It was a dark and stormy night. Maybe not totally stormy, but dark; definitely dark. The wind whipped autumn leaves down wet streets. I looked up to see the bright blue neon sign telling me that I’d arrived at my destination; I am about to be a Ghostbuster for a night at the Blue Room Theatre. Under the Blue Room sign, the marquee read, “Brad Moniz Rest in Peace” and I shivered a bit. Standing out front were three women, quietly chatting. The Chico Paranormal Investigators; I could tell by their matching t-shirts. I walked up and said, “Hi, I’m Sara from the Synthesis” and they greeted me warmly and explained that Jim was looking for a parking spot. Jim, the Founder of Chico Paranormal Investigations (or CPI, as we professionals call it) strolled up a few minutes later wearing a beanie and a camouflage jacket. He kind of reminded me of a friendlier, more mobile version of Lieutenant Dan. We shook hands and thanked each other for the opportunity to hang out together.
When the Blue Room’s scheduled rehearsal ended and the actors began streaming out of the theater, we trotted upstairs to meet Blue Room’s artistic director, Fred Stuart. He showed us around the space and then cut us loose.
The first thing you should know about CPI is that they have a lot of serious equipment. Both infrared and full-spectrum cameras, laser grids, motion detectors, EVP’s, a Frank’s Box, and myriad other ghost busting gadgets. I offered to help haul things up the stairs. There were classic old steamer trunks filled with electronic equipment, they were expertly unloaded and set-up began in an efficient, professional and orderly manner.
Founder Jim Cameron, a self-described skeptic, started CPI six years ago with Dave Duty. They started by investigating graveyards and taking photos. Jim’s been buying equipment ever since. His newest gadget is called an Ovilus and it contains an internal dictionary memory, so if a spirit says a word it is then synthesized through the device so we can understand it in English. This was the first real test run for this device and you can tell Jim was excited to get an opportunity to use it. The rest of Jim’s team include Mechelle Haily, Lead Investigator Myrna Arens who has been “sensitive” as long as she can remember, Todd Frankland and his wife Juliette. Juliette is the team medium. She’s a little taller than Zelda Rubinstein (“This house is clean.”) and the way she told me that I had the spirit of a girl following me was surprisingly easy to swallow coming from her.
After everything was set up, Jim handed me a camera set to night vision. I was feeling like the coolest person in all of Chico at that moment. I immediately began recording myself making spooky noises and introductions and pretending to act scared. I pulled myself together; I couldn’t be the least professional person in the theater in the middle of the night. If ghost movies are to be believed, I’d pretty much have sealed my fate as the first idiot murdered.
It took great effort not to mentally draw a parallel from Hollywood horror films to my situation during the course of the evening. There’s something to be said for setting the scene, but you have to really concentrate on staying level and not getting yourself all worked up while you’re manning a phantom camera. Everybody else seemed serious while maintaining a healthy skepticism even when, quite suddenly, the Ovilus started talking to us.
The Ovilus has a robotic voice. And when all is quiet and dark and the only light comes from a green laser grid set up to capture spirits walking through it, the burst of a robot voice shouting words from the spirit world was startling, to say the least. Jim tried to coax the spirit into speaking more, but as quickly as the burst of words came, they stopped. We held our breath and waited; just as I was about to look away from the EVF and the Ovilus, I heard musical beeping coming from the laser grid. Everyone focused their attention there and waited for more. Suddenly the laser grid came alive like an eerie digital music box and then, just as suddenly, it stopped. Jim turned his attention back to the Ovilus to re-attempt communication. I was about to shut the camera off and rest my camera hand (i.e. slam a Red Bull) when we heard what sounded like an air-raid alarm coming from the outside hallway near the restrooms.
We raced down the hallway to find the source of the alarm, a motion detector set up in the Ladies Room. Jim rolled his eyes and laughed, like it was an uncomfortable fluke maybe, and started to walk back to the main stage area of the Blue Room. I made a joke about ghosts in the bathroom; Jim didn’t think it was funny (Crap! Still going to be the first one murdered). As we were halfway down the hall, the alarm went off again. Juliette and Myrna came running from the opposite direction, they had a feeling earlier there was going to be some activity in the restroom. Juliette attempted to communicate with the spirit and determined that it was a female. As Juliette and I were talking about why a spirit might choose to haunt a bathroom (there’s something about water and mirrors that attracts them), the alarm went off several times, calling her back into the room. She decided that “this little ghost wants some attention” and she began concentrating deeply, trying to communicate with it. She came out of the bathroom and announced that she (the ghost) wanted to be heard, and that she wanted us to know she was there. Copy that, little ghost. My eyebrows were starting to join together in a frowny face of doom; it was starting get weird. Jim came in with the Ovilus to attempt to get some confirmation in robot-English and was met with a barrage of confusing bursts of words.
Our night went pretty much the same way, sounds and alarms going off, then deafening silence as we waited for answers to specific questions that never came. Being a CPI takes a lot of patience, and a lot of waiting and sometimes nothing happens. Other times you get a possible glimpse behind the veil if you’re open to that interpretation. Jim himself believes in ghosts but he knows that there must be something preventing them from making contact, otherwise we’d have definitive proof rather than glimpses and shadows and questions in the corners of our minds.
After the ladies room alarm went off for the 6th or 7th time, I had to admit that I felt a little skin crawling consternation. But at no time did I ever feel like I was in danger or in the presence of something malicious or evil. Myrna and Juliette agreed that there was nothing to be afraid of, spirits or otherwise, but alluded to the notion that the Arroyo Room next door possibly held something a little nastier. Apparently there’s a big ghost guy in the Arroyo Room and recordings of a child asking for her mother. I’ll stick to the bathroom ghosts in the Blue Room, thankyouverymuch.
If you are interested in finding out more about Chico Paranormal Investigations and the Shadow Chasers, please check out www.chicopi.yolasite.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. If you feel like there are some hinky hauntings happening in your house, fill out the intake form on the website and let them know all about it. I have the utmost confidence that they will be respectful of your privacy, and give you the full consideration and professionalism that your case deserves.
Look for spooky video clips this week on our Life in Chico Facebook page (www.facebook.com/chicoca). Our thanks to Blue Room Theatre, whose production of The Little Prince begins November 8 and runs through November 16.