Ghost hunters don't jump to paranormal conclusions

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Halloween brings with it a slew of images from witches to ghosts, and all paranormal things in between. As a team of ghost hunters, one would assume that RISEUP Paranormal is in seventh heaven at this time of year.

According to case manager Tom Stewart, however, they don’t get caught up in the bewitching season.

“We base our research on history more than anything,” he said. “Everyone jumps to that paranormal conclusion, but most stuff can be rationally explained. We’re really skeptical about what we do.”

A representative of the American Ghost Society, RISEUP Paranormal was formed in 2006 by Ken DeCosta and his son Dave. There is also a chapter in Connecticut, and a chapter might soon form in the United Kingdom.

Ken’s interest in the unexplained can be traced back to his childhood, and what started as a passion for paranormal literature grew into a non-profit organization that has investigated more than 100 sites where instances of unexplained phenomena were reported.

“Since I was a kid I was always interested in things that can’t be easily explained. The best mystery is the one that may never be solved,” DeCosta said.

More than making claims of haunted happenings, DeCosta is interested in finding out why people experience certain things. His team, he said, isn’t out to find ghosts – they’re out to explain situations. Often times, that means dispelling ghost stories.

“We may walk away empty handed, but we’re richer for the experience,” he said.

Stewart feels the same way, and said that because RISEUP never charges for consultations or investigations, they don’t take advantage of peoples’ fears. He sees their work as a public service

“People are afraid of what they don’t understand,” he said.

Sitting around the dining room table at Cranston’s Sprague Mansion last week, they emphasized that their willingness to disprove theories doesn’t mean they don’t believe in ghosts.

During an investigation, their team – which has grown from four or five people to 10 active members – spends four or five hours at a location, during the middle of the night in order to minimize the sounds coming from outdoors. They investigate every room, focusing on those where paranormal happenings have been reported. They film the location, record sounds, and measure things like temperature and electromagnetic fields.

When reviewing their findings, they try to recreate sounds and double and triple check sounds or sights that seem suspicious in order to find a reasonable explanation.

RISEUP Paranormal has visited the Sprague Mansion twice, and both times came out with evidence they couldn’t explain.

“We captured a couple of EVPs that sounded like voices,” Stewart said of a group of electronic voice phenomena they captured in the mansion.

DeCosta opened up a laptop to play a recording from a third floor bedroom. In the background, a voice that sounds like a little girl can be heard.

“When we were listening to this thing, we were jumping up and down. We were pretty excited about that,” DeCosta said.

When RISEUP captures what they believe to be a voice, they run it through a computer system that gauges whether or not it displays vocal characteristics. It also has to be a very low frequency that the team could not hear during the actual investigation.

“I’ve had voices on my tape recorder tell me to leave, even though I didn’t hear it at the time,” Stewart said.

When recording the investigation, DeCosta and his fellow ghost hunters ask questions to the spirits, hoping to pick up either EVPs or electromagnetic responses. Unlike in many television shows or movies, though, DeCosta says they keep things light.

“Our line of questioning for something like this, it’s never really very dark - it’s just inquisitive,” he said.

Businesses and homeowners calling RISEUP for an investigation are often looking for validation of their fears. But their impression of a haunting, Stewart said, is not the same as the ghost hunters.

“The word haunting has such a negative meaning to it, but it’s really not,” he said. “As rare as paranormal stuff is, evil is even more rare.”

Cranston Historical Society board members Adele Napolitano and Alex Amalfitano nod in agreement. They have never felt unsafe in the Sprague Mansion, but said it’s hard not to get spooked from time to time.

Amalfitano recalls one instance when they were first walking in the mansion, and heard what sounded like footsteps running up the stairs. When they called out to see who else was there, no one answered.

“We left because that’s how real it felt. You do get a little freaked out about things sometimes,” Napolitano said.

It’s a reaction the RISEUP team sees all the time.

“When you’re in a place that has a little notoriety to it, you might get a little jumpy,” DeCosta said. “We’re in a hotbed of folklore and legends.”

DeCosta spoke to the Historical Society recently, explaining the team’s findings, but also touching upon the importance of the building’s history.

“We’re very grateful that it’s their organization that’s here, because they’re here for the history just as much as the haunting,” Napolitano said, turning to DeCosta and adding, “I think you changed some minds.”

For more information on RISEUP Paranormal or to book a consultation, visit www.riseupparanormal.com or e-mail casemanager@riseupparanormal.com.

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