Western English professor Dr. Mark Todd explains the art of ghost hunting
Marisa Cardin / Staff Writer
Early on Sunday morning, Apr. 10, seven of Western’s faculty, students, and community members set out, coffee and clipboards in hand, to the Gunnison Arts Center (GAC). There was a sleepy silence about the town, disrupted only by the occasional hum of a truck or chirp of a springtime bird. The team wasn’t meeting to prepare for a show or a gallery opening; they were going to hunt for ghosts.
Throughout the year, Dr. Mark Todd, English professor and director of Western’s MFA in Creative Writing, and his wife Kym O’Connell-Todd, have been giving presentations on their amateur ghost hunting careers. They have traveled across the Western Slope, visiting well known haunted hotels, and driving all across Colorado in the process. They have several publications of their studies, including the recent Wild West Ghosts, published in 2015.
“We’ve always tried to approach our investigations as optimistic skeptics,” says Dr. Todd. “Our first task is to try to find rational explanations for what we encounter – to debunk what we can explain.”
The hunt at the GAC was particularly intriguing; the building itself is 134 years old, and has a long history of unexplained occurrences. Originally, it was the town’s freight depot for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. It seems only appropriate that such a popular meeting place for the living would remain so for the paranormal. Before the investigation, Dr. Todd and his wife interviewed over a dozen first-hand witnesses. Several people reported hearing footsteps sound out from the levels above them, while many staff members report sensing that someone or something wants them to leave the building around 9p.m. “It’s just a feeling that we’re no longer welcome that late,” the executive director of the GAC told the team.
On that morning, the first thing that the team did was a walk through the building, to make sure they were well-acquainted with the layout before the lights went out. During this time, the members were briefed on the previous paranormal encounters of the GAC, and were divided into three teams. Each team covered a floor of the building for approximately 45 minutes one at a time. After the 45 minutes, the teams would switch floors; this way, all members of “Team Wraiths” were able to experience what each floor had to offer, while simultaneously comparing their experiences with everyone else.
So far, Dr. Todd and his wife are about six hours into their analysis of the GAC, but most likely have another 40 to 50 hours to go. They’ve already collected some pretty intriguing EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomena) through the use of their various sound recording devices.
“But sometimes what we document proves unexplainable. With over a hundred paranormal investigations under our belt, we think there’s something going on,” Dr. Todd says. “Are we detecting ghosts? There’s no way to know.”
For more information, check out their blog: Write In The Thick Of Things (writeinthethick.blogspot.com). You can look through sound recordings, pictures, and read more about their experiences as paranormal investigators!