Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire! (Challenging the Dark – Part II)

Finally! Part two of my Challenging the Dark duet I have lovingly dubbed: Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire!

When we left off we had just wrapped the filming of Paranormal Investigators: The Challenge at the undisclosed location. I was lucky enough to be invited back for a second night of investigating: unplanned, unscripted and unreal!

After the events of Friday night I did the sunset race from my workplace in Chatswood to the location. Riding high on 45 minutes sleep, sugar, two cans of Mother and a plastic bag full of organic fruit I was ready to charge back into the dark, guns figuratively ablazing. When I arrived the teams had just finished dinner and were getting ready for the night.

We revisited some of the buildings from the night before – including my first challenge building – though this time I had a chance to feel what it was like to be a part of a team investigation.

Seeing seasoned investigators at work was a huge privilege, I think I learnt more that night than I had ever gathered watching 6 seasons of Ghost Hunters.

Nothing compares to the real thing; being out there in on the location and experiencing first-hand what usually only translates on television as a ‘Did you hear that?’ and ‘I think I saw something’. Ironically enough, I don’t think I heard anyone say ‘Did you hear that?’… the noises and phenomena that we did hear were plainly heard by all.

During the night I believe I experienced contact with a spirit for the second time, though this time it was on a much more personal level; I felt something that it wanted me to feel. What was even more interesting was that what I experienced validated an earlier experience that another team member had had earlier that afternoon… and I was oblivious to this until it actually happened.

I will admit, I did slip up once when I forgot to curb my tongue and may have offended whatever spirit may have been present. Which in itself was another lesson; respect!… and never forget exactly what you may be dealing with is a human being that has its own thoughts and feelings. This particular spirit had quite a personality… and was not afraid of letting itself be heard!

Like the first night of investigating, I take these experiences with a grain of salt. I’m not going ‘OHMAIGAWD ITZ A GHOST!’ rather relaying what I believed I experienced. There were so many little things that struck me as seeming beyond coincidental, perfectly timed noises… even a bang in response to a question in which I asked the spirit to do so. Yes… me… speaking to the other side! It’s certainly an exciting prospect!

By far the highlight of the entire weekend (looking back on it now) was the last building of the night, where team members came into contact with something that most probably never had been human. I’m inclined to agree, though my own experiences were based on feelings rather than visual experience… though I did see a team member’s head twisting… when it most certainly was not.

We were separated into pairs for safety. My buddy was Beth from WSPR, who not only grounded me throughout the whole experience but helped me look out for my own sanity.

To describe what was happening during that investigation is hard. As a researcher I place a large amount of value on physical evidence and have been trained to discard a lot of the internal ‘evidence’ so to speak. There was no denying though, that there was something in that building… and it had a frightening sense of humor.

When things turn from small noises and bullet-casings being tossed to visual hallucinations and physical sensations… to put it simply: shit gets real.

One of the team called it a night after being profoundly affected by the presence in the building. Fortunately, Andrea – our medium – had suddenly been taken with the urge to go down to the building barely five minutes earlier, and was on hand to help ground him and get rid of any bad vibes that may attempt to stick around.

I’m going to recount what I felt in this building, what I appeared to experience, and let you make the decision for yourself. I’m not out to be proven right or wrong… this is just my story 🙂

To simply stand or sit in that building was like having a sandbag placed on your head. Like you’ve just eaten a very filling meal, you feel heavy and relaxed… but then… not. Your body is relaxed, but your heart is galloping around your chest.

I remembered at the time what an old Taekwondo instructor had told me about adrenalin; it’s our ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ chemical, back from the days when were weren’t at the top of the food chain. Your body shuts down and your senses open wider, so wide that you can hear the person three feet away from you breathing in the dark.

At the danger of disclosing a little too much from the shooting, we did a little work on our inner senses – yes, the dreaded ‘P’-word: Psychic senses – on Friday evening. Before the investigation started on Saturday night I went through the same exercises and, well, I’m not sure if they worked… but this presence felt… other.

I can’t explain it. It’s like trying to explain to a horse what its like to fly. If you close your eyes in a dark room you can feel the others around you, they have that unmistakable ‘human-ness’. In Essentialist terms: this thing lacked… anything that I was familiar with so I can’t place it within my own paradigm.

It felt alien.

