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The Midnight Watchmen

I’m at Royal Comics in Lansdale to see The Midnight Watchmen talk about their ghost hunting. A lot of idiots and nutcases, or just greedy assholes looking to scare families and make a buck, populate the ghost hunting community. I’m skeptical. I’m going to listen and give them a chance. They look proper, a couple of average joes, but they hunt ghosts—an invisible prey.

By T. Fox Dunham

They’ve got their gear setup in black cases. They’re not ghostbusters. No proton packs—though they’re fun to play with, John says. A plush bear sits on the table. It’s a lure for a child ghost. I spot a white wooden crucifix. It seems an anomaly next to this modern equipment. These guys have grown their science, their reputation; and they’re comic book junkies.

It’s a trio of middle-aged men—working blokes. Their leader and spokesmen—John—wears a black shirt with the picture of a Quiji Board. It says:

IT’S JUST A GAME! UNTIL SOMEONE GETS POSSESSED.

John speaks with a confident voice. This dude knows his ghost shit. There are no schools for ghost hunters, until Syfy cashes in with its Ghost Hunters franchise, so he’s learned his art from hands-on investigation. He runs his mouth about the electrician business—EM fields, picking up stray signals, how much bleeds through. They’ve got a bunch of technical toys on the table, and he goes on to talk about their methods. These guys disprove and debunk. It’s not a game to them or a venture into fantasy. They’re fighting for their reputations in what is often considered a fringe science and spurious entertainment on television. If you do an internet search, you’ll find ghost groups in every town. As long as some dude can buy a camera phone and an EMF detector at Radio Shack, there are going to be ubiquitous ghost groups hurting the collective reputation.

They explain their equipment, their investigative methods. So far, it’s got cred. I’m not ready to write them off. They talk a good game. Most of what they talk about is disproving and just collecting cold hard data without interpretation. John talks about matrixing audio—perceiving sounds and images as something they’re not. The human mind seeks paradigms. John gives us an example. This paranormal kick-ass group of Midnight Watchmen got a call about a ghost woman screaming for help. They recorded it, checked out animal sounds and determined it was a fox calling into the night.

He holds up a Walmart special. It’s a digital recorder. John says you don’t have to buy a 200 dollar recorder to get good EVPs—Electronic Voice Phenomena, when you record a disembodied voice that the human ear cannot hear. He’s got a red tinted flashlight also to protect night vision. In his box he also has instruments that detect electronic fields—a whole box of electronic toys to seek out casper. John is the Batman of Ghost hunters. There are no manuals to ghost hunting, John says. There are some good passages and bad passages in books. By the time they’re written, they’re obsolete. So this is an evolving field with the majority of the work and erudition being built by these amateur groups documenting and arching their material—hopefully collecting properly and scrutinized with skepticism.

He gives us an example of EVPS: In the cells of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, they record a chilling EVP in the upper levels: “Please don’t rape me,” the spirit begs, trapped in time. This must be hell.

They talk about the sites they like to investigate. They’d like to investigate Pennhurst Asylum, but it costs thousands of dollars. There are enough ghost groups to support owned haunted properties who charge the many ghost groups that operate. There is an established business front. It’s a racket. These old properties of paranormal reputations are bought, renovated, then the owners charge the myriad and many ghost hunting groups to spend the night, often charging them thousands of dollars. It only demonstrates the fringe industry that is growing up around ghosts and old legends.

Now the conversation breaks down into old legends and folklore. So it seems to be two segments for the ghost hunters of things they investigate: modern haunting, disturbances & old legends. The hunters often have to determine legitimate stories attached to a place and when an old piece of folk legend has been assigned to a spot. That’s the nature of folk cultures. So a lot of their work is not just collecting data physical data; they have to dig through old libraries and historical societies, checking dusty records and speaking to any remaining witnesses like beat detectives investigating old crimes. Making it harder, spitting in their faces, many historical societies and museums shun ghost groups, protecting their own reputations. You can’t blame them, since a historic site that gets a reputation as a haunted site would suffer damage from the many ghost groupees who would follow and damage the site.

They’re wrapping up for the night, and I’m hoping to collect some stories. I’m pretty confident in this group. If you’ve got a ghost, they’re going to kick its ass or kick your ass for making up shit and wasting their time. Come on. They’re working stiffs, got day jobs too.

John works at a hospital, living in the halls of disease and death at a hospital, taking care of the sick. At night, he seeks the souls that have moved on from his life. Other John slaves away hauling ice cream each day on the mean streets, working for a refrigerated plant. He’s the ice cream man who kicks the ass of ghosts. Trevor works assembling valves for air conditioner units, working until the skin strips from his fingers to keep all the wealthy chilly in the summer time.

Before they leave, I poll each of them what I deem the most important questions of the evening: After all they’ve seen, do they believe in life after death? Isn’t that what all this is about? The first John speaks of some the evidence gathered. He talks about an EVP where someone swore obscenities for at least ten minutes at the group, which couldn’t have been a live radio station. This chain of vulgarities convinced him that people go on beyond death. The second John agrees, saying he’d seen enough to have hope in an afterlife. Our consciousness goes on beyond the death of our body. Trevor remains a skeptic. He says he’s not seen enough evidence yet, but he’s still searching.

Well, we’ll all be six feet under and worm food eventually, so we’re going to find out. I try not to worry about, fighting cancer in my life, but at times when my mind isn’t occupied, it scares the god damn shite out of me,

Midnight Watchmen: http://www.midnightwatchmen.com/ Fox True Ghost Tales Project: http://foxghosttales.blogspot.com/ Royal Comics and Gaming of Lansdale: http://royalcomicsandgaming.com/

T. Fox Dunham resides outside of Philadelphia PA—author and historian. He’s published in nearly 200 international journals and anthologies. His first novel, The Street Martyr will be published by Gutter Books this October, followed up by Searching for Andy Kaufman from PMMP in 2014. He’s a cancer survivor. His friends call him fox, being his totem animal, and his motto is: Wrecking civilization one story at a time.