Ghost hunting no joke for man on mission to help spirits
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Stephen Williams’ quest to understand the great beyond began around 2002.
That’s when he toured alleged haunted sites in St. Augustine, Florida, and saw images he didn’t understand on photos he took.
“I contacted these two ladies who explained what I was seeing, and they invited me to start going with them (on investigations),” said Williams, a Memphis ghost hunter who just wants to help others find answers to things they can’t explain.
Today, Williams operates Memphis Ghost Investigations & Spirit Rescue. He and his partners investigate and perform “site clearings” of homes and businesses within a 100-mile radius of Memphis.
They don’t charge, instead suggesting those they assist donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
It’s a field replete with skeptics whose confidences are harder to win over than the spirits Williams tries to coax out of the places they inhabit. But, Williams insists, what he does is no joke.
“I don’t worry about those who don’t take it seriously,” Williams said. “When people contact us, they’re scared and sometimes they have kids who are scared. We want to do what we can to help.”
So forget the “Ghostbusters” references and the religious critics who believe he’s dabbling in satanic realms. Williams said there’s a science behind it, electromagnetic forces that can be detected with sensitive equipment.
“The theory is that when a person ceases to exist, the energy still exists,” Williams said. “And there’s an intelligence to the energy. Think of it like radio waves that go through the air.”
Williams said his associates have “almost built-in receivers” that can detect the energy.
The Memphis Ghost website gives biographies for an “intuitive investigator” and three “spiritual mediums” who assist with investigations. They’re identified by first names only, but Williams -- who can be contacted at 901-877-8406 or at email@example.com -- agreed to be identified fully.
It all grew from that St. Augustine visit more than 15 years ago, when a photo came back with a mysterious glowing circle, or “spirit energy orb.”
“Two months earlier,” according to the caption on the Memphis Ghost website for a photo of the cafe where the orb was photographed, “Stephen had witnessed an incredible display of EMF equipment interaction at this site with a female child spirit named Alice who was well known to local residents through numerous sightings at this house.”
Williams came back home and began doing home investigations with the pair of women who helped him interpret his St. Augustine experiences. Their group morphed into Memphis-Midsouth Ghost Hunters.
“I ran that group for a long time, then took a break about a year ago,” Williams said. “Now we’re back doing this kind of work again.”
Investigations have taken Williams across the South — from a cemetery in Brighton, where a photograph captured an “energy mist,” to an antebellum home near Plains, Georgia, (once rented by former President Jimmy Carter and former first lady Rosalyn Carter) that was hopping with paranormal activity.
Closer to home, Williams said he’s participated in paranormal investigations at the Woodruff-Fontaine House at 680 Adams and at The Orpheum. He also lists on his website a testimonial from Frances P., a Germantown homeowner who says Williams helped a troubled spirit “cross over” from her home.
Williams declined to identify Frances P. by full name or to provide contact information, saying he respects the privacy requested by most clients.
In the online testimonial, Frances says:
“Stephen was referred to me after a friend learned of a spirit in my home. After walking through each room in the house, Stephen stopped and asked if the spirit was most active where he was standing. He was spot on! He had physically felt the spirit’s presence. Stephen then retraced his steps throughout the house carrying an instrument, and when he reached ‘the spot’ again, the instrument increased in activity. Stephen said he believed it was a male spirit who had passed before his wife. I was blown away! My neighbors had shared this with me about the previous owners of the house. Stephen then guided the spirit to cross over in a very gentle and respectful manner. Our home took on a light and fresh energy through Stephen’s gift. Thank you, Stephen!”
Williams describes himself as a Christian, though he says he hasn’t asked his colleagues about their religious beliefs which he considers personal.
Williams cites a biblical reference from 1 Corinthians to support what he describes as a spiritual gift that allows him to distinguish between spirits:
“7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good, 8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.”
But not everyone is convinced that Williams and others like him are finding anything otherworldly.
Benjamin Radford, an investigator of ghosts and the paranormal, wrote for the Live Science website more than a decade ago, shortly after Williams’ paranormal adventures began, that the science is questionable, to say the least.
“Ghosts are big business,” Radford wrote in 2006. “For entities that may or may not exist, they seem to be everywhere, especially during Halloween.”
Radford said ghost hunters use high-tech equipment, such as electromagnetic field (EMF) detectors, to give themselves the appearance of authority. But in the end, he added, “the equipment is only as scientific as the person using it; you may own the world’s most sophisticated thermometer, but if you are using it as a barometer, your measurements are worthless.”
Or, to put it another way, said Radford: “Just as using a calculator doesn’t make you a mathematician, using a scientific instrument doesn’t make you a scientist.”
“If ghosts exist,” asked Radford, “why are we no closer to finding out what they really are, after so much research?”
Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com