Daily photos by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Somerville Paranormal Apparition Team members Andy Simmons and Jennifer Baker watch video monitors as they check the old Morgan County Courthouse for ghostly visitors.
Paranormal team hot on trail of the unexplained
By Paul Huggins
SOMERVILLE — Conley Ransom doesn’t believe in ghosts.
So he didn’t know what to make of the array of strange happenings that haunted his home on Gravel Ridge Drive.
Some things were not as bothersome, such as the muffled coughing that sounded like his father, Woodrow Wilson Ransom, who died in the house 41/2 years ago. And when the front door routinely swung open, even though Ransom, 49, was fairly certain it was locked, he would jokingly invite the invisible guest to enter.
Other occurrences, however, were more disturbing, such as when pots and pans banged together “like a war was going on in the kitchen,” Ransom said. There also was that awful smell that moved from room to room.
But most perplexing was the bedroom where not only Ransom’s father died in 2003, but also his brother, Bobby Ransom, in 2006.
Three months ago, Ransom’s wife, Sharon, 43, wanted to show a relative the newly painted walls and changes she made in that room, but when she tried to enter, the door was dead bolt locked. It can only be locked from inside the bedroom.
The Somerville paranormal team has conducted seven investigations since it was formed 10 months ago. The team has conducted two investigations at the old Morgan County Courthouse.
“I know nobody could have locked it and crawled out the window because the windows were nailed shut,” she said.
And just as they were removing the hinges to pry the door, the smoke alarm went off, even though there was no smoke in the house.
Who you gonna call?
It was time to get help.
Enter the Somerville Paranormal Apparition Team, a small, volunteer group of ghostbusters that formed last fall with a goal to help people like the Ransoms.
Andy Simmons, 28, who works at McDonald’s by day and is a SPAT investigator by night, said he knows most people think he’s crazy, but he’s not trying to persuade people to believe in ghosts.
“All we want to do is ease your mind,” he said.
SPAT members Jennifer Baker and Patricia Gailey said they know firsthand how disturbing it can be when your house makes unexplained noises or objects appear to move on their own.
“I wanted to help people who went through what I went through,” Baker said.
Baker met Simmons when she lived in Dadeville and called East Alabama Paranormal Society, for which Simmons was a volunteer investigator.
Baker said she heard a baby crying in different rooms and a small child appeared in her doorway. When she got up to check on her children, they would be sound asleep.
Gailey said while living in Fort Hood, Texas, she saw cans move on the kitchen counter, she heard toys move while the children were asleep and her daughter saw an ominous figure in the hallway.
“Before that, I believed in things like that,” she said, “but not 100 percent, if you know what I mean.”
Simmons said he had some interest in the paranormal as a child, simply because he was a fan of the Ghostbusters movies and cartoons. At 13, he picked up a book called “How to Catch a Ghost” and he was hooked.
Key to catching ghost
The key to catching a ghost, he said, is overcoming boredom.
Some people show interest in joining SPAT, Simmons said, until they learn it requires hours of tedious work of setting up cameras and then reviewing the video and audio over and over again.
Baker also spends hours researching property and historical records to see if there was something that could cause a structure to be spooked or if a natural phenomenon explained the odd happenings.
For example, she said, one house where they heard sounds like an Indian chanting, is close to an old Indian burial ground; and another house where the owner reported unnatural cool temperatures was built over an underground spring.
SPAT mostly relies on security cameras and video cameras. The images are saved to a VCR and then transferred to DVDs. They also use a digital voice recorder, digital still camera and thermal thermometer.
Andy Simmons gets his gear ready for a night of ghost hunting in the old courthouse building in Somerville.
While the cameras are on, SPAT members walk throughout the structure, asking spirits to make their presence known by knocking an object or speaking. They also ask if they need help.
Since forming 10 months ago, SPAT has made seven investigations, Simmons said, including the historic Morgan County Courthouse in Somerville twice.
Each time, they said they found things that couldn’t be explained by natural phenomena, such as voices they didn’t hear in person but later became audible on voice and video recordings. At the Ransoms’ house, the video camera picked up a male voice telling them to leave, they said.
They didn’t hear it while conducting the investigation, and they didn’t leave the Ransoms before declaring any spirits there should leave.
“As soon as they went out the door, that awful smell was gone,” Mrs. Ransom said. And all the other strange noises and happenings have ceased.
“They absolutely did make a difference,” Mrs. Ransom said. “I think they’re very credible.”
Her husband, who attended Agape Bible College in Cullman, said he still doesn’t believe people can become ghosts when they die. But he does believe demons, fallen angels, are everywhere and could be trapped in physical places.
“I’m not going to be closed minded,” Ransom said. “If I had the money, I would buy them high-tech equipment. I think these things need further study.”
Simmons said his experience shows him that people will believe in the paranormal only if they’ve had a personal experience.
He added SPAT does receive prank calls, which he said he reports to police as harassment. And some people probably make up ghost stories for attention or to tease them.
“We can tell now when someone’s serious,” he said. “People who really have something happen, you can see it in their eyes. When they’re telling you what happened, they’ll get goosebumps on their arms.”
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