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Everything you need to know about hunting ghosts

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● Published by City Journals Staff

David Woodruff teaches paranormal investigating at West Valley library. (Keyra Kristoffersen/City Journals)

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By Keyra Kristoffersen | keyrak@mycityjournals.com    

Ever wanted to know who was on the other side? David and Erika Woodruff have and they teach classes on finding ghosts and other paranormal activity. 

“There’s so much interest in ghosts and paranormal investigation,” said David. “I had some experiences growing up, and kinda wanted to know what’s going on around us.”

The Woodruff’s are founding members of the Rocky Mountain Revenants, a Utah-based group of friends interested in both debunking claims of the paranormal and experience true encounters, trying to learn as much as they can about how the spirit world operates with the physical world.

“We go out and we’re excitedly pessimistic,” said David. “We look at everything and try to disprove it and then once we’ve thrown everything out, maybe this has some merit to it.”

David began investigating in 2007 and met Erika while exploring paranormal happenings at the John Hutchings Museum of Natural History in Lehi. She had been fascinated by the paranormal her entire life and had her first encounter when she was 21 while working at Disney World’s Tower of Terror. 

“When I was a little girl, I went to the library and checked out every single book on ghosts that I could,” said Erika. “Anything scary like that, I just loved.”

The John Hutchings Museum was actually the first World War I memorial in the United States and was at one time used as a city jail and offices. Artifacts from different wars are still kept there. Both David and Erika have history with the museum—her family founded it and his run it now. 

“If you come at night, it’s quite haunted,” said David. “It’s actually quite an interesting place.”

So interesting, in fact, that they couple held their wedding reception inside. Now they do investigations of hauntings with the Revenants and teach classes on paranormal investigating in classrooms, seminars and at the Viridian Center, where they’ve been invited several times and say they have gotten some amazing evidence.

“It doesn’t have to be a pre-Victorian mansion,” said David. “So many people who come to these have different paranormal experiences; their grandma visited them, they’re hearing voices in their house.”

David talks about some of these experiences and the history of human interest in the unseen world which has led to ghosts being a part of everyday pop culture in children’s cartoons. 

Anthropologically, David said, people began creating afterlife concepts and ideas around the time that humans began burying their dead and devising rituals and ceremonies around death that may even extend to the animal world.

“It’s interesting to see the different rituals that we do in western cultures to make us feel better,” said David. “It really helps us think we’ve got an understanding and feel like we’re in control of death.”

The desire to experience and share in an understanding of what happens to a person after death took off during the Victorian era with spiritualism to the point that it was the common practice of social gatherings to drink tea and sit in a séance, use a Ouija board and contact the “other side.” Ghosts were so prevalent at the time that portraits could be taken and superimposed to make it seem as though one were posing with the ethereal dead. 

The Rocky Mountain Revenants are interested in separating truth from fiction and have rules by which they classify paranormal experiences with the main rule being that a haunting is a similar or repeatable phenomena that can take place over a period of time and is witnessed by more than one person who had nothing to gain by sharing the account.

David said that ghosts are big business and sometimes it’s easy to fall prey where you want to believe as with some of the impressive tourist spots around the world that boast near constant hauntings until probed a little bit deeper. 

“Some people are so excited to believe that they are terrible investigators,” said David. “Before you go, you need to know what you’re getting into.”

David insists that ghost hunting can be taken up by anyone with a desire to learn and investigate the truth behind the phenomena. It also need not be expensive. The team uses simple flashlights, radios, digital thermometers, cameras and digital voice recorders along with EMF detectors, infrared cameras and laser grids. Even animal behavior can be a good indicator of a change in atmosphere caused by potential haunting. 

The Woodruff’s said that part of the draw for people is that paranormal experiences tend to stand out in people’s minds because these experiences are so removed from regular life and investigating is the chance to dive into history, to find that no matter the era people have always tended to be people, with the same thoughts, feelings and desires.

“I don’t know what happens when we die,” said David, “but I sure as heck think something does from my experience.” 

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