Would you come back from the dead to haunt the place you loved to work?
In July our Museum was approached by the North Island Paranormal Association (otherwise known as NIPA) asking if we would be open to allowing an investigation.
One of the members of NIPA had worked here in Building 11 when it was the Base Theater and thought that the projectionist, Arthur Ayers could still be here, in the place that he loved to work.
Arthur was a veteran, having served from 1953 to 1979 and had been posted to Comox in 1972 to work at 409 Sqn. After retiring, he worked as a projectionist at the Miracle Beach Drive In and then at the Base Theater from 1981-82 when the theater was closed.
Deanna Graham, NIPA’s newest member, worked with Arthur and has fond memories of him. She told me how much he enjoyed his work and remembers him as a very warm person who loved to joke. After visiting the Museum she felt a presence that she thought could be Arthur and suggested that NIPA investigate.
On the evening of July 11/12, NIPA arrived with their equipment and set up shop. Captain Lynn Barley gained the necessary military permission for the investigation but wasn’t able to be present while the investigation was taking place. Program Manager Jon Ambler volunteered to stay with the group overnight in her place. The team did not want a lot of people in the Museum while they were investigating to eliminate possible interference but I was fortunate enough to be allowed to come in for a short period before they got underway to talk to the members.
Even before NIPA approached the Museum to investigate, many volunteers, over many years, have had “experiences” they couldn’t explain.When Jon Ambler first interviewed me to be a volunteer at CAFM in 2012, he jokingly told me that the “ghost” had sent me here as they were short of volunteers and really needed someone to cover a Wednesday shift. Our Collections Management head, Mel Birnie, told me a story about coming into the Museum and finding medals (usually mounted on the wall in the Main Gallery) lying on the floor, lined up neatly. After putting pins in the ribbons to keep them in place, he returned the next day to find them askew, almost like they were being “pulled by a magnet”. Many of us have had the experience of chills down the spine when closing and locking up the Main Gallery and I personally have run up the stairs leading to the Archives with the uncomfortable feeling that someone was coming up behind me! My husband and I also had an eerie experience when, although there was no one in the Main Gallery after closing, the mechanic mannequin at the engine display fell off the platform and landed with such force that the head separated from the body. I was so freaked out that I even checked to see if there had been a small earthquake that day! (there wasn’t)
We didn’t tell NIPA about these experiences. In fact, they asked us not to share any stories we might have. As Shelby Green, founder of NIPA explained, they wish “to debunk” or explain away the phenomenon to the best of their ability while searching for scientific proof and didn’t want to be influenced by the stories. The” Holy Grail” of their searches would be to capture, on camera, something clear- like a face or an image that had no rational explanation.
All the members believe that there is something else out there, but they have different ideas as to what it could be. Some of the members have physical or emotional reactions to the paranormal (like founder Shelby, Fran and Cecile Cartier, Lisa Christianson and Deanna Graham) and feel that it is the remnant of a deceased person trying to communicate, while co-founder Mark Sim, (who describes himself as a skeptic despite many paranormal experiences), believes that the phenomenon is residual electrical energy absorbed from high stress situations that “resonate” and can be felt by people sensitive to it. Everyone on the team is unique in how sensitive each are to the phenomenon, a sensitivity which they believe most people have but discount.
The team set up their equipment which consists of a laser grid, EMF meters, temperature gauges, four infra-red cameras, as well as a full spectrum camera. The team then began their investigation of three areas of the Museum: the right and left sides of the Main Gallery and the stairs and upper mezzanine.
So is Arthur Ayers still here, still doing the job he loved?
The team came back a few weeks later to share their conclusions. Here’s what they had to say:
“After reviewing all media, we could not produce conclusive evidence that there is activity present at this time. Having said that, we do have some anomalies in some pictures and a flash of light on camera that cannot be explained. There were also visuals of flashes of lights and some sounds not recorded. Many investigators had personal experiences but (this) can’t be backed up by hard evidence. We do believe there is activity, especially upstairs and would love to re-visit this again some time.”
I also asked the team members to share their experiences:
I was very excited to get this investigation. Going in I had no idea what to expect. I really didn’t feel too much in the gallery. It wasn’t until I went upstairs that I really started feeling things; it wasn’t like I was feeling anything specific… it was just an intense feeling. I could only stay up stairs for maybe 5 min before I had to leave to come back down stairs.(Note: Shelby had to sit down on the stairs and couldn’t continue into the mezzanine-Corrine) I came back downstairs and the feeling didn’t go away so I was sitting alone having this intense feeling in my chest. I can’t find the words to explain this “feeling”. It didn’t make me feel sad, or depressed, or angry, or anything, it was just there in my chest. I was speaking out loud in hopes that “whoever” was making me feel this way would stop. It did stop after about 10 min or so and I was able to breathe normally again. This is the only thing I felt there but it was really intense.”
