’s not any of us talking,” Dowdell said.

Sometimes, when he asks questions, he said he can hear a flutter in his ear. But when people are searching for something, sometimes they hear the things they want to hear, Dowdell said.

“Sometimes we have serious heated discussions about things. That’s what makes us work, because once we agree on something, there’s something more there,” Dowdell said.

After circling the perimeter of the Gunntown Cemetery, the group decided to try an electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) session. They set up their camcorder, sat down in the cold, damp grass, and turned on their voice recorder and KII.

It turned out to be a busy night, not with ghostly activity, but with visitors of the more living sort.

This is the worst time of year to do an investigation, Laroque complained. With Halloween coming up, lots of people are looking for haunted experiences.

Curious groups of teenagers and college students wandered in, looking for a cheap scare. They were fascinated with the investigation and unnerved by stories of ghostly sightings.

One such story, Larocque recalled, was when the fourth member of the group was waiting in the car during a previous investigation when she felt someone watching her. She had recently lost a family member and wasn’t ready to join the investigation, Larocque said. When the other members got back to the car, they knew something was wrong. The waiting member said her arms felt warm, like they were burning. When she lifted up her shirt, she had scratch marks all over her arms, chest, and back, Larocque told the interlopers.

After hearing the story, most of the night’s living visitors left the group to its work and the paranormal society started asking questions to the spirits.

What is your name? When did you die? Are you upset that someone knocked over your gravestone? The group probed, hoping to elicit a response.

A lot of tombstones had been destroyed since the group was last there, Larocque said, something he would never condone.

As the night wore on, the members tried to get the spirits to show themselves. Light up the meter, turn on the flashlight, tap on a gravestone. They were looking for any sign that a spirit was there.

“Touch me. Tug on my hoodie. I don’t mind,” Laroque said.

A few times, they thought they saw a shadow flicker across a tombstone or a sound behind them, but nothing obvious. The members marked the recording whenever they heard a sound from a known source – a bird crying, a car going by, or someone coughing.

After a few hours, the cold chill of the night began to set in and it was time to pack up.

The night’s work was done, but a lot more was waiting at home. After the investigation, the society members watched the video and listened to the audio, frame by frame, looking for anything unusual and listening for a response to their questions, a response they couldn’t hear at the time.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t really find anything substantial,” Larocque said after reviewing the audio and video several days later. “That’s very common place though. You don’t always go into investigations and find something.”

Despite the lack of paranormal activity that night, Larocque said the group would continue its quest to find answers in the unknown.