Editor's Note: The paranormal field is one of theory. The fundamental principles behind this study have not been proven by modern science and have caused extensive debate between skeptics and believers. Although evidence has been collected that suggests the existence of paranormal activity, there is always an opposing side to the argument.
Think back to October 2009, when the film "Paranormal Activity" thrust the supernatural into our homes. Shot with a hand-held video camera, it tells the story of a young couple plagued by a demonic spirit. Believe it or not, there is more truth to this story than most people realize. Although not common, some people believe demonic hauntings are a very real phenomena. Of course, this movie presents a very worst case scenario.
Television shows such as "Ghost Hunters" (on SyFy Network) shed light on the more common, less severe cases of paranormal activity. The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) approaches the urban legends from a scientific standpoint. Using specialized equipment and polished investigation techniques, TAPS is called to examine homes that are believed to be haunted. During the nighttime investigations, the team's main goal is to document evidence of alleged paranormal activity within a house. Although TAPS is the most widely recognized paranormal group, there are hundreds of smaller teams across the country with the same intentions, many of them created by teenagers.
The Western New York Paranormal Society (WNYPS) is one such group. Although it wasn't officially founded until 2009, the group's president, Jordan Bianchi, a senior at Clarence High School, developed an interest in the paranormal at a very early age. Like many other investigators, his story begins with a personal experience.
"When I was about 8 years old, I was sleeping over at my cousin's house," he said. "I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and when I started heading back to my room, I noticed a lady on the staircase. At first I thought it was my aunt, but I was also suspicious because she didn't look like my aunt and she wasn't yelling at me to get back to bed. Then, all of a sudden, she was just gone. Just like that."
Shaken up, Jordan went back to his room and fell asleep as quickly as he could. Over the years, Jordan read more on the subject and discovered the science behind the beliefs. When he was about 12 years old, he began to take his hobby to the next level.
"My cousins and I started using my dad's recording devices and did small investigations around their house," Jordan said. We were originally doing around two investigations a year, which increased as we went along -- and we gradually accumulated our equipment as we got more serious about it. We just got a K2 meter, and that's pretty huge."
K2 meters are devices used to pick up fluctuations in the electromagnetic field. It is believed that these abnormal fluctuations can indicate the presence of an entity.
"When you ask the spirits direct questions and you get a hit on the K2, it can sometimes mean direct communication, which is basically a clear response to the question you asked," he said.
One of the more common forms of direct communication is electronic voice phenomena. An EVP is an anomalous sound or voice caught on a digital recorder that was not originally heard at the time of the recording. On the opposite end of the spectrum, sounds that are heard during an investigation often avoid being detected by recorders, making them personal experiences. However, personal experiences can refer to anything seen, heard or felt that was not captured by the equipment.
Jordan recalls his most intense personal experience from inside the Patterson Library in Westfield.
"We were all sitting at the end of a hallway when someone asked any spirit that was present to knock on a wall," Jordan said. "A few seconds later, we hear this huge bang. It was the motion alarm. Keep in mind, everyone in the room was sitting still and those who weren't in the room were in a different part of the building. A few seconds later, it happened again. It was pretty intense."
Several days later, Jordan and the team returned to the library to try to debunk the incident.
"Debunking is pretty much investigating a personal experience and trying to figure out what could've caused it," he said. "It's such an important part of the investigation because if you're not able to debunk the experience, it's more likely to have been something paranormal."
Now 17 years old, Jordan is nearing his fifth year of paranormal investigation. With experience behind him, he sends this message to anyone looking to get involved in the field: "Before getting serious about investigating, you have to be really confident in your beliefs. People are always going to doubt what you do and you can't let their opinions affect your work. The key is being really sure of yourself."
Danielle Grimm is a sophomore at Clarence High School.