Special Assignment: Ghost Hunters

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February 25, 2007

THOMSON, Ga.---Georgia and South Carolina are known for haunted activity everywhere, from ghosts and legends tours in Savannah, where pirates are believed to have settled and the site of the second bloodiest battle of the Revolutionary War, to Charleston, where they tell tales of the Civil War and the men who fought in it.

It all begs the question: is there really life after death?

Some people think so...but how do we know for sure?

In 1982, horror films took a new turn when director Tobe Hooper and producer Steven Spielberg made a motion picture blockbuster that sent chills down moviegoers' spines with the famous line "They're here."

Poltergeist was based on a suburban family whose house is terrorized by the unknown. The film goes beyond the stereotypical idea of a ghost running around in sheets and explores a new realm of the paranormal world that even to this day is still hard to define.

"The evil ones are out to harm you like the poltergeist," said Ginger Yarbrough, founder of Georgia Ghost Hunters, a group based in Harlem, Georgia. "They poke, prod, pinch, and they can start small fires on their own. They're rare, but there are documented cases out there."

Ginger started investigating the paranormal back in 1992 after her father died.

"Three months before he died, he told me he was going to die. I woke up crying. I didn't know if it was a dream, but it was so real. After that I had many paranormal experiences."

Fascinated and determined to prove the skeptics wrong, she began reading, doing research of her own, and even taking courses in parapsychology and astrology.

"They're there," she said. "I believe it. I've seen it with my own two eyes. I've heard noises...the calling of names when no one else is around. What else could it be?"

Ginger has a photo she says she snapped at the old VA hospital in Augusta before it was torn down.

The Ghost Hunters went to check it out after someone thought they spotted a spirit going into one of the rooms.

"We were sitting in a long hallway, and a shadowed person, which I'm calling a non-human entity or demon, would come around the corner," Ginger said. "He was extremely tall. It startled me, and I don't get scared easily."

There is a black area in the center of the picture that Ginger says is the spirit.

"We take hundreds of pictures, and every now and then we'll get something," she said.

And that one small chance they might spot something out of the ordinary is what keeps them going.

"Once you see it you're a firm believer, but what we do is try to disprove a haunting," Ginger said.

The group doesn't have any fancy ghostbuster-type gadgets. They say they use everyday electronic devices like camcorders, audio recorders, digital cameras, an EMF reader to measure the levels of electro-magnetic energy and an IR thermometer to measure the changes in the temperature of a room.

"Ghosts are thought to cause drastic temperature changes, like more than 20 degrees," Ginger explained.

The Ghost Hunters invited us along to the Rock House in Thomson. It's one of Georgia's oldest homes, believed to have been built in 1785.

They say they've had strange experiences before in the house, and urban legend has it that Thomas Ansley, the man who built the granite home, is buried not far from the house.

"They could be attached to a certain object in the house...or loved the place they were living or maybe watching over you."

Before beginning the evening, the group prayed for safety against Satan and his spirits.

Then, wasting no time, the group began setting up recording devices throughout the home to record or detect any possible movement in the house the human eye couldn't see.

About five minutes later, one of the members thought he saw a light and investigated what the culprit could be.

But instead of trying to prove that it could be something paranormal, the group tried to prove that it wasn't.

It ended up being a false alarm, and we kept on moving, downstairs towards the basement.

All six of us, including one of our camera guys, navigated the home using nothing more than flashlights and the light from our camera.

Without them we all stood in complete darkness.

Not long after we made our way downstairs, we all heard a strange noise. It sounded like it came from upstairs, so the group checked to see if something had fallen upstairs. Then they went outside to rule out other natural possibilities.

The entire time, I was holding an EMF. For 90% of the time, the one lone green light never changed--it was always lit.

The reason I remember is because my thumb started to hurt from holding the button for so long.

But just as soon as I started to think this was all a hoax, the light started flashing. It stopped as soon as everyone started looking, but I was sure I saw it.

Starting to get a little concerned, I asked what the flashing meant.

"It could be energy from a ghost."

About 45 minutes later, we made a third trip back to the third floor of the house, where Ginger believes most of the paranormal activity exists.

As we waited around hoping something unusual would happen, suddenly we heard a loud tap on the window.

"I saw her EMF reader go off, I heard something bang, and by that time I saw a white mass that filled up this much of the window and it went away," Ginger said.

I knocked on the glass to see if perhaps the sound was the wind blowing the loose window panel against itself. But the sound was completely different.

Immediately afterwards, one of the members snapped a photo...and it revealed a small circle of light to the far right of the same window.

Was it Thomas Ansley? Or was it just a flash from the camera?

More tests would need to be done later outside the home to know for sure, so we kept going.

Shortly after we all took a bathroom break, our own News 12 photographer, Brandon, thinks he too has spotted something strange.

"I was standing here with my light on my camera right about here, and I saw someone walk by from the outside wall...I don't know," he said. "I tried to yell, 'Is anyone out there?' but I couldn't get it out because I knew I didn't hear the footsteps I should've heard."

Brandon took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"What does that make you think?" I asked.

"I wasn't about to go back in," Brandon said.

At this point, a little more than an hour had passed since we'd arrived at the home...and when we made one last trip upstairs, we noticed one of the candles had now been blown out.

Moments later, the fully charged battery on my handheld camera had died.

And shortly thereafter, another camera's battery had lost its power. This time it was one of the Ghost Hunters' cameras that they had set up in the home.

About five minutes later, Brandon, who didn't know what had just happened, made it about halfway up the stairs when his camera shut off on him without any warning.

"When we all lost power to our cameras, that's a sign of paranormal activity, because they draw energy from their surrounding sources, and the cameras are the strongest amount of energy to draw from," Ginger said.

"I feel there are two separate spirits in this building. One is a residual haunting. We've seen it several times over and over again doing the same thing. And the other is an intelligent haunting, because we believe it was following us around."

"I feel there's nothing bad here," she went on. "It was interacting with us, but I see no harm here."

So were they really ghosts?

Was Thomas Ansley trying to tell us he didn't want us to be there?

Or did we all see something because we wanted to?

Either way, at the very least it makes you wonder what may be under your own house that you just don't know about yet.

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