Cemeteries and creaky hotels aren't places that typically capture the interest of young people. But if it has a reputation for being haunted, Ceres couple Keith Weldon and Clarissa Simpson, and friends Andrew Gonzales and Christopher Gates, will try to make connections there with spirits from the past.
For five years, the Chill Seekers paranormal investigation team has explored so-called haunted locations such as the O.K. Corral in Tombstone in an attempt to communicate with disembodied spirits through electronic devices. Their exploits are featured on their YouTube show, "Chillseekers," which has viewership as high as 83,000 views.
The paranormal hunting team also put their self-proclaimed ghost box to the test at the Queen Mary in Long Beach with ghost hunter Nick Groff of the cable TV show, "Paranormal Lockdown."
Weldon acknowledges the reaction to his show is mixed.
"People who don't believe in it usually don't have anything nice to say about it."
Believers of paranormal activity accept the mysterious noises emanating from the team's electronic gadgets as proof - Keith calls it "evidence" - that disembodied spirits haunt burial grounds and other locations. Some suggest they are dabbling with demonic forces; others find ghost hunting entertaining.
Despite the detractors, Weldon said there that plenty of "people who are interested in the paranormal find it pretty interesting and they enjoy it."
During their episodes, Carissa interviews employees of haunted businesses or residents of homes to delve into creepy occurrences such as breaking glass sounds, temperature fluctuations, tapping sounds and items inexplicably dropping off the counter at places. The team has investigated the Mackay Mansion in Virginia City, the Banta Inn, the Knights Ferry flour mill, and a Rocklin antique store. They have also visited various "haunted" houses where inexplicable things have happened. Last month Chill Seekers visited the sprawling Service Road home of Dirk and Heather Wyatt and included it in an episode.
In the episode featuring historic Allensworth, a ranger lends an air of credibility to ghost tales by saying visitors report "bed sheets moving up and down, almost breathing."
The couple's endeavor started out in 2011 after watching paranormal TV shows. Their first paranormal investigation occurred at the National Hotel in Jamestown during an anniversary getaway.
Last year the team visited the historic Murphys Hotel where employees have reported inexplicable smells of rose perfume in Room 11 (supposedly from spirit Eleanor).
Both Carissa and Keith reports having been spooked during their hunts. While investigating one home in Modesto, Keith says he saw a "shadow of a man walking down the hallway that just disappeared."
"I don't know what it is I saw but it was the shape of a man," reported Weldon, 33, a soft-spoken Ceres High graduate who works nights at Cost Less Foods in Ceres.
Carissa felt two strong tugs on the camera she held while recording at the Ryde Hotel in Walnut Grove. In their Virginia City episode, Carissa reported full-blown goose bumps after the recitation of the Lord's prayer sent the investigation into a religious direction and they clearly heard "the church ... it's the center of God" coming from the ghost box.
Weldon had no background in electronics when he developed the Weldon Video Ghost Box (WVGB), a device which he says spirits can manipulate audio and video feed to manifest visually or audibly.
"A ghost box will scan through radio frequencies and it'll create raw audio, which is like a picture of sound," said Weldon. "The idea is that spirits can manipulate sound frequencies ... and they basically can create speech through that. A lot of that is not really heard in real time. You have to record it. You don't hear EVPs when you're using your recorder but when you play it back you hear this voice."
EVP is short for Electronic Voice Phenomenon.
"It all kind of revolves around the theory of Instrumental trans-communication," explained Simpson. "What we found is that spirits aren't necessarily manipulating the device as much as they're able to manipulate the sound wave itself. You will get responses to your questions."
She said one must use critical thinking when analyzing sounds "because sometimes you can be hearing something really random, you could be hearing spirit communications."
The echo-like sound coming from Weldon's devices is hard to explain. Critics say the effect is subjective and since devices rely on radio waves, anything that sounds like a meaningful word or phrase is coincidental or the result of pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon in which the mind thinks there is an image or sound by detecting a familiar pattern where none exists. Some feel that by flashing words on the screen, the team leads their audience to conclusions not so obvious.
Welson lets others get in on the hunt for paranormal activity by selling the Spiritus Ghost Box App for use on Android or iOS devices which he claims allows spirits to communicate audibly or visually. The app costs $12.99.
The team uses the Modesto costume shop Daydreams and Nightmares at 1219 Seventh Street as its home base. Store owner Dana Walters, who is a firm believer in paranormal activity, says strange occurrences are common in her shop.
"What I like about them is they are very professional," said Walters of Weldon and Simpson. "If something happens in here they double check and make sure their evidence is correct."
In 2014 Walters' store surveillance video camera recorded brochures sliding out of a plastic holder and fanning themselves on the floor in an orderly line. Images of spots and ghost like movements have been videoed and recently the shop received a bizarre voicemail "from the dead."
"My theory is you're only a non-believer until something happens to you," said Walters, who is comforted by the thoughts of ghosts as evidence that humans live on after death.
Walters was recently visited by actress
Bridget Marquardt of "The Girls Next Door" who heard about the Modesto shop's connection to paranormal and wanted to connect to her recently deceased grandfather.
"We immediately got a response and you hear an elderly man say, ‘I'm still here' and she said it was her grandfather's voice," noted Walters. "It sounds hokey to contact spirits with an app but then when you get something that there's no explanation for - like something from a family member - there's no denying what's coming through."
Weldon doesn't necessarily disagree in the Christian teaching that once somebody departs their body they either go to heaven or hell. But he offers that "there could be some kind of residual energy left behind."
"I think there's also an in-between and that can cross over into our reality."
To check out Chill Seekers episodes, visit Youtube.com or visit chillseekers.com