Do Ghost Hunters Really Find Ghosts?

(image licensed by Colleen Collins)

(image licensed by Colleen Collins)

Hard to believe, but Halloween is just around the corner. Here in Colorado the historic Stanley Hotel, where Stephen King began drafting The Shining, is already taking reservations for its "Three Nights of Fright" to celebrate Halloween with events that include ghost hunting expeditions. I've taken its ghost tour several times, and heard tales of ghosts who haunt certain rooms. The Brown Palace hotel in Denver also claims guests and staff have witnessed spirits who "have chosen to spend eternity with us." Silly fun...or are these old hotels really haunted?

Over the years we've had a few people call our agency, asking if we could investigate ghosts they believe are haunting their homes. We always decline, explaining that we are not paranormal investigators. We try to steer them to paranormal investigation sources that sincerely want to help people and not take advantage of their fears.

What Is a Paranormal Investigator?

Most paranormal investigators are people who are certified in parapsychology or who have studied paranormal investigations. Their goal is to help people in need, and often paranormal investigators do not accept money for their services (although they may accept donations for travel, lodging and expenses). Some paranormal investigators make money through writing books, conducting “ghost tours,” giving workshops, or even starring in TV reality shows about ghost hunters.

Tips for Hiring a Paranormal Investigator

Look up an established paranormal investigations organization in the area. For example, the National and International ParaHaunt Paranormal Family Network gives referrals to paranormal investigators throughout the U.S. and the world.

Check the background of the paranormal organization or investigator before you retain their services. Contact the Better Business Bureau, research the organization/person on the Internet for news stories and client referrals, review their website and contact any former clients for recommendations, or hire a private investigator to double-check the paranormal investigator’s background (especially if you’re inviting this person into your home).

Photograph of floating spirit & spirit "orb" by William Hope, early 1900s (image is in the public domain)

Photograph of floating spirit & spirit "orb" by William Hope, early 1900s (image is in the public domain)

We don't conduct paranormal investigations at our agency for the simple reason we don't believe in ghosts. On the other hand, I would be a believer if I had captured evidence of one. Which I tried to do a few years back…

Ghost Hunting at Three Colorado Haunted Hotels

More than once I have visited the Stanley Hotel and taken its Ghost Tour. The “Stanley” is known for its Room #217, where Stephen King first began writing The Shining, later made into a movie starring Jack Nicholson.

My Digital Photos Caught “Orbs”

I took photos during these ghost tours with my digital camera, and others in the group (including the tour guide) would tell me I had captured orbs, which supposedly indicated the presence of spirits. The Paranormal Encyclopedia says that “both skeptics, and many ghost hunters, agree that photographic orbs are most often, if not always, caused by natural elements such as dust, pollen, or water vapor.” I don’t know what caused the orbs, but if I’d seen, oh, a spectral figure hovering in the photo…well, then I’d believe I’d captured evidence of a ghost.

Claims of Ghosts, But When I Visited…

I’ve visited other supposedly haunted hotels and buildings around Denver, Colorado, starting with the “Brown.”

Brown Palace Hotel, Denver Colorado, 1898 (image is in the public domain)

Brown Palace Hotel, Denver Colorado, 1898 (image is in the public domain)

The Brown Palace Hotel

I’ve taken the ghost tour three times at the Brown Palace Hotel, built in 1892.  Each time, the guide told us fantastic stories about ghosts and ghouls who haunt the hotel, from a long-dead string quartet that still practices their music to a ghost-like train conductor who walks through walls. I would have loved to have seen or heard one of these apparitions, but I never did. Neither did anyone else on those tours.

Although one of the tour guides swore that late one night she saw a “black mass” of vapor swirl up to the ceiling and disappear. Hmmm.  Shame no one got a picture of that.

House of Mirrors

Seven or so years ago, I was writing a novel that featured a ghost character who lived during the late nineteenth-century silver-boom days of Colorado. During this era, there was a famous madam, Mattie Silks, who people claim still haunts her old living quarters in Denver (which was called the House of Mirrors).

Mattie Silks, Denver madam, 1845-1929 (image is in the public domain)

Mattie Silks, Denver madam, 1845-1929 (image is in the public domain)

One spring afternoon, I visited the House of Mirrors, which had morphed into a bar/restaurant. The business was closed, but a friendly bartender let me in to walk around and look at spots where the madam’s ghost had been seen and heard (several people claimed to have even heard her whispering on a certain staircase). Did I see or hear any ghostly goings-on? Unfortunately, no.

But the bartender claimed there were spooky goings-on in the old building. He said late at night, when he's alone cleaning up, sometimes the elevator will suddenly start working, its doors opening…and no one would be inside. And then there was the night when an entire shelf suddenly crashed to the floor.

I wish I could imagine ghosts in those happenings, but it seemed to me that both the shelf and elevator had been in serious need of repair. But if I’d seen a spectral form materialize, and better yet if it had talked to me, you better believe I would have added “paranormal investigations” to our agency services.

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