GHOST: Who They Are & What They Do!
By Brent Raynes
It looked like any other residential home in the neighborhood, but as we pulled up to this residence around two o’clock that Sunday afternoon (07-27-08), my hypnotist friend Dot Bowers and I knew that we were about to meet some folks who were living a life that was not ordinary at all. At least, that is, not ordinary by the standards of most people in so-called “polite society.”
Robert Simone, 60, a retired business man and stage magician, and his wife Karen, a retired registered nurse, had formed a paranormal investigative group in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, called G.H.O.S.T., which stands for Ghost Hunters of Southern Territories. With advertisements placed in the local Courier Journal, they receive phone calls from people reporting possible paranormal experiences. The ads read: “Paranormal Investigators. G.H.O.S.T. Ghost Hunters of Southern Territories. (256) 627-4121. A Non-Profit Organization. Seeking Knowledge of the Unexplained.”
Robert explained that his interest in ghosts actually goes back to his childhood. “I was scared to death of ghosts,” he stated. “I used to be a kid who would get under the covers and they’d take the covers away. Then I’d get under the pillows and they’d take the pillows away. There was always something that was just scaring me, and I think most of it was because I was hearing voices sometimes and seeing things that other people weren’t seeing. I didn’t realize my psychic ability, at that time. But that’s when it actually started.”
I asked if this was a poltergeist. “The pillows and bed thing was about my fears and covering myself up at night,” Robert explained. “My parents took them away from me because I was sweating so bad under the covers at night. It wasn’t the ghosts taking them away from me. I was trying to hide from what I saw and heard at night.”
“As the years went on it always seemed like there was an association of some kind where I was not involved but I was around something happening that was really weird. I’ve been in the magic business, as a hobby, all of my life.” Robert’s wife Karen performed in the show with him, along with their 8-year-old daughter April Magic (appropriately enough) since she was three. He pointed out that their daughter was one of the youngest magic performers in the U.S. “Now she’s kind of turned into a little junior ghost buster,” Robert laughed. “I believe she actually has some of mom and dad’s sensibilities and psychic abilities.”
Robert explained that Karen does research and is case manager for the group. “About eleven years ago, one of the first houses that we moved into when we got married, was actually haunted and had some paranormal activity. Then later we found our business had paranormal activity in it too. Here we had this magic store, a shop and theater of these magic illusions and everything, and we would get noises and things being moved and everything else. So we began doing some real investigative work and started pursuing a little bit more as we could.”
Last year they closed the business. They had always said that when they retired that they would pursue paranormal investigations full-time. “I was already in the video business, so I had tons of equipment,” Robert remarked. “All we did was add to it with the infrared cameras and all of the other equipment that we needed, and being a designer I also designed a lot of equipment that you can’t get. Eric (Sparks) was my advisor for electronics. He gave me some good ideas. I’m so thankful for his input and what he has taught me.”
Eric Sparks seems to be something of a jack-of-all-trades. He’s an outdoorsman, a licensed pilot, and he’s been a truck driver.
“I believe in collecting evidence, the best way that we can, and then develop it as a group and let everybody look at it, and decide what the opinions are on it.” Robert pointed out that they try not to “jump to conclusions.”
“We did a beautiful home, I think it was the first of this month,” Robert recalled of one recent case investigation. “A gorgeous home, it looked like one of the old antebellum homes with columns and everything and as she [April] was going up the stairs she felt something grab her leg and of course with a kid you have to kind of feel it out a little bit and see where it’s coming from. She walked down again and sure enough something else happened again, just out of the blue. Then she went into a total description of who it was who she thought had grabbed her leg, the name of the girl, how old she was, what she looked like, what she was wearing, and the whole works, and when my wife did the research it was in the era and the type of clothes that they wore. Then also the girl’s name was right on. Sarah. It was one of the daughters.” This girl appeared as a teenager apparently and it was rumored that she may have perished in a house fire. “We do not know for sure if she perished in a fire,” Robert noted. “We really don’t know what her longevity was or wasn’t.”
