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A Dark Energy Lives Here
In the US Western city Tombstone, spirits are hunted
with digital cameras and laser thermometers

by Nina Rehfeld

"Do we have everything?" Anne Martin asks her husband Hank. On the kitchen table of the small hotel room, Hank goes through the equipment again: Tape recorder, video cameras, motion detector, thermometer, cameras. That is the gear of the "Arizona Desert Ghost Hunters," with which Hank (51) and Anne (44) want to go on a ghost hunt in one of the craziest places of the wild west tonight: the "Bird Cage" Saloon in the western city of Tombstone. Here the legendary Doc Holliday gambled through the nights, here the Western legend Wyatt Earp met his third wife Mrs. Sadie Marcus, allegedly in the curtain-imposed brothels. It is a cool night in the desert city near the Mexican border. Allan Street, on which during the day many tourist carriage rides and western duels are organized, lies quietly in the yellow light of the street lamps. Directly in front of the Bird Cage Theatre street lamp briefly flickers on and off again, to only light up again minutes later. "In here lives a dark energy," says Tierza Jacobs (31), as she peers through the windows of the Saloon. She is a Fortuneteller from Oregon, who is here as a guest of the ghost hunters. Also, the spirit hunters count two "media" among their team: Debbie Bennett (42), mother of three and Healer of the Tohono O'Odham Indians and Anita Korbal (49) a Psychic/Mystic from Chicago. "We differentiate between spirits and souls," explains Debbie, who occasionally sees the deceased according to her own accounts. "Souls are gentle visitors. Spirits are earth bound beings, that have not completely passed into the next world. They are stuck." On the burning question, whether we will get to see the spirit Wyatt Earp, she says: "Yes, if it wants to show itself. Beings, which emerge in our photos, do so, because they want to be noticed."

The place appears made for the ghost hunt. Tombstone means gravestone - the small town, which counted 15,000 inhabitants in its best times, got its name when the silver prospector Ed Schieffelin was warned that during his excursions through Apache land he would, at most, only find his gravestone. He founded the city in 1877, and in 1881 the Bird Cage Theatre opened its doors. During the following nine years the establishment, as the "New York Times" wrote in 1882, was known as "the wildest, badest bar between new Orleans and San Francisco." 140 bullet holes decorate the walls, ceilings and floors of the Bird Cage, more than two dozen of people were shot to death. And some these souls, as the legend goes in Tombstone, still haunt the Bird Cage Theatre today. These are what the spirit hunters want to catch now with High Tech devices - as light tracks, voices or ghostly apparations. Bill Hunley, today's owner of the Bird Cage, which is now a museum, opens this evening just for the spirit hunters - and the 38year old has his its own host stories to tell. "The people from Tombstone have heard glass rattling/clinking, piano playing or the steps of heavy boots here again and again, although the theatre Saloon was closed and boarded up from 1889 and 1934," he says. A few years ago, a pretty female tourist with very short shorts was pinched in the bum here by an invisible hand. And during a sťance, her sixty year old father suddenly got the feeling he was being choked. Certainly, Hunley has been telling these stories daily for 28 years, and since then facts, rumors and fantasy have merged/melted into colorful folklore. In the meantime the spirit hunters have set up their equipment. Bill Hunley turns out the lights, Anne and Debbie holds their cameras in the darkness and start shooting. They try to lure out the stranded souls with loud calls. "Come on girls, show your nice dresses! We know you are here. Hey, boys, the party is here. Does anyone want a round of Whiskey?" It is a surprisingly worldly, non-mysterious conjuration of ghosts.

Meanwhile, Tierza quietly roams the rooms - accross the large hall with the stage and the ("Hurenlogen" not sure of translation; Huren = Whores, perhaps Whorology?), through the back stage and down a hidden stairway into the basement with the poker table on the bare sandy soil. She finally takes a seat on the wood flooring behind the stage and says quietly: "Something terrible happened here. People, children were sold here." She points to a corner: "Fear prevails back there." Hank points the laser of his temperature gauge into the corner and is astonished - it is nearly four degrees cooler there than in the rest of room. Suddenly, a frost seems to go through the room. Or is it only the goose bumps, which run down ones back here in the darkness?

Debbie, Anne and Hank have been hunting ghosts together for two and a half years. They met on a "Ghost Tour" in northern Arizona, and since then, the three Phoenix natives have been traveling as spirit hunters in their spare time, collecting thousands of photos, Film-und sound recordings and archiving them. They are repeatedly contacted by people, who are concerned over strange phenomena. As soon as they've assured themselves, "that the callers are stable people," as Anne says, the spirit hunters head out to prove "activity" to people, who fear for their sanity. Or to cleanse the locations from being haunted; using prayers, holy water and sage incense. Frankincense? Anne explains that most people who call them are catholic. Sometimes, as in the house of one woman who complained about numerous items that disappeared, the spirit hunters found only human activity. As turned out, an acquaintance was the thief. But there are also different cases. Like the find they made in the Phoenix restaurant "Teeter House," whose owner, Lynne Behringer, reports that ghosts hide her keys and throw around shelves through the kitchen: One of their photos shows the ghostly picture of an old lady at a table. Behringer assumes that it is the previous owner Eliza Teeter. In Phoenix there are several haunted places - for example the Chandler High School, where teachers and students report ghostly voices and strange apparitions. Or Jefferson Park where, allegedly, a woman who was raped and murdered there, wanders through the trees at night. The ghost hunters travel here as well, in order to measure activity and document possibilities. "Our concern is to collect sound information about the fact that we exist eternally," Debbie explains is the motivation of the "Desert Ghost Hunters." And he adds: "One is never alone. Guardian Angels are always there." In the theatre area of the Bird Cage Anne suddenly gets excited. "Debbie, was that you?" Anne asks. But Debbie is meters away. "Something pulled my hair" Anne says and calls into the darkness: "Thanks! Show yourself!" But the Hair-puller shies away from a second appearance.

Later, Anne and Debbie also find traces of ghost activity in the poker room: On the monitor of the video camera, which runs in night vision function, a greener spot pulls over the span of a few seconds, like an image interference. Except that it moves in different directions and patterns. Anne is inspired: An "Orb," a spherical form of energy.

And then Debbie manages a really uncanny picture: The Torso of the male doll, which is propped up behind the poker table, is, in one shot (photo), floating detached in a completely different location in the room. Skeptics would perhaps speak of false exposure, but Debbie just looks quietly at the monitor. "Interesting," she says.

A few months ago, the ghost hunters brought their digital photos to be investigated by a computer specialist of the local TV news station Channel 3. "He confirmed that our exposure times were constant and that we did no make any double photographs," says Anne.

Meanwhile, Tierza and Anita are listening inward. As Debbie relates to an invisible shape: "What a beautiful blue dress!" Anita hears an angry correction: The dress is red! And Tierza sees a large, slim man, who bends over her and pleads for her to help the trapped souls in the corner. Moments later, she recognizes him from one of the many photos in the basement. Then he points to the picture of a woman and says: "She is also here." Bill Hunley says, that she was a whore who stabbed another with a knife.

At one in the morning, the "investigation" ends. Under the flickering road lamp in front of Bird Cage everyone agrees: Not a lot of activity could be captured here. There was no to door banging or chair sliding, the motion detectors did not sound. And the sound recordings are probably useless because of too many interferences. So, really all just hocus-pocus? Debbie says, to her it's not about convincing skeptics. "Who doesn't believe in it, can not be convinced."

Articles appeared in the Mo, 2 January 2006

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