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October 25, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
I’m walking through Jewell Cemetery, and it’s cold, perhaps 45 degrees. Cold is good, though, Holly McGee tells me. Ghosts give off cold temperatures.
McGee is the owner and director of Columbia Paranormal as well as a related research society that is open to the public. She would probably correct my use of the term “ghost.” More accurately, we are looking for spirits. If my guides are to be believed, we have come to the right place; Jewell Cemetery is supposedly haunted by the spirit of Mrs. Jewell, who McGee says left her abusive husband and ran off with a slave in the 1800s.Related Articles
The cemetery is undeniably creepy. Although it’s close to a Waffle House and a short distance from South Providence, the small square area is surrounded by trees and enveloped in darkness.
Members of Columbia Paranormal lead the way with flashlights. One man called Guru, a nickname bestowed on him during his service in Vietnam, ambles through the tombstones and sings a ceremonial mourning song for the spirits. “It’s a song of praise and thanks,” he says with his hands in his pockets.
Guru is a Florida native, and he is part-Native American like the other members of the team. The haunting, rhythmic song is sung in Cherokee. As he finishes, he says “wa-do,” which means thank you. “It’s my way of acknowledging the spirits,” he says.
McGee meticulously inspects the tombstones with an EMF meter that measures electromagnetic fields. The group records temperature and audio as well.
I spoke with Joe Nickell, the author of a new book titled The Science of Ghosts, who denounced the group’s attempts as a fool’s errand. Nickell says their technology can’t be used to prove spirits exist. “Their instrument very well may have detected an EMF, but stop a minute and consider,” he says. “Could it be faulty wiring? A nearby microwave tower? Their own electronic equipment?”
But McGee and her team are adamant in their belief in spirits. She says once in Tiger Village, they recorded a woman’s voice shouting repeatedly, “Listen to me, bitch!” Another time, McGee says the mayor of Kidder invited the team to investigate the town. She also says she recorded audio of a Native American woman chanting and children screaming. “People don’t believe us until we take them with us,” says Faith Bojorquez, McGee’s daughter.
And here I am at Jewell Cemetery, watching Holly’s son, Alan Bojorquez, study a ghosthunter app on his iPad that has started squawking. I’m not sure I trust the veracity of an iPad app, but I move toward the commotion anyway.
“This is a very active grave,” McGee shouts, laughing. Alan sets the iPad onto a raised stone tomb and waits for its Geoscope function to decipher undetectable audio.
“Do you want to talk to us?” Faith says. A green light from the EMF machine begins to glow.
“Can you make that light a little brighter?” McGee asks the tomb. “We know you’re in there.”
The light remains motionless until the congregation moves out of the cemetery through a rusted iron gate. Then the small gadget lights up, and McGee laughs again.
“They were waiting to get out of there,” she says, leaving the gate ajar. She notes that the spirits don’t like to be shut in.
And perhaps they don’t. After having spent a lot of time in the cemetery with Columbia Paranormal, only two things are certain: First, these individuals sincerely believe in the existence of spirits; second, there isn’t much in the way of empirical proof to support that belief.
It was cold, and it was definitely creepy. Some of the machines made noises and lit up at certain points, but even in the Halloween spirit, I couldn’t say I was particularly convinced.