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Shadow of a doubt; Paranormal investigator values science over spookiness.

Byline: Susan Shalhoub

The TV show "Ghost Hunters" makes Eric Extreme of Auburn cringe.

"Not every place is haunted. That's just not how it works," he said. "Those shows are completely outlandish." Many think of the movie version of a paranormal investigator as someone in "The Amityville Horror" or "The Exorcist." But Extreme is dedicated first and foremost to finding the real reasons things go bump in the night and they're usually based in real life - and may not make as riveting of a Hollywood screenplay without bleeding walls or people being thrown through the air.

Extreme, 32, is the founder, director and lead investigator of the Auburn-based Extreme Paranormal Investigators Consortium Inc., or EPIC. The consortium's roots are online. Extreme and co-founder Dan Tanaka of Leominster had an interest in paranormal investigations and met up with like-minded people on the North American Psychic & Paranormal Network website, or NAPPN. Rob Tremblay of Chicopee and Meg Stainer of Leominster are investigators with the group; Worcester resident Taunya Damon, and Leane O'Neil and Adam Hoyt, both from Framingham, are investigators in training. In operation for about a year, the organization is handling several cases, including possible activity in a house in Worcester.

"They were very professional and stayed for hours," said a resident of that house, Michelle Butler of Stafford Street. She said her family reported seeing shadows and hearing voices in the home, which was built in 1892. She wasn't panicked, but called EPIC earlier this year. "I'm not scared, I just want to know if (spirits are) here," she said.

Extreme believes Butler's son was matrixing - a process by which the mind tries to make sense of confusion. In the boy's case, the confusion was negative energy in the house, where he thought he was sensing spirits. Extreme compared matrixing to looking at TV static and after a while, seeing shapes in the static. EPIC team members performed a cleansing in the house to reset the energy.

A cleansing is a ritual performed to rid a home of spirits or negative energy. "I burn a bundle of herbs including white sage, lavender, copal, sweetgrass and cedar in a seashell and push the smoke using an eagle's feather," Extreme said. He then leads a group visualization of negative energy being lifted away by the smoke.

Dispelling the myths

Though ghosts are in vogue at Halloween time, the idea of spirits can be unsettling any time of year - and misunderstood. The topic of paranormal investigation can be met with skepticism. Extreme is focused on educating others about his line of work and rebranding the field.

"I know it sounds crazy," he says more than once in telling about his experiences and the concepts at play. But he maintains that his group goes in first from a scientific angle, looking toward logical, natural explanations for reported paranormal activity. His work, he says, is more about long hours of analyzing voice recordings and ruling things out than actually seeing ghosts or spirits.

Upon first receiving a call from a homeowner - or as in one case Extreme is handling, from those who work in a commercial building - a visit takes place. This follows a phone consultation, where Extreme tries to get a feel for a person's mental state and clarify their concerns. From there, a lot of his job is about educating, Extreme says. "We try and instruct them not to be afraid and instruct them on how to get (the disturbance) to cease," he said. Owners need to be empowered to take back their house, he said, because the spirits may feel it is still their home. A cleansing may then be performed.

One thing is portrayed fairly accurately in the movies, Extreme said: Spirits may not know they are dead, like in the film "The Sixth Sense." Paranormal entities also may feel they have to accomplish something such as retribution, or helping someone in some way. His clients report feeling watched or feeling creepy in certain parts of their homes.

Ghoul tools

EPIC is a registered nonprofit. Extreme and his team take no money for the work they do. However, donations are accepted. Extreme has spent about $3,000 on technological devices to help track and measure activity, such as a full-spectrum camcorder, electromagnetic field detector, digital recorder and infrared laser ambient thermometer. Contributions help cover the costs of equipment.

"By not taking a dime for what we do, I think that lends us more credibility," he said. "We are not in it for the money." Extreme runs his paranormal investigation business on the side and works full time as an assistant manager for a pharmacy.

Having those interested in paranormal activity tag along on investigations is generally not a problem, said Extreme. He enjoys like-minded paranormal enthusiasts and welcomes the input of others. On the preliminary investigation at the Worcester house, for example, two students from the College of the Holy Cross, one a physics major, accompanied EPIC members.

However, the business isn't all about dials and gadgets but about doing a different kind of tuning in. Extreme knew from an early age he was a retro-cognition clairvoyant psychic - he said he can feel or sense residual energy from what has occurred previously in a given location - and believes that being open to such messages is often more important than electromagnetic readings.

"Our innate ability is often the best tool we have," he said.



CUTLINE: (1) Members of the Extreme Paranormal Investigators Consortium, Inc., from left, Dan K. Tanaka of Leominster, Megan J. Stainer of Ontario, Canada, Taunya A. Damon of Worcester, Eric Extreme of Auburn, Leane M. O'Neil of Framingham and Adam A. Hoyt of Framingham. All are photographed at Bancroft Tower in Worcester. (2) The Extreme Paranormal Investigators Consortium has been operating for about a year.
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Title Annotation:LIVING
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 30, 2011
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