Finding what lies beneath the ghost stories

Explore the experiences of the paranormal world before ghost hunting grew popular on TV. Ghost hunting has gone from a taboo topic to a national pop cultural frenzy. Ghost hunters have become a new class

Explore the experiences of the paranormal world before ghost hunting grew popular on TV.

Ghost hunting has gone from a taboo topic to a national pop cultural frenzy. Ghost hunters have become a new class of celebrity. But before the days of “Paranormal State’s” Ryan Buell or Jason Hawes of “Ghost Hunters,” there were life-long paranormal investigators who were invested in ghost hunting for more than the allure.

Kenneth Biddle, an aircraft mechanic and professional photographer, moonlights as the founder and lead investigator of the Paranormal Investigations and Research Association. His early days of paranormal inquiry were anywhere but the limelight.

“It used to be that, 10-15 years ago, if you walked in some place and mentioned you were a ghost hunter, people would laugh at you,” Biddle said. “They would probably walk away from you.”

All that changed thanks to two major developments Biddle witnessed. The first took place when he connected his computer to the Internet in 1997. What he said he once thought was an obscure and private passion was actually a widespread penchant for the paranormal.

It was through this growing involvement in the world of paranormal investigation that Biddle came upon the next big development for the ghost hunting community.

Although Biddle is not a fan of shows such as “Ghost Hunters,” he couldn’t help but be familiar. After meeting the show’s producers, he was invited to “Ghost Hunters” first-ever pilot showing.

Though Biddle was not surprised the show became popular, it came at a price.

“[Ghost hunting] falls into that ‘romantic’ category,” Biddle said. “It’s mysterious; it’s exciting. We’ve all heard ghost stories when we were little. We’ve all been afraid of the dark or the closet. When you get older and you watch horror movies, you still get a thrill.”

“With the mentality of some people, when you go out to a location that has a reputation for being haunted, it’s supposed to be haunted – you’re on a ghost hunt,” Biddle added. “I’m telling you, you are going to experience a ghost.”

But as the phenomenon’s popularity grew, so did Biddle’s skepticism.

“I’ve seen people play practical jokes in which a group is out ghost hunting, one person slides under a bed and reaches up and grabs the person,” Biddle said. “The person experiencing this, instead of looking under the bed, says ‘Hey I’m being touched by a ghost!’”

But not all paranormal believers can be dismissed as gullible thrill seekers.

Like Biddle, junior biomedical major Vikki Psomiadis has been captivated by the paranormal long before ghost shows became popular. But unlike Biddle, Psomiadis’ belief in the paranormal has grown, not faded.

Scientifically-minded and highly articulate, Psomiadis is not someone who can be dismissed as gullible or out-of-touch. She was a skeptic for a while, but after several similar paranormal incidences, there were no other logical explanations.

Her first paranormal experience took place when she was 11 years old.

“I was visiting my grandfather’s graveyard in Greece,” Psomiadis said. “I remember walking away and seeing a shape standing between two trees. It was a human shape about 6-feet tall – just dark, and I thought, ‘Oh, maybe it’s just a caretaker.’ I walked over that way and there was no one there.”

More recently, Psomiadis has had experiences that, if experienced personally by most people, might easily bring them to believe.

Psomiadis and her friends visited Fort Mifflin, a site known for being haunted. Disturbed by a cold breeze, she moved away from her posse and ate alone at a distant bench.

While glancing over at her friends, she noticed a shadowy figure standing in her line of sight. She said her intuition immediately perked so she spoke to the figure.

“I said, ‘If you want to come sit next to me, you can,’” Psomiadis said. “I had my hand sitting on my knees. They were both of equal temperature, but then I felt like somebody took my hand and one hand got really cold. I felt a little bit of gentle pressure on my fingers [so] I called my friends over. They touched my hands and saw they were different colors.”

“I got this feeling while I sat with it [which] wasn’t really sad,” Psomiadis added. “It was like, ‘I’ve been alone for a long time and I’m finally able to talk to someone.’”

Using an electromagnetic field reader, one of Psomiadis’ friends sensed a field roughly as potent as a human being’s in the space directly next to Psomiadis.

“In the end, I had to say, ‘My hand is so cold. I want you to help me, but can you please let go, it’s starting to hurt me,’” Psomiadis said. “I didn’t feel any negative energy. [It] just let go, and my hand suddenly got warm again.”

After sitting with the presence for some time longer, she finally felt the presence calmly part.

“It was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had,” Psomiadis said. “It will probably never be trumped. I walked out of there feeling like I’d helped somebody [and] for me it was an experience that will always define how I feel about the paranormal.”

Based on Biddle’s observations, the idea of an experience being real seems unlikely. As part of his paranormal investigations, Biddle has reviewed thousands of allegedly paranormal photographs and attended dozens of hands-on investigations.

“Honestly, I have yet to come across anything that I can’t explain [scientifically],” Biddle said.

Although faced with constant skepticism, Psomiadis said she isn’t concerned.

“Some of my friends may never believe my experience, but for me, it was the most genuine experience I’ve had in my life,” Psomiadis said.

Carl O’Donnell can be reached at

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