by Jeffrey B. Roth photography by Phil Grout
In the dead of night, when all is as silent as the tomb; or, when phantom footsteps echo on the stairs, and something goes bump in the night: “Who are you going to call?”
Carroll County’s ghostbusters.
Two active paranormal investigation groups come to the aid of the haunted. During their visits to homes, group members have also experienced inexplicable sensations, like the sense that their feet were nailed to the floor. They have discovered scratches on their legs that video proves they did not make.
It’s a fascinating and risky business.
Just ask members of the Manchester Paranormal Society and the Fairfield Paranormal Society of Maryland, which is based in Taneytown. Both groups have investigated private residences and go on excursions to well-known haunted institutions open to the public, such as St. Albans Sanatorium, in Radford, Virginia.
Much like professional scientists whose research involves human subjects, both of the county’s paranormal investigation groups adhere to a code of ethics that prohibit them from telling all.
They can’t tell all, but they can share many of the chilling details.
David Caltrider II, founder and director of Manchester Paranormal Society, and members of his group, have seen apparitions, shadow figures; and have recorded more than 100,000 electronic voice phenomena, known as EVPs. EVPs are disembodied voices that can only be heard on electronic recordings, and are theorized by paranormal researchers to be the voices that are intentional or unintentional attempts by ghosts or spirits to communicate with the living.
Unexplained, disembodied voices that are audible without the aid of a recording device are known as AVPs, which stands for aural or audible voice phenomena. If they record at least one Class A EVP, which means that anyone who listens to the recording is able to clearly understand what was said, the investigation is considered successful, Caltrider said.
Caltrider said a Carroll County case his team investigated may have involved demonic activity, but never progressed to a level of what would be considered true demonic possession. The situation involved a woman and her boyfriend.
The boyfriend told investigators that he was being tormented by unseen forces, Caltrider said. His behavior changed from a good-natured guy to becoming violent and enraged to the point where the woman was forced to get a restraining order and had him legally removed from the house.
“We were called in to intervene in the situation,” Caltrider said. “One of our investigators could not stand to be in the home for more than 20 to 25 minutes. She said she didn’t feel like herself and refused to come back into the house. She said it made her hate life.”
Caltrider said the group with the consent of the homeowner, decided to perform an exorcism ritual. “The type of exorcism or cleansing ritual we use depends on the religious or spiritual beliefs of the home owner,” Caltrider said. “If they come from a Catholic, Christian or Buddhist background, we use the appropriate ritual. We often use sage smudging (a ritual derived from some Native American beliefs) to cleanse houses of negative energies. After the exorcism we did two or three follow-up calls.”
During another private home investigation in the area, a team member suffered a scratch on her leg. Caltrider said there were two video cameras trained on the team member and that when they reviewed the footage, “we saw that she never got her hand near her leg. At another place, one investigator felt like their feet were nailed to the floor,” he noted.
“Most of the time what we do is really boring,” Caltrider said, adding that nine out of 10 cases do not appear to be paranormal. “I do this because when I was having my problems as a kid and I tried to talk to people about it, you get looked at like you’re crazy. I want to help people.”
Caltrider said:“I got into the paranormal when I was young—five or six-years-old. “My grandparents used to say that I played with a little girl who wasn’t there, which we later believed to be my deceased cousin, who had passed away before I was born. When I was 13, I had an experience where I saw my grandfather who had died a couple of weeks before.”
A mechanic and tow truck driver for Caltrider’s Garage, a family-owned business, Caltrider describes himself as an average, no nonsense kind of guy, who just happens to be fascinated with the paranormal. Throughout his life, Caltrider has nurtured a passion for ghosts, UFOs, and other creatures of myth and legend.
“In middle school and high school, I was the kid who read all the ghost books and all the vampire books,” Caltrider said. “I joined another paranormal group in late 2007, but I didn’t agree with them in their thoughts and how they were doing stuff, so in 2010 I started Manchester Paranormal.”
Manchester Paranormal Society has grown to include 16 members. Currently, there are two divisions, one in Manchester and one in Lancaster, Pa. Caltrider’s wife Dawn, is responsible for historical research; Alyson, his daughter, helps raising funds and performing marketing duties; and Jason Riddle, the assistant director and a co-founder, along with his wife April, also a co-founder and the group’s secretary both serve as investigators.
Other group members include two sensitives and a psychic-medium, Jen Zeplin. The group goes on “pay to go investigations at various historical locations once a month.” and conducts three to four private investigations per month.
“We have adopted the Holzer Method, (named after the late Dr. Hans Holzer, an author and a ghost hunter), which mixes the scientific with the spiritual,” Caltrider said. “We find that it helps us validate more (data, evidence and findings).”
When they get a call about unexplained activity, the investigators use client questionnaires, conduct a physical survey of the residence looking for high electromagnetic fields, EMF, which can induce strange experiences, and for other natural causes for the activity. (Unexplained high EMF levels are associated with the presence of paranormal entities.) If paranormal activities are verified, the homeowner may request a cleansing ritual, often involving conducting prayers, applying holy water and sage smoke-smudging, Caltrider said.
Zeplin, of Lancaster, said she has been an intuitive psychic-medium all of her life. While participating in a public investigation of the Haldeman Mansion, in Harrisburg, in 2015, she met Caltrider’s group “and things fell into place.”
Neither Caltrider or Vaselaros charge for investigations. All of their services are offered free.
During a private residential investigation in Baltimore County, Nicole Vaselaros, founder and director of Fairfield Paranormal Society of Maryland, was setting up a DVR and cameras “when the TV in the room turned on by itself. The home owner reported that it happened all of the time” Vaselaros said.
“I was taking a break and looked around in the little boy’s room,” Vaselaros said. “While I was in the room, the closet door opened. The cameras caught the door opening very slowly as if in slow motion.”
In 2009, Vaselaros founded the Fairfield Paranormal Society of Maryland. At the time Vaselaros lived in Fairfield, Pa.
“I formed the group with my family—my fiance, Robert Stevenson; and my daughter, Alicia Miles,” Vaselaros said. “I wanted to further my education in the field and to help people.”
Vaselaros’ daughter moved to southern Maryland and is no longer a member of the group. On occasion Stevenson participates in an investigation. Tony and Jeanni Hall of Eldersburg, are the only other active members of the group.
“I did see a full body apparition in the house where I grew up,” Vaselaros said. “I’ve experienced balls of light when I was 17.”
Vaselaros said: “I do old school investigating. I like hard core evidence—something I can see or hear. I use my gut instinct and go by what I feel; and I listen to what my clients say.”
When the Halls met and were first dating, they found they shared an interest in the paranormal. In 1999, they decided to purchase cameras and recording gear and conduct their own investigations.
“We never really found anything,” Tony said. “We didn’t get any hard evidence.”
Tony said the paranormal TV reality shows fueled their interest in the field. They met Vaselaros and decided to join the group in 2013.
“It’s the eternal question—is there life after death or do we just go into blackness or nothingness,” Tony said. “We heard a disembodied voice in a West Virginia house and we kept seeing a female at the top of the stairs. We heard footsteps and we had the uneasy feeling of being watched. We picked up an EVP of a female voice saying ‘hi.’”
In June, Jeanni treated him to an overnight trip to investigate Waverly Hills Sanatorium in West Virginia. The couple repeatedly saw unexplained lights.
“Our most startling experience happened at Waverly,” Tony, an IT and systems administrator at Johns Hopkins, said. “We tried to debunk it but we couldn’t find an explanation. It’s like going fishing, you never know what you’re going to catch. Some nights we don’t catch anything. They (ghosts) don’t perform on demand.”