Post by Cara Kane
The haunting season is upon us, and when face to face with the possibility of a ghost, the question on everyone’s mind is “Who ya gonna call?”
We spoke with real life Ghostbuster, Sue Miller of Bytown Paranormal about ghosts, paranormal investigations and, most importantly, whether or not they have a theme song. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Apt613: What exactly is the Bytown Paranormal?
Sue Miller: We’re a group of paranormal investigators, we do kind of what you see on TV on all of these ghost shows that are so popular. We don’t really look into the history that much, we’ll get an idea of it to get a feel for what’s going on and then we go in. We’re just trying to find some proof that something is going on, or at least offer some reassurance to the clients. People who are in this kind of situation kind of question themselves, so sometimes we can come back with a little bit of information, some reassurance that yeah maybe something is going on. It’s just a different sort of way of helping people.
What is some of the equipment that you use?
A lot of the equipment that you see on the television is the same equipment that we use – the main equipment that everyone has on the team is a digital recorder, doesn’t have to be anything expensive. You have equipment that can measure temperature changes, we have these little boxes you can put along a hallway and it will measure if there’s vibrations – so if someone says there’s footsteps going down the hallway, then you have something that can visually show there’s a vibration moving from one end of the hallway to the other. There’s equipment that measures the electromagnetic fields, temperature gauges, all manner of things.
Do you go out to investigate historical sites as well, or do you exclusively investigate for clients that have contacted you?
There’s a whole kind of mixture of people that we work with. We’ve gone to historical places, we investigated at the Bytown Museum for example. They invited us there and we were able to access areas of the building that the public wouldn’t go as part of the investigation and it was more just out of curiosity because of what’s in the museum, how old the museum is.
But then we have clients who just contact us and say ‘Look, I think something is going on.” And sometimes there’s even a higher sense of urgency, that someone in the house is scared or upset. So it’s just going in and feeling things out and doing an investigation based on that, and again – offering reassurance that it’s not a bad thing or “this is what you can do” or “we don’t get the impression something’s going on.”
I read on your website that you guys are a volunteer group, and you don’t charge clients?
That’s right, and that’s pretty typical of people who do this. It’s rare that groups actually charge. We look at it as it’s a privilege to go in there, we’re going as investigators. There are unfortunately people who act as charlatans so when you go in and you say “we’re doing this to help to you out because it’s something we enjoy doing,” it gives you more credibility.
Would you typically go overnight? Is that when most paranormal activity would occur?
It’s not like on some shows when you’ll see “dead time” and it’s like 3 in the morning. It’s more to get the quiet, the dark is so you can pick up things on different equipment. We don’t go by “3 o’clock in the morning is the time that things happen”: things can happen in the daytime if a house is reputed to be haunted. I just think it’s easier to wish it away during the day as other noises or something. When you have the quiet, you’re able to focus on the job, that’s why we do it in the evening.
If there is paranormal activity in the house, is it usually someone who would have lived there?
It’s one of those things that all kinds of stories come into play. We go to Lost Villages a lot, they’re located in Long Sault, usually during the summer we do public events with them. They’re houses that are older, they’ve been moved from different areas, they were displaced when the seaway was created. Not necessarily haunted, but they’re older houses: they’re full of antiques, full of donated pieces from all over the place.
We go and we had some evidence, little things here and there that happened, but you can’t say, “Oh, it’s this person that owned the house,” you just don’t know.
But people believe that spirits attach themselves to items, to houses, to the energy of a person. The most common ghost story though, if you asked your family or friends, “Have you experienced some kind of paranormal situation?”, I would guarantee that someone in your circle would say, “You know what? I woke up in the middle of the night and I saw my uncle who had passed away,” or, “My child would talk to their grandma, and both their grandmas have died,” or, “I smelled the perfume of my mother the day after her funeral.”
These are common experiences for people. That energy of people who are close to you, I think it’s possible that it stays nearby, at least in the days after their passing. And people experience that, and I think it’s a really deep experience for them, and that’s why there’s so much interest in it.
What’s your most memorable experience since you’ve been investigating?
It’s funny, it’s like fishing – there’s a lot of sitting and being quiet and just waiting for a bite.
You wait and wait and then the moment that you get a bite, you try to do it again. So a lot of it, there’s not a lot of big action moments, but when I was in the Bytown Museum, it was one of my earlier investigations, we were on the second floor, there were three of us sitting in a triangle and I heard a woman sigh. Just a gentle sigh, it sounded like someone who had been on their feet all day and had just sat down after being busy, and that relief, just “Ahhh.”
It sounded to me like it was coming from behind the person I was across from– we were about 2 feet apart– and she said to me, “No, it sounded like it was coming from behind you.” So it was kinda neat that we couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from, but it was exciting to hear.
I always tell this story too, because it was so ridiculous but so great.
We were in the Log Cabin at Lost Villages which is an older building, built in the 1800’s. There were four of us and everyone else had left for the night and we decided that we were gonna stay behind and do one more session.
We were in the building, still talking, deciding where we were gonna set up the camera – no equipment was on – and from the front where the door was we heard this long “ow”, we heard this “owwwwww” and it stretched out for about 3 seconds.
It sounded whiny, it was a male voice, and it was just ridiculously whiny, like you know when you push your brother and he goes “owww!” We just sort of stopped, we’d all heard it, and the two guys ran out to see if there was anyone there, and there was no one there.
There was nothing there we could pin down: was it paranormal? I don’t know. Was it cool? Yes. Am I so angry that we didn’t have one bit of equipment on at the time? Absolutely!
In addition to investigations, Bytown Paranormal also does some public events. What do they look like?
We’ve done things with Lost Villages, we usually do a monthly event with them during the summer. People can buy tickets, and they get a feel for what we do. We visit different buildings and we’ll do EVP [Electronic Voice Phenomena] sessions. We’ll turn out the lights and give them an opportunity to try. It’s not the same as a real investigation because there’s so many people and you always have to be aware of noise pollution in your recordings. It’s going through the motions, and we keep the recorders on just in case something blatant happens, because you never know! The log cabin experience I had just shows it can happen any time. But it gives them a feel for [an investigation].
What sort of advice would you give to someone who thinks that they’re home may be haunted?
The first thing I would say if they were nervous about it, is to reassure them that most of the places I’ve investigated, if we’ve come across any sort of evidence it’s very benign. It’s usually just a voice, it’s just people, really. Certainly people have negative feelings and negative energy, but it’s such a small percentage of calls. A lot of them are really calm, there’s not a lot of frantic calls. It’s a lot of curiosity. Don’t panic, don’t be afraid, and if you’re really concerned call a group like us and maybe we can help you: reach out.
Does anybody ever refer to you guys as the Ghostbusters?
I don’t think anybody’s ever called us that before! We’ll joke about it, and we’re fans of the movie – there’s a couple of hardcore fans in the group.
Old Ghostbusters or new?
I liked the new one….that is a very divisive statement to make! We agree to disagree and we don’t talk about it that much because there are some pretty hardcore fans of the original.
Is there a theme song for Bytown Paranormal?
There’s no theme song yet, but if anyone would like to contribute one, we’ll consider it!