Investigating the Paranormal: Delmarva Historic Haunts
“Having a paranormal experience is like being a member of a club you didn’t ask to join. They pick you, you don’t pick them.”
It’s almost Halloween, that time of year when we try to scare ourselves with horror movies, haunted houses and ghost stories. But for the real ghost hunter, investigating paranormal activity is a year-round passion, not to be associated with the 31st of October. For the team at Delmarva Historic Haunts, investigating the paranormal is more than just seeking haunted houses or uncovering lingering spirits; rather, it’s about fostering their passion for history and historical places while investigating claims of paranormal activity. Referring to themselves as “para-historians,” the Delmarva Historic Haunts (DHH) team looks for historical connections to unexplained, paranormal activity.
According to Delmarva Historic Haunts founder Rick Coherd, anyone has the ability to tap into the paranormal, but not everyone experiences those interactions in the same way. Some people love it, others hate it or try to cover the experience up, while many continue to view paranormal activity as foolish. With many skeptics and critics out there, Coherd is used to people – even new team members – trying to debunk his work. Surprisingly though, Coherd welcomes the critics. With historical and paranormal evidence on his side, Coherd enjoys the challenge. “There are not as many critics as there used to be, but I try to take their point of view and go with it. Sometimes people can be mean…but you don’t sweat the small stuff. My goal is to go on as many investigations as I can before I die,” said Coherd. And with a full schedule of investigations lined up for the next year, it doesn’t sound like Coherd will be slowing down any time soon.
So what exactly does a para-historian do? In short, Coherd’s team of para-historians are a hand-picked group, coming from a variety of different professions from teaching to law enforcement, all with the common goal of investigating historic buildings across Delmarva to prove whether they are “haunted” or not. “Our team is very good,” explained Coherd. “We all have respect for each other. Respect is my favorite word. We have a lot of respect for the living, for the dead and for history. Ghosts are our history, they’re us. And sometimes history talks back.”
On a typical investigation, the team goes to a location, either one they were invited to investigate or that they sought out themselves. With an arsenal of tools and equipment, including a ghost lab, digital recorders, EMF meters, MEL meters, tripfields and more, the team enters with an open mind, ready for just about anything. Once inside and set up, the paranormal typically reveals itself through noises, whether it’s speaking, crying, laughter or screams. Coherd pointed out that noise recordings are a strong piece of evidence, one that is difficult to dispute. To solidify their findings, Coherd and his team make historical connections – connections that explain the activity occurring at that particular location.
For example, the DHH team investigated the Cannonball House in Delaware after numerous reports and stories about a woman screaming at night, a door that consistently opened each night (despite even being nailed shut) and footsteps heard upstairs. Before entering, research revealed that a woman had in fact died in the house many, many years ago when she caught fire while cooking dinner. “That information was recorded in the papers at the time so it was absolutely true,” pointed out Coherd. As for the paranormal activity, DHH decided to investigate. To provoke the spirit, they produced an open flame in the house, an action that resulted in flurry of activity on the tripfield, along with a digital sound recording of the woman’s screams. While they did not hear the screams in person, a play back of the tape revealed the noises. “Most of our evidence, about 85 percent, is sounds,” said Coherd. There’s not much better evidence or proof than that. It’s unmistakable sounds that you can’t debunk.”
On another occasion, the team went aboard the Lightship Overfalls in Lewes. While there, the cam mic picked up a voice whispering “sorry” but the digital voice recorder did not. Coherd explained that “nobody human could have been the one to say it or else it would have been picked up on both.”
Coherd has an endless supply of stories like the one he and his team experienced at the Cannonball House and the Overfalls, with encounters all over Delmarva from the Cape May-Lewis Ferry to Fort Delaware. However as a faith-based group, Coherd pointed out that the DHH Team is not on the scene to “clean” houses of spirits or to look for demons, they are solely there to investigate and to make historical connections to what they find. “Every investigation is like a classroom, except you aren’t teaching the class…they are,” he said. With each investigation, Coherd looks forward to what they may – or may not – discover. “I don’t know what I like the most, the history or the investigating.” Coherd noted how fortunate he is to be living in an area that is so historically rich, pointing out that Delmarva is rooted in history, with homes and buildings dating back hundreds of years. It is these homes and their history that keep Coherd on his toes and busy year round. “It’s a treasure trove,” remarked Coherd.
Delmarva Historic Haunts enjoys two seasons, the first running from January to June and the second starting again in September. Throughout the first half of the year, 13 investigations are filmed while on the road. The second half of the year is dedicated to hosting tours to help raise money for historical societies. In fact, DHH has raised $35,000 in the last three years for local historical societies. For more information on DHH or events, visit their website at delmarvashistorichaunts.com.
“You have to have a fever for this kind of thing,” said Coherd. “It’s a lifestyle. You’re only as good as your team and I have a very good team.”
While we didn’t get to join the team on an investigation (yet), it was clear from our sit-down with Coherd that whether we are surrounded by the paranormal or not, the key is to keep an open mind, or as Coherd would say:
“Clear your mind, and go in.”