Karen recalled an early spirit encounter described by their daughter April. “In the house that we lived in that was haunted, here in Muscle Shoals, my child actually saw a little boy watching TV and she was mad because she thought that I had invited a little boy in to watch TV. I ran in there thinking that somebody had broken into the house, but nobody was there. Then about a week after that I turned and I saw a little boy in Victorian clothes on, but he was gone in a flash.”
“We never felt threatened while we lived in that house,” Robert added. “I think that to us it was just a good way to study and kind of make note of what was going on.”
“I’m extremely sensitive to energy and to spirits, or whatever you want to call them. I can walk into a place and immediately know what’s going on. There’s 5 or 6 of us in the group right now, and everybody has a certain personality or a certain thing that they do. Eric is also a sensitive and my wife sees auras and colors. I’m also a healer and I see colors by healing of the body. I don’t necessarily see people’s auras all of the time.”
“So we have a unique group put together, and we have some in training right now too. In fact, we’re doing a house tonight about 10 o’clock in Florence.”
“So it’s hands on training?” I asked. “Yes,” Robert replied. “They learn all of our paperwork. We have a stack of paperwork that goes along with everything. We’re very professional in what we do. When we get a call I’ll make notes on a scratch pad sometimes or hand it over to my wife and let her fill out all of the paperwork for the preliminary. We do a preliminary interview investigation. So we go out and talk to the people, fill out the forms, get all of the information that we want, and see if this place is qualified for a full investigation before I break everybody out and say, ‘Yeah, let’s go.’ We’re not going to go just because somebody hears a noise or feels this or that.”
Eric Sparks, 32, explained some about the preliminary process. He stated, “It gives us an opportunity to check out the people, like when we’re doing a preliminary investigation Robert usually walks around with a recorder and asks questions and stuff, trying to get EVPs, and while he’s doing that I usually walk around with a thermometer and an EMF meter. If we get any inconsistencies at all and we can’t find a reason for that inconsistency that tells us that maybe there is something, and even if there no inconsistencies, like when we go back and do decide to do a full investigation then the numbers that I got or the sounds that he got can kind of give us a baseline so that when we do the full investigation we can go back and compare this and say, ‘This is the same,” or “This is different.’ It kind of gives us something extra to go on.”
I asked Robert what perhaps might have been his most memorable investigation or experience. “I think that everything we do is memorable,” he began. “But I’ll tell you this. The one we’re doing tonight has probably impressed me, even though it’s a new one, has impressed me more because just through our preliminary daytime investigation that we went out on just a few days ago we compiled some evidence that was just amazing. In daytime, usually when you do a preliminary, you might get a word or a little line or something, but man we just came back with stuff that was just impressive.”
“Now that large home that we went to we did receive everything from an intelligent haunting where we got answers to some of the questions that we asked, to even a lady who had a pet cemetery where her favorite dog, that she had had for 11-12 years I guess, and on the tape you could hear this dog barking and she said that was her dog and her face lit up and she said ‘I was hoping he was going to say something or be on the tape,’ and, sure enough, bingo it was there.”
“I’m certain it wasn’t another dog outside,” Eric interjected. “I’m pretty much an outdoors guy and when I walked around the outside I was looking for any kind of animals that might be in the area and honestly the closest dog was like four blocks.”
“That dog barking actually sounded like it was in the room with you,” Robert added. “It just was not audible to us till we listened to the playback on computer. The owner recognized the bark right off. Also, another thing that we do is that when we go to a place and we’re doing an interview or a full investigation, if one of us hears something then we always say ‘did you hear that’ so that we can make an automatic note on the tape, so that way we know that we noticed it. But then if something all of a sudden shows up on the tape but nobody ever said anything then it makes it even more mysterious that we didn’t hear that. A good example is this one that we’re doing tonight. We actually had hawks screeching, in two different rooms, and she was a former Wiccan and she was trying to do a cleansing of the place to try and get rid of whatever was in the place. An elderly woman had died in one of the rooms in there and nobody will go in there. It’s a very run down room. They locked the room. We never heard hawks screeching or anything the whole hour or so that we were there.”
