“I’m a ghost hunter – I’ve had 100 ‘paranormal’ encounters”
My interest in the paranormal really started with Ghostbusters. I was a huge fan back when it was very popular and all the kids had proton packs. Also, I grew up next to a cemetery. I don’t think I made the connection to the actual death right away, it was just a place to walk around with some nice rocks – that was interesting to me.
We moved to the Chicago area and during college I took a trip to the Gettysburg battlefield. I was 14 and had what I believe to be my first paranormal experience. We were standing on a battlefield and when I looked towards the trees at the edge of the field, I saw a group of soldiers starting to cross the field. I thought they were re-enactors, but it was a Tuesday afternoon, so I asked my mom if she could see those men too, and she said she could. My mother is very frank, she would be the kind of person who would say, “you’re crazy!” if she hadn’t seen him. The soldiers seemed to have stopped about halfway across the field and it was almost like they disappeared, then it started again. It happened over and over again, almost like a bug. We asked my father and my sister who were also standing there, but neither of them saw it.
We went to the visitor center and asked one of the rangers who the re-enactors were. The ranger said there was nothing planned that day so unless there is a huge illegal re-enactment, which I assume is possible, these are not re-enactors that I saw. My father still didn’t believe it, he thought we were making fun of him. He’s a realist and he doesn’t believe in the paranormal.
At the time I also had a history teacher who was really into the paranormal, that’s when I really started to believe that what I saw at Gettysburg was a ghost. My teacher had his own group of ghost hunters in Indiana and tied the paranormal to history lessons. I don’t know if it was technically supposed to, but it did and I ate it. From there, I joined a group of ghost hunters to enter.
I like the unknown and I like solving mysteries. There are people who believe and people who don’t and there are people who could go either way. I am one of those people who is always looking to solve something. You don’t have a conclusion until you have proof, so I’m still looking for that. I’m related to people who are skeptical and we agree to disagree and that’s it. People can believe or not, and that’s fine.
Ghost hunting has always been a hobby for me, I went to college, studied health and worked in a hospice until I had kids. After they were old enough to go to school – during the pandemic – I started writing about my paranormal experiences and highlighting different places. Some were places I had been and some were places I wanted to go. I would write the story behind the place and the supposed hauntings. I never thought anything would come of it, but it started growing fast and then I decided maybe I needed to bring some people with me for the investigations.
I believe I’ve had close to 100 paranormal experiences, but I’ve investigated over 1,000 locations in the past 20 years. Usually I determine if a place should be researched from advice I get from people or from general research online. Now at least I get messages from people saying I should check out a place, even though I may not have heard of it. They’ll tell me it’s really haunted.
Every place is different, especially if it’s outdoors versus a huge hospital or prison. But I always have tons of cameras with me, because the best proof is on the camera. I will install action cameras everywhere and I will have an electromagnetic field reader (EMF) with me. I also come armed to the teeth with voice recorders and place them everywhere. I’m going to stay in one place for six to eight hours, there’s a lot of coffee involved, but I’m more of a laid back investigator, just sit there and see what happens. Usually night is best, I don’t know if it’s the creep factor, but if you’re taking pictures, a dark background and a flash definitely help detect anomalies better than daylight.
Last year I investigated the Indiana prison that John Dilligener escaped from and I believe I was followed all night by “something”. I went up to a floor where there is no light or electricity, so I couldn’t really see much, but I felt like someone was watching me, so I turned around and walked away. pulled up the cell block. I only took a few steps before I heard very loud footsteps behind me, almost kicking, so I turned around, but there was nothing. I took a few more steps and felt that push behind me; it was like an open hand. I thought, OK, I’ll go a little faster, something wants me out of here. I walked down the stairs to where my co-investigator was and explained what had happened. As soon as I finished talking, we heard a door slam. These doors are held open so people don’t get stuck, but something slammed.
My co-investigator jumped out of his skin and then these really loud bangs started. I filmed it, but of course, unless you were there, you could tell someone else was up there doing this. However, there was only one entrance and you would have had to pass through us to enter. I know the jail owners were still outside because on my way down I saw them sitting on the porch of the adjoining sheriff’s house. There is no back entrance and only one stairwell going up to where we were standing. I also have action cams everywhere and on playback there was no one else.
These bangs started getting louder, so I told my co-investigator that we should take a break. As I was walking, a shadow appeared “walking” in front of me, we both saw it, and I felt a gust of wind. We were inside. My co-investigator saw my hair flying out and he said he was done. It was quite scary.
Over the years I have heard footsteps and picked up what I believe to be disembodied voices on audio recordings. Every place is different. There have been quite a few instances of image capture that I can’t explain. The only problem is, if someone isn’t there, how am I supposed to prove to them that there wasn’t another person present? I captured an image of what I believe to be a spirit, where it looks like you can see his backpack, and I captured the sound of the regimental drums, but again, someone might say it’s is an overlay. This is where it becomes difficult to convince people.
It depends on the situation, but I think in some cases it’s a “residual haunting”. They’re not real spirits, it’s almost like a memory that comes back again and again. Then we have what I call ‘smart hauntings’, where I believe there are spirits that get stuck and hang around in the afterlife. This is where I believe ghosts are present who will interact with you, touch you and try to get your attention.
I’ve been to the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi Bay, and visited places like Salem, Massachusetts, famous for its witch trials, The Alamo Mission in Texas, and Sleepy Hollow in New York. I haven’t had what I believe to be encounters with the paranormal in all of them, but in some I have.
Sleepy Hollow had something going on, but it was more of a feeling I had, so I can’t prove anything. I got used to what I call the “energy shift”. I believe spirits give off energy and I can feel the difference in energy. I don’t think I’m psychic or anything, it’s just a feeling. And I had that feeling in Sleepy Hollow. At the USS Lexington, I heard a loud disembodied voice. In the video I took you can hear a scream and you can see the door closing as I was carrying a GoPro camera at the time.
My approach is that if I can’t recreate what I see or hear no matter what I try, then I have something inexplicable. But if there is a possibility, even a small possibility, that it could be something in the environment, then it becomes a “maybe”. If a door opens on its own, I want to make sure it doesn’t tip over easily. I’m just trying to verify that’s not what made the noise we heard.
It is possible that what I am experiencing cannot be explained by science but is not paranormal activity. Everything is possible in my head. Some people might say they are “demons”. I’m saying something inexplicable is going on, so let’s find out why. My curiosity piques. I just want to know what it is.
All I can do is bring what I have and everyone can make an educated guess. I know people are starting to get into paranormal science. Harvard has a course in parapsychology, so maybe they can develop something that can help us scientifically. But like many things, some people believe and some don’t, and that’s fine. I think a healthy dose of skepticism is good. You’re going to weigh the skepticism with the evidence you have left, so I think it’s great that people are starting to pay attention to it.
I would like the skeptics to understand that I understand why they are skeptical, but I would ask them to try to open their minds a little. Read a bit and see how you feel after that. I’ve taken doubters with me to places where I think they’re really active with paranormal energy, and they leave saying “oh my god!” So give it a try; keep an open mind.
Erin Egnatz is a ghost hunter, history buff and paranormal writer. You can follow her on Instagram @hauntingsaroundamerica or find out more at hauntingsaroundamerica.com.
All opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.
As said to Jenny Harvard.