Local encounters with the paranormal vary

Grace Palmer, Opinions Editor

“When faced with a true paranormal experience, [skeptics] simply shut down, apply an obtuse intellectually weak explanation, and call it solved,” wrote Mike Sweeney, founder of the Minnesota Truth Seekers Paranormal Group, in an email. For most of us, ghosts are the stuff of horror movies, weird anecdotes, or nightmares. For Sweeney and the rest of Minnesota’s impressively robust paranormal involvement community, they are a part of everyday life.

Ghosts are Sweeney’s career; he works as a paranormal investigator. But, he says, it’s not an easy way to make a living. “We protect [ourselves] before we go home so nothing comes with us, as that can be very common and become a living nightmare for us as individuals; but also for our families.” He defines spirits as our equals, saying that “they are to be treated as we want to be treated,” but his interactions with them have been largely adversarial.

He described the experience of an investigation gone wrong, saying, “Investigators become dizzy or ill. Equipment moves, fails, brand new batteries die, cameras fall over, electronics go wild, investigators are touched, pushed; there are loud noises, voices, whispers.” For this reason, he warns amateurs against becoming involved in paranormal investigation. “People who run around graveyards at night hoping for an experience will get one, sooner than later. It may be, however, the most terrifying, horrific mistake one can make… You cannot go to a doctor for what can happen to you.”

South High health teacher Mark Johnson’s first interaction with the spirit world was similar, if more positive. He started to notice odd phenomena shortly after his father passed away, such as smelling his cigar smoke. When he spoke to his sister, he learned that she had been experiencing the same things. Since then, the family has taken up ghost hunting as a hobby. “We’ve caught the most amazing things,” he said.

Although her interactions with spirits have been different, Washburn sophomore Meara Quella’s experience has also been a positive one. She is a medium and uses her talent to help spirits help the living. “I enjoy it… knowing that I’m helping someone. It’s almost doing the impossible because when someone’s gone, people think they’re totally gone and you can’t ever have contact with them again… but it’s not [impossible].”

Quella is very much a normal teenager, except she interacts with ghosts. “My mom was always part of it and for a while I was rebelling against my mom so I was like ‘Oh, I don’t believe in it,’ but really I did still believe in it. Then I was thirteen and something just clicked,” she said.

Shortly afterward, she started formally serving as a medium and joined a ghost tour group. She is naturally gifted, but her skills have also improved over time. “[I] started out just being able to [sense] little things. I could say ‘oh there’s this [spirit] girl’ but I couldn’t say full on what they were saying to me… Now I am able to sit there and just have a full on conversation [with a spirit].”

Quella specializes in communicating with spirit guides, which she describes as, “A kind of protector of people. Every person has one. Some connect through dreams, some spirit guides give them information…” When I met with Quella, she described my spirit guide to me and told me about his methods of connecting to me.

Although I’d describe myself as a skeptic, I have to admit that some aspects of her description seemed strangely familiar. Quella said that each person’s spirit guide helps them in a different way. “I have an aunt, she’s a doctor and her spirit guides will help with that. She can just look at someone and say what’s wrong with them without even checking them out.”

Quella’s affinity for spirit guides also allows her to help people with one of the things most frequently asked of those who connect to the spirit world. She can help people talk to those who have passed. “I open up, focus on it, and usually I will connect to the spirit guide who connects to the other person and asks them to come down.” She described one experience when she was able to help people connect to those that they had lost. “We were sitting in a circle talking to their grandparents and that was really really nice. They were talking, like ‘I never even thought of that,’ and one of them was crying.”

Though she tends to have a more positive view of ghosts than Sweeney, they cause some difficulties for her as well. “I’m closed a lot because I don’t want to see stuff when I don’t want to see stuff. I don’t want to constantly be walking around and be like ‘Oh, there’s tons of dead people,” Quella laughed.

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, there’s no doubt that they play a large role in the lives of some of our community members. For the curious, there are ghost tours offered across the Twin Cities and organizations like Sweeney’s Truth Seekers are happy to answer questions.