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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Local Ghost Chaser Investigates Unearthly Experiences

More than 15 years ago, I wrote two articles for the special Halloween edition of the Loudoun Times-Mirror. The first one centered around the haunting of the Lynch house, while the second focused on a professional ghost hunter. Both helped influence my work, including The Last Blog, a short story that is free until Nov. 1, 2015, and The Sanheim Chronicles, which includes a theory on ghosts very similar to what is espoused below. Following is the second article in the series in its original form:

Local Ghost Chaser Investigates Unearthly Experiences

Who ya gonna call?

Oct. 27, 1999

By Rob Blackwell
Times-Mirror Staff Writer

Joe Holbert still doesn't know if he believes in ghosts. After a decade of giving tours of the haunted houses in Leesburg and investigating the unearthly sights and sounds in the homes, he can't tell you for sure that dead people are the cause.
"I know something goes on in those houses," said Holbert. "I just don't know that it is ghosts."

Years ago, Holbert would have dismissed the possibility of ghosts outright, but after meeting with people who had encountered spirits, he wasn't so sure.

"I come from a scientific background, and I used to think ghost stuff was nonsense," said Holbert. "But once you talked to the people, you realized they were very believable. Then it was a great mystery. How can this be? How does it work?"
Holbert set out to study haunted houses as scientifically as possible. He uses various equipment, from electromagnetic sensors to video cameras to tape recorders to try and prove that ghosts exist. Rather than focus his efforts on something which is completely intangible however, he decided to concentrate on studying electromagnetic fields.

Holbert has found that by using an electromagnetic meter, he can measure unusual activity in a home. While living beings and electronic equipment can give off electromagnetic fields, Holbert uses other equipment to ensure that what he is detecting isn't just random electricity from a nearby power source. Currently, he and four people who work with him are developing a system where they can place meters in several rooms of a home and monitor them all at one time from a computer.
Holbert uses the tape recorder to record sounds in the area for 24 hours to determine if anything odd is happening in the room. He also sets up video cameras to try and catch anything on film.

I've seen a lot of things," said Holbert. "I have seen doors shut by themselves and pictures take themselves off the wall. I have seen furniture move when no one is around. I don't know if it is dead people doing it, but something is happening. I am working on the science of ghosts. The witnesses are too good and too many to just dismiss that something goes on."
But if you are looking for ghosts around town, Holbert suggests not heading out to the graveyard late at night.

"As you study this, you find that certain buildings are more likely to be haunted," he said. "Hotels, restaurants, dormitories and other places where a lot of people have been around are likely spots, but not graveyards. Part of the reason I say hotels are more haunted, is because a hotel has a 24 hour staff. If something happens, someone is around to see it," said Holbert.
Holbert investigates homes for free, and oftentimes finds that a "haunted" house is caused by nothing more than a house expanding or other normal explanations. But he always treats people's claims seriously, because he believes he could one day prove the existence of ghosts. His work has been featured by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the TV show Sightings and several local radio programs. He gives tours of Leesburg and his work every Friday and Saturday night except during the winter.

"This is worthy of a life's work, in my opinion," said Holbert. "It is one of the great mysteries of life. What happens after you die? Mostly, I want people to keep their minds open. They should open their eyes and look around a little bit."

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