If you’re a fan of Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, the guys behind the SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters, get ready to meet Kimberly Bizjak and Corey Chouinard, the co-founders of Paranormal Salem, the only tour that turns its participants into a paranormal investigative team for a late-night exploration of the city’s allegedly haunted hotspots.
The duo have been members of a local paranormal society for the past several years and finally teamed up this month to let everyone experience their scientific approach to the rumors surrounding Salem’s grisly past. Participants head to any of several locations around the city that are rumored to have ghostly activity and investigate using digital and K2 electromagnetic field (EMF) readers, dowsing rods, temperature guns, and pendulums. They're also encouraged to bring along a camera (and extra batteries, in case they mysteriously drain) to capture evidence.
"I think everyone wants to have some kind of paranormal experience, but not everyone has time to join a paranormal society," Bizjak said. "Doing these tours gives the general public a chance to have a life-changing experience for one night. And Salem is the best place to do it!”
Bizjak said her first paranormal experiences of seeing lights turn on and off, hearing unexplained noises and voices, and finding objects mysteriously out of place took place while she was working in a Seattle museum. The 31-year-old developed an interest in investigating with her friends, and when she moved to Salem, the city “just has a creepy feel and such a crazy history that ghost hunting here just made sense,” she said.
Chouinard, 25, on the other hand, grew up in Salem and had her first ghostly encounter at five years old, when she woke in the middle of the night to find a woman in a white dress walking towards her. Frightened, she described the woman to her father, who pulled out a photo of his mother on her wedding day. Sure enough, Chouinard recognized her grandmother, who passed away in 1962, as the woman in her room.
A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to head out on one of Paranormal Salem's tours. We left from the Witchcraft Trials Memorial -- which overlooks Old Burying Point Cemetery, wherein lie the graves of not only “The Hanging Judge” John Hathorne, but also many of the victims who were accused and imprisoned, but not executed, before the hysteria was over -- at 10 p.m.
After being allowed to explore the area on our own for about 30 minutes, we headed down to the site of the Old Salem Jail, which was torn down many years ago but still has reports of activity in the building there now. We sat down to conduct an electromagnetic voice phenomenon (EVP) session, and our guide took night vision video as well. The last stop was the site of a tavern owned by Bridget Bishop, the first woman accused and executed in the witchcraft trials.
During the tour, several people picked up strange EMF spikes, temperature fluctuations, and even words on their phones' Ghost Radar apps; oddly, different phones recorded seemingly related -- and, a few times, even the same -- words. Another woman’s camera went dead after she'd just put in new batteries. At the end of the tour, we even came across a strange elevator in a locked bank lobby that opened and closed its doors apparently on its own and in no specific time pattern. The group debated the possibilities of technical malfunction or someone on the darkened upper floor playing a prank on a tour group at 1 a.m. while we burned our protective sage. Weird, if not decidedly supernatural.
After the tour, participants can send any evidence they may have caught to Bizjak and Chouinard, who turn it into a custom souvenir video. Proceeds from the tours help them conduct private paranormal investigations in people’s homes free of charge.
If you're intrigued but easily creeped out, both women emphasized that ghost hunting isn’t as scary as people would think. “It’s interesting!” said Bizjak. “The more people search for answers, the more we'll know about ourselves and what happens after death...which in turn will be less scary."
“You never know what’s out there until you see for yourself,” Chouinard said.
Have you ever gone on a ghost hunt? Share your experience in the comments, and check back to TNGG Boston all week for Halloween-themed posts!
Photo courtesy of Paranormal Salem: Kim Bizjak (left) and Corey Chouinard (right) promote Paranormal Salem.
About Rachel -- I'm a tiny gal with big ideas who's always on the move. One day I'm going to use my vast amount of otherwise useless trivia knowledge to beat Ken Jennings' Jeopardy score. Likes: hula hooping, all things involving the 80's, delicious martinis, sunshine, proper grammar, baby animals. Dislikes: math, being cold, spiders, most vegetables, things in places I can't reach.
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