The sun is just beginning to set behind the hills of rural Bayfield when Jamie Pickering, Melanie Oles-Graham, and Linda (last name withheld) pull up the gravel driveway of a single-level home. As they dig out several small-sized briefcases and bags of equipment from their vehicles, a young woman emerges from the house to greet them. Excited for their arrival, she launches into friendly small talk as she ushers the visitors inside the unassuming and modern house – not a place you’d imagine as a hub of paranormal activity. At all.
Pickering, Oles-Graham, and Linda (who wished to only be referred to by her first name) are a part of the Four Corners Paranormal Investigations team, and they are here in rural Bayfield to inspect a house at the request of the family. The family, who is in the process of moving, has noticed an up-tick in strange occurrences within their four walls. Voices whispering in their ears. A dark figure standing in the kitchen. Shadowy shapes passing through the hallway out of the corner of their eyes. A blue orb hovering over a shelf.
The family isn’t frightened by this activity. They merely want to glean more information and find out how they could appease the spirits if need be.
The investigators get to work right away. They ask for a tour of the house and the grounds, shooting off a spitfire round of questions regarding the family history and the sightings. The whole process is surprisingly diagnostic.
“Where does the most activity in the house occur?” the investigators asked. “Have you heard voices? Are they male or female? Can you make out what they’re saying? What color was the orb you saw? Where exactly was it located in this room? Have they ever touched you? Have you ever felt unsafe?”
Linda, the psychic of the group, and Pickering, an empath, walks around outside with one family member. Oles-Graham, who also identifies as an empath, stays inside with other family members and asks them about each room of the house. She is mostly interested in a back bedroom where one family member spotted an orb. Linda concurs with her on the significance of the bedroom and also feels that the pantry, located at the other end of the house, is important.
After the basic facts and observations of the investigation have been established, it’s time to break out “the toys,” the name the investigators use to refer to the equipment, and attempt to make contact with the spirits.
An uncanny teamFour Corners Paranormal Investigations isn’t the Ghostbusters by any means – there are no Egons or Venkmans in this group – but it is an organization dedicated to helping people who have nowhere else to turn. Because who else are you going to call, really?
The group has investigated everything from El Rancho and Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad & Museum to the Grand Imperial Hotel in Silverton. Their approach is simple. Their presence is calming. They don’t bust down doors suited in proton pack projectors, ghost traps, and unflattering jumpsuits.
“I think what people don’t understand is that all these shows on TV, such as ‘Ghost Adventures’ and ‘Ghost Brothers,’ a lot of stuff that you see is staged in some respect,” Oles-Graham said. “Not all, but a lot of it is. So, a lot of people think that’s what a ghost investigation is going to be like. They want to have that adrenaline experience. A lot of times, not that we don’t have that, but it’s not to that level.”
“If they push it’s OK to push back, but we don’t like to use provocation when we go out, because we like to have respect for the spirit and the person of the house or business,” Thomas-Peterson said. “A lot of teams use that and it really irritates me.”
Every group member has a different background and varying opinions (sometimes even beliefs) on the supernatural. It’s their differences, however, that meld them together into a cohesive force.
“I think for all of us, we’re like a great big family,” Oles-Graham said. “We complement each other in so many different ways. … We all have something that we bring to the table and we share collectively, and I think that’s what makes us rather unique.”
The group is by no means short on stories. They could talk for hours about their strange experiences related to ghost hunting.
“So for National Ghost Hunting Day, Tessa met us at the train museum,” Pickering said. “She took us to the immigrant car, which is the little car in the back corner. It’s a grayish-green car. And that’s Kate’s car. She introduced us to Kate and then we met Emmy that day.”
For those unfamiliar with the infamous train museum haunting, the story goes that Kate was a retired sex worker traveling in the train car up to Denver with her fiancé, a firefighter. Once they reached Denver, the two intended to get married. However, their happy ending was not to be. One of the brakemen working on the train was jealous and wanted Kate for himself. He stabbed her fiancé to death and was subsequently was thrown off the train for his crimes. Devastated, Kate went to California and committed suicide. But because that train car was the last place she was happy, she’s forever attached to the car, Pickering said.
“We’re sitting there talking … and I’m sitting in the doorway for the sleeping part of the car and I have something called a flare camera, which is an infrared camera,” Pickering said. “They (humans) are red and yellow on the camera. Something dark blue kept poking its head and shoulders from outside of the car, and pretty soon there was a full-fledged figure leaning over their shoulders looking at them looking at the camera.”
That dark blue figure, Pickering said, was the first time she met Kate.
Emmy, on the other hand, is the spirit of a little girl. The team isn’t sure what her origin story is, however.
