RENO, Nev. (AP) - An unexplained cold spot in the house, voices or footsteps coming out of nowhere and a sudden mist are believed by some to be signs of a ghostly presence.
So who ya gonna call when things go bump in the night?
Three Reno college students who recently formed Nevada Student Paranormal Investigation said they will check area homes and businesses for any wraiths in the rafters or poltergeists in the pantry free of charge.
Sean O'Callaghan, grandson of the late Nevada Gov. Mike O'Callaghan, started NSPI earlier this year with his friends Mike McLoughlin and Jacob Tipp.
The three 21-year-olds, who grew up together in Las Vegas, are more phantom finders than ghostbusters. They can't rid dwellings of any ghastly apparitions, but they'll use their electronic gizmos to confirm their presence.
Armed with a digital camera and infrared video equipment, a digital recorder, an electromagnetic field detector and a thermal scanner, the trio plumbs dark places for such spectral signs as unexplained orbs of light and electronic voice phenomena, known in the ghost trade as EVPs.
EVPs are voices that can't be picked up by the human ear but show up after an audio recording is analyzed, said O'Callaghan, a political science and economics major at the University of Nevada, Reno.
"If we see an orb or something in a photograph or a video, we'll look at it to determine if it could just be dust," he said. "With EVPs, the theory is that ghosts are able to manipulate certain wavelengths of radio waves that we cannot hear."
The NSPI crew spends hours playing what they have recorded through a sound analysis program to filter out ambient noises and amplify any area where they hear something unusual, O'Callaghan said.
During a recent trip to Buckland's Station, an old stagecoach way station south of Silver Springs, the three men recorded the voice of a woman saying what sounded like, 'Why are you here?'
"When you hear a woman's voice - and there was no woman with us
- that's when you know you've got something," said McLoughlin, a UNR student majoring in criminal justice.
O'Callaghan and his friends have detected signs of specters at Fort Churchill and in Robb Canyon west of Reno.
They also debunked a rumor that orange lights in the Virginia City Cemetery were signs of a paranormal presence after they determined they were reflections of the city's lights off a polished gravestone.
They soon plan to check out the Goldfield Hotel, a site know for its ghostly guests.
And they welcome any new members who want to join the NSPI, which is an official member of Ghost Adventures, the reality show dealing with the unreal that is broadcast on the Travel Channel.
O'Callaghan said he believes ghostly spirits exist, but McLoughlin and Tipp are somewhat more skeptical.
"I can't say I see ghosts, but when you do hear an EVP, I know it's definitely something that wasn't around us," said Tipp, a biology major at Truckee Meadows Community College. "So I'm not convinced, but I'm getting there."
McLoughlin said he has seen some eerie-looking things caught on camera and video.
"But I'm not going to call them ghosts," he said. "When I see a full apparition, that's when I'll be convinced."
Still, the thrill of the hunt keeps Tipp and McLoughlin interested.
With the approach of All Hallow's Eve, one might expect the NSPI crew to be out in force on Halloween, but the three men say that's one of the worst nights to look for phantoms.
"Halloween is a bad night for ghost hunting," O'Callaghan said. "There are too many people out and too much noise."
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)