26 Dec 2009
Got ghosts? Group scours likely haunts
Hotel in Douglas. Heel-toe, heel-toe, heel-toe. Footsteps echoed in the hollow concrete basement.
They sounded like boots, but the only people there were two investigators from West Coast Ghost and Paranormal Society. They were not walking.
"You could hear footsteps coming down the hallway, then it actually walked around us in the boiler room. We caught it on audio," Andy Rice said. "Just try to wrap your mind around that - there's no one to see, but there's footsteps." was with Rice in the now-frigid basement.
"Just after the footsteps, it felt like something pulled on my shorts," Jacob said. "There wasn't anything around me."
The Gadsden Hotel dates to 1907 and the last days of the Wild West. Many staffers have reported encountering a headless figure in the basement, and they say the ghost of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa appears there.
The hotel is one of 31 paranormal-investigation sites evaluated by the Phoenix-based group since it was formed two years ago. Although members have had many unexplained experiences during hours of investigations at the hotel, they stopped short of labeling the place haunted.
The group will declare a building haunted only if it can capture video or audio evidence. Unsubstantiated personal experiences don't count. At the Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone, an ostrich feather dropped from a birdcage and unseen women hummed from the stage. At Big Nose Kate's Saloon nearby, a grumbly male voice told Jacob to "get out." Lacking documentation, the group cited "unexplained paranormal activity" in their report.
The group's investigations have earned coverage by the Associated Press, MSNBC, Yahoo and Fox TV, among others.
Rice formed the non-profit, volunteer group as a result of personal experiences. The goal is to document purported paranormal occurrences. First, members do historical research of a property. On investigation day, they record weather conditions, seismic data, geothermal and topographical measurements, magnetic activity and such to see if anything in nature caused the occurrence. At the site, they set up a command center linked to infrared cameras, digital voice-recording systems, camcorders and electromagnetic-field detectors.
The group does not charge for investigations, but it accepts donations through its Web site, wcgaps.com.
"It's a great team," said Marianne Luskey, one of the first members. "We are a family. We are very close. We have a passion for what we do."
And "very understanding spouses," added Celeste Plitz.
The group has 16 members. Each week, Rice receives nearly 10 applications from people wanting to join, and requests for investigations are piling up.
"Most of the time when we go in somewhere, we go through their claims and we try to disprove all of them. Ninety percent of the time, we can completely disprove everything," Rice said.
At the Gilbert Historical Museum, volunteers spoke of hearing footsteps and voices. The group concluded that the building creates sounds as a result of temperature and humidity changes and that acoustical patterns from the wooden floors create an atmosphere for the sounds to be interpreted as voices.
So far, the group has labeled just two buildings as haunted: Monti's La Casa Vieja in Tempe and the Old Cuchillo Bar in Cuchillo, N.M.
Built in 1871 as Charles Trumbull Hayden's adobe home, Monti's is the oldest continuously occupied building in the Valley. It has been in the Monti family for 55 years.
Owner Michael Monti said his staff members have experienced dozens of episodes of unexplained activity.
"This building has been a home, a hotel, a business office. People have been born there, died there, and if there's any place you would expect to find a ghost, it's there," he said.
Indeed, after two nighttime visits, the society determined that 90 percent of the claims could be substantiated. Among the encounters was the apparition of a woman wearing a blue gown.
"Andy and I were in the front part of the restaurant, and we saw what looked to be a lady," Jacob said. "She went through the door. She looked as though she had a light on her, some sort of an illumination. The whole restaurant was completely dark.
"It looked like this person was walking right toward the bar here. In the bar, they caught audio of a lady, and they had a temperature drop right after."
At the bar, Luskey heard several women chatting in the lobby although she could not see anyone. Luskey also felt chills. The chatter was recorded.
In the Zane Grey room, an audio clip sounds as if the restaurant was serving a meal, with dishes being moved and people talking and eating.
Monti is not troubled by the findings.
"I'm quite happy to be in the possession of a haunted building," he said. "It adds to the character."