When I started delving into paranormal investigation years ago, my adventures were done alone and with little more than a disposable camera, compass, flashlight, and a set of brass balls. Over time, I collected more sophisticated tools of the trade, like an EMF detector, infrared cameras, etc. The set of brass balls remained a constant. Eventually, I joined professional paranormal investigation teams, began travelling to purported haunted locations throughout the country, and even did some scouting for MTV's Fear program.
Over the years, I've visited hundreds of cemeteries, and my camera's caught flying orbs near Poe's grave in Baltimore, squiggly strings of white light that wove through tombs in old family plots in Nebraska, and child-size shadows perched atop two headstones in Atlanta, Georgia. Oddly enough, the cemetery known as the most haunted in America, Big Woods Cemetery, offered nothing but hungry mosquitoes.
The most fascinating experience I've had in a cemetery came from a small town in Mire, La., where my maternal grandfather is buried. One evening I took my youngest daughter (who was fourteen at the time) and two of her friends out for burgers. While we're eating, my daughter decides to tell her friends about the weird things her mom does for fun... Like ghost hunting. They grow wide-eyed, of course, and ask a million questions, their last one being, "Can you take us to a cemetery and show us how to hunt for ghosts... Like now?"
My daughter then gives me that, "You've gotta, Mom, 'cause they'll think I'm so cool!" look. Geez...
Before long I had three fourteen year-olds (2 girls, 1 boy) begging -- loudly -- to ghost hunt. Although I envisioned angry parents pounding on my front door later that night, insisting I be taken away to a mental ward, I couldn't resist those cherub faces. That, and the fact that they pooled their money and bribed me with a slice of chocolate cake did me in.
Wanting to minimize any risks, I thought of the most benign cemetery I knew -- St. Theresa's in Mire, La. The cemetery sits on a corner lot in the middle of town. Beside it is a church and across the street is a gas station and Mire City Hall. Streetlights line both sides of the street, so in truth, the spookiest thing about the place is the creak of the cemetery gate when you open it.
So, armed with a digital camera and a flashlight, both of which are always in my car, we head for the cemetery. Once there, the kids stay glued to my side, whispering to each other, looking over their shoulder every few minutes as we walked amongst the graves. A car backfired in the distance, and the boy gasped so loudly, I thought he'd swallowed his tongue. We had a good laugh over that, which helped the kids to relax and eventually wonder off on their own to different tombs. All the while I'm snapping pictures, hoping for an orb or two, but getting absolutely nothing.
It wasn't long before I spotted my grandfather's grave. I was three when he passed away, so my daughters never knew him.
As I drew closer to the tomb, I got a sudden, overwhelming urge to 'introduce' my grandfather to my youngest. So I called my daughter over, showed her the tomb, then said aloud, "Pop-pop, (which is what everyone called him) this is your great-granddaughter, Sarah." No sooner did the words leave my mouth than another urge hit. Take a picture... Now! So I did.
The image, which stood at the foot of my grandfather's tomb, wasn't physically seen by any of us. Had it not been for the camera, we would have never known it was there. Is this my grandfather stopping by to say hello? I don't know. But it sure is cool to consider the possibility!
In my many travels, and with the aid of better equipment, I've managed to capture oddities, like the one, as well as strange, disjointed voices on digital recorders. But after fifteen years of investigating, I still can't lay claim to having seen a full-bodied apparition. Maybe I'm too much of a Doubting Thomas for spirits to bother materializing when I'm around. I did learn the hard way, though, that you don't have to see a ghost to make it angry.