Paranormal activity: the SAIT episode

Vincent Musial: The Ghost Hunter > The SAIT journalism student goes in search of paranormal activity in Heritage Hall. He wore scrubs and hospital garb to attract the ghost. The rumour is that a young nurse who died during the flu pandemic still walks the halls. On the advice of paranormal experts, Musial recorded sound. ALYSSA HOWLAND PHOTO

Weal writer Vincent Musial and photographer Alyssa Howland embarked on a paranormal adventure on campus in an attempt to stimulate the dead rumoured to haunt the halls

The equivalent to a modern-day Scooby Doo team, we meddling students found ourselves looking for clues as we instigated interaction with the other world.

The culprit of our mystery wasn’t a creepy janitor with a latex mask or a probing night guard in search of a hidden treasure, but that of rumours regarding ominous incidents reported on SAIT campus during the night.

“Things (occurred) like the TV would turn on and off with the volume turned up to the highest. My room door would often open by itself. I occasionally felt like something was watching me when the lights were out,” said Mandy Lee, a 2006 New Media and Production Design graduate who lived on campus.

In 1918, SAIT’s Heritage Hall was transformed into a hospital to cater and treat those infected during the influenza epidemic. One of the victims of this worldwide health crisis was a nurse who served at the hospital. Let’s call her Rose.

While Susan Kooyman, archivist for The Glenbow Museum, said she couldn’t find information about Rose, she told me about the debilitating pandemic at the time.

Rose likely died in extreme pain, with her mind infected by a delirious fever much like the sickly bodies she treated.

There has to be some underlying reason that motivates the occupants of the spirit world, for they yearn for the sort of interaction reminiscent of life before, says Beth Fowler, president of The Alberta Paranormal Investigators Society. A lingering emotional connection is often believed to be the cause of these uninvited guests, she adds.

I bring a nurse’s bag that is likely the type Rose would have used. I dress in hospital scrubs with a stethoscope in hopes to attract contact. Further stimulation may be required, but I can’t help feel this could draw something with a more malicious nature.

We arrive at the basement of Heritage Hall at midnight. The hallway is dim compared to the others with old chairs and desks pushed along to one side.

The air feels heavy and has an old musky smell while I hold my audio recorder in front of me. A primal terror escapes my skin forming goose bumps. I know this hallway feels different; I feel my conscience telling me to leave. The fluorescent light beside me begins to change as the photographer and I hear an unusual noise.

Before we headed out, Fowler told us to record the sound to help us determine whether or not Rose was present (see sidebar for ghost-hunting tips).

Reviewing these recordings later on, the noises were heard were, at best, crackling white noise. Although no audible voices were picked up as we traversed SAIT’s supposedly haunted hallways and basements, an unnerving feeling sent shivers creeping up my body. It felt like peering eyes. In these moments of silence, we could feel the temperature drop. So why was I sweating the whole time?

As a child I watched Scooby Doo and Ghost Hunter shows. I reassured myself that thankfully I would never be in those types of situations.

The fear I experienced was different and primal in comparison to what one feels when watching a horror movie. When watching these flicks, you can be a slave to the fears that prey on you. Real or not.

It can be speculated entities like Rose crave the same acknowledgement that the living strive for. If your very existence was at best debatable, ambiguous and constantly scrutinized, you would want attention as well.

There is something about the paranormal that continues to intrigue and attract people of all ages regardless of national or religious backgrounds.

Often times evidence can be validated and rationalized for those expecting to find these encounters, but despite the skeptics and non believers, people will continue to search for answers on this possible hint of another life after death.

Was the disturbing feeling that washed over me possibly Rose’s presence?

We will never truly know. But for her soul’s sake, I hope not. I hope our attempts to communicate with her have put her at peace.

Ghost Hunting Tips:
Beth Fowler, president of The Alberta Paranormal Investigators Society has been investigating the paranormal for over 20 years and offers some tips for new paranormal investigators.

Meddling kids
Make sure you get the proper forms and go through the right channels to gain access to places you want to investigate. Stay on top of people who may not prioritize checking their emails so you’re not stepping on any toes.

Be the group’s “Spock”
Be logical and don’t get your hopes up. It’s important to remain skeptical and reasonable. The reason we do this is to explain what we saw.

White noise
Use inexpensive audio recorders or an iPhone to capture Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVPS). Use a free program (Audacity) to decrease hiss/static in a recording to pick up sounds the human ear cannot hear.

Cut the gimmicks
Don’t bring things like Ouija Boards to antagonize the spirits. Talk to them like they’re there. The main thing is to have respect, and spirits most often respond to genuine empathy.

Do your homework
Be as informed as you can and investigate the deceased person’s background. Listen to your body and inform yourself on widely accepted evidence, like temperature change, EVPS and general feelings that someone’s watching you.

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