“We don’t exactly know where Emmy came from,” Oles-Graham said. “There’s a story that a little seven or eight-year-old girl got hit by a car, but there’s other objects that have been brought into the museum that she could have been attached to.”
Despite the mysterious and sometimes heavy nature of their work, there’s still plenty of lighthearted moments during investigations as well. Oles-Graham pulled up a photo of herself in the El Rancho basement. Between her and the photographer, there’s a swirling mist hovering and an orb behind Oles-Grahm.
“We were down in the basement where the tunnels used to be,” Oles-Graham said. “I was standing still. Jamie and I were standing not too far from each other, and I thought she actually touched me and it wasn’t her. I tend to get touched on investigations.”
“She tends to get groped on a regular basis,” Pickering said, sparking laughter from the group.
While their stories are filled with instances in which they were able to provide relief, helping every person they come across isn’t always possible. There are times when the investigation team makes suggestions as to how to handle the supernatural issues, leaving the resolution up to the individuals involved. Sometimes the solutions are as simple as going to therapy.
“It’s frustrating,” Pickering said. “Especially when you get re-contacted by people and they say, ‘Things have just gotten out of hand. Come help us.’ We told you what you needed to do. We can’t help you. I can’t give somebody psychological advice. I’m screwed up enough as it is. I have no business telling you, you need to go see a therapist, but I’m giving you the truth – you need to go see a therapist.”
History of hauntingsThe idea of starting an investigative team was born out of tragedy. Tessa Thomas-Peterson, the founder, began the group in 2012 after the murder of Dylan Redwine, a 13-year-old boy who disappeared in November 2012 while visiting his father, Mark, in Bayfield. Some of Dylan’s remains were found in June 2013 on Middle Mountain, and, in 2015, hikers found Dylan’s skull. In 2017, authorities charged Mark with second-degree murder and child abuse related to Dylan’s death. “I call it the paranormal closet,” Thomas-Peterson said. “I learned as a kid – I’ve always dealt with the paranormal and I’d share it with people I thought were my friends. But I’d get a lot of judgment and ridicule, so I learned to keep it to myself. But then when Dylan went missing – he was a friend of my daughter’s – and I just had my son, I was sitting there thinking, ‘If this had happened to me, I would want someone to help me.’”
Thomas-Peterson had been experiencing long before Dylan’s untimely death, though. When she was a young girl, she was convinced the shadowy figure of a woman she saw in her home just before her mother died was an omen responsible for her death.
“All my life I’ve dealt with the paranormal,” Thomas-Peterson said. “I saw a full-bodied apparition when I was five, almost six. My mom passed away almost two weeks later and for a long time, I thought this apparition had something to do with it, because she walked down the hall and I called out for my mom. She stopped in my doorway and slowly turned and looked at me and then slowly turned and looked back down the hallway. Then she went into my mom’s room and closed the door. I was thinking perhaps she had something to do with it. … When we (my family) got together later on and we were sharing all our crazy stories and ghost stories and such, my sister told the story about the same woman in her room. She was telling her to close and lock her window. So she did and she went and told her mom about it and she said, ‘Yeah go ahead and do that and we’ll see what happens the next day.’ The next day there were footprints and pry marks on the window. Someone had come off the highway and tried to get in.”
It was then that Thomas-Peterson learned a valuable lesson about the paranormal: not all ghosts were evil. In fact, most just wanted to help the living and go about their existence in peace.
“I realized she was not the reason for my mom’s death,” she said. “She was trying to protect.”
‘We’re here to help’Arguably, the most interesting part of a ghost hunt is when investigators break out their equipment.
Almost immediately after they walk into the home in Bayfield, they put out a recorder to pick up audio. Most of the family leaves after answering the investigators’ questions, and the team members open up their briefcases and get to work.
Pickering pulls out her favorite tool – an infrared camera – and begins wandering the house looking for spirits. Linda goes to the back bedroom where there’s been the most activity and uses a pendulum to communicate with the spirits. She ascertains that the spirits are family members. Oles-Graham sits in the living room with a ghost app open on her phone while watching a device that lights up every time there’s paranormal activity nearby.
Eventually, the team is able to effectively communicate with the spirits and decipher what it is the apparitions want. With the lights dimmed, the team sits in a circle in the living room. There’s a crackle of energy in the air and the paranormal sensors in place around the house are excitedly going off.
“What happens with spirits once they figure out that you can acknowledge them is that they’re excited. So they want that acknowledgment more, and so they do more, so it’s more apparent that they’re there. Eventually, it starts dissipating because you’re no longer spooked by it,” Oles-Graham said. “Some are attention hogs though, that’s for darn sure.”