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October 9, 2013

Grownups can go ghost busting and see UFOs at the library

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

Ever wonder about what goes bump in the night, ghostly sightings, spirits and UFOs?

For the first time ever, the Troy library, with funding from the Friends of the Troy Public Library, will host a series of programs focusing on the paranormal throughout October as part of the adult enrichment program.

Paranormal investigator Heidi Wolfe started the series at the library with a look at spirit photography Oct. 5.

She talked about what she does when she goes on a “ghost hunt” and explained that spirit photography goes back to Victorian times, when many of the photographs of so-called spirits were proved to be hoaxes.

One way to spot a fake is when lots of space is left around the subject of a photo, leaving room for someone to superimpose another image, she said.

She showed a famous fake photo, “The Brown Lady of Raynham Hall,” taken in Norfolk, England, which investigators at the University of Cambridge determined was a hoax.

She showed a photo she said proved to be an authentic photo of a spirit — Freddie Johnson a mechanic in World War I, who can be seen standing behind a close friend of his with his unit. Johnson died two days before the photograph, which was planned after he was killed in an airplane propeller mishap.

Wolfe shared photos she’s taken at the Arcade Antiques Mall in Holly, a place where there is a lot of paranormal activity, she said. She also shared spirit photos she’s taken at Fort Wayne in Detroit, Mount Carmel Cemetery in Wyandotte and Jackson State Prison.

“I usually don’t see anything when taking the pictures,” she said. “I’m more along the lines of not ruling anything out.”

She said that restaurant and bed and breakfast owners ask her to do paranormal investigations, often with the hope that a ghost or two on the premises will increase business.

“People want you to lie and say it’s haunted,” she said. “A lot of times, you go on a ghost hunt, nothing happens. People are looking for fame and thinking everything is a ghost.
“In general, the veil is lifting. … Was it always happening and people didn’t talk about it because it was taboo?” she said. “We really are co-existing with the spirit world all the time.”

She said places that she’s found very active with paranormal activity include the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Holly, places where there are historical re-enactments and Greenfield Village.

“People who worked there have told me things,” she said, noting that Greenfield Village officials do not allow paranormal investigators to go there to investigate. 

Wolfe will return to the library at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 15 to talk further about paranormal investigation.

Debunking ghost stories

Sandy Lyons and Robert Elmouchi will present a point/counterpoint program titled “The Spirit Hunter and the Skeptic” at 7 p.m. Oct. 22. Lyons, the spirit hunter, bases her tales on first-hand accounts from people she’s interviewed, while Elmouchi, the skeptic, offers scientific explanations.

“He tries to debunk everything,” Lyons said. She said that people who attend the talks she and Elmouchi give are surprised to find she’s “not crazy and not dressed as a witch.”

“I’m down to earth and have a sense of humor.”

She said nonbelievers come away with an understanding of why it’s important to study the paranormal — what is gained by it — and believers will get some insight on what exactly is going on and why.

“I don’t claim to know everything. I sort through information, and I come across a nugget once in a while and enough to put a book together,” she said.

She’s written “Michigan’s Most Haunted” and “Colorado’s Most Haunted.”

“I’ve always been interested in ghost stories,” she said. “But I never got to the actual source or it was in a nondescript location (before she did research for her books). Everything (locations) in my books is open to the public.”

Although she said she did not write the books as children’s books, people tell her their preteens and in one case an 8-year-old love her books. 

William Konkolesky, who’s appeared on documentaries about UFOs on the Discovery Channel, the History Channel and ABC, will present “UFOs Over Michigan” at the library 7 p.m. Oct. 28.

He said, via email, that people who attend his program are most surprised to learn that Michigan alone has hundreds of reported UFO sightings each year. Last year, the Michigan Chapter of the Mutual UFO Network, of which he is director, received 422 sighting reports, he said.

During his programs, he said, many people ask him who’s flying the UFOs.

“After MUFON goes through a thorough investigation to make sure the witness didn’t actually see an explainable aircraft, weather phenomenon or celestial event,  and we’re perhaps left with something even we can’t identify, we still can’t say for sure who or what is behind the anomalous sightings.

“There’s a misconception that only people in isolated areas see UFOs, but most sightings are actually in highly populated areas,” he said.

Holly Clarke, adult services librarian for the Troy Public Library, said staff has assembled a collection of books with the paranormal theme in the adult section of the library. She advised those who are thinking of attending the paranormal programs to preregister, so staff has an idea how many will attend. All events are free.

Register online at www.troylibrary.info or by calling (248) 524-3542. The Troy library is located at 510 W. Big Beaver.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.