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Manchester Paranormal Society investigates, eliminates spirits

As Halloween approaches, ghost stories and demons are in the public eye again. For David Caltrider and the other members of the Manchester Paranormal Society, spirits and the supernatural are not something only for October, but rather a near-daily occurance.

The MPS offers free investigative services for homes in the Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia area that are experiencing supernatural phenomena. The group investigates and eliminates spirits and demons that residents claim are infesting their homes. Caltrider said that while not everyone believes in ghosts, for those who do — or who experience something unexplainable — their services are invaluable.

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The Manchester Paranormal Society originally began in 2010 with six members, but has grown to nearly 20, spreading throughout Carroll County, down to Halethorpe and all the way up to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Caltrider, who lives in Manchester, said his experience with the supernatural goes all the way back to his childhood. When he was about 5 or 6, he said, he was at his grandmother's house and his mother spotted him playing patty cake by himself. When she asked him who he was playing with, Caltrider said he gave the name of his great uncle's daughter, who had died in a car accident while she was still young.

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His second experience came in the eighth grade after his grandfather passed away. He said he saw him at night after his death. Despite his experiences and interest in the supernatural, he said his family never believed in what he saw.

Fellow ghost hunter Kent Heim, of Lancaster, said he had a similar experience with skepticism from his family when he was young.

"Back in the mid '70s, I lived in an old house and I would see a Southern old woman at night walking around my bed," Heim said. "My parents thought I was crazy. They took me to the psychiatrist, who said I was OK. We lived at that house until my father saw her. Once that happened, we moved out the next day."

Heim said the group approaches each case from a scientific standpoint, spending much of each first meeting attempting to debunk any possible supernatural phenomena. The group has members with psychological, electrical and mechanical backgrounds to ensure that what people are experiencing can't be explained by simple natural causes.

"Sometimes it's something as simple as the air conditioning or a heater making the curtains move," Heim said. "We have EMF readers that sense the electromagnetic fields. If the levels get too high, it can cause paranoia, nausea or hallucinations. That's something that can be solved by an electrician."

The investigation begins with a questionnaire administered by the case manager, while other members take base readings around the house. After the first meeting, the group puts together a team for a full overnight investigation that can take anywhere between 6 to 8 hours, as they tour the house, take readings, photographs, and recordings while listening and looking for paranormal activity.

After the investigation, Caltrider said, it can take about two weeks to go through all of the information and recordings gathered. They then present their findings to the homeowner. For benign hauntings, Caltrider said, the families can choose to co-exist with the ghost, whereas for more-negative spirits, the group offers a house cleansing, complete with religious blessing.

Caltrider said many of the ghost hunting TV shows overstate the malevolence of evil spirits.

"If you had a guy that was just a mean common guy and he dies, he's just going to be a mean common spirit," Caltrider said. "That doesn't mean he's a demon from hell. That just means he's a [jerk]."

Caltrider said he is a believer in demonic hauntings, though rare. To prepare for such occurrences, Caltrider is both an ordained minister and demonologist, a title he gained after taking a demonology course. He describes the average bitter spirit as a negative haunting.

In addition to the cleansings, the group can aid with "crossing overs," in which a psychically intuitive member can talk with the spirits and convince them to make their way over to the other side. For do-it-yourself types who want to try their hand at ridding themselves of spectral pests, the society offers house cleansing kits, with readings and religious items, that can be used by paranormal novices.

The group responds to about four or five calls and emails a month, though the number they receive is closer to 15 to 20 each month. The other cases can often be written off as pranks, according to Heim. In addition to the private jobs, the group visits known haunted locations to train themselves and test out new pieces of equipment.

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Caltrider and Heim agreed that the most memorable supernatural experience was during one of these test visits to the St. Albans Sanitorium in Radford, Virginia. Caltrider said they were exploring while using a spirit box — a radio modified to continually switch stations with 150 milliseconds between each station — creating white noise. The rapid changes are intended to prove that any voice or signal coming through is not coming from terrestrial origins.

"We were walking through and suddenly I felt something punch me in the back," Caltrider said. "I called out, and I heard a male voice on the spirit box saying 'Hello.' I said 'Hello' back, and a second later a child's voice came through saying 'Daddy, take me to the hospital.'"

He said the voice was so clear that it startled him. The audio from the tape is currently available on the MPS YouTube page.

In addition to this experience, Caltrider said he's been pushed and scratched by spirits, and has seen full-body apparitions and heard voices while alone.

This summer, Caltrider and fellow MPS member Jason Riddle began working on the television program "The R.I.P. Files," a ghost hunting show that Caltrider said embraces Hollywood tropes less than the majority of programs. He said he's interested in showing the world the work they really do. Episodes can be found on Amazon and iTunes, as well as FioS OnDemand.

"Everybody involved has a calling to do this. We're here doing what we love to do," Caltrider said. "You do get the thrill seekers who are just out to do what they see on TV. They come on one investigation, are like, 'Man, this is boring' because it is. You're just sitting in a room talking to yourself and taking thousands of photos and finding nothing most of the time."

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Twitter.com/Jacob_deNobel

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