Who ya gonna call?

My first paranormal investigation

By Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

Photo: The ParaVizionz team sets up and explains some of their equipment to ABC 22′s Kathy Stonum and Hilary Zalla before they begin their investigation

Disclaimer from the writer: I am afraid of the dark. Like, the kind of afraid where I might have peed myself a little that one time when the power went out while I was in my basement doing laundry. As a full-fledged grown-up, I realize this is a bit silly. First of all, I would imagine a demon could attack me and drag my soul into the underworld for an eternity of pain and horror JUST as well in the light as it could in the dark. Secondly, my husband says there is no such thing as ghosts, and sometimes he’s right about things. Sometimes. That said, when my editor, Sarah, asked me to join her on this paranormal investigation, I steeled my nerves and went along with an open, journalistic mind, ready to experience whatever there was to experience, be it spirits or an education or panic-inducing sights and sounds. I think I got a little of all of the above. (Also, I’m sorry about your hand, Sarah. You did offer it, but I should have mentioned the bone-crushing fear strength I experience in moments of anxiety. It’s like the adrenaline boost moms get when they’re lifting cars off of trapped children, only not as useful.)

Meet Vicky, an amicable young spirit we encountered primping in the second floor ladies’ restroom at the Victoria Theatre. After asking where her lipstick had gotten to, she proceeded to a stall and let nature do its calling. It was probably nerves. This, at least, was my interpretation of events as they unfolded during last week’s paranormal investigation led by the team at ParaVizionz, the Ohio-based four-person operation with a combined 20 years of investigative experience. It’s possible Vicky is the echo of the actress who disappeared 100 years ago from a dressing room at the theatre. Regardless, she joins a host of good-natured ghosts that inhabit the historic theatre, some of whom ParaVizionz and your stalwart media representatives hoped to interact with on that recent chilly evening in October.

We had been extended an exclusive opportunity largely unavailable to the public to explore the beautiful and historic Victoria Theatre. The Victoria is, first and foremost, a presenting theatre. But, as with any well-established and well-loved piece of historical architecture, there is always lore. Stories about “Vicky” and other strange occurrences are woven into the fabric of the theatre’s history. And this is what we were hoping to explore.

Getting let into the Victoria Theatre after hours made me feel special right off the bat, a feeling that subsided quickly when I realized how crushing the quiet of an empty theatre can be. After sitting us tagalongs down for an introduction and explanation of some of the scientific gadgets, ParaVizionz split into two teams and off we went to see what we could see.

Before we get too far, let’s get something straight. “We’re not ghost hunters,” said ParaVizionz founder Lee Allen. “We’re paranormal investigators.”

ParaVizionz exists to help people document and understand purported paranormal experiences using technology and reason. They make it clear from the get-go that actual paranormal experiences are quite rare. The team’s goal is to provide possible explanations and solutions for clients so that they will feel more comfortable in their homes or businesses.

If you are looking for something that values showmanship and sensationalism over science and resolution, perhaps try one of the ghost hunting television shows instead.

When my group entered the second floor ladies’ room, Lee explained the position of the opposing mirrors inside the door was helpful. “It’s called a ‘fear cage,’” he said. “What?!” I asked as I got my first tingles of excitement/terror. A fear cage is used to describe an area with an exceptional Electromagnetic Field (EMF). A good EMF means a lot of activity as it makes it all the easier for spirits to communicate. Having set up the equipment, including a thermal probe to read heat signatures, an EMF detector to determine anomalies, a “boo bear” meant to pick up heat patterns (and particularly inviting for younger spirits) and a Frank’s Box for spirits to communicate via radio waves, we almost immediately began picking up signals.

The Frank’s Box picked up many Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP), and several of us heard a female voice say “lipstick,” “hurry” and, when asked her name, “Vicky.” But the voice was fleeting and faint; maybe she was more scared of us than we were of her. Lee also posited she may have been embarrassed by having male visitors interrupt her pre-performance preparation.

