Life’s a walk in the dark for this group of Christians who spend their off-hours hunting for answers to unexplained mysteries
By PATTI SELLS | News-Telegram Feature Writer
Oct 31, 2007 - Ghouls and ghosts are sure to abound this All Hallows' Eve as youngsters visit haunted houses and walk through gloomy cemeteries, but for Ghost Hunters of Sulphur Springs Texas (GHOSST), a walk in the dark is something they do on a regular basis.
Equipped with infrared thermometers, motion detectors, digital cameras, voice activated tape recorders and electromagnetic frequency equipment, the group gathers monthly to explore possible explanations in areas associated with being haunted.
�Primarily we investigate local cemeteries, until we get to the capacity where we can look into residential hauntings,� GHOSST founder Joshua Wilkes said of himself and the group�s five members.
Wilkes said he has always had an interest in the paranormal, but it took a movie to motivate him enough to actually form a group. It was the 2005 motion picture "White Noise," a film based on the real-life phenomenon known as EVP (electronic voice phenomena) that stirred him into action.
�I thought, �Why not give it a try?�� recalled Wilkes, who then shared the idea with his wife, Christie, and a few close friends who now make up the group.
In the past two years, Wilkes has educated himself through countless hours of research and reading, as well as investing lots of money into equipment that has helped the group accumulate documentation, pictures and EVP recordings — not to mention ghost stories and eerie experiences not likely to be forgotten.
On one occasion the group gathered at Pleasant Grove Cemetery about four miles west of Sulphur Springs to make recordings and take photos and various readings.
�There were just three of us that night,� recalled Wilkes. �We were in a tri-circle talking amongst ourselves, and I was randomly flashing photos, when a cold chill passed through all of us. We looked at each other and we knew without saying a word. We could just tell by the look on each other's faces.�
According to Wilkes, he quickly snapped a few more pictures and the group left. Upon his return home, he started reviewing his pictures and recordings when he discovered a voice of a little girl on his tape recorder.
�You can hear it clear as a bell. She says �I�m OK, Daddy,�� claims Wilkes. �And what is also peculiar is the photos during that time sequence. I had taken a photo at the beginning of the night, before the cold chill, towards the front gate. You could clearly see our car taillights and license plate. After the chill, I shot a picture in the same direction, the same distance, and the taillights and plate are fuzzy. I can only assume it�s possibly the ghost of this little girl.�
Other encounters have included a walking night watchman with an oil lantern, a ghostly vapor of a dog with wings, closet doors opening and closing, objects moving and crashing to the floor, children’s laughter, the sound of running through a house, cold spots, undiscernible voices, lights, floating orbs, and the list goes on and on.
Most often the group will split up into teams and spend a couple of hours surveying an area. But their experiences have been cut short on more than one occasion.
One time the group was run out of a cemetery by a pack of wild pigs, according to Wilkes, while other reasons ranged from potent, foul odors to just plain fear.
�A lot of the time we just rely on our gut instinct,� he admitted. �We got to one place and had a sharp, intense feeling of GET OUT. So we left. We were there less than 10 minutes. There are a lot of things that are unknown and things none of us are prepared for. �
The group stays clear of séances, Ouiji boards and other devices they believe open doors to evil.
�We believe in God and we believe in demons and we certainly don�t want to go conjuring anything up,� Wilkes said with a nervous laugh. �We don't mess around with exorcisms or poltergeists � we�re not qualified for that kind of thing. Ours is purely an interest in researching the paranormal,�
Members recite the prayer of St. Michael the Archangel before embarking into the unknown; they wear crosses and also carry holy water from a Catholic church, according to Wilkes.
One reason the group has remained in the shadows, so to speak, for the past two years has been a fear of being misunderstood or labeled negatively.
�We are Christians. We�ve been hesitant to go public with our group because we don't want to be labeled as Satanist or devil worshippers. We�re quite the opposite, actually.�
�Our faith is strong,� said Christie, Wilkes wife of six years. �We would like to be accepted and we hope that we will be taken seriously. We don�t want people to think we are evil or disrespectful of the dead. We are very respectful and consider cemeteries holy ground.�
The purpose of the group is not to delve into the dark side, but rather to shed light and confirm that a spirit world does exist.
�Oh, they�re out there all right,� said Wilkes with a laugh. �They�re out there for sure. We really don't know why they are here. There are lots of possibilities. Maybe they have unfinished business, or maybe they are waiting for the second coming. People believe different things. We�re just curious as to what they want and we want to try to understand what they are doing here.�
According to Wilkes, the group ultimately hopes to get involved in residential hauntings, helping people with questions they may have, or just verify the possibility of spirits among them through investigative research.
�This may or may not be important to the community, but for people who have questions or things happening, maybe we can help,� Wilkes said. �This is just a hobby for us, but we know it's real � and we enjoy the hunt.