By Andrew Bono
Everyone has their stories, everyone their opinion. Some have the need to tell them, while others who fear possible ridicule or stern intellectual bashings may choose to hold their tongues. Still, you would be hard pressed to find someone without a good ghost story or at least one who has never felt the smooth jitters of a Ouija board’s planchette.
As human beings we tend to have an innate belief that the ordinary is a direct result of something godly; even as science progresses many of us hold this conviction. If you believe in ghosts, you have a faith that there is something inside all of us that goes beyond the physical self which upon death may, for whatever reason, wander the earth. Ghosts, gods and angels do not go hand in hand however.
What is interesting about ghosts is that the average person is terrified of them. I believe what is so unsettling about ghosts is that they are people, and people are not to be trusted. We have elaborate security systems to keep intruders from bringing us harm and “don’t talk to strangers” has been drilled into our heads by parents, cops and teachers from the time we learn language.
But now death lets the undesirables infiltrate our homes and our lives as spirits.
So what do ghost hunters do about these wandering ethereal people? Well, many like to say that we investigate what “goes ‘bump’ in the night.” The problem with this, like most clichés, is that it is not only meaningless after so many uses but dangerously understated.
We tend to investigate what screams, whispers, moves, calls and materializes. Sometimes the only thing louder than the haunting is our curiosity. It is also our job to prove that the ghosts are not there because only by dismissing the mundane things can we find the good stuff.
What pulled me into ghost hunting was a legend trip I went on when I was 13, about ten years ago. There was an old abandoned house in Ocean Township that was once used by the government. What exactly it was used for, I’m not entirely sure but I seem to remember hearing it was involved in radar testing. I used to refer to it as the Area 51 House. One day three friends and I decided to ride our bikes to the Area 51 House and see if the hole in the door was big enough for us to fit through. It was.
It was Friday the 13th, summer afternoon, around 90 degrees, our bikes resting on the lawn out front. Despite the heat it was freezing inside and the darkest pitch of black any of us had ever seen. My first lesson: flashlights always come in handy. Some other kids from school showed up, one with a video camera which luckily was equipped with a very bright light; one with a Ouija board and about four others were empty handed.
We soon had a full house. We split up, me and one other, the kid with the camera followed us.
The house was frozen in time. Pacman paintings on the walls, an old crib and baby carriage straight out of “Rosemary’s Baby” and a box filled with hundreds of blue pins which read “BOYS CLUB” and the years in which they were printed. I want to say 1984-85 but I can’t quite remember; what I do remember was the little insertion slot for your name.
We apparently channeled someone named George who worked for the U.S. Army and spent much of his time living in the Area 51 House. The glow-in-the-dark Ouija board also told us that the old crib and carriage were his daughter’s and went on to claim that they were both murdered in the house.
Outside of the house I was handed a video tape. “Here,” he said packing up his camera, “I don’t want to remember this.” I didn’t realize it at the time but that tape captured something momentous for me, my first time ghost hunting.
It was then that I noticed what I’ll never forget: I had on an analogue watch which stopped ticking. The weirdest part was that it read the same exact time from when we entered from when we left. As I walked further from the house, it started working again.
That night I received an email from one of my fellow legend trippers. The article attached was about the radar testing that went on in the Area 51 House and a major player on the project, George. However, the supposed murders were not mentioned.
I used Ouija boards often after that even though I always had a suspicion that they were little more than one’s own subconscious thoughts projected on the board. Still, it might be naïve to consider what the next few years of my life would be like as coincidence.
Internet gaming was in its infancy at the time and when I discovered that my computer could just barely handle the task, I spent all my nights in my basement playing “Command and Conquer Renegade.” The painfully slow 56k modem was a true test of patience but what happened every night was a test my courage and commitment.
My acoustic guitars usually rested behind my computer chair, leaning against the wall next to the door. Often I would hear the strings being plucked, usually the high E. I would always feel an incredible heat on the back of my neck.
It didn’t stop at the basement. In my bedroom I would hear plucking on the taut end of my electric guitar strings, the area up near the guitar’s head making that high almost harp-like sound. This carried on as normal for the next few months. By the end of the summer what started out as strange occurrences escalated to a text book haunting. I would often wake up randomly to a harsh, angry whisper in my ear. “Andrew!” Then a new nightly ritual involving my blinds taking to the air, forward and up, and slamming against my window making a loud bash when the hard plastic underside cracked on the glass.
This would continue all night for a few weeks but only when I looked away; if I looked directly at the blinds they would not move, only a slow swaying dangle, as if they were breathing.
Turning over and looking away with my eyes closed would result in continuing clatter. The pattern broke one morning before school early in the year. I had just gotten out of the shower and was about to get dressed when the blinds started moving.
This time it didn’t matter that I was not only looking right at them but standing not three feet before them. It was rising forward before my face and toward the ceiling before angrily crashing down on the window over and over again. Prior to putting on clothes I saw my opportunity and grabbed the blinds as they were ascending. I felt no force or resistance, just cold. Freezing to the touch. It never happened again.
That was the beginning. As I grew older my interest and knowledge in ghosts developed with tons of investigations under my belt. I don’t use Ouija boards anymore because they are used to summon and it is not the job of a ghost hunter to summon a spirit to a location, it just wouldn’t make sense. We try to find evidence of a spirit that is already there.
For years now I’ve been ghost hunting with a semi-regular selection of people and everything is done with electronic equipment. With shows like “Ghost Hunters” and “Paranormal State” people usually have at least an elementary understanding of what ghost hunters actually do and usually take a stance of either “take me with you!” or “I’d be way too scared!”
Tools of the Trade:
Electromagnetic Field Meter – EMF levels are thought to fluctuate greatly when spirits are about.
Digital Voice Recorder – It can be carried around with you or left in one specific place. These can be bought almost anywhere (Walmart, Radio Shack etc.) Most can either record continuously or only when they pick up noise. The latter will save you time but may miss something important.
The GoPro camera was designed for extreme sports but has proven itself for ghost hunting. It captures either video or still pictures in HD and with a wide angle lense. It doesn’t work well in dark areas so it must be used in a lighted environment or with an LED illuminator.
Sony Handycam with nightvision and an external flashlight attachment for extremely dark areas.
Point and shoot thermometer. Many times the temperature will drop when paranormal activity is about. This will measure temperatures via laser and helps you find the cold spots and will often help you figure out if the cold air is coming from an air duct or window.
Andrew Bono investigating Monmouth University’s Wilson Hall. Summer 2012