Ghost hunter Joni Kosmach points a hand-held infrared camera into the shadows. Black, metallic, and blinking with strange energy, it looks like something a Navy SEAL might wield — or a character in “The X Files.”
“Is there anyone with us?” Kosmach asks. “Would anyone like to talk to us today?”
Crouching on the cement floor a few feet away, Caitlin DuRoss, a medium, waits in silence while Rhonda Atchison, another paranormal sleuth, holds up what looks like a remote control clicker, only it’s got five bulbs that light up at the end, programmed to flash different colors when an electromagnetic anomaly is detected.
These women, members of the Cape Cod Paranormal Consortium, have stationed themselves at the foot of a wobbly staircase in the basement of a 130-year-old Cape Cod home. It’s pitch black; all flashlights have been pocketed.
Suddenly Kosmach’s camera screen lights up with a jittery constellation of glowing green lines and yellow dots. They make a pinheaded stick figure — the shape mapped out by the infrared light when it bounces back from a solid or “semi-solid” object in the room.
DuRoss pipes up from the corner, as Atchison’s electromagnetic meter starts flashing red.
“I’m getting ‘landscaper,’ ” the medium says. The entity they’re recording may have been someone who tended the grounds, who brought firewood in and out of the house, she speculates. The stick figure dances around on the screen as the women throw more questions out. “What’s your name?” “Were you happy here?” “Is there anything you’d like to tell us?”
It’s just another night in the life of a paranormal detective, or, in this case, three.
The team will spend the next five or six hours combing the Brewster home — reading empty rooms with the infrared, scanning hallways and corners with a thermal imaging camera, and capturing “EVPs,” or electronic voice phenomena — noises undiscernible to the human ear — on a special digital voice recorder. By midnight they’ll have gathered some interesting data, including a cold spot in the playback from the thermal camera when it was activated in the dining room. Cold spots can be “signs an entity is trying to manifest,” Kosmach says.
The spot in the dining room is shaped like a child.
“It’s one of the best pieces of evidence we’ve ever had,” she says.
Evidence of what? you ask. Kosmach, a former Provincetown postal worker, founded the Brewster-based consortium with her partner two years ago so that she could explore questions that have nagged her since childhood. Even before she got hooked, at age eight, on “Scooby-Doo,” the TV cartoon show whose characters often tangle with the supernatural, she had a notion that there’s more to the world than what the physical senses can tell you about it.
“I’ve always, always been interested in the unknown, the things you can’t explain — the science fiction, the what-ifs of life,” Kosmach says, admitting that she’s still a “Scooby” fan.
But the biggest nudge toward her post-postal-service career in the paranormal came from her grandmother.
“I was standing at her grave a few months after she had died,” Kosmach recalls. “I happened to look up, and walking toward me, maybe 50 yards away, was a woman with a babushka around her head and a blue raincoat, carrying a shopping bag.” She recognized the woman as her grandmother. When Kosmach called out to her, the woman disappeared.
“It was the craziest thing,” she says.
Kosmach and her partner, an equally ardent believer in the paranormal, teamed up with ghost hunters Atchison and Tina Boulos and medium DuRoss in 2017. Seeing their work as more science-based than sensational, they invested in high-tech equipment, including the infrared or SLS (for “structured light sensing”) camera and the EVP-detecting device. They’re not interested in “the Hollywood shock value” of the ghost hunt, they say, but in what it can reveal about the history of a place and the people who have inhabited it. Or what it might add to the paranormal field’s understanding of a supernatural world overlapping our own.
Their investigations have taken them around the Cape and beyond. Last month they visited the Lizzie Borden House in Fall River, where they filmed an orb winging around the master bedroom, they say. They’ve investigated the Yarmouth Port library, where Boulos says she was scratched on the back of the arm by an unseen presence. And they’ve taken readings in the Truro cemetery where the victims of a serial killing in the late 1960s are reportedly buried.
This month Kosmach and a colleague visited the Cove Burying Ground in Eastham, the oldest cemetery on the Cape. Inviting spirits to talk to them at the 267-year-old grave of Bethiah Atwood, they watched the electromagnetic meter light up for a moment.
“Most of the hauntings we investigate are ‘intelligent’ hauntings,” says Kosmach, meaning they’re able to interact with an entity through their cameras and recorders. “We ask a question and we get an answer. There’s nothing negative about it.” Sometimes they investigate “residual” hauntings, when a phenomenon occurs repeatedly in the same place.
They don’t get involved in demons or conjuring, they say. And they avoid Ouija boards at all costs. (They can open up doors for unwanted spirits, Kosmach says.)
Kosmach and crew were scheduled to give a talk and demonstrate how some of their equipment works on Wednesday evening, Oct. 30, at Snow Library in Orleans. They also recount some of the spooky encounters they’ve had.
“Does the work ever surprise me? Yes,” says DuRoss on the night of the Brewster house investigation — a night when the team also recovers a staticky EVP telling them to “stay out” of the master bedroom. “Scare me?” she continues. “No.”
DuRoss, who is fine-tuning her skills as a medium at weekly classes in Plymouth and who didn’t always understand where her visions came from or her sensitivity to certain sounds and smells, says she gets it when people who hear about the consortium’s work are skeptical.
“But if you really believe this is all there is to it,” DuRoss says, gesturing to the seemingly empty room she’s standing in, “then you’re missing out.”