Saturday evening appeared to be a pretty normal night from its beginnings, but conditions took a turn for the paranormal when ghost hunter Chris Fleming walked onto campus.
Fleming strolled into Ford Center for Fine Arts (CFA) with the look of someone who sees things most people do not see. At 6 p.m., two hours before the Beloit graduate’s presentation on paranormal investigation, students were already lined up in CFA to see Fleming. The first 40 students admitted to the presentation would get to join him on a tour around the most haunted places on campus afterwards.
In his presentation, Fleming would tell the story about how he came to be a ghost hunter, how he saw shadows and vapors come out from his closet and morph into faces as a child; how he even once physically struggled with a demon.
Before that, however, he held a special tour preview for The Knox Student and Union Board members in order to get better acquainted with the campus.
Grabbing his bag and letting Knox students and faculty lead the way, he headed over to his first stop: the basement of Umbeck Science and Mathematics Center (SMC).
While walking down the stairs, Fleming conversed with his audience.
“Can anyone tell me what happens down here?” he said.
One student said that there was a rat lab on the other side of one of the walls; another mentioned that there used to be cadavers stored there. Fleming sat down on the floor and got out of his backpack what looked like a radio and a Wii controller.
Fleming explained that the devices are used to detect electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) and temperature, the fluctuations of which could indicate paranormal conditions. Put simply, they are used to capture aspects of our environment that our own sense faculties cannot.
“We only see 10 percent of our environment,” Fleming said. “What we’ve been able to capture with technology is these anomalies.”
He pointed to the light on the EMF detector. When it turned red, he said, it indicated an increase in electromagnetic energy in front of the sensor. Sometimes this energy is manmade, such as from a light switch or a generator. Other times it is something else entirely.
The second tool indicated temperature changes. Since ghosts have a much colder temperature than the human body, according to Fleming, when the temperature drops suddenly in a room, you might have one of them roaming around.
Fleming led the group into the rat lab, finding interest in the fact that it was where hundreds of rats had been decapitated. Fleming spoke into the dark room and held out a voice recorder.
“If there’s anybody in here, please answer me.”
After a few moments of silence, Fleming stopped the recorder and retracted back to the group. He took a moment to play back the recording and his face lit up.
“Did you hear that?” he said.
He rewound and played it again. The group now listened more intently. Out of the low hum of the recording came what sounded like a male voice: “yes.” Fleming later explained this as an Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP), or electronically generated noises that resemble speech, but which are not produced by speech itself. It is commonly used by mediums to “communicate” with the dead.
All eyes fell on the lights of the EMF detector. It was moving in and out of the red, despite the fact that nothing was directly in front of it. A collective gasp resounded in the small passageway.
Fleming took the EMF detector and held it out to see if he could get any further response. Whatever it was appeared to be gone in an instant, as the detector now fluctuated only at light switches and pressure indicators.
At the end of the SMC tour, Fleming hypothesized that it was mostly “bad insulation” that caused the activity. A trip to the Old Jail proved to be even less fruitful..
Still, the audience seemed entertained and spooked during the tour. With students lining up at the theatre two hours before his show, he definitely got people’s attention. The events of the tour, however, were evidence for just how powerful suggestion can be. Had Fleming not prepped his audience with paranormal explanations, there’s not much proof that they would have noticed anything paranormal at all.
It was a lingering question — whether or not the events that transpired were simply in the mind, in Fleming’s electronic gadgets, or in reality. A question also left open was: should we be any less scared if it is just in our minds?