There are two types of ghosts, I am told: residuals and intelligents. Residuals are stains left over from traumatic events, most commonly murders; the victims (now spirits) get trapped in a loop and must relive the same scene over and over. Sort of like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. When intelligents die, they choose to stay on Earth rather than ascend to the next realm—like Patrick Swayze in Ghost. We’re looking for the latter.
“We” are Jordan Fernandez and Lorie DePaula-Fernandez, founders of Colorado Springs’ All Girl Paranormal Society, plus four other AGPS members—one of whom is a man (Jordan couldn’t turn down Andrew Lawrence’s tech skills)—and me. We’re investigating Hellscream, an actual haunted house in the Springs. “Actual” in the sense that its owners lined the place with grisly mannequins and get paid to terrorize teenagers. But also actual, Jordan says, because ghosts live here. An AGPS member who works at Hellscream noticed suspicious shadows in photos of the place. That was enough to warrant a closer look.
Loads of Coloradans spend their nights vying for glimpses of ghosts. (Paranormal societies.com lists 76 spirit-seeking groups within our borders.) According to hauntedamerica tours.com, Colorado was only the 35th spookiest state in 2011, but we make up for that in paranormal potency. USA Today listed two Colorado sites among the 10 most haunted in the country: the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park and the Bed & Breakfast at Historic Onaledge in Manitou Springs. My only exposure to the supernatural had come from Hollywood, so I asked the AGPS, veterans of more than 200 investigations (all for free) if I could tag along for a real-life otherworldly experience.
At Hellscream we start by sitting séance-style around a Raggedy Ann doll, which is pretty creepy by itself. It’s implanted with an electromagnetic frequency meter; when a ghost is around, the spirit’s energy purportedly causes its hands to glow. There’s plenty of other equipment, too—$8,000 to $10,000 worth of audio recorders, video cameras, and night-vision goggles. This is standard ghost-hunting gear. Jordan and Lorie purchased much of their setup four years ago when they founded the AGPS at the same time they appeared on the Biography Channel’s My Ghost Story: Caught On Camera. (The ghost of an early 20th-century child haunts their home.) Since the largest local paranormal society was disbanding, the couple formed its own. It made sense, with Lorie’s line of tea leaf–reading relatives stretching back to Salem, Massachusetts.
Jordan, a retired paramedic who now works as a personal trainer, begins the investigation: “Spirits of the house, I hope you remember us.” The ghosts tease—there’s a tap on the wall; a Maglite next to the doll blinks—but little more. So Jordan flicks on the “spirit box,” a device that mashes together AM and FM to pave a path of verbal communication through white noise. “Can you say the name of someone in the room?” Jordan asks. “Did I hear a Kevin?” All I hear is static, scraps of songs, and annoying DJs. They had warned me that it’s rare to have an evocative appearance—but that doesn’t mean a place isn’t haunted. Almost every site they’ve investigated has had a spirit in residence, but they often don’t discover it until parsing through the recordings at home. (When they listen to the recordings made this night, they will hear the names Jordan, Lorie, and Andrew.)
We move upstairs, then to the basement, with similar results. Fits and starts. Connections not quite made. Coincidences turned into conclusions. The team definitely feels something here. But I only share their stirrings once, when AGPS member Alexis Eling asks about her departed relatives: “It’s been a year to the day since you’ve been gone. …Rom, if you are here, please touch the doll. …I just have some questions for you.” Her voice is so sincere that I find myself pleading for the eerie doll’s hands to illuminate, for Rom to answer whatever questions still hang. Please, Rom. Please touch the damn doll.