A couple of Mustang alumni have connections to another world — the world of wayward spirits.
Bert and Jayme Coates, Redmond High School classes of 1986 and '87, formed Northwest Paranormal Investigation Agency (NWPIA) almost six years ago. Since then, they have "lost count" of how many investigations they and their team of ghost hunters have conducted throughout Washington and Oregon, said Bert.
They've never done a paranormal investigation here in Redmond, but said they are up for the challenge.
WHY DO SPIRITS LINGER?
During a recent brisk morning, we met Bert and Jayme on Leary Way, known as Redmond's "Old Town." We've heard rumors of eerie sights and sounds in historic buildings there, especially those occupied by Half Price Books and The Matador.
When you think about ghosts — or have watched enough scary movies — it's assumed that old buildings could be rife with supernatural activity. Yet in Redmond's re-emerging downtown neighborhood, might ghosts be present at new construction sites, too?
Yes, said Bert, "The age of the building doesn't matter. It could be brand-new or 200 years old. It depends on what happened there."
Jayme agreed, "The ghost could be tied to a certain location or a certain person could be there (to attract a spirit)."
Bert elaborated, "We call them tag-alongs. People can bring ghosts with them. It could be a relative or someone attached to them."
WHY LOOK FOR GHOSTS?
Exactly how or why does one become a paranormal investigator?
Bert admitted, "There's no how-to book. It's just hit or miss, whatever your belief is." Jayme noted, "The Internet is a great tool — and talking to other groups. It takes trial and error and an open mind."
Describing paranormal investigations as "a hobby gone wild," the couple said they began the research because of Bert's apprehension about death. Sometimes confronting a fear is the best way to conquer it. And in fact, Bert said he's no longer afraid of death, just curious about why some spirits have trouble "letting go."
Still, there are bound to be some snickers when you tell people you're a ghost hunter. We asked Jayme and Bert how their own families reacted.
Jayme said her folks still live in Redmond. "They were skeptical at first," she stated. "Now, with up to 20 team members doing investigations every weekend, they're supportive."
WHAT'S WITH THE VAN?
Bert and Jayme have recently had extra time to devote to their hobby, since both were laid off from their jobs at Redmond-based Genie Industries. Meanwhile, cruising in the NWPIA's Paranormal Mobile Control Center is always fun, they said.
Passers-by in downtown Redmond openly gawked or nervously glanced as Bert showed us the interior of the vehicle. Several people walked over to ask, "What do you do?" Reactions ranged from "COOL!" to "Are there ghosts around here?"
One woman, climbing into her car outside Half Price Books, yelled that it wouldn't surprise her if the book store turned out to be haunted: "If I died and my husband sold all my books, I would definitely haunt someone!"
So what's inside the van? Well, it's not like the stuff in the movie "Ghostbusters." It's a lot of high-tech audio and video equipment, the kind that would pick up sights and sounds not readily apparent to the naked eye or ear.
"We run investigations from the van," Bert explained. "Two people inside the van, two in the building." That's less invasive for clients.
And what about those clients? When they call to report a possible ghost, are they frightened, embarrassed or what?
"For residentials, they're initially afraid," said Jayme.
But commercial clients see hauntings as a plus, Bert said. For example, Seattle's Central Tavern and the Pike Place Market draw loads of tourists who have heard their famous ghost stories.
And with Halloween approaching, interest in ghosts increases, as does actual paranormal activity, the couple added.
"We get really busy right after the holidays. It's non-stop, February through the end of November," said Bert. "You get a lot of family members together at one house and they're reminiscing about their loved one. That could spur the activity."
They also get many calls when a person's loved one has just passed away.
THE BURNING QUESTION
All right, we had to ask, "So you've actually seen ghosts?" The couple said they have, on several occasions, but it didn't happen as quickly as they would have hoped.
Bert said his first "full-body apparition" was seen almost three years after he started studying the paranormal, while he was on the Seattle Underground tour. "I was walking in, rounded a corner and saw white cotton — suspenders and pants and a shirt. It had no eyes, just dark spots. It rolled itself around a corner and walked away," he said.
Jayme said she saw a ghost, "something white, peeking out of a pillar" just the week before, while doing an investigation in Wellington. The historic Washington town was the scene of a deadly train wreck, caused by an avalanche in 1910. Again, this apparition had no eyes.
They've said they've also seen black shadows and had strange whispers in their ears.
"We know there are going to be skeptics," Bert concluded. "That's okay. We invite them to come with us, but they usually don't want to."
How about you? For more information, e-mail BertCoates@nwpia.com or visit www.nwpia.com.
Redmond Reporter Reporter Mary Stevens Decker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 867-0353, ext. 5052.