Northfield gets crash-course in ghost hunting
The crew of Agawam Paranormal investigates haunted and "spiritually active" sites across Western Massachusetts. Though they have a lot of fun, they take their pursuit quite seriously.
Several ghost like forms appear to float around the garden of this Main St Ashfield home on Wednesday.
NORTHFIELD — The first rule of ghost hunting is simple: don’t taunt or provoke the spirits.
“If I can’t see something, I don’t want it mad at me,” said Robert Goff Sr., director of Agawam Paranormal.
Goff has run the ghost-hunting business with his wife, Hope, since 2009, and has 38 investigators who work with them. They don’t charge for their services, or for their library presentations like “Ghostology 101,” held Tuesday in the crowded meeting room of Dickinson Memorial Library.
The second rule is easy, too: never hunt without permission from the property owner.
“I had two investigators who were adamant about wanting to explore the Hoosac Tunnel,” said Goff. “I fired them on the spot.”
Though the 4.75-mile railroad tunnel from Rowe to Florida, completed in 1875, is the site of construction accidents that killed 193 workers and a potential hotbed for hauntings, it’s clearly marked “no trespassing.” That’s an order the railroad — and Goff — take seriously.
Goff and his crew take all aspects of ghost hunting seriously, though he called the business “just a hobby,” and admitted that they have a lot of fun investigating the supernatural.
As rewarding as it may be for investigators to capture evidence of the unexplained, Goff said the real payoff comes from giving their clients some peace-of-mind.
They don’t doubt the client’s claims of bizarre phenomenon, but they do look for explanations, be they spiritual or scientific.
“When a client reports an experience they’ve had, I take that as Bible,” said Goff. “Then, we go into the location and try to find evidence that supports or explains their experience.”
That includes researching the property’s history, bringing their on-call psychic into the location and looking for hard evidence as well.
Whether their explanation is a restless spirit or a mouse in a heating duct, Agawam Paranormal works hard to find the source of the disturbance.
Their evidence comes in the form of electromagnetic fields, documenting cold spots in warm rooms, capturing unexplained “orbs” in photographs or something more striking.
“A full-body apparition is the Holy Grail of ghost hunting,” said Goff.
These can take the form of a see-through specter, or a ghost so substantial that it looks like a person in the flesh. Goff and his crew are still waiting to capture evidence of either.
They have captured floating orbs of light on video more than once, though, according to Goff, and at least one member of his crew swears he saw a partial-body apparition in the form of a floating head.
Goff said most orbs in photographs are the result of dust or condensation in the environment. Video footage of moving orbs, on the other hand, are a bit harder to explain.
You don’t have to believe in ghosts to hunt them, said Goff, who called himself a “die-hard skeptic.”
What’s more important, he said, is that you keep an open mind.
Skeptical or not, the team takes precautions before every investigation. This consists of a group prayer, and the carrying of a Byzantine cross, said to ward off spirits, as well as a medallion of St. Michael, the patron saint of ghost hunters.
The point of all this is to prevent “attachment,” said Goff, where a spirit could follow an investigator home and wreak havoc.
Their skepticism comes in handy when it’s time to analyze what they’ve collected.
After the site visits for a case, investigators sit down to scrutinize the data they’ve collected.
“When in doubt, we throw it out,” Goff said.
Much of the evidence gathered by the group is called “electronic voice phenomenon.” These are voices that manifest on audio recordings, seemingly responding to investigators’ prompts or questions.
The eerie thing, said Goff, is that they don’t hear these voices until they sit and analyze the recordings they’ve taken.
When they do, a team of analysts puts on headphones and each writes down what he or she thinks the voice said.
Once this is done, the recordings fall into one of three categories. A Class A EVP means that all analysts agree on what the voice is saying. Class B means that, while everyone agrees that there is a voice, they can’t come to a consensus on what it says. Class C means that not everyone agrees that there even is a voice on the tape.
You can try EVP recording at home, or in your favorite “haunted” location.
Take a voice recorder, or use a smartphone’s record setting, and ask a simple question. Make sure your friends are quiet — the spirit voices are usually quite faint. And keep your questions simple. Try something like “are there any spirits here?” or “can you hear me?” Record a few seconds of “silence” after you ask your question, to give the spirit a chance to respond.
Take it back to a safe location, download the audio to your computer and listen with headphones. You may be surprised at what you hear.
If you’ve got something significant, Agawam Paranormal may want to know. To share your findings or request an investigation, you can get in touch with the group through their website: www.agawamparanormal.com
David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279