|Tour participants, from left, Sheri Knauer of Lucketts, Dara Johnson of Ashburn and Denae Rogers of Altoona, Pa., listen for instructions during a Friday the 13th Ghost Hunt at Paxton Manor Sept. 13. The historic mansion is already being set up for the Shocktober haunted house for the Halloween season, such as the spooky marionette in the background. —Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny|
I am a skeptic.
It's been a lifelong trait, both a blessing and a curse. I won't fall for the “if your hand is bigger than your face, you have cancer” ploy but am also probably just as likely to call shenanigans on someone doing something plausible but difficult, like getting Super Bowl tickets or finding true love.
And yet, knowing all of this, I accepted the opportunity to go ghost hunting at Paxton Manor, a 32-room mansion off Catoctin Road in Leesburg. Originally built in 1871 for a wealth Pennsylvania family, the house has transitioned from family home to convalescent home to orphanage to day care. The property used to encompass 700 acres; now the 16 acre property houses Margaret Paxton Memorial Learning and Resource Center, which includes the Aurora School, for children with intellectual disabilities. As a history nerd, I was attracted to the house. As a self-admitted Grumpy Cat, not so much.
But I told myself I was going to go in with an open mind.
About 20 of us participated in the paranormal hunt, led by the Wee Ghosties. Stacey Graham, the head honcho of the Wee Ghosties, led my group.
When I got there, we were handed our first ghost hunting tool: dowsing rods, which are bend metal sticks. Holding them perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other, you're supposed to wait for them to cross. If they do, those are the ghosts communicating.
Open mind, self, open mind.
Much of the evening was spent taking EVPs, or electronic voice phenomena. Basically, using a voice recorder or a cellphone, we would talk to the room (“Is there anybody here with us?” and “Why are you here?”) and then listen back to the recording, trying to hear feedback. Graham warned us this can be tiresome and that it doesn't work 98 percent of the time, which we found to be true that night. No ghosties responded to my EVP attempt. I took it personally.
We had success using the flashlight method, popularized on various ghost hunting television shows. Setting a mag flashlight barely on and off, you look for flickering, a sign of ghosts communicating.
And it did work for us. But because of science.
The flickering is from the flashlights reflector expanding under the heat from the lamp and then contracting when the lamp is off. You can watch the video on YouTube. It would happen in a McDonald's just as easy as an old house.
We stayed at that house until 3 a.m. My legs hurt, and I was exhausted, grumpy and just wanted to find a room to curl up in my little sleeping bag in.
But at that point, only five of us were left and none of us wanted to be the jerk that forced the ghost hunters to stay through the morning.
I tried to come in with an open mind. I clearly failed. Casper would have been the only thing to sway me.
But I don't regret the night, exhausting it may have been. I learned some things, discovered some other peoples' passions. It just wasn't my cup of ghosties.
|Tour participant Dara Johnson of Ashburn listens closely for electronic voice phenomena (EVP) in a voice recording she made with her phone during a Friday the 13th Ghost Hunt at Paxton Manor Sept. 13.--Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny|
|Stacey Graham, right, of ghost-hunting team Wee Ghosties, briefs her group, including Loudoun Times-Mirror reporter Alanna Dvorak, left, before a Friday the 13th Ghost Hunt at Paxton Manor Sept. 13. They used dowsing rods, electronic voice phenomena (EVP) recordings, a compass and laser flashlight to search for signs of a paranormal presence. --Times-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny|
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