Kristy Sumner is the leader of Soul Sisters Paranormal, an all women team of paranormal investigators wielding advanced degrees who use academic-minded methods to research the history and reported paranormal activities at haunted locations. Kris joined ConverSapiens for episode 7 of the show to discuss their work. The following is an excerpt from our ghostly encounter!
What is a paranormal investigator?
For most people paranormal investigation is exactly what it sounds like: you go into a location and look for some type of unexplainable paranormal phenomena or event. They may look for a spirit and in some cases, people go in and look for demons if they want to call it that or negative energy, if you prefer the term. In my group, Soul Sisters Paranormal, we follow a two-tiered process. The first thing that we do is investigate and research the historical context of locations that we get to visit. Whether it’s somewhere related to the Civil War, or the Revolutionary War, or a famous site of an axe murder, for example, we really like to delve into the history of those locations. A major focus of Soul Sisters is to couple our paranormal investigations with those historical element.
Our second step is to control for activity that may have an explanation. Yes, paranormal investigators do go in to look for things that we can’t explain, but we also go into each investigation with a scientific mindset. We look for environmental factors that could be contributing to what people think is paranormal, i.e. light pollution, noise pollution, etc. Is there a train, airplane, heavy traffic, or anything like that that could explain what somebody may perceive as paranormal. Absent any of that, then we may call a phenomenon unexplainable. That’s after we’ve controlled for everything else, when we just cannot explain the reason for those occurrences. For example, when we went to the Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville, Virginia, we captured the voice of a small child. There are no children in our group, and there were no children on the property, so that is something that I will call unexplainable.
What sort of equipment do you use to capture a voice like that?
We use a variety of equipment. The first thing that we bring out, that we never go into an investigation without, is our voice recorders. We have 10 of them. They’re just Sony dictation voice recorders. I feel that the evidence they record is the hardest for me to debunk. Sometimes when we capture shadow figures or light anomalies, those are things that I can explain away, but for the most part, a voice emanating out of the darkness isn’t something I can explain.
We also take night vision video cameras. We have 20 of those that we set up in different places on the property that we’re investigating. We have laser grids that we use in conjunction with those night vision video cameras to see any movement that might block the lasers. We also have different pieces of handheld equipment that are designed to measure different things such as magnetic energy and static electricity.
In one of your videos, your team is at a private address in Florida. You went into a closet and said that you felt uneasy, so you stepped out of the closet and then asked if you should avoid that area, and the device in your hand went from one green dot to 5 red dots immediately. What is that? What is that device?
That device is a K2 meter and it measures electromagnetic energy fields. It was actually designed for electricians, originally. When we go to a location, we turn off the power and we leave behind all personal electronic devices. If the K2 starts to alarm, that’s something that is very hard for me to explain. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the meter has a light scale that it goes from green, which is really no energy, to red, which is high energy. When I stepped into that closet it was something that I felt a little bit uneasy about. It felt like a cold feeling, if you will. And then when I stepped out and began asking questions, the K2 meters did start going off.
Again, that’s pretty profound, because there is no electricity. It should not be going off. For the sake of argument, let’s say we do find an electrical current somewhere, like if we held it up to an outlet that was still powered or something like that. It would go off consistently and stay powered on to red. When I back off of it, it would go back to green. So theoretically, if I’m standing in an open room and there’s no spike on that device, I wouldn’t expect it to ever spike because there’s no energy acting upon it.
Does the use of a K2 meter work on the theory that paranormal entities are made up of electromagnetic energy?
It does, and we use it for that purpose. I do think that when we die, because we are made up of energy, that energy has to go somewhere, since it can’t be created or destroyed. So for those spirits that are what I would consider closer to the veil, let’s say, between this and whatever’s next, those entities can communicate with us and we use this tool as one method for them to do so. I’m not saying that every spirit that we encounter will set off the K2. Some don’t approach it or they’ll stand back and we’ll get an EVP from them.
You’ll hear a lot of people say, “I’m a paranormal expert.” I will never call myself a paranormal expert because it’s not a field that we can explain. We’re all dealing with theories on this. I can go to one location and collect evidence and another investigator can go to that same location and not get the same evidence. We very much are dealing with theory and that is one of them – that the energy of spirits will manipulate that device.
What is an EVP?
It stands for Electronic Voice Phenomena. As I said earlier, we set up those voice recorders as a part of our investigations. An EVP is a voice, or a movement, or a sound that we capture on the voice recorder that we either didn’t hear in the moment or we did hear in the moment and can go back to the recordings to confirm. Or it could be something our recorders pick up when we aren’t even in the room. At the Exchange Hotel in Virginia we left one of those voice recorders on the bed in one of the the mock rooms they had set up. We were all in another part of the building. When we reviewed the recordings, we had captured that child’s voice I mentioned. He said, “Hi, this is my bed.” That is what we call an EVP. It’s a voice with an unknown origin.
