Catching the Spirit

Oct 1, 2010

In a 220-year-old house, it is not unreasonable to think (hope?) that someone’s ghost is still wandering about the place. Does the Spirit of Susannah Hedden mind that we cook soup at her open hearth? Do any of the eight children of Henry and Electa Durand still flit about the loft space on the second floor in their nightshirts?

Ghost hunting today has moved from divining rods and crystal balls – at least in part -- to an array of electronic equipment, including electromagnetic field meters, digital voice recorders, and digital still and video cameras.

A group called Free Spirit Paranormal Investigators (FSPI) came to Durand-Hedden one hot night in August, when the moon was waxing gibbous and 93% full (according to their report), and set up cameras and sensors for a three-hour session of observation and sensation.

Frank Cassidy, whose business card reads “psychic medium”, and his crew of 13 have been together for two years. FSPI has a particular expertise in historic properties and the team was excited about the opportunity to explore the Durand-Hedden House.

They stayed from 9 pm to almost 1 am, taking 500 photos and making a combined total of almost 17 hours of audio recordings and 3 hours of infrared video recordings, some made in almost complete darkness.

Sifting the Evidence

They spent six weeks reviewing their evidence, examining the recordings for electronic voice phenomena (EVPs) and data that would indicate a disruption in the electromagnetic field that is all around us. If a phenomenon can’t be documented and confirmed, FSPI will not determine it to be a valid paranormal event.

On October 17, the FSPI team came back to Durand-Hedden (in daylight) to explain to almost 100 visitors how they work, what they are looking for, and how rigorous they are about their standards.

Some in the audience -- of all ages – expressed confidence that they had experienced some sort of spirit phenomenon, and many said they saw no reason to think it was not possible.

Cassidy and his colleagues showed slides of strange effects recorded on digital cameras in a cemetery in Pennsylvania, and played odd audio recordings that truly sounded like voices saying words.

The Durand-Hedden Report

Their night at Durand-Hedden, unfortunately, did not reveal any documentable phenomena. Some interesting tidbits, however: A small bedroom on the second floor (part of the original 1790 house) contains a c. 1810 rope bed and a cradle, probably from the same period.
In his report, Cassidy describes the scene: “As I moved closer to the cradle and placed my hands over it I was met with some sort of force pushing me back.”

Using digital voice recorders and dowsing rods, Cassidy asked questions and received monosyllabic answers that seemed to be from someone named Emily who said it was her cradle and that she had died before the age of 3 sometime before the Civil War.

The tall mirror in the Victorian Parlor was a source of odd sensations to several team members. One said that when she looked into the mirror she saw a clear reflection of her body from the shoulders down, but could barely make out the outline of her head.

However, they could not document these sensations with any of their equipment, so they concluded that there was no paranormal activity in the house. At this time, anyway.

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