Who are you going to call? Local ghost hunters search for things that fall into the night


Seen normally, Lathrop House is the hometown of Mount Vernon, the residence of San Mateo County’s first Appraiser-Clerk-Recorder, Benjamin Lathrop. Majestic and ornate, this Gothic-style Steamboat mansion now occupies a must-see location in downtown Redwood City following a move in May to a location behind the County History Museum. Once the exhibits have been created and the furniture moved, Lathrop House will hand over the welcome mat to visitors.

But seen in a paranormal way? Could there be more than meets the eye in this house with many gables, this landmark that has been torn from its last resting place and moved three times? If these walls could talk, would they tell ghost stories?

For those who have conducted paranormal “investigations” at Lathrop House, the idea that it is driven by missing spirits is not at all far-fetched.

“There are a lot of haunted places that stay very quiet for decades,” says Jim Martin of Redwood City, who has been conducting after dark surveys at Lathrop House for several years. Then someone decides to renovate, he continues, and “all of a sudden things start to happen because someone has come in and upset what he still considers his home, his place. … I would be really interested in going back to Lathrop very soon now that they’ve moved it, as it’s going to be a really interesting investigation into what effect it had on this place.

Julie Eckert from San Mateo, who has had psychic abilities and experiences all her life, visits Lathrop House once or twice a month and has obtained spiritual voice recordings under the house during the recent move. “My favorite place seems to be Lathrop House,” she says. ” I do not know why. … But I feel attached to the spirits there. I feel they are attached to me.

The two friends are part of a small community of people involved in paranormal exploration, often independent of each other and with different goals. Martin, 57, who has been involved in various businesses over the years, took to the field after watching “Ghost Adventures” on the Travel Channel about eight years ago and has become increasingly fascinated. Thanks to a “meeting” group in San José, he was able to participate in his first survey.

He began to buy his own cameras and his own recording, lighting, and other ghost documentation equipment, and learned the computer skills needed to edit. Martin “bit the bullet” and bought broadcast-level cameras and ended up starting his own live broadcast network, the Spirit Realm Network (www.thespiritrealm.net), which is “basically all that is. paranormal, metaphysical or esoteric, being that big umbrella. … I’m really just a journalist. I just want to be there with my camera and mic and hear what needs to be said. What is happening? What do these entities want us to know? Why are they still hanging around? The network, which is free to viewers but has advertisers and sponsors, offers live programming every night. Subscribers come from all over the world, especially the Midwest and Canada.

Eckert, 59, a flight attendant, was brought up in the Catholic faith and “all my life I have been raised to believe that this (the paranormal) exists”. Unlike Martin, when spirits are present she gets strong indications – where the energy is in the room or a feeling of air stuck in her throat. “It all starts to open up and amplify for me” right before a planned investigation, Eckert says.

It was Martin who first approached Helen Cocco, president of the Redwood City Heritage Association, which operates Lathrop House as a museum; on being authorized to conduct investigations. Cocco, 88, hesitated at first and told him his height should be limited and kept private. “I didn’t want anyone to leave the street,” she says. Cocco charges $ 250 for a group or $ 50 per person, which goes to support operations. She plans to continue hosting legitimate and knowledgeable investigators after the museum reopens.

Groups, usually five or six people, arrive at 5 or 6 p.m. and stay until around 10 p.m. Cocco makes coffee and dessert and sits down in the kitchen with a friend and ‘chatters’. Meanwhile, investigators roam the house to see if they feel “energy.” They use their equipment and recorders to pick up messages from the Hereafter. Often, not much is happening. If investigators get an answer, they ask the entity questions such as its name and whether it lives in the house or is just visiting.

There are two kinds of hauntings in the ghost hunting world: residual and intelligent. Residual energy is a “reproduction of past events,” according to “The Everything Ghost Hunting Book” by Melissa Martin Ellis, as apparitions that appear over and over. Smart hauntings, on the other hand, are ghosts that “haven’t passed”, linger for a variety of reasons, and can interact.

Smart hauntings are obviously more engaging. Martin and Eckert say the most common responses they get from the other world are “get out” and an “f — you” layman.

