Second Salem Spooks: student organization aims to experience and discover the truth behind the paranormal

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March 4, 2015

By Kimberly Wethal

[dropcap]J[/dropcap]ust because they don’t wear tan “Ghostbusters” jumpsuits or carry proton packs doesn’t mean that the Second Salem Spooks don’t enjoy discovering the paranormal in the same way.

Second Salem Spooks, a paranormal investigation student organization on campus in its second semester, is defined by group President and Head Investigator Kira Gookin as a “truth-seeking group pertaining to events that cannot be explained by logic and science” who look to experience the paranormal for themselves.

“We really want to explore and learn for ourselves,” Gookin said. “Whether that be learning what paranormal actually is in general or to ourselves, maybe even kind of investigate into our own personal beliefs about different things. Eventually, we want to get a substantial and professional group together to be able to go into locations where people might be struggling, and to help them understand what’s going on.”

The group consists of 11 steady members who show up every week, many of whom have an interest in the paranormal because of experiences in their early childhood or teens.

Junior Patrick Hanrahan joined because he wanted to experience the paranormal outside of his home.

“When I was growing up, I’d feel like I’d hear my mom talking to me throughout my house,” Hanrahan said. “I lived in a haunted house last year, so I saw a few things and experienced some stuff. I would hear footsteps going up my stairs three or four times a week, my roommates saw silhouettes across the walls, all kinds of crazy.”

Other members experienced seeing orbs and moving objects, or became intrigued by stories of their parents paranormal experiences as children, that led to their decision to join the Spooks.

The group plans on doing an investigation later this month on Paradise Road near Jefferson. The investigations take around six hours to complete, and differ from the stereotypical Hollywood-esque horror story scenes commonly portrayed.

“They have so much happen, when in reality you go to these locations and you’re there for at least six hours just waiting,” Gookin said. “You just talk to the spirits, whether or not they’re there, as if there are other people, and you just wait.”

Much of the paranormal activities that happen during the investigation are found afterwards. During the investigation, multiple audio and video recorders are placed in the area in order to capture paranormal beings that otherwise wouldn’t be seen in person.

“This upcoming investigation will be just a walk-through, as it will be the first for many people,” said Sam Azzaro, vice president of the Spooks. “Just kind of getting the feeling for the equipment we have. Learn how to take clear-cut photos, learn what to look for in terms of a voice recording session. Basically picking out what isn’t normal, or what we know normal as. This first investigation is an outside one, so it’ll be a little bit harder with outside contamination with birds chirping or heavy breathing or something.”

The Second Salem Spooks was started when Gookin had to move farther away from her professional paranormal team, Wisconsin & Illinois Paranormal Investigation Team (WIPIT) out of Orfordville, Wisconsin, when she transferred to Whitewater.

She ran the idea past Azzaro, who gave her the support she needed to go to Career & Leadership Development to start the group.

The Spooks was established as a satellite group of WIPIT, meaning the campus group is an extension of the professionals, and are able to receive support and attend WIPIT sponsored investigations.

Gookin first started with WIPIT after taking a photo at a haunted plantation in Louisiana and wanting answers.

“I’d taken a picture at a location, and actually gotten an apparition,” Gookin said. “Turns out, ironically, that the team leader was my old violin teacher, so she said that I could come and join. I was terrified to go on [investigations], because I’d seen all the TV shows, I’d seen all the movies, and I didn’t want to be dragged up the stairs. I didn’t want the door slammed on my leg or something.”

Gookin found the investigations were nothing like she imagined, and much of what was considered to be paranormal by people requesting help could be easily explained. There were times, however, that WIPIT managed to find things that were not only unexplainable by logic, but also weighing on the eerie side.

“It was one of the creepier places we’d been, and it was a private residence in my hometown,” Gookin said. “We had something called an EVP [Electronic Voice Phenomenon] that said, ‘Get out’ and ‘Come and get us, come and find us.’ It was right after we had heard a noise in one of the rooms, and we went to investigate that noise, but it happened right before that, so we think that whatever was in the house was trying to lure us into a specific room.”

Being a satellite group of WIPIT allows for the Spooks to learn how to use the equipment and develop proper etiquette to use during the investigations. It allows for the group to receive support when they start planning professional investigations.

The Second Salem Spooks will be using many of the same methods as the WIPIT use to start off with, but will eventually develop some of their own to tailor to the group’s specific needs on campus.

Gookin encourages anybody interested to consider joining, even if they’re experiencing slight hesitation due to fear of the paranormal or myth-based beliefs.

“Really, it’s nothing to be afraid of, and to know that it honestly happens around you and you just don’t realize it, that brought more of a comfort to me than fear would have,” Gookin said. “It really brought the realization that nothing’s going to happen if it’s happening all of the time, then why do I need to be afraid of it?”

The Second Salem Spooks meet at 7 p.m. every Thursday in the University Center, Room 262.