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Ghost hunters search home as part of Yuma gathering
“Who are you? Why haven't you crossed over?” the four-person crew of the North Orange County Paranormal Society (NOPS) asked as they sat in a dark bedroom in the Pump House Friday night.
The well-respected ghost hunters from Southern California were in the room to investigate reports of an apparition that residents and guests at the Yuma home claimed to have encountered over the years.
One of the residents, who had resided in the room as a child, reported being shaken awake in the dead of night to find no one else in the room. On a different occasion, she had seen all of the toys that were on the top shelf above the closet doors fly off on their own accord.
Drawn by these intriguing tales, the NOPS team brought high-end equipment to the Pump House in hopes of capturing evidence of an apparition.
However, it is the group's intention to prove the absence of ghosts rather than their presence, said Jim Van Eeckhoutte, NOPS co-founder and lead investigator.
“We are scientific and slightly skeptic. We don't go in right away and have a mind set that it is haunted. We will go in and try to prove that it isn't.”
To ensure they are exhausting every known scientific reason that could explain strange phenomena they encounter, the group uses cutting-edge technology.
Their technology includes an electromagnetic field radiation tester, standard and infrared cameras, electronic voice phenomena recorder, and other high-end audio and video recording devices.
They also use inanimate objects they hope will attract the attention of ghosts, such as Stinky Billy, a baby doll equipped with microphones in its ears.
When the team believes an apparition may be a child, as they did in the basement bedroom of the Pump House, they place Stinky Billy in a centralized location that is easily observable.
They connect the microphones in its ear to a recorder and place cameras around the room to capture video of the doll while they invite any spirits in the room to either play with it or whisper into its ears.
They later review hours of audio and video recordings in search of anything out of the ordinary. If they are able to find something they cannot explain, they are extremely excited, Neill said, noting it is that adrenaline rush that brings the team to decrepit old buildings and creepy establishments time and time again.
NOPS was one of several paranormal investigation teams from around the Southwestern U.S. in Yuma this weekend to participate in Saturday's inaugural Yuma Territorial Prison Lockdown Investigation Event.
The fundraiser brought together ghost hunters, both professional and amateur, and paired them up with members of the public who had purchased tickets. The proceeds generated by ticket sales were donated to the Yuma Territorial Prison.
Are apparitions real? It depends on whom you ask, and for the ghost hunters at the Yuma event the answer was a resounding “yes.”
“We do have a lot of downtown buildings that are haunted and have spirit activity,” said Crystal Woods, a member of Spirit Seekers, a paranormal group based in Yuma.
Bringing attention to those haunted sites will be good for Yuma as a whole, she added. “That is one thing that we are looking forward to — having Yuma on the map.”
David Lee, founder of Desert Southwest Paranormal, agreed.
“Yuma has a lot of history, and this will be good for the city. I would love to see ghost tours coming through here.”
Several different teams of hunters and curious ticket holders who had been matched together toured several purportedly haunted dwellings and businesses in the Yuma area. The sites being investigated included the Yuma Territorial Prison, the Lyric Theater, the Central Hotel located above Lutes Casino on Main Street and the Pump House near County 14th Street and Avenue A.
“All these places have a history of paranormal activity,” said Dennis Quesenberry, an event organizer.
One unexplainable event Quesenberry told about included two women who had been with him on a ghost hunt recently inside the Lyric Theater. According to him, one of them suddenly blurted out, “Get away from me! I want to hit you and I don't know why!”
“We heard that and the group got quiet,” he said. “None of us laughed, but then there was this very evil laugh that we recorded on audio immediately after she said that — like there was an entity in control. It was some pretty creepy stuff.”
Chris McDaniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6849.