By Sheena Barnett
AMORY – Ghost hunters aren’t born but are made by their experiences with the paranormal.
That’s the case for the women in the Amory-based group Paranormal Research Investigative Society of Mississippi, or PRISM. Lisa Kyle, Susan Killian and Toni Kay Coggin have a fascination with the unknown.
“Usually for investigators, you’ve had an experience as a child,” Killian said. “It just gets in your blood, in your system. It’s a quest for answers for something you don’t understand.”
Kyle has had psychic experiences since she was a child; she was “born under the veil,” she said. “I knew I had the ability to see things differently from other people.”
Killian saw her first ghost as a child.
“I saw what I thought was a small girl in a long white gown,” she said. “Something put a hand right on my back, and I froze. There was nothing there.”
Coggin’s lifelong curiosity with the paranormal led her to create PRISM in 2008 with Killian and Kyle.
“I knew I wanted to investigate,” she said. “I wondered, ‘What if?’”
PRISM investigates homes, cemeteries, historic sites, anywhere that could have a ghostly presence. Sometimes families invite them to check out their home; other times the team asks to investigate a location.
Investigations are done for free, and priority is put on cases in which a child is being harmed or bothered by a ghost, Coggin said. PRISM also can coordinate with a priest or preacher to cleanse the house afterward if a malevolent spirit is found, and all cases are kept confidential.
“We don’t put up (on the Internet) what we find,” Kyle said. “We actually get a lot of flack for that from other paranormal groups. But we’re not doing it for the glory.”
The team carries equipment like a K-II Meter, which detects fluctuations in electromagnetic fields; thermal machines, which pick up on temperature changes; a “spirit box” that quickly scans frequencies for otherworldly voices; cameras; and voice recorders, to capture electronic voice phenomena, or EVPs.
All investigations are sandwiched between prayers and usually conducted at night.
“It’ll be active regardless of day or night, but there seems to be more activity at night,” Coggin said. “We try to debunk. We don’t think everything is haunted.”
An investigation can take three or four hours. Reviewing the evidence can take double that time, as each instrument’s results must be analyzed. PRISM members will get base readings from their location a few hours before the actual investigation, and then compare them to readings hours later in the dark.
“We’ll ask questions to try to figure out why they’re still here, is there something they want,” Killian said.
Some investigations yield nothing.
Some investigations offer plenty of ghostly possibilities.
At Greenbrier Cemetery, located in between Amory and Aberdeen, Coggin caught two creepy EVPs on her recorder.
“A husband-and-wife’s grave had the wife’s birthday, but there was no death date. When (a fellow investigator) said ‘Why isn’t there a death date?’ a male voice said, plain as day, ‘My dead wife.’ That was the craziest thing,” she said. “Later, I went back by myself and the same voice said, ‘Not dead yet.’”
One of Kyle’s most memorable ghost-hunting experiences was threatening.
“I was slapped in the face by something,” she said about an investigation she conducted in a chapel in Florida. “It stung so bad, and I fell – it hit me that hard.”
Killian recalled an investigation in a home in which a young man had died, and an overdose was suspected.
“I heard a voice that said, ‘Not addicted,’” she said.
No matter how much evidence they capture, there will always be skeptics.
“You tell people what you’re doing, and they’ll say, ‘that’s the stupidest thing,’ or ‘it’s a waste of your time,’” Kyle said.
These believers stand by their work, despite the naysayers.
“We know God protects us,” Killian said.
For those who want to try ghost hunting, Kyle said the key to success is persistence.
“Be persistent. Be patient. You may not catch anything on the first night, the second night or the third night,” she said.
“It’s like fishing,” Killian added.
“It’s the mystery and the challenge,” Coggin said.
It’s that possibility that keeps the women hunting.
“Every time you get evidence, you’re hungry for more,” Killian said. “If you get an EVP, you want another one. What else do the spirits have to say? Let’s go find out.”