To many, the Georgia Paranormal Society sounds like a group out of the movie Ghostbusters, but the members of the society are serious about their hobby.
"When we tell people what we do, we usually get a joke," said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ben Dedrick. "Then some people come up and tell us about their experiences."
He and his wife, Beth, have been investigating ghost sightings for about four years. They formed the nonprofit organization about a month ago and have about 10 members.
The couple said they grew up watching Ghostbusters and had odd experiences relatively early in their lives.
"I had my first paranormal experience when I was 17," Mrs. Dedrick said. "The place where I lived was the place of many exorcisms. I came home and my laundry was all over the place. I thought I was crazy."
Petty Officer 3rd Class Dedrick said he always had been interested in the phenomena.
"My cousin died while attending Northeastern University," he said. "They thought it was self-inflicted but later said it is unexplained.
"I sensed things about him. This past July, I had an apparition (of him) appear in human form. It was one of these things you catch out of the corner of your eye and it lasted about 5 to 10 seconds."
The couple said there are three types of ghost sightings - residual haunts, intelligent haunts and poltergeist.
"A residual haunt is a ghost that repeats itself over and over again," Mrs. Dedrick said. "It's energy left over from a traumatic event."
She said, for example, that the energy can take the form of footsteps that are heard every night at a certain time, but she said ghosts don't interact with the living.
"Intelligent haunts are those who interact with the living," she said.
Mrs. Dedrick said there are reports of ghosts giving people their names and doing things such as rearranging a room to get their attention.
A poltergeist can be dangerous, Petty Officer 3rd Class Dedrick said. The term "poltergeist" translates from German as "noisy ghost," he said.
"When they were living, they were unhappy," Mrs. Dedrick said. "In the afterlife, they still are angry. They can throw objects at you. It's a very strong energy."
"It's important to remember that we have free will in our physical form, so that probably continues after death," Petty Officer 3rd Class Dedrick said of ghost sightings.
"Some (ghosts) may think they're still alive and look after a loved one," he said.
Tools used while investigating a haunting include an electronic voice recorder, a sonic infrared digital video camera, an electronic magnetic field detector and a thermometer.
A voice recorder is placed in a spot that is known to be haunted, and the ghost's energy will interact with the magnetic tape of the recorder on a frequency the human ear cannot pick up, Mrs. Dedrick said.
The sonic infrared digital video camera can pick up concentrated energy in low-light conditions, and the electronic magnetic field detector can sense the presence of electricity, she said.
Having traveled across the United States because of military obligations, the Dedricks said, they have investigated several hauntings, including ones at Alcatraz, the USS Hornet in Alameda Point, Calif., and the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, Calif.
The organization is open to the public and free to join. For more information, call 595-2887.
Reach Rebecca A. Smith at 823-3552 or firstname.lastname@example.org.