I felt like we were not the most powerful things in the building… and let me tell you: for a moment, it’s terrifying.

Not knowing what something is or what it is capable of really reminds you that the big, bad world out there actually is quite big and bad. There are things that are beyond our understanding.

Hell, even I can’t understand what went on in that building! To quote Sherlock Holmes: “My mind rebels at stagnation”… but this simply drew all the hamsters to a screeching halt on their little squeaky wheels.

There were a few very strong personal experiences from other investigators, including visual sightings and even physical contact with this thing. An investigator was seen splitting in two! Only for a few seconds though, before the hallucination snapped away.

As for my own experience, I finally got to see a door open by itself. Yay!

As we were leaving the building I was following Craig (from WSPR) along the hallway out of the building. After he passed a doorway on the right, which was cracked open maybe two or three inches, it opened with enough force to bounce back off the hinges and begin to close again. I stopped dead in my tracks and the first thought I had was that he had bumped the door on the way out.

Valid, yes. However at the barely-open angle that it was at, he would have essentially run into it. It would not have swung open by itself. I asked him if he bumped the door and he said no. It was even still coming to a stop as I asked him, and as I’m inclined to believe people when they answer my questions, I chalked it up mentally as unexplained.

I had my full spectrum camera in my hands… alas… the battery had run dead shortly after we entered the building, and I had already changed to my backup from the first building that we investigated that night. The irony of the situation was not lost on me… which made me wonder; is this why a majority of experiences like this go undocumented? Is it simply a case of a being not wishing to be documented?

It was a nice little bang to end the weekend on.. and I finally scratched one of the personal experiences off my Paranormal Bucket List; see a door open by itself!

After the investigation quite a few people were still a bit wired, so we returned to the Nurses Quarters – our rooms for the night – and had a nice long chat over a few cold beers.

Contrary to what I had originally thought, I slept like a baby that night… and that morning… all the way through to 1pm! I was the last to leave, but it gave me a chance to drop into my folks house and spill my guts about my amazing weekend over a well-deserved Maccas lunch 🙂

I suppose in conclusion, the moral to this story is to always take the chance to challenge yourself. I did more than push the boundaries of my own comfort zone, I freaking leapt off the cliff of comfort and dove headfirst into my own fears… and in return, I’ve emerged a much stronger person.

Funnily enough, watching Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures has now become slightly scarier to me. Mainly because I can relate a little bit more than I used to. They still have bucketloads more gusto than I will for a long time… but it’s something to aim for.

I was warned. PI is addictive. I’m already thinking about the next dark and scary place that I can charge headfirst into with my trusty Full Spectrum camera… armed also with my shiny new digital recorder (coming in a few weeks! :D) and my Full Spectrum floodlight!

For those of you who missed my last post: Australian Paranormal Phenomenon Investigators (APPI) is running two public investigation nights in Liverpool in Sydney’s Southwest. Deets can be found here, and places are limited so make sure you pick up a ticket!

Hopefully I’ll see some of you guys there! Until then, keep talking to the darkness… cause one day it just might talk back 🙂



Challenging the dark – Part 1

This story begins on Tuesday 1/1/2013.

I received a text message from Nicky, a lead investigator from WSPR and one of the team featured in Paranormal Investigators: Phasmophobia (some of you may have seen my post on the series here). She asked if I would like to be one of the ‘Challengers’ for an upcoming episode at <location undisclosed>. Of course, after picking myself up from the floor I agreed. What better way to find out exactly what happens on a real investigation than to be dropped into it head-first?

I will admit, I was starting to have some reservations as the shoot drew closer. First and foremost was my Achluophobia (fear of the dark), then my brain moved onto possession, impression, physical contact and the general terror that I would make a complete fool of myself in front of a camera. This mainly came from the last time something paranormal happened to me (the orbs in the Redbank Tunnel) where I simply screamed and ran. This is hardly the way I wanted myself to react in front of seasoned investigators and the audience of the series… and frankly the idea of going all ‘girly victim’ made my stomach crawl more than the idea of romping around in the dark.

But I stuck with it. On a personal level I like a good challenge and as a journalist this would be an opportunity not to be missed! At least that’s what I told myself…

I met at a local McDonalds with Craig, Nicky and Richie from team WSPR as well as Belinda – the other challenger – and her son. We set out from there and arrived at the location in the late afternoon.

