Editor’s note: At the request of the family in this story, their names have been changed, and the specific location of the house is not revealed. Real names have been used for the investigative team members.
It started the day they moved to Hillsboro, into a home with a history of frequent turnover.
“We were taking stuff upstairs, and a door downstairs slammed,” Mandy said. “We didn’t think about it.”
A week later, when her daughter Lisa invited a friend for a sleepover, they thought much harder.
“They came running downstairs freaked out, because there was a man standing at the end of the banister at the window,” Mandy said. “We went up there, didn’t see anything. Three hours later, he was at the foot of their bed, and they just covered their heads and yelled for me to save them.”
Strange occurrences began to escalate. Sounds of footsteps where no one was walking. Kitchen cabinets mysteriously opening. Doorknobs turning by themselves. Moaning and voices. Sensations of being touched and choked.
And there was another apparition.
Another man, different from the first, inserted himself into the family’s daily lives, focusing primarily on her daughters, Lisa and Angie.
“Nobody else can see him but us,” Lisa said.
“When we talk to him, he talks back to us,” Angie said.
The man didn’t just talk. He watched. He followed them. When something angered him, the girls felt it.
“He doesn’t like negative. We feel it. Nobody else feels it, but we feel the anger,” Angie said.
Mandy turned to the Internet to find a paranormal investigator to help explain what was going on in her house.
Her search led her to Brad Buchta, founder and lead investigator for Newton-based Ghost Investigations Crew (GIC).
Buchta conducted his first investigation of the house Jan. 14, and left convinced a second should follow in a few weeks.
In the meantime, the spectral man revealed some personal information.
“The other night they were talking to him, they said he died in 1902 in Olathe, Kan., and his name was Edward Herman Elliot,” Mandy said.
Herman, as they’ve come to call him, even went for a ride one day.
“We were driving back from Emporia,” Lisa said. “We were sitting in the car, and I looked over and he was sitting right next to me.”
Skies were overcast, the air chilly Feb. 4, when a van pulled up in front of the house about 10 p.m. The four-member GIC crew unloaded a few equipment cases, and went inside.
Buchta, 49, was accompanied by Bryan Breen of Salina, his friend and former high school classmate. Breen’s wife, Sherry, and son, Jesse, completed the investigation team.
Everyone was happy to see the GIC team. Everyone except Herman.
“He says, ‘I don’t want this,’” Angie said.
“The reason that it’s mad is that it knows we have the equipment that can catch it,” Buchta said.
Mandy’s husband, Steve, stood alone in the kitchen, observing the activity with a measure of detachment.
Steve said his attitude played a large part in his perceptions.
“I believe in it, I just don’t let it bother me. I don’t fear it, I don’t show fear,” Steve said.
“I’m kinda tired of hearing about it all the time. Either we have to move, or this thing has to go. I don’t like living like this, where they’re constantly on their toes thinking something’s going to come get them,” Steve said.
Buchta wanted to show the family video evidence from his visit of orbs, moving points of light paranormal investigators believe to be spirits. Buchta invited Herman to watch as well.
The cable to hook his camcorder to the television was missing. Buchta switched to Breen’s camcorder. The tape played on the camcorder screen, but not the TV. A tape from a different investigation played perfectly. Try as they might, the tape they wanted to show would not display on the TV.
“He’s laughing,” Angie said, referring to Herman.
Buchta recapped the major event from the first investigation, involving a motion detector.
“It went off eight times. The first time, it went off on its own,” Buchta said. “The other seven times were when I asked it to make it go off again.”
Night-vision camcorders, motion detectors, a vibration sensor, digital sound recorders, meters designed to detect electromagnetic fields and temperature variations were strategically placed by the GIC team to detect activity associated with paranormal phenomenon.
Buchta took readings around the house to map out existing electromagnetic signatures, and the furnace was turned off to avoid false signals during the investigation.
“I’m going to explain to him that I’m here with no disrespect, that I’d like to talk with him tonight,” Buchta said. “Hopefully he’ll answer some of our questions.”
A short while later, Angie told Buchta that Herman wanted to speak with him in the garage. Buchta would speak to Herman through Angie.
“He did not trust me at first, but the more I talked to him about why I’m here, he loosened up,” Buchta said.
While they were in the garage, a rock struck the floor sharply, and a dangling cable started swaying back and forth, Buchta said.
Equipment set and operating, Bryan and Sherry upstairs, Jesse and Buchta downstairs, the lights were turned out, and the investigation commenced as Buchta spoke.
“Herman, thank you very much for the rock and the cord, I appreciate that. Would the other spirit in this house please make a noise for us? Herman, if at any time you want to make a noise, feel free to,” Buchta said.
In the first hour, Buchta tried coaxing any spirits present to trigger the motion sensors. They remained silent.
Angie facilitated communication with Herman, who revealed a second spirit in the house named James.
Occasionally, those present lapsed into conversation with each other, and Buchta explained more about his motivation for doing paranormal investigations.
“I don’t do this to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes,” Buchta said. “People who have something in their house they can’t explain, I want to help them prove that.”
Aside from one possible orb recorded by Jesse’s night-vision camera, no equipment hits were registered. The lights were turned on and everyone gathered in the kitchen for a break.
The Breens reported hearing a variety of sounds upstairs, and showed a photo of a dresser with the drawers open. The drawers were closed when the lights were turned out, they said.
Buchta showed an orb video from another investigation during the break, and as the team prepared for the second stage of the investigation, an alarm sounded.
The motion sensor Buchta placed in the hall between the front room and the kitchen was beeping and flashing. Something has to be within six inches to trigger the sensor — no one was within eight feet of the device.
Three cameras zeroed in on the device as Buchta started asking Herman to signal his presence by triggering the sensor. It went off repeatedly.
Buchta moved a second motion sensor into the kitchen, one that had been silent all night, and asked Herman to touch it.
“Yes, thank you!” Buchta exclaimed as the sensor lighted up and beeped.
“I’m not crazy,” Angie said.
Over the next 20 minutes, the hallway sensor continued to sound sporadically, as Buchta asked both Herman and James to make their presence known. There were several weak but clear readings from the electromagnetic field sensor as well.
Then as suddenly as it started, it stopped. Nothing more that paranormal investigators would associate with ghost activity occurred. Buchta turned on the lights, and turned off the equipment.
“The kitchen sensor is the one that really got me,” Buchta said. “When they do respond to you, it’s exciting to us.”
To complete the investigation, Buchta and his team will analyze the video and audio recordings. Each hour of tape will take up to three hours to analyze.
“We will start going over it as fast as we can,” Buchta said. “I think there’s a lot of stuff going on here.”