Ghost Detectives investigate ghostly voices inside the Edgar Allan Poe House

Everybody likes a good ghost story, but few ever find themselves caught up in the middle of one.  Getting caught in the middle, however, is exactly what happened to this reporter last spring when popular paranormal investigators, The Ghost Detectives, set up shop at the Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum.

The Ghost Detectives, whose television show airs on the Fox affiliate in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Pa., had come to Baltimore to investigate several sites of paranormal interest.  These included the Admiral Fell Inn in Fells Point, Westminster Hall and Burial Grounds (where Poe and his wife, Virginia are buried) and The Edgar Allan Poe House on Amity Street.  I, along with Baltimore Post-Examiner staff photographer Erik Hoffman, was on hand to cover the group’s Saturday evening meet and greet at The Admiral Fell Inn.

Is Edgar Allan Poe’s ghost living inside his old house? (Public Domain)

Hoffman and I arrived in Fells Point after spending the preceding hours doing background work at several places associated with Poe.  Interviews with visitors at the Poe house that afternoon were followed by photo stops at the now defunct Church Home and Hospital (formerly known as the Washington Medical College, the place where Poe died) and The Horse You Came In On Saloon (believed to be one of Poe’s favorite watering holes).  Once at the Inn, we introduced ourselves to the congenial cast.

The interviews with the Ghost Detectives were intriguing and enlightening.  It was clear they took their business seriously but every one was anxious to answer questions and share anecdotes of previous investigations.  The meet and greet over, I asked founder Bob Christopher if it would be okay to follow the team as they prepared for their investigation of the Poe House.  I promised that Hoffman and I would stay out of the way and that I wouldn’t print any spoilers in the Post-Examiner which might ruin the suspense of the show.  Christopher agreed, and we set off for the house just as the sun was going down.

The atmosphere on Amity Street was somewhat circus-like with the arrival of the Ghost Detective’s car, a vintage hearse, which sported distinctive graphics and ghoulish green neon lights.  Neighborhood kids gathered around the car and peppered the detectives with a dozen questions, most of which were answered in matter-of-fact ease by Brooklyn native Anthony Romano, Jr.  I stood outside the house taking notes while Hoffman entered on the heels of the set-up crew; the only stipulation (and this from the curator) being he not photograph the museum security system.

The set-up complete and the photo-ops done, Hoffman returned to his office to begin the tedious process of picking through what must have been some 500 shots.  That left me outside with Christopher, Romano, a Baltimore City police officer and three other cast members.  Inside,  another crew conducted the first part of the investigation.  I was prepared to stay till midnight to ask the exiting crew a few final questions.  I was not, however prepared when Christopher turned to me and said, “Why don’t you come on in with us.”

Is the Edgar Allan Poe House Haunted? What about the voices. We heard something. (Erik Hoffman)

The opportunity to observe the investigation opened the door for a better report.  Plus, it gave me the chance to judge firsthand the methods and the motives of the Ghost Detectives.  It’s easy enough to manipulate sounds and images for television.  Not so much with a skeptical newsman looking over your shoulder.

I followed this second crew, which consisted of Christopher, Romano, David Conklin, Jr and Steve Barry, up to the second floor exhibit room, where several pieces of specialized equipment were already in place.  Christopher, somewhat restively, continued climbing to the third floor bedroom; a creepy crib even in the light of day.

The Poe House has a very different feel after dark. The plaque from the Edgar Allan Poe School somehow seems more noble at night.  Portraits of the author and his delicate young wife convey an almost supernal aura, while the set of Gustave Doré illustrations of The Raven take on a life of their own.

With the team in place, the lights were turned off so that thermal imaging cameras could record the investigation.  What to me at first seemed like a scientific seance turned weird rather quickly as one by one, various detecting devices went off.  The first was quickly explained as the team surmised that a high voltage power line attached to the house was what triggered one energy meter.  Not so easily explained was the distinctive sound of a particular proximity device, going off somewhere else in the house, when only one had been set-up and that one was in the room where we were standing.  Then, there were the voices.

The first of these voices was picked up, ironically, not by the ghost hunting equipment, but by the museum’s security system.  We tried to retrieve that particular sound bite, but to no avail.  The second was picked up by one of the small digital recorders.  Faint and fleeting, Christopher passed the recorder around the room, giving each of us a chance to offer an opinion.  There was something there all right, but keener ears than mine would have to figure it out.  All agreed that a computer driven analysis would offer the best shot at discerning the sound.

Ghost Detectives’ car (Erik Hoffman)

In keeping with my promise not to say anything, which would ruin the suspense of the show, I watched the episode when it aired last Friday night.  Interestingly, some of the aforementioned phenomena didn’t make the final cut.  The reason?  I can’t say for sure, but having spent several hours with the Ghost Detectives, I suspect that in the end they found the results of those soundings either inconclusive or unprovable.

Yes, having dispassionate observers, like the museum curator and myself, present as these oddities occurred would lend weight if the Ghost Detectives simply wanted to produce a sensational show.  But our neighbors to the north can sniff out a phony pretty fast and if anything, I found this team utterly sincere.  Was their earnest effort at the Poe House rewarded?  Watch the episode and judge for yourself.

As for me, if there is ever a next time, I may bring a clove of garlic along.