PSI: Investigating paranormal phenomena
By Kathy Chaffin
ELLENBORO ó As a little boy, the founder and team leader of Paranormal Scene Investigators loved science fiction and horror films.
As a young man, Joe Wright began designing sets and props for haunted houses and other scary amusements such as the Ellenboro Haunted Forest and the Shelby Corn Maze, many of them held as fundraisers for nonprofits. During his 18 or so years as a set/prop designer, 42-year-old Wright researched old houses and “creepy places” trying to come up with new attractions.
“That kind of desensitized me to things that really scare people,” he says.
After listening to stories of haunted houses and spending time inside them to see if he could experience some of the same things other people claimed to have experienced, Wright says he began to believe that “their minds most of the time ran away with them and played tricks on them.”
He enjoyed the investigations so much, however, that in 2006, he and his son, Chris, formed Paranormal Scene Investigators (PSI), gradually attracting others wanting to participate.
Two years later, PSI has 36 members, at least $8,000 in equipment and four teams in different locations of western North Carolina.
“For every 10 cases you go on, there may be one or two acts of paranormal activity,” he says, “things that you can’t explain. Most of it is expansion by heating and air conditioning systems, drafts and animals, rodents and insects or floorboards creaking from heat expansion.”
In investigating the reported tapping sounds at Kim and Steve Etters’ house on East Kerr Street, for example, team member David Harrill checked the trees outside to make sure no limbs were brushing against the house. They weren’t.
“You try to look for any rational explanations as to what would cause the things that they’ve experienced,” Wright says. “Naturally, it’s hard to find a rational explanation for someone that turns around and sees a little boy standing there.”
After interviewing Kim and Steve, Wright says he found them to be credible witnesses.
“Neither of them possess what we perceive as the ability to be exaggerating for attention. They don’t seem like the kind of people who need the attention.”
Wright says the Etters children were also credible. “A lot of kids think ‘I want this to be haunted because it’s something cool I can talk about to all my friends.'”
Based on the recordings and events that occurred during the investigation, Wright classifies the Etters’ paranormal activity as an intelligent haunting. “It’s something that is purposefully trying to be seen, trying to be heard and manipulating the pennies for attention,” he says.
Wright says, however, that he does not believe any of the entities seen by the Etters family means them any harm.
As for their appearances, he’s not sure why Princess appears to have no eyes. If she had dark eyes, they may not have shown up in a low-light situation, he says, or “I would say that if you’re trying to freak somebody out, you would appear to them with no eyes.”
As for Sweaty Boy’s face and neck appearing to be wet, Wright says his appearance could be related to the way he died. Though the investigation did not uncover a well on the property, he says many children drowned in wells and creeks 100 to 150 years ago.
Wright says he would like to do more investigations in Salisbury.
In the two years since their formation, Wright’s PSI teams have done more than 30 investigations of reported paranormal activity. The largest was at the 81-year-old Lake Lure Inn, where he says team members recorded three distinct voices, one of them screaming, and a video of a table being moved six inches.
The scream came from a woman and was recorded in Room 218.
“Every hotel that I’ve investigated or researched has a story about a lady in the ’30s that gets murdered by her irate husband,” he says.
Wright says the second voice was that of a child, who was recorded giggling and whispering. The third was a man’s voice saying, “Get the hell out, Sparky.”
Sparky is the nickname of PSI team member Robert Lewis, who was in the room at the time.
Although PSI does not charge for any of its investigations, Wright, who works as a service manager for a Goodyear dealership, says he hopes to someday generate enough money from seminars on how to conduct paranormal investigations to cover the cost of the teams’ equipment. For right now, he offers free seminars across the state at libraries and other public places.
Wright also consults with horror writers and is scheduled to speak at a paranormal conference at the Green Park Inn in Blowing Rock in November.
Anyone with an interest in the paranormal can contact Wright about attending a workshop and/or joining or starting a PSI team by calling 1-828-453-0908 or e-mailing him at email@example.com.
For more information on Wright and PSI, log onto the Web site at paranormalsceneinvestigators.com.Sarah Hall contributed to this story.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.