Photo by Michael Buckelew
It might seem odd that the primary goal of a ghost hunter is to assist the living.
As Kathy Porter, president of the Central Georgia Paranormal Society, said, people who live with what they suspect are supernatural entities in their homes or businesses need to know that the unusual occurrences they're experiencing -- footsteps on stairs, knocking on walls, voices -- aren't just in their imaginations.
"Sometimes they're scared or in distress, and we want to help them," said Porter, adding that while her group can't make a ghost leave a building it may be able to provide identifying information about the spirit. "Sometimes they just need validation."
The Central Georgia Paranormal Society, a nonprofit based in Newton County, consists of about a dozen people interested in exploring reports of ghosts in homes, businesses, historic buildings and cemeteries. Assisting the Central Georgia group is the Newton County Paranormal Society, which also conducts its own independent investigations.
Porter started the Central Georgia group three years ago, inspired by the SyFy channel television program "Ghost Hunters," a reality show in which small groups of people investigate haunted locations.
"A group of friends started talking about how great it would be to do that," Porter said.
As a teenager growing up in a Victorian house built in the 1800s, Porter said she and her younger brother encountered a spirit in their home. While Porter said her brother got a glimpse of the apparition -- a woman in a Victorian dress -- Porter herself only heard a voice call her dog's name.
"We weren't really scared. It was there and we knew it," Porter said. "She never really bothered us."
Porter's group has conducted more than a dozen investigations across Georgia, using basic equipment such as digital audio and video recorders and digital cameras. They also use an electromagnetic field meter and thermometers to detect ghosts.
Porter said the group has never captured any definitive evidence on film, but the audio recorders have revealed plenty of activity.
While at the Rock House, a stone building constructed in the 1700s in Thomson, group members made audio recordings. At the time of the visit, they heard nothing.
Played back later, the recordings revealed electronic voice phenomena, such as a woman crying, "My baby, my baby. Nobody told me about my baby," Porter said. The woman also indicated that she was "trapped" at the house.
Porter said she thinks they also discovered a child spirit.
"I said, 'Can you come touch me?' And a child's voice responded, 'Can you touch me?'" Porter said.
The Central Georgia Paranormal Society has also extended its investigative talents to local spots, such as the Newton County Chamber of Commerce, a business off the Square in Covington and the Covington Cemetery.
Gaither's Plantation showed the most activity, Porter said. Though the group experienced little while there, a later review of the audio recording revealed music playing and a church choir singing, recorded at the point that the group was exiting a small church on the grounds.
"It's always kind of interesting when you don't hear it with your ears and you're listening to it afterwards," Porter said.
The 13 members of the Central Georgia Paranormal Society, who range in age from their 20s to 50s, work in various professions, none of them related to the paranormal. Porter is a school nurse, and her colleagues in the group include a forensic photographer with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, a middle school science teacher, a business manager and a hospital office manager.
The ghost hunting services are offered free of charge, fueled by a desire to help shed light on mysteries, Porter said. Unexplained phenomena could be just rattling pipes or a high electromagnetic field caused by an appliance. Or it could be something inexplicable.
"I think we all go in with the attitude, 'Let's see what this could be. What could be causing this?' You go in there with a good bit of skepticism," she said. "The goal is to be professional, confidential and to help the person."
Porter said she's not sure that finding ghosts means there's life after death. Her theory about ghosts is that they are not lost souls, but energy left behind after a person dies.
"There are probably as many different opinions as there are ghost hunters but we're serious about it," Porter said.
For more information, visit www.cgparanormal.com or http://newtonparanormalsociety.webs.com.