Who you gonna call?

Let’s get one thing straight: I don’t believe in ghosts. The dead haunting the living? I don’t think so. Tortured souls with unfinished business? Not buying it. So when I found out that a group of young Halifax “ghost hunters” were coming to investigate the Pit amid reports that a dead janitor haunts the basement theatre space, every cruel, sarcastic, cynical bone in my body jumped at the opportunity to check these guys out.
My preparation was extensive. Watch Ghostbusters I and II—check. Memorize Ghostbusters theme song—check. Hone Bill Murray impersonations—check. I was ready.
First impressions did not disappoint. An eclectic consortium of four men and three women representing the Halifax Institute for Paranormal Research (HIPR) discussed gadgets and technicalities with a seriousness and professionalism that only barely masked the excitement of their new project. They weren’t wearing beige jumpsuits or unlicensed nuclear accelerators, but instead sported sweatshirts, jeans, and even a Ghostbusters T-shirt.
It didn’t take long to figure out who the leader of the operation is. Twenty-three-year-old Nathan Stone is described on the group’s website as “lead researcher and Lord President of HIPR.” A librarian by day, Stone is one of those people that knows a little something about absolutely everything. Throughout the process, all the other members’ questions went through him.
Stone began ghost hunting about eight months ago on a whim with two friends. He purchased his equipment online (from a site that is, no joke, called and has personally spent roughly $700 on ghost tracking gear, though he says any amateur hunter “could easily get away with a good flashlight, a nice camera and maybe a $40 EMF [electromagnetic field] reader.”
The most striking thing about Stone, though, is that he doesn’t actually believe in ghosts. “But I think it would be spectacular if I was wrong.”
This feeling is surprisingly common amongst the group of hunters. Robin, a 22-year-old Dalhousie graduate and also a library employee, considers herself neither a believer nor a non-believer.
“I’d have to actually see something happen that I absolutely could not explain,” she says as she documents every inch of the room with a digital camera.
more than eight months, Stone hasn’t really come across anything to change his mind. “I’ve seen stuff that so far I can’t explain. However, it’s much easier for me to say that this is something that I just haven’t thought of as opposed to something that is purely paranormal or supernatural. What we’re looking for is concrete.”
Contrary to my expectations, ghost hunting isn’t all Ouija boards and séance circles. Rather, the bulk of the time was spent sweeping the Pit with full spectrum cameras, EMF readers, and infrared detection alarms. Even the 10 minutes of recorded “silent time” was more peaceful than spooky. The closest we came to anything absurd was when the group sat in silence as one member asked questions aloud directed at any spirit possibly in our midst. At this point in the night, even this ritual didn’t seem so ridiculous: it was just another investigation technique. Was I becoming one of them? Was I opening myself up to the possibility of believing?
Despite hours spent at any given hunting site, the real work doesn’t come until later, when Stone and the team pore through the hours of audio and hundreds of pictures in search of anything unusual, unexplained, or unaccounted for. After eight months and over a thousand pictures, only two images have been deemed inexplicable: a squiggle of light in one, a transparent shape in another. Discouraging? Apparently not.
“Even if we never find anything, I’m never disappointed, because the act is still fun,” Robin explained. “You’re still going somewhere, you’re still learning about the stories, you’re still learning about the history. You get to play with cool equipment, you get to have fun with cool people.”
Midnight slowly rolls around. The hunters begin to pack up their equipment. Then five slow, loud knocks echo through the Pit. I turn quickly to the hunters, expecting to see them whipping out their tools. But they hardly give it a second thought before continuing to pack up. It was probably just the pipes, some students, the wind, they say. Nothing to get all worked up about. I try to play it cool. I ain’t ‘fraida no ghosts.

Eds. note: As of Oct. 24, HIPR had not found any conclusive proof that the Pit was haunted.“Unfortunately a large number [of photos] turned out really blurry,” wrote Stone on HIPR’s web forum. “And I’d love to know why.”

Leave a Reply