25 May 2010
Group investigates area paranormal activity
By Melinda Mawdsley
Monday, May 24, 2010
The photograph that piqued Clarissa Vazquez’s interest in paranormal activity is kept in a lockbox with her jewelry.
It’s a Polaroid picture taken in 2004 in a Grand Junction home. It shows a white cloud floating near one of Vazquez’s friends. The cloud looks like mist or maybe smoke from the cigarette her friend is holding. But when the photo was taken, the cigarette was not lit, Vazquez said.
In fact, she added, the white cloud wasn’t visible when she took the picture. It appeared after the Polaroid developed.
Vazquez has tried to think of an explanation to dispel any notion that something paranormal was captured in the picture, but she can’t.
The photo was one of two incidents — the other was an audio recording — in 2004 that prompted Vazquez to learn more about paranormal presences. And that is how the Colorado Coalition of Paranormal Investigators was born.
CCPI, as members call it, was formed in 2004 to detect paranormal possibilities. Originally, Vazquez and a friend were the only members. They spent hours reading books and practicing the process of investigating — they use audio and infrared video recording devices, for example — paranormal presences in Potter’s Field, an old cemetery on Orchard Mesa.
Now, the group’s membership is nine. The members range in age from 30 to nearly 50 and include men and women from several area counties.
CCPI received permission from the city of Grand Junction in 2009 to adopt and maintain Potter’s Field, which had become overgrown. The group uses the cemetery as a training ground to investigate paranormal activity.
Vazquez is a lead investigator with the group. She’s also a nondenominational protestant ordained minister whose faith in God has prepared her for encounters with demonic beings if the situation arises.
“It’s good versus evil,” she said.
Because Vazquez takes the science of paranormal investigation seriously, she requires extensive training for every aspiring CCPI investigator and thoroughly examines any potential member’s motives.
The process to become a lead investigator takes anywhere from several months to several years, depending on the individual. The training entails gaining knowledge of terms regarding phenomena and the technical equipment used to measure it, aptitude using equipment and analyzing data collected, participation in investigations and other CCPI activities, constant professional behavior and a verifiable personal encounter with a paranormal presence.
The encounter also must be experienced by a team leader for authentication purposes.
“It’s a lot of work,” said CCPI trainee Deidre Cameron, the newest member of the group.
The personal paranormal encounter criterion is imperative to being part of an investigation team because it’s impossible to know how a person will react to seeing or hearing a ghost or paranormal activity until the person actually sees or hears a ghost or paranormal activity, CCPI members said.
And some encounters can be scary or dangerous. If a paranormal presence is physical or scares a person, CCPI members said, they need to be able count on each other for help or assistance. They can’t afford mistakes or foolish reactions.
The fascination with the science of paranormal investigation outweighs any potential danger, members said.
“It’s an addiction,” said Debbie Anderson, a lead investigator.
Although CCPI members will speak about the science of what they do, showing off the infrared technology used to collect audio and visual data of a paranormal presence, they admit that some people think they are delusional.
“You get people calling you crazy to your face,” Anderson said.
Labeling CCPI members as “crazy” probably stems from a misunderstanding of how the group approaches the paranormal.
CCPI members don’t believe just anything they see or hear. They are typically skeptical about what they discover, they said.
Ken Kuechler goes so far as to call himself “hyper-skeptical” when it came to paranormal presences. The CCPI trainee thinks ghosts exist, but acknowledges that a vast majority of people rarely experience anything paranormal.
CCPI estimates that 99 percent of the time, their investigations find no presence of paranormal activity, and members aren’t going to pretend ghosts exist. The group does free investigations of public places and private homes when asked.
“We tear everything (data) apart,” Kuechler said. “If we doubt anything, it’s discarded.”
If it’s not discarded, the information might make it on the CCPI website, http://www.coloparanormal.com, where Vazquez has posted several reports, audio recordings and biographies of team members. They have nothing to hide, she said.
Among the reports posted to the site is one Vazquez made in 2008 at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park while investigating alongside members of the Sci Fi series “Ghost Hunters.” The hotel was made famous in Stephen King’s “The Shining.”
But investigations need not be far afield; the group has found plenty of locations in the Grand Valley area to keep them busy.
“We are investigating public or private places (up to three times) a month,” Vazquez said. “And we still meet monthly for training sessions. Training is not glamorous. It entails hours of sitting in the dark, trying to catch evidence of the things that go bump in the night.”