A curious evening with the paranormal

Investigators from the British Columbian Ghost & Hauntings Research Society makes an appearance in Hope

Clockwise: Helen Kennedy

What happens when a group of curious souls gather in the name of paranormal research and investigation? That was my question, after I received an intriguing invitation to attend a special evening at the Visitor Info Centre Friday evening in Hope. Apparently, some interesting phenomenon has been occurring within its walls.

I first received the invitation from Brian McKinney, a representative from the Centre and formerly of Hell’s Gate Airtram, about the unique opportunity to attend a sitting with a couple of representatives from the  British Columbia Ghost & Hauntings Research Society (BCGHRS.)

It was the experience of a lifetime, I thought, as I recalled days of a misspent youth watching films like the Exorcist and the Shining, which kept me up for many consecutive nights. These legendary films remain in my unconscious mind, waiting for the opportunity to be awakened — often sending me into a frenzied evening of shadow watching, sleeplessness, and that disturbing feeling you get when you feel like something, or someone is watching you.

So, I did what any one with a healthy sense of curiosity did, I accepted the invitation.

Walking into the Visitor Centre Friday evening, felt a little like walking on to the set of the Haunting, but I went with it, armed with my camera, a tape recorder, and a pen. Determined to keep an open mind, I assessed the situation and noticed that I was the last to arrive on scene.

Brian and Tara McKinney (Brian’s wife and paranormal enthusiast) were already ensconced in the room with BCGHRS spokesperson Heather Anderson from Maple Ridge, Cassandra Robillard (sensitive,) Helen Kennedy and Tracey Paynter (currently experiencing extraordinary phenomenon) representatives from the Visitor Centre.

It felt as though the temperature dropped, and I had the giddy sensation of being at an exclusive overnight camping trip, except within the walls of the Centre and the Museum — I took a deep breath, here we go.

I immediately found Tracey, sitting near the front door, and we started talking. Tracey has been experiencing encounters at the Centre and was the initial reason for the inquiry with Heather.

“I only saw his profile,” she said of an apparition she had noticed standing near the front door and at the post card rack, on more than one occasion.

Tracey explained in great detail, the sighting, as well as some visitations in her home. Visitations that would leave most people uncomfortable, but for her, were benign and somewhat comforting.

The hair began to rise on my spine as she described a female presence in her bedroom that had called out her name and crawled into bed with her. “It wasn’t threatening,” she said.

Nonetheless, as she illuminated to me events like sleep paralysis (possibly a sleep disturbance with an unseen entity) and the specter in her bed, a phenomenon that has increased in the past four months — I began to search myself for possible similar encounters in my life.

It was hard to deny the possibility that we are not alone, and that my sleepless nights induced by fear of the unseen or paranormal, were proof that whether I would acknowledge it or not, a part of me was at least open to the idea.The six of us entered the Museum, where a circle of chairs were placed at the front of the room, and immediately I had the eerie sensation that we were being watched.

As, we all took our places in the circle I made a joke about having an assigned seating arrangement, after all, searching for evidence of the paranormal is something new for me. Brian assured me, it wasn’t that kind of ritual. So, recording devices popped out and Heather had one question as she smiled at me.

“Are you a virgin,” she said.

For a moment, my mind wandered to sacrificial virgins, but it dissipated when the question was clarified. It was directed at my experience with unexplained phenomenon. I tried to recall experiences in my life, and with some ease, began to speak of experiences that could be considered a glimpse of an unseen world, or possibly just the gross workings of an overactive imagination.

Each of us began to share tales, and warm up to one another, much like telling ghost stories around the campfire, except they weren’t stories — they were first hand encounters with the unknown.

Heather reaffirmed that her job was not to confirm or deny people’s experiences.

“We don’t need to prove people had these experiences,” she said. “The fact that they are telling them, means these experiences are real to them.”

Cassandra, a sensitive from Maple Ridge began to speak of her life at home, a life that includes daily encounters with ghosts, which her loving husband has come to accept and her children are full participants in. Her experiences with the them are so real, there are weapons strewn across her house because she can’t tell the ghosts apart from living people.

“There really is no meaning to their presence, they just exist, like you or I do,” she said.

With that, we began to wander around the room, a room that gives me an uncomfortable feeling, something I can’t quite place my finger on. As we take a tour with Helen, we discover the jail cells in the back, which used to house prisoners and were mostly used as a drunk tank back in the 1800s.

As I imagined drunken men and women, well rarely women, because they were generally at home by the hearth — I began to picture all types of characters in and out of this building, and from different time periods.

Cassandra was having strong reactions to the cells, which she later compared to the experience of being drunk.

“It was like my entire head hurt, and I was having trouble walking,” she said later in the evening.

We arrived back to our circle and spoke of feelings or impressions we had during the tour and decided to take a break and leave the Centre with our recording devices still on.

At this point, I didn’t know if I would return or not with the group after a coffee break at Tim Hortons, where the interview continued with more tales from everyone and an informative discussion on Heather’s investigation process.

We talked of things like energy manifesting itself in different ways and Heather’s process of exclusion, which means, finding every possible solution before determining a situation to be of paranormal origin.

Upon our arrival back at the Centre, close to midnight, we found some interesting audio on Tracey’s phone. There was a distinct sound coming from the far left hand corner of the museum; so, Heather, Brian, Tracey, Tara and Cassandra (Helen had left by this point) moved toward the area where the sound had occurred, a strange shuffling sound, almost like plastic. It was there the group found an interesting artifact.

An antiquated deck of playing cards.

Heather began shuffling the cards, and then she cut the deck, and shuffled again and low and behold, the sound mimicked the recording. It was shocking at first and unbelievable, but I could not deny that we had the recording and the sound was eerily the same.

Later, it was discovered that Tracey had a grandfather who had passed, and one of his favourite pastimes was playing cards. Investigations continued as I left close to 1 a.m., going home where I jumped and screamed at a shadow in the middle of the night, which turned out to be my own.

Since the strange and interesting outing, a few things have occurred — a radio has come to full life on its own at the office and a power bar in my home was melted. All I can say is be careful, especially this Halloween, because real or not, if you believe it, it will become reality.

“It was very cool,” said Brian of the experience as I followed up with the Visitor Centre. “Be careful though, a few of these energies have been known to follow Heather home from investigations on occasion — I recommend you use sage if that becomes a problem”

And, with that I have ruled out any further Halloween movies this season.