For The Independent
Every culture that has ever existed has had some belief in things that go beyond the normal occurrences in day-to-day life.
Stories about ghosts have been part of the written record since writing was invented.
The Epic of Gilgamesh, written around 1800 B.C., is considered some of the earliest writing, and it includes a story of the hero, Gilgamesh, speaking to the ghost of his dead friend.
While this isn’t necessarily proof of the existence of the paranormal, it does raise a question: why, after thousands of years, are people still looking?
For Steve Gartin and members of the Greenup Paranormal Society, curiosity — more specifically, the need to explain what often defies explanation — is the prime motivator.
“We don’t go into a place that is supposed to be haunted and try to prove that there is a ghost,” said Gartin, one of the founders and lead investigators for the society. “We do everything that we can to reproduce an occurrence. Most of the time we can, but sometimes there isn’t any obvious or ‘normal’ reason for the things that happen.”
The 12-member group offers its services for free to anyone in the area who has experienced occurrences of paranormal activity. “Basically, what people consider to be a ghost is the energy that is left behind,” Gartin said. “And there different types of what people consider ghosts.”
Gartin went on to explain there are two basic types of hauntings, which he qualifies with the terms “residual” and “intelligent.”
As the terms imply, a residual haunting is one where a portion of spiritual energy is left behind and will “replay” like a recording under the proper circumstances. An intelligent haunting, Gartin said, is one where the energy left behind by a spirit also includes some of that spirit’s intelligence. How that type of haunting interacts is based on what type of person the spirit was during their lives.
“If you were a good person while you were alive, then your spirit will most likely be good,” he said. “If the spirit was a bad person during their lives, then they will probably be even worse as a spirit.”
“I have always been asked what got me into this,” said Karen Thompson, a lead investigator and “mom” of the group. “And the answer is that I have always been interested. We see or experience things when we are younger, and just deny them or put them out of our minds because we don’t want to think about it.”
Thompson said numerous experiences and actual EVP’s (electronic voice phenomena) have led her to express her feelings on the subject with a simple statement: “The truth is that we aren’t alone here. Trying to get proof of exactly what else surrounds us is what is difficult.”
The group members are grounded in the Christian faith, and both Gartin and the third lead investigator, Jayson Scaff, are ministers. They don’t believe that their faith precludes belief in the paranormal, but rather gives them a unique perspective on how to deal with the possibilities that the numerous theories bring to bear on the issue of the paranormal. They say they believe that their faith in God helps them to be more logical in their research and less likely to be impulsive or irrational.
Scaff believes that the spirits that people commonly see as ghosts are those who have left their lives with unfinished business, typically those who met with a violent end. He even acknowledges the possibility that some spirits aren’t actually aware that they have died.
“One of the questions that we ask when we are trying to get the spirits to communicate is whether they know that they have died.”
The three lead investigators all say that they have experienced things that cannot be explained by conventional means. They have captured EVP’s with strange sounds and voices, photographed things that could be interpreted as paranormal and seen things that seem paranormal in nature. But they acknowledge that these things do not constitute what the scientific community would consider to be empirical evidence, or definitive proof of the paranormal.
“There are so many things that we don’t understand,” Gartin said. “Our senses and our technology aren’t capable of registering everything that might be out there. We may never truly know what is in the paranormal realm until we pass and become part of it. But that isn’t going to keep us from looking, or from trying to understand.”