By Kelly Dickey
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Perched center stage at the Paramount Theatre, the group looks over the rows of seats and up into the balcony. There’s no spotlight, no audience, just darkness.
Kelly Schuck, her husband Jim and Michael Gerholdt sat and waited.
The group notes they’re getting light through the glass doors from cars outside. It’s important for the team to tag any proven interference for their evidence, even if skeptics may doubt its validity.
The three are part of the Paranormal Answers Research Team (PART), a group of investigators who travel to alleged haunting sites, mainly in Indiana.
Lead investigator Kelly Schuck and six others visited the Paramount on March 22 to see if the building filled with history is also filled with ghosts.
“My gut feeling is we probably caught something (on recordings),” Schuck said after the investigation but before she went over the evidence.
PART got to roam the Paramount in total darkness. They started setting up at 8 p.m. and ended the investigation at 1 a.m.
Just like in popular television shows “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Adventures,” the team set up night vision cameras throughout the building with a live feed to a computer monitor set up at their command post backstage.
Armed with video cameras, audio recorders and K-2 meters, devices that measure electromagnetic fields and ghost investigators believe can detect spirits’ energy, the team split into two groups.
PART investigated various areas of the Paramount, including the stage, Hardacre Ballroom, basement and women’s dressing room.
Gayle Jones Burris, Paramount executive director, said some legends have been documented, including in the Encyclopedia of Haunted Indiana. Throughout the years there have been reports of a woman in the dressing room mirror in full stage makeup, children running and throwing things off the balcony and people seeing apparitions.
She and others also believe a former stagehand named Charlie still hangs out at the theater he loved when he was alive.
“It’s not unusual to have those kinds of stories with historic theaters,” she said. “It’s part of the romance of the theater.”
Jones Burris said in the five years she’s worked there, a handful of events have happened to her. She once was alerted that someone tried to use the elevator emergency line. When she went to check, no one was there.
When she was first hired as the director, she said the motion detectors went off a lot. Several times she walked throughout the building with Anderson Police Department officers but they couldn’t find anyone.
“Instead of being afraid, someone can just say, ‘It’s Charlie,’” Jones Burris said. “They’re willing to believe that. It’s a theater, we’re all dramatic.”
Schuck, who also describes herself as a medium, said she didn’t detect any malicious entities in the theater.
Throughout the investigation, she said she could hear voices speaking and see shadows of possible spirits, which is part of the reason it was important for the team to document the cars’ beams reflecting in the building. The team doesn’t want to be quick to think everything is supernatural, so they debunk as much as possible.
Schuck said she can usually hear more than most people, but her fellow investigators often pick up on things as well.
“You learn to tag everything,” she said. “If you heard something, that’s where scientific approach comes in. If we tag someone’s talking, we know it’s not an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon).”
Her husband is the technical manager of the group and filmed much of the investigation. Between video and audio recordings, it can take at least two weeks to go through all the evidence.
All the investigators have full time jobs, so the money spent on ghost hunting is out of pocket and during their free time. They have at least $4,000 worth of equipment, and footage from each investigation takes more than 40 hours to review.
Schuck said she’s only about a third through reviewing video footage from the Paramount and so far hasn’t found any visual evidence, but the team picked up good audio from each room. Among the audio was a male voice singing a “jazzy riff” 24 minutes into the investigation, she said.
PART case manager Rick Hodge said he investigated the Paramount in 2013 with a different paranormal research team. Although he thinks he got more EVPs in the basement by himself in the last year, he thinks this investigation went better.
Hodge said he got responses through EVP and his ghost box, a device that continually scans radio frequencies and investigators believe spirits can use to communicate.
“I asked if they used to perform at the theater and I got an EVP that said ‘maybe,’” he said.
At one point, Hodge said he asked if the spirits wanted him to turn off the ghost box and he got the response, “Do it.”
Most of PART’s investigations take place at homes throughout the state. People contact them when supernatural events occur and they don’t know what to do, especially when children are involved.
Schuck said a lot of people don’t believe in the paranormal until they experience it, and that’s when PART gets calls.
All she can do is get her evidence out there, she said.
“Paranormal is just what you can’t explain through natural explanations,” Schuck said. “Paranormal just means out of the normal.”
Jones Burris said the staff at the Paramount believes there are likely spirits protecting the theater.
“Saying the Paramount is haunted is kind of like the Santa Claus discussion,” she said. “You don’t want to say there’s no such thing because what if there is?”
To learn more about PART and its investigations, go to paranormalanswersresearchteam.com.
Like Kelly Dickey on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @KellyD_THB, or call 640-4805.