Moving out of the restroom and into the theatre, we used an Alesis digital voice recorder to try to capture voices out of our normal hearing range, but the results were difficult to interpret. When our group was debating entering the stage right muppet box, I felt myself recoil thinking of the encounters I’d heard about where people have felt the presence of Lucille, the woman accosted in that very location, who occasionally gooses her visitors. When the question of whether or not we were welcome in the box was posed to the spirits, we got an immediate and firm “NO” from our little electric Ouija board. The EMF detector Sarah was holding registered for the first time all night – from 0.0 to 5.7. Lee mentioned any reading over 1 was worth noting. I took that at face value and parked myself on the stage while the undeterred members of our group trouped on up and were rewarded with a cacophony of activity from what sounded to me like more than one spirit.

The most intense part of the evening took place in a quiet, totally dark room adjacent to the main theatre. Using the Frank’s Box, an entire conversation unraveled between our group and “Mike,” a spirit thought to be that of a young man known to some members of our group and who died before his time.

The ParaVizionz team was clearly thrilled to have such a dramatic example of the possible communication between our world and the spirit world, despite the shuddering journalist sitting with her back against the wall, clinging to her editor for dear life and trying not to cry.

I swear, that thing said “Jen,” plain as day, when asked about the people in the room. I took the surprised look I caught on Sarah’s face before I pinched my eyes shut to mean that she had heard it, too. What really spooked me, though, was when we heard laughing. Cold, eerie laughing, with mechanical overtones coming through a device, that sounded a little bit like the foreboding score of “Friday the 13th.”

Now, typically, when characters get to that part of the movie, they run like hell and try not to trip and kill themselves, which is kind of what I felt like doing. Our seasoned, professional investigators simply asked the spirit not to do that and cast a flippant “that’s never good” to their stunned tourists. Just for a visual, at this point, Sarah was playing the part of Scooby and I was Shaggy. What I wouldn’t have given for a Scooby Snack.

The rest of the evening continued somewhat more serenely, culminating in a visit to the third floor ballet studio. While we again attempted to ask questions, most of what we heard sounded more like the echo of a class that had taken place. We repeatedly heard counting from a male voice: “One, two, three, four” – it seemed instructional. The vibe was definitely more of a residual event and less interactive than in other areas of the theatre we visited, much to the relief of your rattled writer. While bidding adieu to the dearly departed as we left the theatre, Allen and the team thanked the spirits for their gracious hosting. I went home and to bed, where I apprehensively stared at the ceiling until the sun came up.

The members of ParaVizionz all became involved with paranormal investigation for different reasons and at different times in their lives, the common thread being that they had all experienced phenomena that lacked an easy explanation. Allen experienced the loss of two children and heartily believes in an existence beyond this temporal realm. He met his wife and teammate Patti after she had her own experience with a spirit who haunted her home and interacted with the older of her two children. Patrick Dehart became interested in the paranormal after seeing an apparition of a man he saw killed during his U.S. Army tour of Iraq. ParaVizionz website manager Jim Wilson has had many encounters throughout his life and has an uncle who is continually pestered by Wilson’s deceased grandmother and aunt.

All four team members have day jobs and participate in the investigations, including the research and follow up, during nights and weekends, often at the expense of much-needed sleep. Their clear dedication to their craft is encouraging, and the support offered to clients far exceeds what they may have gained from someone showing up with proton packs. “A lot of times we become like a counselor to these people,” Patti said of their clients, many of whom need help sorting through a loss they’ve experienced in their lives.

So what was ParaVizionz’s take-away from this session at the Victoria Theatre? “I feel that night we made another milestone with the location,” Lee said. “Bringing in new people helps to bring [spirits] out to communicate.”

Glad we could help.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go install my new 100-watt nightlight.

To learn more about ParaVizionz, contact the team, read case files or listen to EVPs, visit paravizionz.com.


Reach DCP freelance writer Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin at JenniferHanauerLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com. To read more from Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin, visit her website at jennerlumpkin.com.

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About Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin

View all posts by Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin
Jennifer Hanauer Lumpkin is a writer and amateur cartographer living in Dayton, Ohio. She has been a member of PUSH (Professionals United for Sexual Health) since 2012 and is currently serving as Chair. She can be reached at JenniferHanauerLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com or through her website at jennerlumpkin.com.

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