He closes a large hand over my own slightly shaky one. Maybe ten centimeters taller than my own 160-something cm frame, he gestures me over and pulls up the door to the garage attached to his brick home in Western Sydney.
This is no ordinary garage. Behind a soft lounge chair, a pile of halogen lights on stands slightly obstruct the view out the back window to the yard. Behind me is a bookcase of gym bags full of electronic equipment – Mel-Meters, EM pumps, mini DV camcorders and ‘Spirit Box’ or two.
Craig Powell is a Paranormal Investigator, the founder of Western Sydney Paranormal Research and somewhat intimidating. Maybe it is his reputation within the field of Paranormal Investigation in Australia – the reputation of his team – that makes me slightly stammer as I explain the nature of the interview.
His youngest son – Diesel – climbs into his lap, playing with an iPad as I ask about his ‘hobby’.
“It’s my love job.” He shrugs, “We do treat WSPR as a business. We run it as such. We don’t want to be seen as people running around in the dark looking for cheap thrills.”
Death is a motif in the WSPRS HQ. There’s a graffiti-style picture on the wall above our heads: the team name is sprayed in dark red against a glowing green skull that eyeballs us as we talk.
“I was brought up with the belief that there’s more than just life. It’s in my blood; it’s in my background… On investigation I’m probably one of the least spiritual people you’ll see – one of the most skeptical people. Yes I believe there’s life after this life… but I am probably one of the biggest skeptics.”
On the fridge is a photocopy of a Prisoner ID, labeling the photo No. 166860: George Savvas. There’s a background to this photocopy; a run-in at the Maitland Gaol where the spirit – presumably George Savvas – left a mark on Craig’s neck.
Every so often he takes off his cap, smooths down his brown hair and resettles it on his head.
“You get used to it. You build up a tolerance for what happens in the dark. Nothing really puts us off anymore. The darker, the scarier the place, the better.”
His wife Nicky – a co-founder of WSPRS – breezes into the garage twice. The shift of his focus is so clearly evident. Every time she enters the garage he only has eyes for her. His default ‘serious’ expression melts into a temperate smile. The same smile as when he scolds his son for whizzing around the room like a cheeky wrecking ball.
“Sorry… yes darling! What was I saying? Oh yeah… I want stuff to scare me. I wanna be scared… because I wanna know. It’s not for bravado or to say I’m tough… it’s to put myself in the shoes of these people that we help. What are they going through every night? It helps me work better.”
He leans back in his seat,
“We’re just normal people. We just like running around in the dark looking for ghosts.”
Before I leave he asks me for a photo for the WSPRS Facebook page and I get a goodbye hug, along with an invitation to come back tomorrow to meet more of the guys.
I leave; much less scared than before I had met him… which I think is his motive, not only for clients… but for nervous student writers too.