Maryland Paranormal Group Serious About Ghost Hunting

<-- This photo taken by Kim from Salisbury shows what Kim calls a "small, non-
transparent orb" on her camera in the backyard of Poplar Hill Mansion in Salisbury

Rodney Whittaker couldn't wait to develop the film on his disposable camera.

Invited out for a night of "ghost hunting" with friends a few years ago, the former Northrup Grumman logistics specialist was intrigued by the images others were getting on their digital cameras.

"I never believed in ghosts. I was the biggest skeptic there ever was," said Whittaker.

When the prints came back he was surprised to find ... absolutely nothing. That intrigued him ever more.

"So now I'm frustrated and determined," he said, laughing. "Now I'm going back out there."

Whittaker signed on for another investigation a week later in an old cemetery built on a Civil War skirmish site.

This time, what he got on his camera turned him into a believer.

"We knew there was a hanging tree at that site, and I got what looked like ropes draped over some of the tombstones," he said. "I was so shocked I went back the next day to see if there was a logical explanation. That's what got me. Now I wanted to study it more."

Whittaker read up on paranormal investigations, bought expensive electronic equipment and formed the Maryland Society of Ghost Hunters. The group now has about 50 members and studies hauntings in Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

In February, Whittaker's central Maryland group spun off an Eastern Shore Chapter with about 20 members interested in studying the spirits of the peninsula. Kim from Salisbury (she prefers not to use her last name), began ghost hunting with the group six months ago.

"I've always been interested in the paranormal. Where is this dimension, how are these people there? It's always been a scientific curiosity." said Kim. "So when I saw there was a public investigation at Poplar Hill Mansion, I went."

The group recorded no unusual activity inside the Salisbury landmark that night, but Kim caught what she calls a "small, non-transparent orb" on her camera in the backyard. Since then, she's seen and heard plenty to keep her coming back.

"We try to find reasons for what people claim are unusual activities and in some cases we say, we don't have any evidence of a haunting or a spirit here," said Kim. "But we do find things."

She has a recording from an investigation in Fruitland that she believes is the spirit of a man and a young boy.

"He said 'help me' ... and the child says 'daddy,'" she said.

Both investigators believe interest in the paranormal has picked up because of cable shows devoted to the subject. Whittaker said believing in ghosts is no longer taboo.

"Years ago, if you said you had a ghost, people thought you were crazy," he said. "Now more people are willing to come out and tell you their ghost experiences."

The Maryland Society of Ghost Hunters tries to schedule at least one investigation a week, said Whittaker, and will investigate any haunting free of charge for anyone who calls. All information is confidential.

"Some people like the fact that they have activity and they don't mind sharing it," he said. "But if you have a business, like a hotel, you may not want that information out there."

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