Let’s get this straight right off the bat. Clarissa Vazquez and her cadre of nine volunteer ghostly phenomenon investigators are not ghostbusters. “Ghostbuster is a fictional term that implies some sort of captivity, same as ghost hunter,” she told The Sopris Sun. “We don’t hunt anything.”
She considers herself an afterlife researcher. “We research reports of paranormal phenomena, ghostly phenomena,” she explained. “Although the term ‘paranormal’ encompasses anything that’s not scientifically explainable, including extraterrestrials and cryptids.” Cryptids? “Like Bigfoot,” she said. “But, our primary research focus is ghosts.”
Vazquez and Colorado Coalition of Paranormal Investigators (CCPI) are giving a four-part presentation about their research and methods at the Carbondale Library on Monday nights this month. Accompanying Vazquez so far are CCPI tech manager Erik Mazur, his wife, Sarah Babb-Mazur, the group’s historian, and case manager Susan Herwick.
Vazquez got her start with paranormal research 27 years ago while on active duty in the Air Force. Her home base was converting its former morgue into a physical therapy area. She was sweeping up dirt and debris, and saw the apparition when she came back from a lunch break.
“I saw a gentleman standing in this gutted room and he looked just as tangible as you and I sitting here,” she explained. She approached the soldier, asking him if he needed help. “I got within 10 feet of him,” she said. “He looked at me and looked away, and walked through a cinder block wall and disappeared.”
She never saw him again but started reading up on paranormal activity. “I ultimately started practicing with a big, old, chunky analog tape recorder and a Polaroid camera,” she said. In 2004, she and a friend began investigating together. Word spread and CCPI was born from the need for more help. Vaquez has also written several books about her experiences.
None of CCPI’s volunteers proclaim to have psychic powers; although some are sensitive and two are ordained ministers. Mazur admitted to the audience during the first session that he’s a “complete skeptic.” In fact, the whole idea behind CCPI is to approach ghostly encounters with a hefty dose of critical analysis — which leads to more debunking than confirmations.
When researching a possible phantasmic presence, Vazquez said it’s important to rule out non-paranormal activity first. She cautioned against pareidolia — seeing familiar objects or patterns in random, unrelated objects or patterns such as the Man in the Moon or animal shapes in cloud formations — and how it can interfere with paranormal research. “The brain finds the familiar in objects and tends to anthropomorphize,” she said. “You have to look at the whole picture.”
Common pitfalls include dust, moisture, bugs, pollen, swamp gas, ball lightning and Vazquez’ pet peeve: orbs. Most of them are what she calls Ordinary Random Bits of Stuff. “A true orb could be valid if you can see it with the naked eye, if it has its own illumination, if it moves and interacts with you and casts its own shadow,” she explained. In other words, a true orb is not a reflection of dust molecules, jewelry or those tiny green lights appearing in your cell phone when taking photos of bright objects at night. It’s actually there. And it’s CCPI’s job to prove that it’s there.
So just how does one move past fake orbs and pareidolia to find something undebunkable? The proper equipment helps. Clarissa and her crew brought along tubs full of digital and film cameras and audio, video and sensory equipment. Plus one Boo Buddy® — a sophisticated, multi-sensory device, specifically designed for paranormal research and disguised as a small, stuffed teddy bear. It measures motion, vibration and temperature fluctuations, and responds with verbal observations and questions — often directed to the ghost. “We use it mainly when working with ghosts of children,” said Herwick.
Vazquez isn’t one for bells, whistles, or sensationalizing. “We do not utilize boards, dowsing rods, or psychics,” she explained. “We follow the concept that you cannot prove the paranormal with the paranormal.”
The next class is Monday, Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. The final class on Jan. 30 will be a mock investigation at the library.
More information is at www.gcpld.org or 970-963-2889.
You can find CCPI online at www.coloparanormal.com