Southeast offering ghost hunting class

Friday, October 12, 2007

A little girl named Jessica was playing near the coal shaft of a house on South Sprigg Street when she fell down the chute and burned to death.

"It's a story that's been around for a while," said Christy Mershon, assistant director at the office of extended and continuing education at Southeast Missouri State University.

The department is offering a two-night class on ghost hunting and will be investigating the South Sprigg Street location along with a few other infamous addresses in Cape Girardeau on the second night. This is the second year for the university to offer the ghost hunting class.

"We had a huge waiting list" last year, Mershon said. "That's why I brought it back this year."

The university expanded the class this year to accommodate 40 to 50 people. Mershon said she will probably split the group to make the trip more intimate and spooky.

"There's some neat history," she said. "We did have some weird stuff happen last year."

Mershon said everyone brought cameras last year to take pictures in Lorimier Cemetery. Within 15 minutes or so of being in the cemetery, all their batteries were dead -- even those who brought spares.

"That is a common occurrence," said Greg Myers, with the Missouri Paranormal Research Society's Paranormal Task Force. He said spirits aren't "battery vampires," but that the environmental conditions their presence can cause -- static charge or humidity -- could cause the drain.

"A heightened type activity area will go through more light bulbs," Myers said. He and Missouri Paranormal Research founder Steven LaChance are coming to Cape Girardeau to conduct the class. LaChance was featured on the episode titled "Fear House" of the Discovery Channel's "A Haunting."

The Rose Theatre, the old Pike Lodge and the new Lorimier Cemetery are all on the list of places in Cape Girardeau the class will investigate. The first night they will learn about hunting practices.

Two methods

Myers said there are two types of investigating processes: passive and interactive.

Passive is setting up equipment like cameras, recorders, electromagnetic field sensors and radiation detectors. "The equipment basically varies for the type of haunting," he said.

The team closes the room or house with all the equipment inside and waits a certain period of time.

"It's what I call lockdown," Myers said.

"With interactive investigating, you go mobile and interact with what might be there. You go around with your hand-held equipment and find hot spots," he said.

Hot spots in Cape Girardeau include the Glenn House, where employees claim the decorative presents get moved and rearranged overnight during Christmas time.

Or the old Hecht's Department Store built in 1925 where Club Moxy currently resides. LaChance, Myers and a third group member and Southeast Missouri native Sandy Oates, will investigate the haunting on their own Saturday night.

"It really does sound legit," Oates said.

Oates said reports of sounds of chains moving in the basement and the security monitor on main floor showing an orb move all around, split, then rejoin make her think they will find something.

"Nobody has felt threatened," Oates said. "And they haven't noticed that anything has been thrown or moved when they come back in the next morning."

"That land there has so much history," it may just be a residual haunting in which something is playing over and over.

Types of haunting

Myers and LaChance, who is no longer on the task force but still works closely with them, said there are four main types of hauntings.

The traditional haunting is the type most likely to be seen on television, LaChance said. That would be the banging noises or apparitions. The temperament of these spirits can vary.

"If you were mean or good in life, you are mean or good in death," LaChance said.

Then there's residual hauntings in which images and sounds are embedded in a location and play over and over again. That could be seeing an apparition falling down on the same date that the original incidents took place, Myers said.

It's like "the replaying of a videotape," LaChance said. The energy can get caught in granite, limestone or water running under a building.

"Rushing water causes electricity," LaChance said. "Electricity causes energy and the energy can manifest and replay itself."

The granite: "That's your tape," he said. Rushing water or energy from other sources are what play the tape.

"There is no interaction with the person because it's just a replay," LaChance said.

Then there are portal hauntings in which an opening to the other side or the unknown could allow multiple things to pass through to this world, Myers said. Audio can be caught and played back to say two different things, one thing when played forward and another when played backward.

Demonic hauntings have five levels of progression but are rare.

"The ultimate goal is to destroy you," LaChance said.

They all agreed that was the rarest of all hauntings and for the most part the ghosts can be convinced to leave or the building owners or occupants can be taught to coexist.

335-6611, extension 246

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