“My name is Lisa Christensen and this is an account of my personal experiences during the investigation of the Air Force Museum.
The night started off with a bang, literally, as a wrench from one of the stationary exhibits mysteriously fell to the floor at the start of our set up period. (Note: My husband was the culprit- he knocked the mannequin, although they didn’t see him-Corrine) Shelby Green was in the exhibit room at the time but nowhere near to the exhibit where the event occurred. It is possible her footsteps triggered the event but since it did not fall until she was already in another area and working to set up a camera tripod it definitely added an air of mystery to the investigation beginnings. I was at the coffee counter, setting up the DVR and prepping the cameras. Neither of us saw what happened and no cameras were live to film at the time. We both assumed that the other had knocked over equipment and had a bit of a laugh about it. In the very least, the coincidental timing made for an interesting story.
It was a fairly quiet night, though I did have few personal occurrences of note. I had some strange sensations of unease when standing or walking near to the large engine display. Upon further investigation I came to the conclusion that the mirror under the exhibit might be causing some strange reflections and half seen shadows. Though in walking past you may not be conscious of it in your field of vision, there is likely a part of your mind that processes that extra detail and may cause a sense of unease at the altered shadow and light.
The room with the large bomb in the center I also had some unease at various times of the evening. We did note that there were some noises from the ventilation audible in that room. The reflections from the display cases and the figures of the station exhibits may also contribute to the sense of being watched. At one moment, before the large group joined us for an EVP session, I felt something poke rather firmly at the back of my neck and braid. This is an occurrence that at least one other investigator apparently shared in at various times.
On the final sweep of the building, I went alone with a voice recorder and the full spectrum camera. When I got to the point farthest away from the rest of the group who were waiting in the hall near the coffee and washrooms, I had the red light flashlight clipped onto my vest turn itself off, abruptly, as though the battery had died. When I pushed the button to check it, it did come right back on. It is a fairly firm click motion to turn it on and off so I cannot see how it would accidentally happen and there was no click when it went out.
There is definitely a different feel to the building when alone. It is hard to make any assumptions about the causes of the supposed activity as there are a great many factors contributing. We had some investigators recovering from colds, so there were a lot of noises to be expected in the recordings from sniffles and coughs. The building itself, due to age, has a lot of inherent creaks, groans, and various ventilation sounds. The atmosphere of the history of the place, combined with the artifacts stored within and the lifelike mannequins definitely add to the feeling of mystery and intrigue and potentially a feeling of being watched or loomed over.
Some personal experiences were recounted by various investigators in relation to the staircase and the upper rooms. I definitely could feel a sense of anticipation, and perhaps one of oppression, grow as I climbed the staircase. It was difficult to approach the top to place the equipment, when I went up alone to leave an EMF meter in view of the camera. I also had the sensation of my braid being moved occur once again, while sitting still for the EVP session in the upper room. This is definitely a room that has a feeling of its own history. There was a sort of tension or apprehension, “profoundness “to the energy of that room.
All in all, this was a very intriguing investigation. We can never expect to get many occurrences on a short visit; it is not often that anomalies on the DVR or voice recordings show up. However, the personal experiences piqued my interest and I think if the opportunity arises to have another go with the equipment in the future, the museum is definitely a place of interest for further investigation.”
“My experience most noted was on a walk through with John on a previous visit when I was shocked through my pants to my thigh in the museum movie area. During the actual investigation I did see a flash of light, like a twinkle, twice while we were seated and still. Upstairs I did feel there was a presence and there was a sadness felt in the air. That’s all.”
“Most of the investigation I felt nothing out of the ordinary, but when we were in the area where people watch the videos I felt a powerful and painful thrust through my right eye and actually it felt like it had penetrated through to the back of my head! It lasted for about a minute or two and then just as quickly, was gone.
Going upstairs was interesting, I felt a pressure holding me back as I approached the top of the stairs, once there I felt very cold on my left arm – while my right was normal. I moved around (even facing the other way) and my left arm still stayed cold. I also felt like something was moving around some of the old electronic equipment along the right side of the room (facing away from the staircase), but saw nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Before we started doing EVP, I was upstairs with Deanna and Cecile; I felt a burning on the top of my left hand between thumb and forefinger. It lasted for a while and gradually faded away after leaving upstairs. I didn’t notice anything else.”
To learn more about the team and what they found check out NIPA’s Facebook page.
With so many artefacts coming from individuals and places that have seen violent death, I think it would be unusual for there not to be some feelings of sadness or anger hanging over them. Whether they are a result of empathy or a ghost is up to each individual to decide, but it was a great experience and I hope that NIPA will be able to come back for more “Ghost Hunting!”
Corrine Bainard- CAFM volunteer