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Laurel Museum investigated for possible paranormal activity

Museums

Sometimes when docent Amy Junewick is working on the first-floor of the Laurel Museum, she'll hear footsteps creaking across the old wooden floorboards on the second-floor above.

This isn't altogether strange – the second floor does serve as a work space and storage – except that it continues to happen when Junewick is the only person in the building. Well, the only person alive anyway.

"I try not to think about it when I'm here," she said. "Otherwise it creeps me out."

The Laurel Museum is operated by the Laurel Historical Society out of a restored 19th-century mill worker's house adjacent to Riverfront Park. The museum opened in 1996 and has been the society's official headquarters ever since. It also may be haunted, if stories like Junewick's and others are to be believed.

Reports of potential paranormal activity led Marlene Frazier, a Laurel Historical Society volunteer, to call in the cavalry: Pasadena Paranormal Investigations, a nonprofit that investigates possible paranormal activity in a variety of historic buildings, homes and sites across the region.

The group is led by lifelong friends and Pasadena residents Jared Tracey, 35, and Brent Smith, 35. The pair are staunch believers in ghosts, or spirits as they call them, and they have the stories to back it up.

"I believe in ghosts. They're out there," Tracey said.

Tracey said he saw the ghost, or spirit, of his father when he was 16 and visiting his father's grave in a cemetery. He said he saw him "as clear as day" wearing the same clothes he was buried in for a brief moment. Ever since he's been obsessed with finding out more about the paranormal.

Smith said his childhood home in Pasadena was "highly active" with paranormal activity.

"I can spend days telling you stories about that," he said. "That's what got me into it."

Since officially forming the group at the end of last year, the pair have investigated a series of historical sites: the Benson-Hammond House in Linthicum, the Howard County Historical Society's museum in Ellicott City, the William Brown House in Edgewater and the grounds of Gettysburg.

Their most recent stop is the Laurel Museum. On the evening of July 19, Tracey, Smith and Smith's brother, Ben Smith, spent the night at the museum to investigate the claims of spirits. Junewick, Frazier and Laurel resident Mike Graver, a friend of Junewick's, tagged along to see what might turn up.

After more than four hours of investigative work, which includes shutting off all lights and attempting to communicate with spirits through a myriad of devices, the results are inconclusive – the team needs at least two weeks to review all of the audio and video they record.

Tracey is sure of one thing, however: Something is going on at the museum.

During the night, the team reported a series of unexplained phenomena, and one investigator, Ben Smith, said that he was touched by a spirit. Smith also said while he was upstairs, the printer mysteriously turned itself on, which the investigators say could be proof of something paranormal.

When Brent Smith used laser imaging technology from Xbox Kinect, a video-game system that maps people's movements on a computer screen, he said the technology began mapping images of people who weren't there, which he said is another sign of activity.

The team also thinks one or more spirits were attempting to communicate with them using some of the devices they brought, such as an Ovilus and a Spirit Box, two tools they say are staples for paranormal investigators. According to the team, both devices use electromagnetic energy, which they believe spirits can use to create vocal sounds or messages.

And while Tracey and Brent Smith are convinced that spirits and paranormal activity is real, they understand that not everyone is a believer.

That's why Smith said they take a more skeptical approach than others might take.

"When in doubt, throw it out," Smith said. "Your brain is trained to make sense of our nonsense, so we know we are going to hear something if we are looking for something. We want the stuff that is clear cut, there is no mystery to it. ... That's hard to get, but that's what we are going for, that solid proof."

In addition to producing videos on their investigations, the group, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, also supports the historical societies and owners of other sites it investigates through donations and holding what they call ghost tours, a nighttime event that allows the public to participate in an investigation.

Tracey said the tours raise hundreds of dollars for the host group and is a way of saying thank-you for allowing access to the sites.

Smith said the group does not fake any of their content found on their Facebook page, and their goal isn't to convince people who don't believe.

"We are not trying to convince anyone else," Smith said. "Love it, hate it, think it's stupid, whatever. This is what we do as a hobby, and we're putting it out there for people to enjoy."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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