LIMA — Eerie voices. Things that go bump in the night. Shadows moving out of the corner of your eye.
Spooks and spirits are often the subjects of scary movies, but for many people, these supposedly fictional characters have a basis in reality.
For Lima residents Austin Lawrence and Conner Newberry, the paranormal and supernatural are all too real, and they have formed a team to travel to various haunted sites in Ohio and Kentucky to investigate these phenomena.
“We've each had our own experiences growing up, and it's just a huge interest of ours,” Lawrence said. “He and I are both Christians, and we know what the Bible says about the afterlife, spirits and demons. We want to know more.”
The two aspiring investigators spent five years researching this field and also assembled a variety of instruments believed to aid in paranormal investigation.
“We have what's called an EMF meter that measures electromagnetic fields,” Lawrence said. “Spirits are said to be energy, and they need to draw energy from sources to be able to manifest themselves and communicate. We have a device called a spirit box or a ghost box, and it's basically a radio that can scan through frequencies every 200 milliseconds, and you can actually get direct responses over this radio. Then we go back and look at the audio and make sure that these voices span over multiple frequencies and stay consistent.”
After spending time learning their craft and assembling their gear, the duo, dubbing themselves P.A.S.T., started traveling to some known haunts to put their education to work.
“Our first big investigation was at Waverly Hills Sanitarium in Kentucky,” Lawrence said. “It's known to be one of the most haunted places in the world. It was an old tuberculosis hospital where over 60,000 people died. So it was a crazy place.”
While also investigating other haunted areas in Kentucky and Ohio, the P.A.S.T. team would like to do more local investigations, as well.
“We've been trying to get into a lot of places around here, but it's hard to get a hold of people,” Lawrence said. “We'd love to get into [Lima Correctional Institution], which has a lot of different reports of paranormal activity.”
While investigators such as Lawrence and Newberry take great pains to provide as much empirical evidence of the paranormal as possible, the scientific community has still not subscribed to the idea that these types of beings are real.
“Any scientist will say they don't know if there are paranormal phenomena,” said Alfred Cohoe, professor of psychology and sociology at Ohio Northern University. “Psychologists have, since the 1800s, been interested in studying any phenomena that deals with human behavior, and this is a very interesting topic. In science, you're always skeptical.”
That skepticism does not dull humanity's fascination with the beyond, however.
“One of the greatest mysteries of all is death and what happens when a person dies, and it's very difficult, especially if you have a loved one that dies, to think that someone would just be gone forever,” Cohoe said.
For the Rev. David Ross of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, the supernatural is indeed a reality, but warns that it should not be taken lightly.
“We've always forbidden any attempts to seek out communication with the dead through means such as seances or Ouija boards,” he said, “but that doesn't mean that we don't recognize the fact that ghosts exists. We as Catholics will pray for those who have died, because we believe that if they are not in heaven or in hell, they are in a place called purgatory, where they are cleansed of the sin that keeps them from being just, loving and peaceful and entering fully into God's love in heaven.”
Ross also said he believes that the fascination with the beyond stems from a hope for comfort in the midst of loss.
“My personal observation is that people want a confirmation that there is something after this life and that death is not the end,” he said.
Despite the disbelief Lawrence and Newberry face regarding their work, they plan on continuing their investigations, with the hopes that it could prove beneficial to both the living and the dead.
“We've switched over from trying to prove that this stuff existed to trying to help what exists that's out there,” Lawrence said. “We're about bringing comfort, helping them pass on, and helping people that are dealing with this.”