Local paranormal investigators make national splash
Published: Monday, August 20, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 20, 2012 02:08
While many run from paranormal sightings, West Virginia University alumni Jonathan Johnson and Richard Riley have dedicated their careers to providing answers to home and property owners’ haunting questions.
In 2007, the two cousins founded the Morgantown-based group, West Virginia Paranormal Investigations. They found the opportunity was a way to further understand the world of ghosts, hauntings and the paranormal.
"My mom grew up in a house that she swore was haunted, so I’d always heard stories, and then when I got to college I started doing some research and looking around on my own," Johnson said.
"I saw some of the shows on TV; I started reaching out and found some other people who had a similar interest. At that point, I decided to found the group so we could combine and capture evidence to explain what was going on out there."
Johnson said the group was founded with the mission of finding scientific evidence to better understand these phenomena, and to help those who are being plagued by it.
Recently, WVPI has gained much notoriety with an appearance on the Travel Channel’s "Paranormal Challenge," as well as an upcoming appearance on A&E Biography Channel’s "My Ghost Story," which will air in September.
During the "Paranormal Challenge" taping last summer, Johnson and Riley filmed at the Old West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville, W.Va., Johnson said he found the experience a unique and exciting opportunity for the group.
"It was amazing just getting a chance to investigate a great place like the penitentiary, meeting a bunch of amazing people like Zak Bagans from ‘Ghost Adventures’ and getting a behind-the-scenes look at how TV is done," he said. "I’m very thankful we had the chance to do that."
Aside from television appearances, Johnson and Riley have investigated various unique places throughout the state including the Capitol Music Hall in Wheeling, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, one-room schoolhouses across the state and private residences at no cost to the homeowner.
Johnson said the group strives to help those in need – even if that simply means lending an ear for listening.
"We usually start private residency investigations by just talking with them to find out what’s going on," he said.
"Not every family needs someone in there investigating, but if they do want us to investigate, then at that point we bring in all of our equipment and do an overnight investigation and see what we capture with audio and video, then we play that back for the family, and then if they feel like that gives them answers, that’s fine, but if not and they want something gone, then we do have ways of cleansing a house, and we can help them that way."
WVPI will also be a part of an upcoming event Sept. 9-11 at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.
The event will allow the public to investigate the TALA with not only WVPI, but with other well-known paranormal personalities as well.
Johnson said at the event there will be an introduction and a question and answer session. Then, for the rest of the night, attendees will have the opportunity to work side-by-side with the investigation teams in the asylum.
"It’ll be a great event with a lot of big name people," Johnson said. "We’re very happy and excited to be asked to be a part of it, seeing as it is our first big-time event."
Johnson said sometimes working with the paranormal can be a difficult job – especially when some people doubt your business.
"I have a lot of people that I deal with that aren’t believers, and I even have some family members that don’t believe," Johnson said.
"When someone says they don’t believe, I usually tell them that’s hard to say until you’ve experienced it for yourself, so I always offer for them to join us on an investigation and see for themselves."
Johnson said as the profession has become increasingly mainstream, paranormal investigation teams have become more abundant in the area.
However, he credits WVPI’s experience to its level of professionalism above others.
"We’ve been through the ringer, I guess you could say. We’ve done a ton of investigations and been in different situations, and we know how to handle them professionally."
Visit www.transalleghenylunaticasylum.eventbrite.com for more information on the upcoming events, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.