Q&A With Curator of Archives and Paranormal Investigator
Tell us about how you got into paranormal investigation and research?
I grew up with a family of storytellers. They passed down family legends (which got me into genealogy) and we visited the family cemeteries on Memorial Day. My grandma also lives in a house that was supposedly haunted by “Mr. Poe”—a sailor who was killed in World War II whose parents lived in the house before my family.
When I was about 2 years old, I was put down for a nap at my grandma’s house. This was in the era before baby monitors, so my grandma came up to check on me after a while. I was standing up in the crib pointing at the closet and saying “man!” I had apparently been playing peek-a-boo with the man in the closet.
This story was repeated to me frequently in my childhood, and when I was in middle school I started hanging out at the public library. I decided I was going to read (or at least browse) all the books in Dewey Decimal order, and the ghost books show up early in the system, so I just kind of stayed in that area. I also collected ghost stories in high school and college.
When I was hired by the library in Castle Rock, I began collecting stories for an annual “ghost talk” for local historical societies around Halloween, and through that I met other paranormal investigators and was invited to come along.
When it comes to spooky Colorado history, what’s a favorite story (or myth)?
I love the stories surrounding Cheesman Park and the Botanic Gardens. My favorite is from someone who was walking through the Gardens and saw a child’s gravestone in a pile of debris near a construction site. She put a rose bud on it, and the next morning she woke up to find a similar rose bud next to her bed.
When you participate in a paranormal investigation, what duties do you take on?
I work with a team of about 4–6 people. Each of the members of our team have a role. My role is usually to interview owners of the site that would like us to investigate and to research the history of the buildings and places for the report that we make at the end. I’m also often at the “base station” monitoring that the equipment was properly checked out and deployed and that the other investigators are sticking to our pre-determined schedule.
We do it as a hobby, and try to approach the investigation with an open but skeptical mind. We tend to rely on equipment and document what we have noticed more than relying on psychic impressions or other hard to quantify information.
After collecting for 140 years, our archives probably have some spooky artifacts. Can you share a highlight?
The Lobach family papers has a series of pamphlets and other materials on Spiritualism, as well as some automatic writing. Automatic writing is a practice done during seances where the origins of the writing comes from a supernatural source.
We also have some papers created by Baby Doe Tabor during the last few years of her life called “dreams and visions.” They were featured in a Colorado Heritage article Winter 2001. And in a book: Baby Doe Tabor: the Madwoman in the Cabin.
What would you say to the “nay-sayers” or help debunk any misconceptions about paranormal investigations?
I think from my perspective, ghost stories are another way to get people, particularly young people, interested in history. If you think there’s something paranormal going on, I find that looking into the history of the site often de-sensationalizes the situation and makes it more believable. I’m not a fan of ghost tv shows that lack a deeper story.
Is it easier to pursue your work as a paranormal investigator because of your background as a curator?
I think it definitely informs it. My role as a curator often involves figuring out what the history of a particular object or set of papers is, and then telling a story about that history to an audience, so in some ways, it’s very much similar to my role in the paranormal investigations.