Ghost Busters Hunt a Kansas City Spirit

Erika Solomon of NPR's Next Generation Radio project reports on a troupe of "ghost hunters" seeking out a spirit that is allegedly haunting an old coffee factory in Kansas City, Mo.

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

And if there is a strange sound coming from your attic or your doors seems to slam on their own accord, it may be time to call the Paranormal Activity Investigators. These Kansas City-based ghost hunters check out potentially haunted homes and businesses, searching for proof of restless spirits. Erika Solomon joined them recently and has this report.

ERIKA SOLOMON reporting:

The Roastery is an 88-year-old brick building, a coffee factory in Kansas City. Its vaulted ceilings are lined with vintage coffee cans and sputtering espresso machines, and the ghost affectionately known as Pat has been haunting the employees here for almost a decade. For five years, employees have recorded encounters with Pat in a journal. Their accounts range from hearing chains dragging across the floor to seeing an apparition of an old man in tattered work clothes. Now they've finally decided to call in some experts.

Ms. BECKY RAY (Paranormal Activity Investigators): I didn't make out any words, but I could...

SOLOMON: Becky Ray and her Paranormal Activity Investigators are conducting a preliminary inspection of the Roastery. She explains what her team does for their clients.

Ms. RAY: We're basically just investigators. We just confirm for them what they think they have, more or less just to let them know, `OK. Either you don't have ghosts, you have bad plumbing,' or, `Yes, you do have ghosts and you're not crazy.'

SOLOMON: The small squad of ghost hunters comes armed with notebooks and cameras. One member has rigged the collar of his sweater with a tiny black recorder just in case Pat acts up. It's a busy time of year for ghosts investigators. Becky says the Halloween season always creates a big spike in business.

Ms. RAY: I don't know if it's that it's on people's minds or some people say the quote, unquote, "veil" is thinner this time of year and, therefore, activity picks up. But we definitely do get more calls.

(Soundbite of footsteps)

SOLOMON: As the team tours the building, they carefully note things that may trigger false ghost reports, like glare or faulty electrical outlets or anything else that could create strange sounds or visions. Along the way, the group pauses to listen to employee David Herman(ph) re-enact a startling encounter with Pat in the brewing room.

Mr. DAVID HERMAN: There was, like, tapping on the wall, like that. And it was really steady, and t started getting louder and louder and louder and eventually, it was, like, really loud just like that. So I said, `Pat, stop!' and it stopped just then.

SOLOMON: After checking out the Roastery, Becky Ray says there's a good chance it has a ghost or two. That means she and her team will return next week for a closer look. They'll spend the night and set up cameras, recorders and electromagnetic wave detectors. Becky says what keeps her hooked on ghost hunting is the hope of reaching across the line between the living and the dead.

Ms. RAY: I wish that I could communicate with them all the time, because there are so many things I would love to talk to them about.

SOLOMON: Becky and her team say you don't need to be an official ghost investigator to find spirits. They insist they're just normal people doing careful, methodical research. There are hundreds of ghost hunters around the country ready to offer their services, and most of them, like the Paranormal Activity Investigators, work for free. But most are quick to tell you they are not `ghostbusters.' They confirm ghosts; they won't get rid of them because in Becky's opinion who would want to.

Ms. RAY: This has made me want to hang out after I die. I can think of so many people I want to haunt.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. RAY: Oh, so many people I want to come back and play tricks on.

SOLOMON: But for now Becky will have to settle for looking for ghosts at places like the Roastery and their other favorite haunts. For NPR News, I'm Erika Solomon in Kansas City.

ADAMS: That story was originally produced for NPR's Next Generation Radio project.

More to come on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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