One theory, explains Martin, is that “they see the house and they see us as ghosts… as if we are invading their space just as they come in and invade our space. Often they don’t know they are dead. They hang in there and it’s like, ‘Why are these people in my house?’ “

There is nothing more compelling than taped ‘evidence’, but to the uninitiated, the vaporous footage in the video bears no resemblance to meeting a real Caspar. Likewise, listening to a recording of an “electronic voice phenomenon”, or EVP, can be like searching for the sounds of the ocean by putting a shell in your ear.

“They’re never going to come your way and appear as we appear,” says Martin, who has video of a “little creature” he photographed at Lathrop House. “…. They don’t look like real people. They look like energy in the form of a mist. Investigators repeatedly saw “shadow play” on the stairs of Lathrop House and heard footsteps, Eckert said.

Cocco, who is Catholic, did not hear voices or see spirits during the investigations, but one night she was sitting with a group of a dozen investigators when “suddenly, out of nowhere, the table where I was sitting next moved. It felt like a U-turn. … It definitely moved, absolutely.

Nevertheless, she remains skeptical. “Although I am not a total believer, I had some doubts,” she says. “I am in the middle of the road. I am not a total believer, but I have seen it happen.

Martin and Eckert both say they have seen surprising paranormal manifestations, as well as more disturbing ones.

“I was grabbed by the arm where I felt fingers dig in with two other people standing right next to me,” Eckert explains. “And that freaked me out. It was one of my first experiences and I almost stopped investigating after that.… Then I realized it was probably just a cranky mind that was just trying to freak me out knowing he could.

Years ago, while cleaning up after hours at an airport cafe in Half Moon Bay, Martin says he saw a spiral ramekin two feet in the air and land about 10 feet. “It didn’t scare me for some reason.” Later, however, he conducted an investigation at an old Midwestern inn that had been built on sacred Indian land. Suddenly a girl next to him screamed as three small plumes appeared on his arm, swollen like a tribal mark. “It’s the worst I have ever seen,” he says. “I saw a lot of scratches, most of them on people’s backs.

This is one of the reasons why investigations should be carried out in pairs, says Martin. Visiting abandoned and dilapidated places is inherently riskier, but “part of it can actually get demonic,” he adds. “And people kind of get possessed. It is not the safest thing for one person.

So are investigators playing with fire?

Martin, who attends a Christian church in Redwood City, says it’s a common question and one he’s struggled with. He believes he was not attacked because he is protected by his faith, and communicating with the spirits strengthens his belief that they must speak from some kind of purgatory. “It’s more reaffirmed my belief,” he said. “It didn’t take me away from anything. If anything, he added to that.

People today are generally not skeptical of supernatural phenomena as they once were, according to Martin and Eckert. “It’s just a matter of whether you’ve had an experience or not,” she says. “I think people who haven’t had one say that’s not true.” Clearly not in that category, she finds surveys “the most fascinating thing in the world, to be able to make you talk about someone you can’t see.” For me, this is one of the most exciting things that proves to me without a shadow of a doubt that it does exist and that these people do exist. And I’m just curious to see what evidence you can get (on his tapes.) ”

Perhaps surprisingly, Redwood City’s Civil War-era Union Cemetery isn’t the happy hunting ground one might assume it would be. “Reports of haunted cemeteries are much less common than those of ghost-infested houses,” according to author Ellis.

Ellen Crawford, president of the Historic Union Cemetery Association, has led half a dozen investigative groups in Woodside Road Cemetery over the years. No one she observed seemed to find much. One group brought a box that “just sort of spit out words”, one of which was allegedly “teacher”. Crawford took them to the grave of James Van Court, music teacher and photographer. “They felt something hot on the floor,” she said. She did not do it.

Nonetheless, Crawford does not belittle their efforts, believing that if the spirits of Union Cemetery are aware and communicate, “They are happy to have us here… I have a warm and hazy feeling for these people.”

Union Cemetery volunteers are planning a Halloween-themed cemetery tour, tentatively scheduled for October 26 at 10 a.m. “We don’t do scary stuff,” Crawford says. “We’re doing horrible stuff,” which means a gory tale of some of the bloodiest deaths in Union Cemetery that made the pages of Redwood City’s early newspapers. For more information, visit historicunioncemetery.com.

This story originally appeared in the October print edition of Climate Magazine.

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