Ghost hunters search for paranormal activity

By Tammy Garrett Published October 31, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Courtesy of Tammy Garrett

The North Arkansas Paranormal Detectives use many high-tech devices, including computer programs, to monitor activity during paranormal investigations.

QUITMAN — Have you ever glimpsed a shadow from the corner of your eye or heard a footstep in the night when no other living soul was near? If your answer is yes, the North Arkansas Paranormal Detectives want you to know you are not alone.

The paranormal-investigation group, based in the rural town of Quitman, includes sisters Robin Salters and Cindy Barnes and Cindy’s husband, Jerry, as well as Sherri Tyler Rhea and her husband, Larry Rhea.

For the sisters, investigating spirit activity has been a part of their lives long before cable television shows like the Syfy Channel’s Ghost Hunters

and the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures brought supernatural sleuthing into mainstream society.

“Growing up, that’s what our family did,” Barnes said. “Our dad was always telling ghost stories, and we would go to old buildings for family adventures.”

Of the two sisters, Salters has been involved in paranormal investigating the longest, having worked with another group before forming North Arkansas Paranormal Detectives about 18 months ago. Jerry Barnes became interested in his wife’s weekend hunts after he began seeing orbs around the time an elderly relative died.

Orbs are small balls of light that many ghost hunters believe are the manifestation of spirits. The orbs are said to be the anomalies that are most often caught on film by paranormal investigators.

Rhea and her husband are the newest members of North Arkansas Paranormal Detectives. Sherri said she became interested in paranormal investigation after she witnessed what appeared to be a ball of orange light in her home one evening. That same night, she was visited by police, who informed her that a member of her immediate family had died in a car accident at almost the exact time the light had appeared. After some research, Rhea discovered that the orange light she had witnessed was a match for the type of phenomena that sometimes accompanies the departure of a person the age her family member had been at the time of the car crash.

Her husband, Larry, is good-naturedly called an “orb magnet” by the rest of the team because the small balls of light are often present in photographs of him.

The detectives have conducted investigations at several well-known locations in Arkansas, including the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, the Rialto Theater in Morrilton and the Allen House in Monticello. One of the participants said most of the memorable experiences came at a cemetery near McCrory, where Barnes remembered that the voice of what was believed to be a voodoo priest was caught on audio tape speaking in what team members described as a Cajun dialect.

The team tries to schedule a historic location as often as possible. However, their main focus is helping those who are seeking assistance with or validation of paranormal activity.

“We had an emergency call just a couple of weeks ago where a child was involved, and of course, that took priority,” Barnes said. She explained that although the team is booked throughout the end of the year, they will always investigate as soon as possible when residents are frightened.

The process of helping a lost soul cross over takes prayer and concentration, she said. The group has encountered spirits who have not been offered the light and in those situations the entities are reluctant to leave, Barnes explained. She commented that the team members all have deep-rooted faith and always begin and end their investigations with a group prayer.

None of the members of the team is ordained clergy, and they don’t investigate any activity that might be deemed demonic.

“We leave that to the experts,” Salters said.

The group has yet to see an apparition firsthand. They have, however, caught several ghostly images on camera and have reported communicating with spirits through a range of devices from flashlights to voice boxes.

Spirits have been known to answer questions posed by detectives by turning small flashlights on and off. The practice is common among ghost-hunting groups, and is a way for entities that don’t have the ability to manifest enough energy to reach out any other way to communicate with the living.

The team also uses a radio as a method for spirits to communicate by changing the settings to find words they wish to convey, Salters said.

It employs a more high-tech approach to ghost hunting as well, by using grid lights to detect movement in rooms believed to be haunted. Activity is also monitored from multiple rooms with a camera and DVR system throughout the investigations.

Other staple tools of the ghost-hunting trade that the team employs are electromagnetic field detectors, which, it is theorized, often are manipulated by spirits who want to make their presence known. Electronic voice phenomena are sounds that are caught on audio recorders. Thermal cameras that detect temperature changes that might signify paranormal activity such as “cold spots” are commonly used by the team.

The team recently brought its ghost-hunting gear to a private residence in White County at the request of the homeowner who reported feeling a “presence” in the home and said he had experienced flashes of light in the kitchen.

The residence, which has been standing for more than 100 years, includes some of the original woodwork and wallpaper. The structure, which has been home to at least three families, provides a foreboding structure for the team to investigate.

Before it was time for the “lights out” investigation to begin, Salters went through the residence to gage temperature readings. Cameras were set up in four locations and monitored from the dining room, while team members fanned out to perform electronic-voice phenomena sessions and take pictures to collect possible evidence that the team would review.

A field of green grid lights illuminated the room where an elderly relative had recently died. A team member also placed two flashlights on the bed and attempted to communicate with the deceased by having the spirit turn on the light in response to questions. At one point, one of the flashlights flickered dimly. However, attempts to get the entity to answer questions didn’t produce results.

When surveying the home’s attic, several orbs were caught on film. Team members focused their attention on trying to determine which of the former residents of the home might be present, but no definite answers were found. As the night progressed, one of the team members commented, “It’s not time to go to bed yet,” at which time a flashlight on the table lit up for a few seconds. The light turned on at other random times during the investigation. “They don’t like to be ignored,” Salters said lightheartedly.

As for the bright light that had been seen by the homeowner, Salters determined that a reflective surface coupled with lights from passing cars was probably the culprit.

After a review of the evidence, the team determined that any paranormal presence in the White County home is more likely to be attached to the homeowner than the building itself.

The next scheduled investigation for North Arkansas Paranormal Detectives will be at the USS Razorback in Little Rock. Those who want to contact the team may visit

None Tammy Garrett can be reached at .

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