“If I had heard a hawk I would have definitely noticed it,” Eric added. “This is the tracker,” Robert elaborated. “This man knows animals better than anybody I know does and so it’s real obvious it’s a hawk. We went on the Internet and tried to find out what bird it was and sure enough it was a red tail hawk. It was in the spare bedroom and also the kitchen area.”
“The red tail hawk sound is totally different from the other hawk species,” Karen added. “She told my husband that she had done the cleansing with an eagle feather, but when he called her back it wasn’t the eagle feather. It was a hawk’s feather she was cleansing with.”
“She has Indian background,” Robert explained. “She’s part Cherokee and Souix.”
“There’s entities on the property. Two of them. I even drew a picture of one of the Indians on paper. I’m not a good artist. I woke up early one morning before we went out to talk to her again to show what we had found on the pre-interview, and I got up and I just started writing stuff down, drawing things out, and just come up with all this stuff. The sheet was full, with about thirty items. Drawings, words, and names, and the one thing that she couldn’t account for was a girl named Sue or Susan, but then later that day I got a call from another psychic that was trying to read me and she said, ‘Do you know anybody named Sue or Susan?’ (laughed).
When conversation drifted to the subject of UFOs and other dimensions, Robert reflected, “I believe UFOs, ghosts…if there’s another dimension then everybody is using it,” adding though that proof is what his group was looking for in all of this.
Karen shared her own lifetime of psychic experiences. She said, “All my life, I’ve always had the experience of, for instance, if I dream something three times, whatever it is, an accident or something, then it’s going to happen. Recently I’ve been experimenting with seeing auras around people, and you’ve always heard this thing about women’s intuition. I hear these little voices that tell me to do things and usually these things they tell me to do I’ve learned to listen to. I’ve learned to tune into it a little more than when I was younger. When I was a kid I used to cover my ears and say, ‘I’m not going to hear it anymore.’”
“In my life before I met Robert I would hear things and if I responded to it it would end up saving my life. One night me and my son were traveling down this road. It was hazy, and there were no stars, no moon, and no street lights. It was just pitch black dark and this voice said, ‘Pull off of the road now,’ and I was like, ‘Oh God, this is crazy. There’s no where to pull off.’ So I pulled off and the second that I pulled off a car came my way, in my path, without headlights on going about 90 miles an hour. If it had hit me head on it probably would have killed us. So that’s when I started to realize that I had to start listening to this voice.”
I asked if this was a literal, audible voice. “Oh yeah,” Karen said. “Very audible.” She said she heard it in both ears. “Mine is both words and pictures,” Robert added. “I can see or hear things.”
Most people don’t want their ghosts removed from their homes or property, the group explained to me. “Most of the people that we get calls from its more like they just want to know who it is,” Eric explained. “More than wanting it gone, they just want to know who it is and why they’re there.” Others want validation that something is indeed going on. “It may be a wife wanting the husband not to think she’s crazy, saying, ‘I do see and hear things,’” Karen added.
Eric Sparks and Robert had been close friends for a long time, though Eric had left the state for a number of years, and then returned and one day Robert told Eric that he and Karen were thinking about forming a group to investigate paranormal phenomena, and by coincidence Eric had been thinking about doing the very same thing. “Everything worked great,” he said. Together they started up the group. “As far as special abilities go,” Eric stated, “the only thing that I am is an empath. I don’t see visions and I don’t do voices. All I get are emotions. Sometimes I feel other people’s emotions and sometimes I don’t. If I’m sitting here just happy go lucky and then all of a sudden, without reason, I feel depressed. I’ll realize it and I’ll ask myself, ‘Why am I depressed? Do I have a reason to be depressed?’ A lot of times when we go to places, like on the preliminaries, I’ll feel like a certain emotion towards a certain part of the house that I go into and I’ll try and figure out what it is. I’ll try and pinpoint the area. A good example is the big huge house that Robert was talking about. We had gone to do a preliminary investigation. We were standing outside and off in a certain direction I just felt a lot of happiness. So I started walking off in that direction. I walked around and found it centered in one spot. All that I could tell you about that spot is that in that spot I felt really happy. I knew that I had no reason to feel that way. So I walked back, I told Robert, ‘Walk off in that direction.’ He walked to the exact same spot that I had walked to.”
