by Robin M. Strom-Mackey
Recently we had an unsettling course of events; unsettling even for a ghost hunter with some experience. The first premise in ghost hunting is always to help out the family, but sometimes I think investigative groups forget that premise in the heat of the quest. Instead they’re so focused on investigating the mystery that we forget that for the homeowner it’s more a nightmare. That is true until, of course, you find yourself in the same situation. In which case their fears become your fears. Recently I found out, quite unequivocally, that it really isn’t much fun to live in a house with paranormal activity.
My son and I were alone in the house as my husband was away on business. Any single mother can tell you that staying by yourself with a small child, or children, in the home is an unsettling experience in and of itself. There are enough explainable but frightening experiences with which to contend. Burglars, rapists, thieves who knows who might break in to hurt you or your family as you lie groggily asleep?
The Dark Man
In literature they speak of archetypes. Archetypes are personalities that show up again and again in the legends and verbal histories of a culture. They encompass the most basic fears, hopes and desires of a people. The enthralling aspect about the theory of archetypes - whether the legends are from Russia, Africa, Asia, Europe or North America – is the similarity of experience across the human spectrum. Symbolized by a fox in one culture or a mongoose in another, the basic characters represent the same human desires or fears. And living alone, what I feared most was the dark man, that nameless quantity, that dark shape in the night.
What We Experienced
Therefore, it’s not surprising that the dark man is exactly who appeared to us. My son awoke three mornings and reported a strange man standing in the hallway. He felt the form he saw was more than merely the shadow thrown against the wall as he sat up in bed. On the first sighting he described the form as wearing a striped shirt. On two occasions he described the being as standing in the hallway and looking around the corner and into my bedroom. On the third occasion he described the dark form as bobbing up and down in a strange way, and then dissipating as my son called to me.
With the plasticity of youth, my son first interpreted the dark man as being his grandfather who had recently passed away. On subsequent viewings he wasn’t so sure, however. And, after sensing my own uneasiness, he became increasingly disconcerted. It goes without saying that children feed off their parent’s reactions. My son became increasingly uncomfortable being alone on his room, and if I came into his room unannounced he reacted violently, often with a, “why didn’t you say you were coming in!” I must admit, that I have never caught sight of the dark man. But I did find myself looking over my shoulder while dressing, and waking up several times a night to look out in the hall. I wasn’t getting much sleep. I was edgy. During the day I was tired, distracted and cranky. Worst of all, I didn’t know to whom I should turn. Now I admit all this rather sheepishly. I’ve been researching the paranormal field for a number of years, and I’ve willingly walked into situations just to experience paranormal phenomenon. It is vastly different however, to seek out the paranormal in someone else’s domicile or building, than to have an unknown quantity in your own home.
I realized that I was literally walking in the shoes of those homeowner’s that had become before. But I realized how I might use the experience to become a more empathetic investigator.
Being a single mother, I tried to bear my fears on my own. I didn’t feel that there was anyone close enough to me to confide what sounded, understandably like a wacky story. I knew that a sane adult didn’t normally go up to another casual acquaintance and say, “I say, Joe, it appears I may have a ghost in my house.” You do feel that such an assertion will land you a full psychiatric evaluation, and large doses of anti-psychotic medications. But on about the third night of little sleep this was the avenue I was forced to take. I found the most liberal group of individuals I knew, and explained to them my rather unusual problem. To my shock they neither laughed at me nor called for the paddy wagon. One individual told me contact a ghost hunting group in my area, which was ironic to say the least, but a good idea. The others were sympathetic. We discussed for awhile all the possible explanations both normal and not so normal. I didn’t come away with any answers, but I felt so much stronger and relaxed about the situation. It’s one thing to bear the burden alone, another to bear the burden with sympathetic friends. If you do find yourself in a similar situation, my first piece of advice is to find someone empathetic and sympathetic to discuss the situation. I can’t overstate how cathartic it is just to get the problem off your chest and discuss all the possibilities as to what is happening.
As I said before, my friends and I discussed all the possibilities about what could be happening in the house and what it was my son might be seeing. We talked about natural as well as supernatural causes, how light and shadows might be flitting across the walls as cars drove by. It was late in the winter and was getting light late in the morning. When my son and I arose it was still very dark, and thus my friends and I speculated that headlights thrown against the wall of the stairwell might cause the illusion of movement. We further hypothesized that someone standing on the street corner waiting for a ride and illuminated by headlights might be causing the illusion of a form.
And as my friend had suggested calling in an investigative team I realized that once I stopped thinking like a victim, and started thinking like a rational investigator again, that I had the tools to start unraveling the mystery. So, one early morning I set up my equipment and recorded video and audio recordings. I used my EMF detector to check for any odd electrical anomalies. After which I went through all the evidence. And I got…absolutely nothing. Not only did I not capture a moving form in my hallway, I recorded no electromagnetic spikes or any odd audio recordings. I also did not see any strange lights moving across the walls casting shadows that might be interpreted by a small boy as a moving form.
Taking Back Control
What I did glean from my own personal investigation was a feeling of taking back the power. Instead of being reactive I was now being proactive. Instead of suffering from the experience I was actively trying to unravel the mystery. My second word of advice would be to take a stand against whatever is happening. Even if you, as a homeowner don’t feel up to investigating the phenomena yourself, there are groups out there that can investigate it for you. Most of these groups are headed by amateurs who volunteer their time.
When contacting a group I would suggest you ask what they feel their qualifications are, and what their investigative methodology entails. Find a group that acts professionally and has investigated a number of sites. In other words, shop around. Find a group that has a similar outlook as yours. Ask such questions such as: How long has the group been investigating? How many years of investigating do they have? Where is the group located? Do you have a telephone number if things get really rough?
If you have no idea who a group is, where they are located, or what there modis operandi is, then why would you allow them into your house? Would you allow a plumber into your house that has never worked on plumbing? Of course you wouldn't. There are even less restraints on paranormal investigators. New investigation groups show up every day on the web. All of them offer "scientific investigation techniques."
My son finally stopped seeing the dark figure, and our lives returned to normal. What a relief! While my investigation turned up nothing I decided that the most rational explanation for the situation was that the quality of light and dark during that brief period was what was causing the shadows on the walls that appeared to my son as a form. After a couple of weeks obviously the quality of the light and darkness would have changed, as they do rapidly at that time of the year. Hence, no more dark man. My final piece of advice is to look for rational explanations first, before descending into the labyrinth of the irrational. While frightening, most experiences of this kind have a rational explanation.
DPRG Mission Statement
DPRG's mission is two-fold: to advance research in the area of the paranormal, and to help the surrounding community in dealing with hauntings. We can help get to the bottom of strange phenomenon, whether that be finding a natural explanation or helping you deal with the unknown. DPRG can help.
I am director of DPRG, but I'm also a person who has had frightening phenomenon occur in my own home. (See the article Home Invasion to the right) I know firsthand, how really unnerving it is to wonder who is watching, to feel you're fighting for your privacy from an invisible foe and to question your own sanity. It is extremely empowering finding someone who will take you seriously and help you find a solution.
DPRG makes this promise. We will listen to your claims objectively. If warranted, we will do an investigation of the premises. Finally we will offer our advice, based on our findings and our expertise. We try to provide a skeptical, unbiased approach. DPRG can help.
Robin S., Director