Baton Rouge’s “other” investigators
By Kendra R. ChamberlainPosted Feb 8, 2012
Brent Soileau is a P.I.
Not the kind that will follow your wife around for a week with a camera and a notepad. Soileau is the other P.I. – Paranormal Investigator. Last year, he founded Baton Rouge’s first paranormal investigator squad, named the Ghosts of Louisiana Paranormal Society, or GOLAPS.
“I have been fascinated with this as long as I can recall,” Soileau explained on a gray, chilly morning over coffee. “When I was ten, we moved into a house that had some activity going on. We kept hearing noises on the intercom, it sounded like voices whispering, when there was nobody else home. We set up the tape recorder and left – We were doing basically EVPs before it was called EVPs.”
Soileau was referring to Electronic Voice Phenomenon, a method of collecting “evidence” of paranormal activity that has grown in popularity thanks to the Michael Keaton ghost flick White Noise – you know, that movie where the guy is receiving messages from his dead wife through the static on the T.V.
Sitting across the table from Soileau, listening to him rattle off fright night after fright night he’s “experienced,” I was refreshed to hear his open skepticism regarding evidence collection.
“We tend to be what I call open skeptics,” he explained. “If you go in with the attitude, in psychology it’s called bias confirmation, everything you do backs up a pre-conceived notion. You have to be skeptical. You have to look.”
It’s a fine line to walk. Soileau said that anytime he collects evidence, whether photographs or audio, his first task is to scrutinize the evidence, and try to determine any normal, natural causes for what he is seeing or hearing.
“But at the same time,” he added, “you can’t be so skeptical as to preclude any supernatural causes. It’s not hard science.”
Soileau and his team claim to do it all: investigate possible hauntings in private residences, attempt to document paranormal activity, and even perform exorcisms. But most of time, his job seems to entail of walking around at night, with a few other team members, talking to nothing and taking photos of the air.
In his office, he scrolled through a large volume of photographs taken during various investigations he has done in the past few years, and he went through the basics of paranormal manifestations. I’m not sure if it was the gloomy weather, or that I watched Paranormal Activity – per Soileau’s suggestion – before sitting down with the evidence, but more than a few times, I was thoroughly freaked out.
Read on, and decide for yourself.
Dust orbs at Ridgecrest
In the paranormal investigator world, orbs are cheap. Many investigators won’t accept photographs of orbs as possible evidence of paranormal activity, anymore. Orbs are small round anomalies on a photograph. They kind of look like sunspots, except the photos are usually taken at night, or in an angle where the sun does not offer a viable explanation. According to the Southern States Paranormal Research Society (SSPRS), orbs are never documentation of paranormal activity – orbs are a phenomenon of dirt, lens, and flash, and nothing else.
“As film cameras, and then digital cameras, have steadily shrunk in size, reports of ‘orbs’ increased accordingly,” the SSPRS website states. The idea is that the shortened space between lens and flash can commonly result in some sort of reflection that appears circular – whether dirt, water, or some other debris floating in the air.
“Sometimes it is dust,” Soileau said, though he argued he can tell when something is obviously dust, and obviously not.
“We were out a couple weeks ago, and the wind was blowing constantly. Every picture we took had anomalies in it. That’s not common. There was something in every photo, smudges and speckles. That’s suspect.”
Not everyone buys the dust particle argument. Mediums, psychics, or “sensitives,” as they are sometimes called, will argue that if they feel a presence, an orb will usually show up in the photo – an occurrence that points more to correlation than coincidence.
Soileau said he’s noticed his own coincidences about orbs.
“I tend to catch orbs a lot in certain places,” he said. “I’ll catch them in doorways, or in stair wells, consistently. I’m not sure why.”
In my limited estimation, some photos of orbs are more obviously dust particles than others. And whether or not the orbs can be easily explained away, they are still weird to look at, especially when they show up at a gravesite.
Your breath smells like ectoplasm
“This is how I see everything, when I’m taking the photo,” Soileau explains, clicking through a number of photos of...well, nothing. Dirt, shrubs, and the darkness that stretches out beyond the flash. Most of his photos look like misfires.
“Absolutely clear night, it wasn’t cold. I don’t smoke on investigations. It’s not foggy, it’s not humid, it’s not misty.”
As Soileau snaps photographs, he explained to me that he attempts to address the ghosts.
“And as I’m speaking, things start going from this to this.”
A few more clicks of brown dirt and empty frames, and then suddenly, starkly, the mist rolls into the frame.
