By HOPE RUDZINSKI ‘20
Are ghosts real or not?
Nichols College History Professor Emily Thomas and Psychology Professor Thomas Davis co-teach a “History of Ghosts” course this semester that focuses on the history of spirts and the psychology behind it. They invited a team of ghost hunters from Paranormal New England to campus Oct. 25, 2018, to share their stories of the spirts they’ve encountered on the job as well as some of the different technology they use to find those spirits.
This was Paranormal New England’s first visit to Nichols. Professor Thomas first met paranormal investigator Ashlynn Rickord at a conference at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. At the time, Rickord worked at the Public Health Museum in Tewksbury, Mass., and Professor Thomas was interested in visiting her museum since she teaches a Nichols course on 19th century medicine.
“Last spring, Ashlynn contacted me about doing a program at her museum on Clara Barton and the founding of the American Red Cross,” said Professor Thomas. “During one of our phone conversations, she asked me about the classes I teach. When I told her that I was teaching ‘History of Ghosts’ this fall, she told me she was a paranormal investigator with a group called Paranormal New England. She explained that her group was composed of several investigators, each with their own specialization: history, photography, electricity. She also explained that they are very evidence-focused and try to use science to explain paranormal activity. I asked her if her group would be willing to visit Nichols, and they agreed. I like to think that Clara Barton’s spirit is responsible for their visit to Nichols.”
Paranormal New England’s team consists of 10 people who investigate haunted places. The five members who visited Nichols were Rickord, Joe Rainone, Bart and Heidi Smith, and Monique Bale. Bart and Heidi Smith are the founders of Paranormal New England and a part of the lead investigators team. As for Rainone, he is one of the six lead investigators and has been since 2010. Rickord and Bale are paranormal investigators who are new to the team.
“Hunting ghosts doesn’t pay that well, so we also have regular full-time jobs,” said Rainone. “This is our hobby.”
Investigating haunted areas and being involved with spirts must make the team believe in them, right? Well sometimes that’s not always the case.
“I’m a skeptical, because I haven’t seen anything to make me believe,” said Heidi Smith.
“It goes by what your views are on ghosts. I haven’t had any personal experiences yet, but I do think there’s a higher power out there,” Rainone said.
From hearing about their experiences out in the field, Rickord shared an interesting story regarding beliefs.
“I had an emotional experience a couple weeks ago where I had a dream about my grandfather who passed away. I just got engaged a few days ago, and I had a dream he told me he wanted to see my ring and that he was happy for me. It was very vivid. This makes me believe there’s always a higher power trying to connect to us,” Rickord said.
Throughout the presentation, the team members explained what tools they use on investigations. The EMF reader measures magnetic fields and catches the invisible ones, such as radiation. The K2 is the most popular on ghost shows such as “Ghost Adventures.”
“They don’t really work,” pointed out Rainone. “They are all for show and are mainly designed for contractors and electricians to read EMF meters in homes.”
The Mel EM Meter was designed for ghost hunting and was made by Gary Galka, a father who lost his daughter in a car accident and wanted to connect with her. He was an engineer and kept building the product to make it better.
After talking about the different tools, they explained the haunted places they’ve been to. They’ve also had a few encounters out on the job, but they strive to explore new places.
“My team and I were in the Clinton Tunnel in Clinton, Mass., when I encountered my first personal paranormal experience. I heard a strong voice say, ‘Get Out!’ This was one of the first encounters I’ve personally experience,” Rainone said.
Professors Davis and Thomas have different takes on whether ghosts exist.
“I’m waiting for the evidence,” said Professor Davis.
Meanwhile, Professor Thomas has had a few on-campus paranormal experiences.
“One was in Academy 206 a few years back,” she said. “While teaching a class, there suddenly was a bad sulfur or rotten egg smell in the room. The facilities department came to the room to check on the heating unit and found nothing wrong. The smell disappeared after about 20 minutes.”
As far as paranormal community goes, Thomas believes there may be a deeper spiritual connection present.
“Within the paranormal community, many believe that a sulfur smell is an indicator that a spirit is present in a room, but I believe there’s something of a higher power there,” she said.
There may be higher powers out there, but to believe in ghosts is up to your own interpretation. Paranormal New England accepts opinions from each angle.
“New England Paranormal presented a nice balance of the skeptic and the believer,” said Professor Davis. “The real benefit is strengthening our students’ critical thinking and learning how to apply the scientific method to understand uncommon events. Psychologically, we know that humans are pattern-seeking creatures, and, without the scientific method, we tend to fool ourselves. Overall, Professor Thomas and I are trying to balance developing a sense of skepticism without the cynicism.”
After the presentation, Paranormal New England investigators led an on-campus ghost hunt, during which the team and about 20 people toured different buildings of Nichols College, such as Academy Hall, Conant, and the Guest House. Tour attendees didn’t get any readings until they reached the circa-1792 Guest House, which is the oldest building on campus.
Two readings in both upstairs bedrooms were conducted, and attendees heard a spirit say: “No.” The spirit also answered questions posed to it: “Can you close the closet door?” and “Do you like us sitting on your bed?”
After the tour, Paranormal New England investigators were interested in conducting their own session at the Guest House and said they’d like to return to Nichols to explore other parts of campus.
Nichols students had positive feedback regarding the presentation and the ghost hunt.
“I liked the presentation, and I thought the walk was very cool,” said student Victoria McPherson. “The Guest House was a good closer to Paranormal New England visiting.”
Said Professor Thomas: “I think Paranormal New England did a fantastic job. Their presentation was engaging and interesting. I liked that they debunked many myths about ‘ghost hunting.’ I am still in awe that they captured a couple of EVPs in the Guest House, and that I missed it! It would be great to have the team back on campus to present their findings of paranormal activity at Nichols to the campus community next fall.”
Hope Rudzinski is a junior English major and communications minor, and a public relations assistant in the Nichols College Office of Marketing and Communications.