At Home With The Ghosts

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Do you believe in ghosts? The Midwest Paranormal Conference, taking place at Ogden's notoriously haunted Union Station on August 16th, may answer this and other questions such as "where could you go when you pass on?" The science of discovering spirits, ghosts or the paranormal is actively becoming exact and precise in its methods. Although paranormal research is not funded by universities or backed by deep pocketed corporations, it's taking place all over the globe. Ghost hunters are out gathering evidence, developing and testing theories, using money from their own pockets and spending countless nights in dark and mysterious places. Then they closely examine their evidence, which takes more time than that actually spent gathering it.



Utah is home to a large community of investigators who are uniting to share their evidence and ideas. This collaboration is an idea that Tom Carr, chair of the conference, is hoping will catch on. Carr, who has investigated the paranormal for over 20 years, is also the founder of Wasatch Paranormal, an investigating team that focuses on teaching the science of paranormal investigation to others. Carr co-founded www. ParanormalUSA.org, a forum where investigators in the US and elsewhere can come to share information and swap theories or ideas. The site is also one of the main sponsors of the conference. Carr also hosts an Internet radio show/podcast with Russ Larsen of Paranormal Utah, called Residual Hauntings Live.

The word paranormal literally means beyond normal or beyond the usual. There are many different methods to capture scientific evidence of ghosts and other paranormal activity. One of the most common types of evidence captured is the EVP (electronic voice phenomenon), when an audio recorder captures a voice that isn't heard until review of the audio. The other forms of scientific evidence are thermal photographs and video, which can pick up hot or cold signatures that cannot be see by the naked eye. These types of evidence are a bit harder to capture, but the results can be astounding. It's impressive to catch an entity on film because you can analyze and repeatedly view the ghostly apparitions.

Carr says that there are three classes of people who are interested in the paranormal: "There are the thrill seekers, who typically wind up screaming and running the other way when they encounter something. A ghost hunter will go and experience something but not study it. A paranormal investigator, on the other hand, goes in and says "Wow, what was that?" and tries to figure out every possible way that could have happened — a loud noise, a door closing — then they try to recreate it and figure out logically how it could happen. When they get to the point when there is no logical conclusion we say, okay, that's paranormal."

A more altruistic motivation for paranormal investigating is also to help people in need. Carr's team and others statewide provide free services for people who have strange activity in their homes and are either in distress as a result or are just seeking answers. Carr cites an example from a recent investigation at a family home where the children were distressed. He says that Wasatch Paranormal works to teach techniques to regain control of the space in these situations.

Carr hopes to dispel rumors and stereotypes about the paranormal. A common misconception about the paranormal is that many people think all spirits are negative. Carr explains that most activity isn't negative at all, and that the entities or spirits present are just trying to find answers for themselves or the spirit trying to get attention.

Speaking on the history of paranormal studies, Carr says, "Thomas Edison tried to invent a phone to talk to the dead. The Egyptians and the Native Americans have all tried to talk to the dead. That's how long people have been investigating the paranormal. I would say over the last five or six years, more evidence has Tom Carr, founder of Wasatch Paranormal and chair of The first Midwest paranormal Conference (17) SLUG been gathered than in the hundreds of years people have been doing it in the past."

Recent technological advances have resulted in sophisticated tools that can help the investigation process. Common equipment used on investigations includes tape and digital recorders, camcorders, night vision, infrared, thermal imaging cameras and electromagnetic field detectors. The most intriguing type of these detectors is the K2 meter, which has a set of lights and when a presence is detected, you can ask yes or no questions and get a response by the blinking of lights. The theory behind the electromagnetic field is that a spirit is made up of pure energy, the higher the field, the more likely something paranormal is going on — but are these tools, some of which are extremely expensive, really necessary to be an investigator?

"For somebody starting out with investigating they don't need cameras, they don't need recorders, the only thing you really need is the desire and the willingness to accept something that is strange and abnormal," says Carr.

Although Carr often advises caution to newcomers, he is worried about the sudden surge of ghost hunters with little to no experience, and is afraid the novices could get hurt. Carr says, "I've done some negative investigations. I'm really worried, that somebody is going to say 'I want to be a ghost hunter'... and they're going to go in [a haunted house] and start provoking and trying to piss an entity off and it's going to cause more issues."

Carr goes on to explain that the conference is set up to be a resource for people not only already involved in investigating, but also for newcomers to find answers and learn how to properly investigate.

The Midwest Paranormal Conference is the first of many paranormal conferences to take place in Utah. Utah's paranormal investigators, and anyone interested in learning more about Utah's ghostly inhabitants, will assemble in a building filled with history and tragedy of its own. Along with the attendees, some interested ghosts will surely be watching, listening and hopefully communicating with those who seek them out.

According to Carr, Utah's paranormal community is one of the largest in the nation, yet Carr says, "Most of the groups here in Utah are very closed-door–– they've had a lot of problems." He emphasizes that the conference is an opportunity to expand communication within the Utah community and hopes it will foster a new and more open attitude toward discussion of paranormal topics.

Carr realizes that the general public seems to be more interested in these topics lately, thanks to television shows such as the Sci-Fi Channel's Ghost Hunters gaining popularity. "I think since Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson and Ghost Hunters got started on TV, people have become more interested in ghosts. I have always wanted to be in a group or a community that was more open, that shared evidence. I honestly feel like that is our next step." Carr said. The groups have a common goal: finding answers about the paranormal. Carr hopes that the conference will let people open their minds to new ideas.

The conference will feature several speakers. Renowned author specializing in the paranormal, Rosemary Ellen Guiley, will talk about "dark shadows," a frequent paranormal occurrence that investigators encounter. Todd Sheets, cult indie-horror movie director/producer who runs the Internet forum Nightwatchers, will talk about bringing in unity among investigators. Serenity Moore, a Salt Lake City-based psychic/medium, will likely arouse debate among investigators, many of whom have strong beliefs that evidence gathered should be collected by scientific means only.

To close out the conference, a drawing will be held––every ticket purchased for the conference enters you in the drawing. The winners will be invited to go on a ghost hunt that night at Union Station, lasting until the early hours of the morning with all of the speakers and seasoned paranormal investigators from the conference. There is also a package deal with which any individual who can bring in 20 tickets will be guaranteed a spot on the hunt that night.

"I can almost bet the people that go to this conference will have some paranormal experiences even during the day. I'm excited about it — we're going to have about 450 people in the building pumping up the energy all day talking about ghosts, getting the spirit up and then we're doing the hunt that night until 2-4 o'clock in the morning," Carr says, "I know we're going to catch and see some amazing stuff."

Tickets for the Midwest Paranormal conference, Aug. 16th at Ogden's Union Station, can be purchased online at www.midwestparacon.com for $30 a person. Interested vendors can purchase a booth spot for $30 as well.