Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ghost hunters

G.R.I.P. team member Mark McCool films the bar of the Banta Inn during 
the search for a ghost.
It’s 3:00 am Saturday morning and I’m standing inside the Banta Inn bathed in the green glow of a laser grid cast upon the walls surrounding the bar.  In front of me a woman is calling out to Tony Gukan, the former owner of the inn who died in 1968 of a heart attack as he tended the bar.  We are all waiting for him to answer.

Lisa Souza (left) and Tabatha Vega plan where to place cameras and 
recorders at the bar.

Dana Mierkey photographs the dining room as she documents the
Banta Inn building before the investigation begins.
Vega readies her equipment including
recorders and infa-red equipped cameras.
I got the call a couple of days before I left on vacation about a paranormal research team who was going to visit the Banta Inn to try and document the ghosts said to be haunting the bar and restaurant.  I had heard the stories, the place was supposed to be haunted by everything from a dead gunslinger to woman and her child who perished in a fire.  It seems every town has a haunted house and the old bar sitting on a dusty road near railroad tracks certainly fits the bill.
Lisa Souza places a camera at the Banta Inn.
Souza and McCool check the Banta Inn for electrical fields.
One of the meters the team uses to measure 
electromagnetic fields.
The Banta Inn's bar is one area where the ghost of the former owner is
believed to visit often and area the team planned to search.
A dial compass and meter were placed on the bar to 
capture any ghostly change in the magnetic field.
I pulled up to the bar just before 1:00 am to meat the team who be doing the investigation.  I was expecting a large crowd for the event but it was just a few regulars taking in their last few drinks before closing time.  I looked around, lots of pictures on the wall and heard a few stories from the workers.  Most knew the ghost stories but none were afraid to be alone in the bar.  The wood paneled walls covered in memorabilia seemed less a haunted house and more like a roadside tourist attraction. 
Vega readies her gear as the team begins the paranormal investigation
of the Banta inn at the bar where the former owner died.
McCool places a deck of cards and poker
chips on a table in hopes the ghost will play.
A laser grid would show any movement through the bar.
This wasn’t a haunting with blood-curdling cries and rattling chains.  This was a report of a mischievous spirit, stacking coins in the cash register, opening doors and throwing loaves of bread at kitchen workers.  So with the morning in swing the research team arrived, three women and one man who be making a sweep of the inn as they sought evidence of a supernatural visitor.
Vega video tapes the team as they investigate the Banta Inn building.

McCool takes a temperature reading inside the bar.
The Ghost Research Investigators of the Paranormal, or G.R.I.P. for short began to set up shop at the back of the inn.  They unloaded a collection of video cameras, digital cameras, recording devices, lasers and sensors they would use to map out the restaurant and bar.  They described themselves as researchers, no clairvoyants or mediums in the group.  This wasn’t going to be a séance, this was going to be an attempt to either debunk the claims of a haunting or find the ghostly apparition.
The inn is bathed in the green glow of the lasers.
McCool is illuminated by the lasers as he videos the bar during the
first part of Saturday morning's investigation.
With the bar closed and everyone cleared except the managers it was time to go ghost hunting.  It began with a methodical exam of the building with electromagnetic field monitors.  Light switches and wall outlets were measured and cataloged.  A map of the electric fields in the inn was being created so any fluctuations in the fields during the investigation could be noted as naturally occurring or possible contact with a spirit.  Cameras were set up and scattered throughout the inn, as were digital recorders in hopes of catching an electronic voice phenomena, a recording of ghostly utterance or sound.

Investigators gather at the bar as they call out to Tony Gukan to make 
his presence known.
The last and most dramatic preparation was creating a laser grid across the walls surrounding the bar.  The pattern of dots was cast on the wall in case something moved across the wall or in the path of the laser.  The pattern of dots would be disrupted and there would be proof of something being there.  With the lasers in place a bell and dial compass were placed on the wooden bar in hopes the ghost’s electrical field would disrupt the compass pointing and it could be enticed to ring the bell.  A deck of cards and poker chips were placed on a table and the investigation began.
The team spends almost an hour at the bar search for the ghost of the 
former owner.
 The Banta Inn is a nice looking restaurant by day but with the light turned off and the green glow of the laser grid it took on a whole other persona. This is what ghost stories are based on.  In the dim light with shadows everywhere the team leader and founder of the G.R.I.P. team Tabatha Vega called out for the ghost of Tony Gukan to make himself known.  I was standing behind the team and began a series of time exposures as they investigators huddled near the bar.  Mark McCool walked in the middle of the room with a video recorder set to night vision to photograph the attempt at contact.  Lisa Souza sat down from the group with a another camera and a recorder while the fourth investigator Dana Mierkey waited outside the inn as a kind of control element making sure no one was approaching the building from the outside.
Souza listens for sounds as the team investigates the dining
room at the inn.
 I will be honest; it was downright creepy inside the bar.  Between the laser’s green glow and dizzying pattern strewn across the room and someone is actually calling to a dead man it was just a little unnerving.  Not that I was scared, I would describe it as more like uncomfortable.  Like photographing in a church, I knew I didn’t belong there.  That is the best way to describe the feeling.  Vega called out to the ghost to come and ring the bell on the counter or play the deck of cards.  Everyone was quiet waiting for even a tiny ring.  Nothing happened.  We waited for a few more and then went to the main dining room, a large area with tables and chairs upturned on them, their legs looking menacing in the dark shadows.
McCool cast a ghostly shadow on the wall during the investigation.
 McCool took over the call to the spirits on this portion of the investigation as we waited for signs of the afterlife.  It is eerie to be standing in the dark calling out to the dead very unsettling to say the least.  We took photos and ran video cameras.  One investigator thought she heard a sound on the glass door, almost like a pebble striking the glass surface but nothing was there.  Two hours of calling and out to spirits and waiting for a lonesome reply the investigation was ended.  The team would go back and review the footage and audio recording for any sign of contact with a spirit.
The Banta Inn at the end of Saturday's ghost investigation.
 With sunrise just a couple of hours away I took one last photo of the Banta Inn bathed in the streetlights and headed home.  I was both disappointed we found nothing and relived the bell was not rung.  I am not sure how I really would have reacted to a true paranormal encounter.  I like to think I would have held the motor drive down and tried to get a quote while another part of me would have dashed for the nearest exit.  It was an interesting experience and if team returns I hope they will let me for another search for the unexplained.  Until then I will listen to the stories and rumors and know that maybe one day I will have another chance for my own ghostly encounter behind the camera.


Mike McLellan, D. Min. said...

Some would say that you could have gotten a good night's sleep and done the paranormal research in the Newsroom on Thursday evening. Not me, however.

Tro said...

Scary, Glenn! How cool that you got to go do that!

Anonymous said...

These are awesome pictures, Glenn. -- Tabatha