As we drove into the location (I was following the WSPR crew in my car) I saw Nicky point at the sign and thumped my head on the steering wheel: of all of the places in Australia that I would not caught dead in after sunset, this was in the top two.

Each building we passed had broken windows, a surplus of cobwebs and a whole lot of darkness inside. Oh goodie gumdrops.

When we reached the building that HQ was set up in, I was introduced to the rest of the team: the investigators from Validate; Attila, (the director) Andrea, (the host of Phasmophobia) Michelle and Anakin, as well as Jarad, Kat and Beth from team WSPR and Access Paranormal.

Now I can’t divulge too much on the walkthrough that we did around the building, but we were told a few stories on the happenings and what the building was used for when it was operational. There were two buildings that we would be investigating in all (one of them thoroughly gave me the creeps) and after the walkthrough we were given a crash-course on Psychic Awareness as the sun was setting.

I will admit: as open-minded as I (think) I am, I’m just the tiniest bit cynical of psychics. I could probably write an article on why, but I’ll keep this short. At that point in time, I was willing… but not quite believing.

Then the sun set… and there was no backing down.

Fed on a mix of 2-minute-noodles, protein bars and chocolate, I volunteered for a particular challenge first (I can’t say what it was or even how many there were… sorry!). I headed into the building with a DV, my converted full spectrum camera, an IR light and a prayer that whatever it was that liked to hang around in this building didn’t like the taste of Jacqueline.

It was so black that I could barely see two meters in front of me. That was, initially, the scariest aspect of the entire night. I simply couldn’t see what may or may not ‘charge’ me in the dark. Which is stupid, I know… I mean, what was it going to do? Cobweb me to death?

Now I do have some full spectrum shots I did when I was in this building… I’m pretty sure I’m allowed to put them up here. They were taken on a two second timer, one after the other. The movement of the IR light is because I was balancing the camera between my DV and the IR light rig. I didn’t have my tripod with me so I had to try and be as steady as I could. The focusing is also off because I was a little speedy with terror… I wanted to snap these shots and get back to having at least one hand free.

Cause… you know… Ghostly Kung Fu requires one free hand at all times.


I dunno… but, thankfully, I didn’t examine them close enough to catch the black patch (in the middle shot) on screen when I was in the building. If I had then there would have been a lovely Jacqueline-shaped hole in the wall leading back to HQ.

During that investigation, my experiences in the building changed me. Thinking back on it… as I slowly moved from one end of the room to the other I essentially left the old me sitting on the floor with her back to the wall. The new me was walking slowly deeper into the dark and closer to whatever it was that I could hear at the back of the building.

When the others came to get me I was a little reluctant to leave. I literally skipped out of the door with a stupid grin on my face and headed towards the next challenge/s with a kind of dorky enthusiasm.

In the other building the mood was different, to say the least. It was a bit more guided than the last challenge/s, but yielded some impressive results. (UGH! I want to tell you all so badly, but I can’t!!!)

It was in this building that I had my second pivotal moment. Yet again, I can’t say what it was, but it was fun. By the time we had finished in there, I well and truly had my finger in the pie of Paranormal Investigation.

At the end of the night Belinda and I finally had a chance to talk to each other about our experiences before I had to make the sunrise dash home to catch 45 minutes sleep before I got up to go to work.

That was not fun by the way. Not fun at all.

Night two was a completely different kettle of fish. This time I was an observer at the investigation. I got to see how it’s done by experienced investigators, as well as having the chance to have a go myself.

We were joined by Don from The Spirit Level and two of Jarad’s friends, who were new to the practical side of things like me.

It was a huge learning curve, watching the teams go to work, and a huge buzz to receive so much activity after the events of the previous night. This also may have been due to the thunderstorm that rolled in at sunset and stuck around for a few hours.

There’s a theory that natural energies like thunderstorms, running water or limestone have the ability to charge the atmosphere, thus giving any spiritual entities extra fuel to burn when doing their thing.

The building we first went into (which was the first building I had entered the previous night) did feel different. There was a feeling of anticipation in the room… and it wasn’t just us. The walls, the doorways…the very air itself felt charged.

I was fortunate enough to do four investigations in that building. The first I can’t fully explain – because it will be included in Phasmophobia – but it was more than a little mind-blowing.

Keep tuned for the second half of my recap! Ups coming soon!