The white stuff in the photo, I learn, is what investigators refer to as “ectoplasmic mist” – the stuff ghosts are made of (remember Ghost Busters?). It’s another piece of alleged evidence that many investigators don’t buy.
“Here is my take on it,” wrote Joshua Wheeler, lead investigator for the Mid-Hudson Paranormal Research group. “Most of the time, ectoplasmic mist is either breath vapor, cigarette smoke, fog/water vapor, or a combination of the three...just because you can’t see your breath with the naked eye, doesn’t mean a flash won’t pick it up.”
If you google “Ectoplasmic mist” you’ll find a lot of photos of boring landscapes with white stuff obscuring the image – something that very obviously displays the physical characteristics of common cigarette smoke. If you really hunker down, you’ll get to the good stuff – the ectoplasmic mist that doesn’t look like smoke, or fog, or anything else you’ve ever seen before.
“I didn’t see that when I was there,” Soileau said, pointing to a photo. “I have no idea what it is, all I know is that is wasn’t there.”
Voices in the asylum
The third category of evidence in paranormal investigation is audio recording, Electronic Voice Phenomenon. EVPs are noises that are generated on a recording unintentionally, and can refer to anything from ambient noise, static, stray radio transmissions, and, some believe, voices from discarnate spirits.
The idea was first explored in the 1920’s by none other than Thomas Edison, and was later developed in the 1950s by other research. Today, EVPs are rated by clarity. In my late night exploration of EVPs available on a number of different websites, Class C EVPs, are the most common, and the least credible. Most that I heard sounded like unusual static patterns – easily explained away by strange ambient noise. Skeptics argue that the mind will find patterns in any kind of noise, and EVPs are just over-active imaginations at work. For many Class C EVPs, I would freely agree. But what about the recordings that are very clear?
“They have a strange cadence,” Soileau said of a EVP he recorded himself in an old asylum nearby. “It’s kind of slurred together, almost as if they’re on barbiturates.”
The EVP he is referring to is really weird. First, there is a sharp inhalation sound. Then, something a little louder than a whisper, but is, upon first listen, not quite audible enough to understand. Then there is a very loud exhalation. Soileau said he thinks the whispering is saying I have to sell more cats today.
“We puzzled over that for a long time,” Soileau said, “but then we realized, it’s an insane asylum, it doesn’t have to make sense.”
Some of the EVPs he has posted on the website would be rated “C” or lower. Some of them are too fuzzy to believe – especially when they have been isolated into short clips, and augmented with sound editing. It’s not that there isn’t something odd or out of place to be heard; instead, there is very clearly a noise. But the less clear the recording, the easier it is to believe that there is a completely natural, rational explanation for the sound.
Then again, there are a few of Soileau’s EVPs that are clear as day, and totally creepy.
One in particular involves a young woman’s voice, saying I take doses today. The phrase itself isn’t too creepy, but the execution is hair-raising. In the audio, one female investigator can be heard speaking, stating that the recorder has been turned on. Then, as she finishes her sentence, another woman’s voice can be heard saying I take doses today. It’s so frightening – to me, at least – because it is within the context of the other woman speaking, and the two voices are different not only in pitch and quality, but also cadence, as Soileau mentioned earlier.
Could there have been another person there while the recording was made? Of course, I wasn’t there. I have no proof that, as Soileau claims, there were only two people in the room while the voice was recorded.
Is it a creepy thing to listen to late at night by yourself. Absolutely.
Who wants to believe?
Soileau and I, along with one of his investigators, took a stroll around a nearby cemetery to conclude the interview. Soileau was recording the entirety of the walk. We visited a few graves, and I was able to watch him in action. He spoke softly, saying “hello,” to the air. At some points, he set the recorder down at a grave.
“This device will record your voice. Speak into the red light,” and then he would walk away for a few minutes, to give any possible spirit an opportunity to speak.
The walk, though visually very stunning, was paranormally boring, at least for a novice like me. Nothing unusual happened.
The next day, Soileau sent me a clip of the recording where he thought he could hear something. Listening to it, I remembered clearly which grave we were visiting, and what we were doing. In the clip, I can hear Soileau explaining how creepy this particular spot was, and then, suddenly, there is another voice, a male voice, in the background. I can’t quite make out any words, but there is a sound recorded that neither one of us heard at the time.
Is it proof? Probably not, but it sent chills down my back.
Got a Ghost?
For more information on the Ghosts of Louisiana Paranormal Society (GOLAPS), check out the website www.GhostsOfLouisiana.com. There are a number of photographs and audio files of possible paranormal activity for you to peruse and sufficiently creep yourself out.