In your videos from the Fort Mifflin investigation, there is a very clear EVP. You explain that your team is leaving some cigarettes and water for a spirit. The recordings pick up an audible “Thank you.” How did that come about?
To answer that, let me backtrack for a moment to explain to you how we do an investigation. Like I said before, we’ll find a location that we want to investigate primarily for the history. Fort Mifflin is a location that is very rich in history. It was a Revolutionary War Fort. It was later used during the Civil War to house both Union and Confederate prisoners in what they call the casemate. The casemates were designed as underground bunkers to house munitions during the Revolutionary War. During the Civil War, they housed prisoners in solitary confinement.
When we go to a place like Fort Mifflin the first thing that we do is take a day tour, because we want to scope out the area to decide where we can leave some of our stationary equipment during the night. We also want to know a little bit about the history of the location, so we’ll talk to a volunteer or a docent to discuss where they’ve had experiences or anything germane to the investigation. We also look at factors like light and noise pollution to rule them out, like I was saying earlier.
The night of the investigation, we’ll set up all of our stationary equipment. (Night vision video cameras, our voice recorders, etc.) We leave them in very specific places on the property based on what we find out earlier from the tour and interviews. That particular EVP came from casemate 11 at Fort Mifflin. It was a solitary confinement cell and one of the prisoners in that cell was a gentleman by the name of William Howe. He was tried for treason and found guilty, so they put him in that solitary confinement cell before they hung him at the fort.
When we do our background research, we try to look for any individuals that would have a story like that so that we can ask very specific questions during the investigation. We also bring in what we call trigger items, which are items that we feel could elicit some type of a response. For that situation, we figured he was in solitary confinement, so water would be a good thing. Cigarettes would be a good thing. We also took some food and left it there. We set up our equipment and walked away for a little while. When we came back, it was just myself and one other investigator. It’s a very small space so only about four people can fit in there comfortably at one time, and it’s subterranean. I can verify that we were the only two people in there because you see us step back into the room on camera.
When I asked, “Did you see what we left you? We left you some water and some cigarettes?” That’s when we got the “Thank you.” That was picked up on every piece of equipment that we had running at that moment, which is very compelling to us. And again, that’s something that I can’t explain because we were the only two people there. You can see on camera that our mouths aren’t moving, and we have no men with us in the group. We’re an all female group. So to come up with a man’s voice was very compelling for us.
Was that something that you could physically hear in the moment, or was it only picked up on the voice recorders?
In that instance, we heard it. did hear. If you watch the whole clip, you can hear us asking each other, “Did you hear that voice?” So yes, we heard that in the moment. We get that in a lot of the locations that we go to. We will hear things like that in the moment. Then we go back and verify it on our equipment. Those are most compelling pieces of evidence for us, when we hear something in the moment and then all of the equipment also picks it up.
Have you ever taken that same equipment and put it in a place that has no stories attached to the area? A place that is not haunted?
Yes. We’ve even taken it to locations where people perceive that there is a haunting and gotten nothing. We really are research-based in our approach. Again, we’re an all female group and all of us have advanced degrees, so we’ve been in academia our entire lives. That’s one of the things that we really pride ourselves on – to go in and really research these locations.
Here’s one example: We had an individual call us and he was convinced that the new business he had opened was haunted. His whole basis for that was that his nice night vision video cameras would turn on and off at night when nobody was there. He asked us to come do an investigation, so we did. If you can picture it, his storefront was all glass and he had some mirrors running down the side of it. It was kind of a narrow, boxy store. He had these night vision video cameras in all four corners.
Like I said, he was convinced that something was messing with his cameras. So we went in and set up our equipment, but we weren’t getting hits on anything. Our K2’s weren’t going off. Our rim pods weren’t going off. None of our handheld equipment was set off, and we weren’t feeling anything in the moment. We left our night vision video cameras there to run during the night and we left. When I went back the next morning to collect our equipment, I asked him, “Did your cameras go off during the night?” He said, “Oh yes, they were going off and on! Something was messing with them.” So I got him to give me the timestamps.
I cross referenced them to our night vision video camera footage and found that the way his storefront was positioned, it was in front of a median on a highway. When cars were making a U-turn, their headlights would shine in and bounce off the mirrors into his night vision video cameras which essentially turned off the night vision. When the car would pass, they would turn back on. That was consistent. Every time a car went by it was happening. So our advice was, take the mirrors down or switch the location of your your night vision video cameras. He did and the haunting stopped.