Some people might think of ghost stories as simply Halloween tradition, but for the Pasadena Paranormal Society, investigating the strange and inexplicable is a year-round, specialized endeavor. Following a brief hiatus, the appropriately numbered 13 members of the group are back, having revived their interest last year and begun investigating again.
“What we want to do, really, is go out and help people,” explained Rick Przybylski, the group’s director and lead investigator. “We’re not adrenaline junkies or going to abandoned buildings to stir up trouble.”
Przybylski indicated that the Pasadena Paranormal Society examines alleged cases of hauntings or other mysterious happenings, seeking to either find a rational explanation or else confirm that there is indeed supernatural activity. “We may not be able to get rid of whatever is in their house, but we can give them the comfort that they’re not crazy … That’s our main goal, and that’s why I didn’t want to see the group fade away.”
It was in 2007 that the Pasadena Paranormal Society was originally formed by local residents David Schmincke and Brian Scott Duncan, who were united by an interest in the supernatural and finding answers to the questions they had about the afterlife.
Although the society kept busy for a few years, the investigators had other commitments, mostly work and family related, and they didn’t have time for the investigations. In 2014, Schmincke sent out an email asking whether anyone was interested in stepping into the role of director, and Przybylski volunteered.
However, he acknowledged that even though he stepped into the role of leader, he is one of the newer members and still looks to his comrades for guidance. “It’s a group effort,” he said. “I don’t like the term ‘director.’”
The group’s mission, as explained on its website, www.pasadenaparanormal.com, is to investigate incidents of reported paranormal activity and gather as much evidence as possible using scientific methods and equipment. The researchers then scrutinize the evidence to determine whether the activity was normal or indeed paranormal, seeking to provide education and comfort to those who are affected.
“Everything we now know today as scientific fact was once unknown and frightening,” the website asserts. “Paranormal events are merely episodes which have yet to be explained. We seek answers to questions that remain to be asked.”
But it’s not about chasing ghosts. Members of the society come from different backgrounds and joined the society for different reasons, but they share a common goal to understand what happens when a person dies. Some want a scientific explanation, and other want spiritual or religious verification.
And despite what people might expect based on scary movies, the Pasadena Paranormal Society’s practices are science experiments, not séances. “We discourage those,” Przybylski said. “They can make the situation worse.”
The society is based in Pasadena, and although most of its investigations are conducted at sites within the area, it has crossed state lines to examine supposed hauntings. Requests for investigation come in via the website, and the society tries to get as much information from clients as possible before beginning work.
After ruling out normal explanations – an animal in the attic might be the source of inexplicable footsteps, or headlights from a passing car might cause mysterious shadows – the group begins its paranormal investigations using high-tech equipment.
Infrared camera and digital voice recorders can capture video and sound, but there are other important pieces of equipment, too. An electromagnetic field detector allows an investigator to study the charge in an area. The investigators can even measure the temperature using infrared thermometers, which can take readings from a distance without being affected by the body heat of the person using them.
After collecting hours of recordings, the investigators examine all the evidence and form their conclusions. Some of the findings are pretty significant: Przybylski is one of the more skeptical members of the group, having never had what he describes as “that big experience that some have had,” but he doesn’t discredit what he’s seen and heard. “You listen to some of these recordings where there’s not supposed to be anyone there, and there’s clearly a child’s voice or a woman’s voice, and it’s pretty interesting.”
With Halloween drawing close, the group will sometimes see increased interest. “It’s expected,” Przybylski said. “People watching too many scary movies, maybe.” But he indicated that the society doesn’t mind. “We’ll treat them the same as anyone else who contacts us.”
But whether it’s October 31 or another time of year, and whether a society member is a doubter or a diehard believer, the aim remains the same. “We’re trying to alleviate people’s fear and help them in whatever way we can, either by corroborating what they’re experiencing or else finding an explanation,” Przybylski said.
And that, he emphasized, is more important than the drama contrived to scare people. “It’s not all what you see on TV.”
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