Between Halloween, the Day of the Dead, All Saints Day and All Souls Day, the deceased are in the limelight this week.
For group of local ghost hunters, however, the dead hold their attention all year long.
Virginia Paranormal Investigations, based out of Hampton Roads, researches supposed hauntings throughout the area.
According to the organization’s website, the VAPI team consists of investigators and researchers from various backgrounds, each with a “unique perspective” on the paranormal.
“All of our members are able to empathize with clients,” the website states. “And appropriately handle the variety of unexplained phenomena they encounter with logic, precision, and professionalism.”
Last week VAPI hosted a ghost hunting course in the Grissom Library in Newport News to share their methods and approaches for investigating the paranormal.
“The most important function of a ghost hunter is to find rational explanations for reported activity,” said VAPI Lead Investigator Jeff Santos to the dozen ghost hunting enthusiasts in attendance. “What we want to do is present the best evidence that can’t be debunked.”
Santos and VAPI use a wide variety of equipment and advanced techniques to investigate paranormal claims. A digital voice recorder, for example, can document unexplained sounds and even record noises imperceptible to the human ear.
VAPI makes use of electromagnetic frequency (EMF) detectors, as high levels of EMF are often associated with hauntings. According to Santos, even simple equipment such as thermometers and flashlights can be used to detect paranormal entities — and possibly even communicate with them.
“We try to go into an investigation with a scientific frame of mind,” said Linda Cassada, Investigator and Researcher with VAPI. “Sometimes we’ll go to a location and the equipment isn’t finding anything and we’ll bring in a psychic to see if they can make contact.”
Added Santos, “Some people would rather hear what the psychic has to say than what we found with our equipment.”
Santos, Cassada and the rest of their VAPI colleagues have investigated paranormal claims from as far north as Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to as far south as Savannah, Georgia. However, a haunted location in Yorktown was as spooky as any they’ve visited.
According to Santos — and urban legend — an unassuming, graffiti-marked bridge in the middle of the woods has been the site of hauntings for decades.
The legend goes that a runaway bride hung herself from the bridge where Tour Road crosses over Crawford Road near Yorktown Battlefield. To this day, there are those who claim that they have seen a ghostly figure clad in white either atop the bridge or dangling from it. Cassada even said that people have told her they heard a thud on the roof of their car as they drove under the bridge.
Santos and Cassada said that they parked near the bridge one night, hoping to see an apparition on the bride. Instead, they heard footsteps rapidly approaching the vehicle and sped off. They said they do not know if what they heard was paranormal or merely normal — but they had no desire to stick around with unknown sounds approaching through the dark.
“If it’s out in the woods and I don’t know what it is I’m less likely to stay,” laughed Santos.
The two paranormal investigators lived to tell the tale, and continue to help find answers and provide closure to people who believe they are being haunted by forces unknown.
“We get calls from people that are down to Earth,” said Cassada. “It’s heartbreaking because they have a problem and can’t go to police. They’re too embarrassed to go to neighbors and friends.”
The pair believes their team can help by proving spooky events are caused by normal occurrences, or by blessing or cleansing a haunted location to appease a malicious entity.
If that fails, “We know a realtor that sells haunted houses,” Santos said.