The Hunt for a Haunting: Ghostbusting in Detroit
On a dreary winter’s eve a team of investigators descended on the quiet downtown of St. Clair Shores, Michigan in search of a great many things: tidbits of local history, new experiences, answers to unexplained occurrences, but most importantly, activity of the paranormal variety. This team, MPI (Metro Paranormal Investigators), they’re ghost hunters.
The group was founded six years ago because of an online post by Chris Forsythe. Growing up he had experienced a number of paranormal incidents and wanted to find others who had similar encounters. What started off as little more than a support group, where these men and women could share their stories, ideas, and advice quickly grew into a something much more substantial. Talking was no longer enough; they decided to go out and gather evidence to substantiate unexplained claims themselves. Thus, MPI was born.
To promote the new horror film The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe, MPI has been invited to investigate the Shores Madrid Theater in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, which has long been rumored to be haunted. In the new film, a young lawyer (Radcliffe) is sent to a rural village where he encounters the aforementioned woman in black, a vengeful ghost who has been terrorizing the locals for many years. The film hits theaters everywhere February 3rd, 2012. The abandoned cinema has purportedly housed a similar spirit, though supposedly without the murderous tendencies. This, of course, is when the services of Metro-Detroit’s paranormal experts, MPI, are needed.
On Saturday January 14th, MPI gathers at Luna Cafe on Mack Avenue, sipping coffee and discussing the fast-approaching investigation of the Shores Madrid Theater, once a bustling haunt for local residents, now vacant and decaying next door. The members of MPI sit in clusters, a buzz of excitement running through them as they share stories, theories, and new insights on previous cases. The scene resembles a family reunion more than a team of ghost hunters preparing to face the unknown. One MPI member plays an audio file from an earlier investigation. There is a lot of background noise but a voice, menacing and clear, comes through with a simple message; “Leave me alone.”
Despite the child-like enthusiasm apparent in every conversation, it’s easy to see this is something they all take very seriously. Nowhere is this passion more evident than in Wayne Miracle and Chris Forsythe, the lead investigators and the co-founders of MPI. These two men were strangers to one another just a few short years ago but, discussing the preparation involved in taking on a case, it’s evident they work together with an easy precision born of familiarity and shared goals. Together, they reveal MPI’s motivation and goals.
First and foremost they’re there to help, whether by answering the call of an individual in need or trying to raise awareness of a locations haunted history. They’re also there to disprove, because only after they work through every possible natural explanation for an anomalous event will they consider calling it “paranormal.”
At 6:00 P.M. the doors of the theater are opened and MPI members begin to unload their gear. The previous week Miracle and Forsythe began the investigation with a preliminary walk through of the theater, scoping the layout of the building and checking the areas where most of the unexplained phenomena are claimed to occur. According to Forsythe, “Set up, to us, is actually more important than the investigation itself. Because, you have to have all that [wires, camera, recorders] in the right spot in order for everything to work properly.”
Setup takes roughly an hour. Wires are run to night vision cameras and lights, digital audio recorders are laid and re-laid in strategic locations. All of the devices return data to a computer station in what had been the lobby, now referred to as “Command Central.” It’s at this location where, after an investigator’s rotation is done, the data will be compiled and reviewed. Also, with an outside temperature somewhere in the 20’s, and an inside temp that’s not much higher, it’s where everyone will come to warm up.
The first rotation assignments are handed out and I’m sent with “Bravo” team into the theater area. Leading the group is Mike, a man with an intense curiosity for the unknown and, seemingly, a divining rod for the anomalous. Only moments after entering the theater Mike’s K2 meter, a device which measures surrounding Electromagnetic Fields (EMF), began to fluctuate. Up until this point all I’d witnessed of MPI, even during the most animated of discussions, is a strict professionalism. But, as the lights on the K2 go from an erratic flash to a solid, unwavering glow, a quiet excitement rises in the team and the true nature of these investigators of the paranormal came to light.
The theater is cold and dark, a diffused black light in the corner offers a soft glow that’s just enough to work by. MPI greets the aether with a polite and respectful tone, as if visitors in a person’s home. The members of Bravo team begin by introducing themselves, “Mike,” “Jan,” “Stef,” “Kathy.” After the introductions, their intentions are stated, “We’re here to help.”
Standing about the barren theater the four MPI members strike up a conversation with the nothing around us, asking one question after another:
“Are you a man or a woman?”
“Did you live here before this was a theater?”
“What kind of movies did you like?”
During this interview, the K2 meter gives a solid reading, but no audible response is heard. I am assured this is quite normal, and they were hoping an answer would be had in the form of an EVP. Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) is when inaudible sounds are picked up on audio recorders or on the soundtracks of video recordings.
The epicenter of the theater’s rumored haunting is upstairs, in the apartment/office/projection room, and it’s where we take our second rotation. Almost immediately, an odd feeling draws Mike and Stef to the restroom. “I’m sorry to ask this,” Mike says with shy hesitation, “but did you die in the bathroom?” There is no answer. He later informed me that MPI doesn’t generally like to ask this question (“did you die here?”) to what he’s taken to referring to as the “Always,” because they believe some spirits may not be aware of their own deaths.
A few more minutes pass and we prepare to move on when a distinct splashing sound echoes out of the tiled room. Mike and Stef react with caution. “Did you hear that? Was that water?” Flashlights are quickly produced and played over the floor in search of any liquid, but the room is bone dry. The sink, toilet bowl, and exposed pipes are barren except for the buildup of rust and mildew. The team’s initially cautious reaction graduates to full-blown excitement. “You heard that, right Danny?” Mike asks, turning to me, and I nod, not denying the fact that a splash of water had been clearly audible and that evidence of any liquid was clearly absent. This leads to more questions, more peculiar K2 readings, and more exploration of the remaining 2nd floor rooms.
Around this time another, although much more expected, sound is heard: “Jo coming up!” MPI members announce themselves when they enter an area under investigation, so when data is reviewed no one mistakes the sound of somebody walking for something walking. Joined by Jo Gifford and a handheld camera with infrared/night vision capabilities, we move on to the main attraction for the evening, the projection room. It’s small, dark and cold, but Bravo ventures in anyway, spreading out as much as the cramped space would allow. Time passes without incident and, as our rotation nears its end, a call comes from the stairs, “Mike.”
Thinking it was one of the MPI members coming to relieve us of our duty, Jo goes to investigate. She finds the landing at the bottom of the narrow staircase empty, without a sign of anyone having been there seconds before. When we return to Command Central a few minutes later we are informed, as we expected and hoped, no one had come calling.
Later that night, stationed in front of their laptop computers, members of Bravo team sit with noise-cancelling headphones on, reviewing the audio and video of the second rotation. The phantom call can be heard on both recordings.
Hours pass, less “activity” is recorded and the temperature drops. Satisfied with their efforts, and buoyed by the strange sounds recorded during Bravo’s second rotation, MPI called an end to the night’s investigation. The video and audio recordings would be reviewed again, but not tonight. Equipment is gathered, devices are tucked away and Command Central is broken down. Everything MPI had arrived with was returned to their vehicles and the Shores Madrid Theater was empty once again. Maybe.
If you are interested in finding out more about MPI, check out their website.
The Woman in Black will be in theaters everywhere February 3, 2012!