One team member lost an hour of his life, another fainted and Michael Ferri -- he's the tough guy -- ran out of the place screaming.
Looking like a chicken is one of the dangers they face, along with ghouls and ghosts, as members of the Windsor,Ontario-based ghost hunting team Spectral Solutions.
The team recently returned from a trip to the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky, considered one of the most haunted places in North America. But their scariest moments have happened right at home in Essex County, including Ferri's brief but embarrassing lapse in bravery. The owners don't want the location revealed, but the team affectionately calls it the Derelict Chapel.
Ferri and fellow hunter Marla Zittlau were in the basement when the temperature dropped and he got goose bumps. That's always the first sign. Then Ferri heard a disembodied voice let out a big, ghostly sigh.
Time to go.
"I ran screaming out of the basement," said Ferri, 37, a former fighter with Border City Wrestling. "I grabbed Marla, pushed her out of the way and ran out screaming like a bitch."
The eight-member team has been hunting ghosts for about a year. They had no background in it, but shared an interest in things that go bump in the night.
They did some research and bought expensive gadgets such as electro-magnetic field detectors and infrared cameras. Then they started spending spare time in the spooky places that most people avoid.
They've had paranormal experiences in people's homes, historic buildings in the county and inside the Kildare House. They know a lot of people think their findings are bogus.
"They just haven't experienced anything like that," said Tony Bagnarol, 24, another team member.
They do it for those who do believe. If there's something strange in your neighbourhood, these are the guys to call. They even investigate for free.
"Most of us really want to see something," said Blake St. John, 35. "And help people. I can't imagine what it's like to not feel safe in your own home. We want to help people to be able to live with it or help whatever it is move on."
But sometimes it's just for fun, like their trip to Waverly Hills.
The former tuberculosis hospital, opened in 1910, has been featured in several TV shows, including the Scariest Places On Earth. Several thousand people died there.
"Very miserable, horrible deaths," said St. John. "There has been nothing but suffering in this building."
There is no end to the scary stories that come out of the place. One of the most enduring myths is about Room 502, where a nurse committed suicide after getting pregnant. She still haunts the place. St. John heard screams there. Pregnant women apparently suffer severe headaches on the floor.
There have been reports of sudden temperature plummets, light orbs and disembodied voices. The most commonly reported spooks are shadow people, or human-shaped apparitions with no physical detail. The team was warned about one of those, a shadowy entity with no sense of humour called Big Black.
"They told us if you see it coming, just go the other way," said St. John. "Don't stop, don't say anything. Just go. This thing is violent. It will push you. It will hurt you."
They think they saw it. It blocked out the moonlight streaming through a hallway of windows as it rushed toward them. Several of the team members felt like they were grabbed or pulled by unseen forces.
All that fright has them itching for the next investigation. They're getting really giddy about the summer.
"It's cemetery season again," said Blake.
"If you've got nothing to do, just hang out in the cemetery, bring your gear."
They have their best luck in the Amherstburg area. A cemetery there has been good to them.
"I saw my first full-blown apparition there," he said. "The flashlight illuminated it. It was smoky and I went 'holy (expletive)' and it was gone. It was billowing, it was like hair. It was enough to obscure my view of the group and scare the bejesus out of me for a few seconds."
The Derelict Chapel, built in the 1800s, is out that way as well. Everyone has stories about that place.
"I lost an hour of time in the place," said St. John.
"I was completely conscious. I was with the group. They all saw. I don't know what happened. I have no memory of it. I was mumbling incoherently."
St. John only knows what he did because he watched the video after.
"You can see him just get drained and collapse against a wall," said Bagnarol.
The temperature dropped 17C in seconds. Team member Joline Gadal's knees buckled and she passed out. The team went home early that night.
'Phantoms and Monsters'
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