Robert interjected, “I was walking over there when I asked Ira, the home owner, about the flower beds, that weren’t actually there, and the little girl I was seeing. I saw them just as they were back then. She verified the flower garden and the little girl.”
“Come to find out,” Eric continued, “the exact spot that we were standing in there had been a magnolia tree. Magnolias have the big white flowers. There was one of the girls from her family who used to play out there quite a bit.”
“There were flower beds along with magnolia trees and everything else,” Robert pointed out. “The way I saw it it was beautiful. I saw it, as I was walking, like it was right there. Like it was real, and that’s what makes it so cool, I guess, and so interesting. It’s a confirmation for ourselves too I think, as much as it is for the people.”
“When I was a nurse, I worked on the cancer floor,” Karen recalled. “You’d deal with death and dying a lot. We even had kids with cancer up there, and we’d have some very unusual experiences when they’re getting very close to death. So that’s why I got to where I felt I had to find out what’s out there. Because I got some very unusual experiences from my patients, and even patients who had been in coma and came back, they’d tell us some unusual things. I thought that there had to be something out there that these people were seeing and sensing.”
Robert spoke about not only being in a position to help the living but also the dead, if possible, and he added, “My dream was to have one on our team. What more could you ask for. I’m serious, that’s what I want! I want to find one and say, ‘hey, join us.’ Who knows ghosts better than a ghost.” I told Robert, “Kind of like ghost busters and Slimmer then, right?” The group all laughed.
Then getting very serious again, Robert explained, “Since we put our van together we keep improving and adding things to it, and what we decided to do is that any time that we have up to one, two, three or more people in a house then you have to account for everybody’s activity, other than the actual activity of what’s going on in the house. So from now on, unless it’s a large place that we have to handle, we’re no longer going to go into a home and set up in a kitchen, or in a back room or something like that. We’re just going to pull up to the front door, like we’ve already done on several occasions, and we just bring our wires in, set our cameras up, and then sit outside and have a conversation and watch our screens, and just enjoy ourselves too and not be under pressure. I always feel kind of tense sometimes when you’re in someone’s home and you have to be quiet and they want to talk to you and converse and they’re curious about what you’re doing. Well, drag them out to the van and now they can talk all they want.”
“That eliminates anyone from inside the house, other than the team that is in there actually doing the investigation,” Eric pointed out. “So if you’re looking at the video and you see a shadow upstairs but we’re down in the basement then you’re not sitting there wondering, ‘Okay, who was that walking around in the house.’”
“We have a lot of equipment failure that shouldn’t be failing,” Robert noted. “When we went to that house that we’re going to tonight it was the same thing. He [Eric] recorded outside, my wife recorded outside, and I recorded outside after doing a preliminary, and when I get back absolutely nothing was on the outside when we were exploring around the shed area, the area that I thought was the launching point for whatever is in that house or on that property.”
“We know where the record button is, we know what a blinking red light is, and yet none of it came out,” Robert said. “The three of us. That’s the first time that we had the three people, recording separate occasions, at separate times, and none of them came out. Just disappeared. Gone.”
“There’s one very particular spot of that shed that I was really drawn to,” Eric recalled. “I took video of it. I went back around front and I told Robert, ‘You go back.’ Where I was more right at the door, but I knew it was right inside the door, inside the shed, and the spot that he was drawn to was actually beside the door, below the ground, but within three feet or so he was drawn to the same spot.”