IN PHOTOS: A night on the town with paranormal investigators
– Forty minutes from Henderson, just outside the city lights and traffic noise, a small ghost town awaits those looking for a little adventure. Bonnie Springs Ranch, established in 1952, features a number of entertaining attractions. During the day a full ghost town, gunfights, drinks, food, horseback riding and even a rodeo arena offer a lot for anyone willing to make the trip. By night, when the lights are turned off and the staff heads home, some say that strange things begin to happen.
On the last Saturday of each month, after most of the staff have gone home, Brian Purdy and his team of paranormal investigators arrive to host their monthly Haunted Ghost Tour of the historic town. They unload cases of special equipment and set up a base camp in the old opera house. Brian says that he is often asked what kinds of things visitors should bring to the ghosts hunts. “The best piece of equipment people can bring is themselves,” Purdy said. Paranormal investigators largely rely on their own senses to detect anything out of the ordinary. The technology they bring adds another layer of credibility to anything they might find.
This night is windy, and the wood frame of the old opera house creaks ominously. The eerie scene is cut short when, at the end of a team meeting, the group of paranormal investigators sings happy birthday to one of their members. Colorful cupcakes are served, and visitors and investigators alike laugh, eat, and talk about the night to come.
Starting at the opera house, they’ll use a number of instruments to try to detect strange activity in the room. Once they’ve done that, the tour will move on to do the same thing in various other locations around the old town.
The group itself is called the Elite Vegas Paranormal Society. Brian Purdy started the team in Henderson with his wife, Linda and son, David in 2008 in order to pursue a passion for the paranormal that has kept them very close. Now the team is comprised of 12 members. In addition to running the monthly ghost hunt, they do free investigations of businesses and homes. They also run a paranormal convention called The Las Vegas Paracon, which Purdy says had a great showing this year in Goldfield, Nevada.
He warns that paranormal activity isn’t a guarantee when they investigate. “Some nights we’ve been out here and there’s nothing and other nights we can have a lot of activity.” The team wraps up discussions and they cut the power to the building; it’s time to begin the investigation.
While Purdy says that paranormal activity isn’t guaranteed, he still knows of some relatively stable unexplained phenomena in this room. He holds a device that detects electromagnetic fields up to a spot that seems to remain active every month. The meter goes red when he passes it through a specific spot in the air. With the flair of a magician, he invites others to use the device to see if they get the same readings. All try find it in the same place. “We’re all very scientifically minded.” Purdy said. He explains that the team always looks for an explanation before they call something paranormal. “We want to educate people,” Purdy said. “When you go home and you think you have a ghost, think about what it could be.”
After they’ve investigated the area for a while, an SB7 Spirit Box is turned on, and everyone crowds around in the darkness. The device scans rapidly through radio frequencies at a rate so fast that you only occasionally pick out something recognizable as speech. These instances, where words and phrases come through, are scrutinized for relevancy to any questions that have been asked. When asked to name one of the visitors in the room, the name “Linda” seems to come through the box multiple times.
Linda Masanimptewa is in the room, taking the tour for the second time. This is how the group says they try to validate that the voices coming through the device are paranormal. If the voices seem to respond intelligently to questions, spirits are assumed to be in the room. On a number of occasions the device seems to say things that indicate that the group should leave. The group brings the spirit box session to an end and departs for the wax museum.
Outside, the wind has picked up, and the moonlight is bright compared to the near darkness of the opera house. Also in the company of the team is what they call a “junior investigator”. The tour used to exclude children from attending, but that has since changed. “There are a lot of kids out there who want to come out and do this,” Purdy said. He just warns parents to consider their child’s level of maturity before bringing them out to an event.
In the wax museum the team uses a new instrument to try and detect paranormal phenomena. A stuffed bear is pulled from a bag and placed on a shelf. Inside the bear are sensors that indicate when something is near one of the hands. An investigator demonstrates by waving his hand in certain places to make sure it’s working properly. Then the group watches in silence. Occasionally, the bear will talk, trying to draw out any spirits. Once in a while one of the sensors will go off, and the bear will ask, “Do you want to hold my hand?” After this is done, the group moves deeper into the wax museum with the SB7 Spirit Box. They attempt to contact the spirits said to inhabit the building. Purdy stops near a wax figure in the mining themed section of the museum and asks a series of questions. Fewer voices seem to come through the device this time.
When I die they’re not gonna be able to shut me up.
“You’re being awful quiet,” an investigator called from the darkness. “When I die they’re not gonna be able to shut me up.” When someone asks for the spirit’s favorite part of the museum, the device seems to say “Comstock” twice. The part of the museum Purdy is conducting this session in features an informational plaque about the Comstock Lode.
After the wax museum, investigations move to a few more locations before ending with a spirit box session in the moonlight outside the opera house. The wind has picked up further, and the session results in more apparent voices responding to questions. When the session is over, the group returns to the opera house and the power is turned back on. The artificial lights take a minute to get used to after being in darkness for so long.
The night ends much the same way as it began, with laughter and recounting of experiences with the unknown. Now the attendees of the tour have new paranormal tales to recount; tales of spirits that seem to respond to questions, and readings on devices with no apparent cause. It’s close to two in the morning as the team departs, leaving Bonnie Springs Ranch alone, or not so alone, in the desert just outside the city. | iH
This article was featured on page 27 of the October 2015 issue of Inside Henderson Magazine.