HUGHESVILLE - Ghost-free until otherwise proven. That's the philosophy of Phenomenon and Paranormal Investigations, a three-year-old paranormal research group based in Ulster.
PPI founder and lead investigator Chris Pike and investigator Caleb King presented some of the group's findings at Hughesville Public Library on March 13.
" 'Truth in Evidence' is our mission," Pike said. "We always enter with the mindset (the investigation site) isn't haunted."
Pike emphasized that all pictures, video and audio clips PPI displayed, for an audience of more than 40, were unaltered because they were recorded.
"We don't use psychics or mediums; we use our equipment," he said.
Pike first conceived of PPI in the summer of 2008 after two supernatural experiences.
In the first, in 2007, he had a vivid dream, or "subconscious encounter," with a friend who had passed more than five years before.
The second experience, that fully confirmed Pike's belief in the paranormal, occurred when he had his car alarm go off one evening for no apparent reason, then saw movement and smelled the distinct scent of a coworker at the same time that he later learned had died in an automobile accident.
The team now numbers seven, and has investigated 33 locations. PPI is funded out of pocket, as a hobby, and the organization does not charge any fees, though there is a significant amount of equipment required to carry out the inquiries.
Some of the equipment are consumer electronics, like video cameras and motion detectors, which the team sets up on floors where they expect the least activity.
Other tools are more specialized, like professional lighting trees that include infrared bulbs, radio frequency and electromagnetic field detectors, and supersized battery packs for the cameras.
The team makes equipment that it cannot afford, if possible.
They use a surprisingly effective parabolic microphone made from a "SonicEar" hearing amplifier bought off the shelf, that was then taped into a Tupperware container and is held with a paint roller handle.
Including the stereo headphones, the microphone cost about $25. The dish-shaped devices, often used on football sidelines for picking up sounds of the game, retail, on the low end, for $15,000, Pike said.
There are several varieties of paranormal phenomena, each with distinct characteristics.
Most often, PPI investigates "intelligent" hauntings. These are the common spirits of man or beast that stay in a place after death, said Pike.
"If Fred was a jerk in life, he'll be a jerk in the afterlife," Pike said.
"Residual" events can be thought of as a replay; Pike gives the example of the Gettysburg battlefield on its anniversary. Poltergeists are caused by energy given off by human emotions.
If you suspect a demonic haunting - characterized by an increasing aggressiveness - action should be taken immediately, said Pike.
"If you want to go the church route and do the exorcism, they like to have proof," Pike said. "That's where we come in."
PPI investigations that have revealed hauntings, according to Pike, include the Mill Hill Manor in Canton. In one room, the team had some 1,500 batteries die while taking photographs and video.
King played "electronic voice phenomena" captured on tape at Avondale Mine, Plymouth, site of the third-largest mine disaster in United States history.
They also showed video of coins rattling about the hallway of a private home in Bradford County, thrown by apparently nothing.
Pike said that throughout the night the presence started throwing dishes, but the video goes to white when that happens. The home is on its third family in the past year.
This summer, PPI is taking advantage of Pike's contacts from his service in the Navy and going to Seneca Lake, N.Y., to investigate the Seneca Lake monster, using unmanned underwater submarines equipped with cameras.
Findings and information from all their investigations is available at ppi investigations.com.