Mary Jo Harrod

Today's Woman

October 2001, Volume 11, Number 10



As the group of about 14 gathered at The Mansion at Griffin Gate, a restaurant converted from an old home in Lexington, there were feelings of apprehension and anticipation. A gray Dodge Spirit pulled up with "Ghost Chasers International" logo emblazed on the side. The pretty, petite woman stepped from behind the wheel wearing her official Ghost Chasers jacket, fashioned much like a safari jacket.


The woman in the jacket introduced herself as Patti Acord Starr and explains to the group about what will happen during the ghost hunt. She stresses that no one should ghost hunt without learning about it from an experienced hunter. (In other words, don’t try this at home.)


"People think that ghosts are evil or demonic or harmful," says Starr, a certified ghost hunter. "But think about your own life. How many people do you know that are demonic? Only 2 to 3 percent of the people in the world are truly evil and that same is true for ghosts and spirits. Hollywood film studios have cast ghosts as evil because nice ghosts don’t sell. But ghosts and spirits can be protectors and be supportive with their energy. And if a dream seems too real, it may be a ghost [or spirit communicating with you]."


Starr’s ghost-hunting jacket is loaded down with the tools of the trade: inexpensive tape recorders, a digital camera, a TriField Natural Electro Magnetic Field meter (designed for ghost and spirit detection), extra batteries, tapes and film. Starr conducts her investigation scientifically, searching for proof of paranormal phenomena. Another important piece of equipment, which is used to communicate with the paranormal, is dowsing rods, which are 18 inch brass rods about one-eight inch thick. Chuck Starr, owns Collectors Gallery in Lexington, makes the rods and paints the tips white to make it easier for his ghost-hunting wife to see the rod’s slightest movement.



The Hunt Begins

The quest begins on the second floor of this elegant building where Starr has had success in previous hunts. After placing tape recorders, a video camera, and her electro magnetic field detector in strategic areas, the detector makes a loud static noise that tells Starr a ghost or spirit is with us in the room.


Starr uses both dowsing rods and asks three questions of whatever being is present – "May I? Can I? Should I dowse?" The rods go into the yes position – crossing each other in an "x" – and permission is granted. Starr says a prayer to God to be centered to his wisdom and to protect her from any negative forces. Everyone else is quiet and alert.


Using only one dowsing rod and holding it tight enough that it is not flopping around, but loose enough that it can move when it wants, Starr begins by asking yes-and –no questions.


"Are you a spirit?" The rod moves from side to side, which means "no."


"Are you a ghost?" The rod moves up and down like a nodding head, meaning, "yes."


"Are you more than 20 years old?" No.


"Are you more than 10 years old?" No. After more questions, Starr determines that the ghost is four years old.


"Are you a girl?" Yes


"Are your parents here with you?" No


"Are there other ghosts here?" Yes


"Did you die by illness?" No answer. Starr asks if the girl died by accident, but again receives no answer, leaving Starr to conclude that the child may not want to communicate about her death or is not sure how she died. The reason why the girl is still on earth may be because she has not dealt with how she died.


"Do you like being her?" Yes


"Do you like all of the other ghosts here?" No


Through more questioning, Starr realizes that the little girl ghost enjoys our presence and likes the attention that we are giving to her. The rest of us are quiet, looking for signs of the ghost and snapping pictures that may show an orb, a gray mist, or other evidence of what we have just experienced that our eyes and minds may not have let us visualize.


During the rest of the hunt Starr encounters another presence – an older woman, a temporary visitor who had died 30 years earlier and traveled to the Mansion as a constant protecting presence for a summer intern from New York. Another ghost is that of a young woman who died tragically in the area.


Two hours later, the hunt is over. We all hold hands as Starr says a cleansing prayer that no spirits or ghosts will attach themselves to the people in the group. Then Starr offers to plays tapes of ghostly voices that she had recorded on earlier hunts. Hearing the sing - song voices on tape is eerie, but seeing orbs flying across the lens of this reporter’s camera as she prepares to snap a picture in the house is startling.


How does a Southern lady become a certified ghost hunter, of all things? If you’re like Patti Acord Starr and grew up in Charleston, S.C., which has been called the "Ghost Capital of the World," it just comes naturally. Starr, who lives in Lexington with her husband Chuck, has been certified since 1999 by the International Ghost Hunting Society. She is a remote investigator for Ghost Safari, and president of Ghost Chasers International, an organization she founded. In the evenings, she teaches noncredit classes in beginning and advanced ghost hunting at Lexington Community College. Teachers, nurses, policemen and other professionals are among Starr’s students.


Besides scores of private homes, Starr has investigated public places around the country and all over Kentucky. Places such as the Talbott Tavern in Bardstown, Bodley Bullock House in Lexington, White Hall in Richmond, Living Arts and Science Center and a building at Planter’s Row Golf Course in Nicholasville have been the focus of ghost hunts. Starr has eight more sites scheduled to visit, including two horse farms and a fire station in Kentucky, and is planning integrations in southern Indiana.



Ghost or Spirit?


Whenever Starr is asked to do an investigation, she has the caller fill out a questionnaire that will help her determine if she is dealing with a spirit or a ghost. Here’s Starr’s description about the difference between a ghost and a spirit.


"A ghost is that form of energy that survives after death and is earthbound. It either met death suddenly and doesn’t realize it is dead or it’s a spirit that has some unfinished business to take care of," Starr explains. "Most ghosts do hang around after they die for 5, 10, or 20 days to make sure their funeral arrangements are taken care of and also they want to feel that it is okay to go on because their family has let go of them after the funeral. Sometimes people don’t go on and cross over because they are afraid of judgment. There are many reasons why a ghost may be earthbound."


During one of her investigations, Starr communicated with the ghost of a woman who had hanged herself after her fiancé returned from the Civil War and married the woman’s sister instead. Fearing judgment over her suicide, the ghost refused to leave the house and cross over to the spirit world.


Starr continues, "A spirit is someone who after death continues to go on their journey. There is someone to meet them as they cross over into the spirit realm. Then they decide to come back. Maybe they want to come for the birth of their grandchild or a child’s graduation. And they come back periodically when there are family gatherings or to be a support for someone who is suffering from something like depression or legal problems. A spirit’s energy is what gets the living person through a lot.


"A spirit may move a photo of himself or herself, tug on your shirt or brush lightly against your face. Tugging on the bedcovers is real common. Spirits do not want to frighten you and will leave if you tell them," Starr smiles as she explains. "But ghosts are a different story. They will usually not leave because they were there first and you’re on their territory. Ghosts will do things like turn the lights or television on and off. They do things that are more mischievous and scary."

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