I am not sure if I have experienced Paranormal Activity. Many years ago I lived in a house that was said to be haunted and I had some strange experiences. I wrote about it before. You can read it here. The subject itself has always interested me. I watch any movie relating to the subject. Recently I watched the new movie “Paranormal Activity” and I started thinking how it would be interesting to talk to someone who investigated such things. I use to have a friend whose Aunt was one but lost contact with them years ago. So anyway just a few days after watching “Paranormal Activity” I was alerted to a comment left on one of my articles. Turns out the comment was left byBrenton Buckner who is the Lead Investigator for Dayton Paranormal Investigators.
It is odd that right when I am interested in speaking to a Paranormal Investigator one leaves a comment on an old article of mine. So I went to the website he left in the comment and wrote and asked if I could interview him. Brenton was more than willing to answer all my questions and to go into lots of detail with his answers.
I hope you enjoy this interview with Brenton Buckner from Dayton Paranormal Investigators and if you are experiencing Paranormal Activity maybe this interview will give you the information you need to get help.
When did the Dayton Paranormal Investigators start and what made you get involved in this? Give us some insight into DPI that we can not learn from reading your site?
Dayton Paranormal Investigators is basically a culmination of a lifetime of experience and fascination with the supernatural. It is hard to pinpoint an exact start date because it has always been a part of my life. It existed in many forms before we put a name on it, but the name is about 5 years old. The website is about a year old.
I think to understand DPI you need to understand the background that it was born from. I am not a native Ohioan. I was born in the deep religious South. I was raised in the area that inspired Gone with the Wind in a little town called Jonesboro , Georgia . My father was a minister and we were raised in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.
At that time, the Catholic Church (which had long been the place people turned to when they needed guidance with supernatural experiences) was attempting to stay relevant in an increasingly secular world. They were shying away from anything having to do with the paranormal. I believe the number of ordained exorcists dropped into the single digits. The Pentecostal and Charismatic Church stepped in to fill the void left by the Catholic Church. They didn’t shy away from things like demonic possession, exorcisms, divine healing, prophesy and any other supernatural aspect of Christianity. In fact, they embraced it. So, this was the environment I grew up in.
It seemed like the supernatural was all around me. Demons were being cast out by the hundreds. People were claiming to be miraculously healed. People were speaking in tongues. People would tell you that they had a message from God for you. It was all pretty scary for a little kid.
As I grew older, I began to see things that made me question what was going on in those churches. A lot of it seemed to be more of a performance than a legitimate supernatural experience. I believe that things got out of hand and it became more about being accepted and validated by the group than about a genuine personal experience. So did that mean everything I ever saw was fake? How could I separate what was real from what wasn’t? It was all very confusing at the time.
When I turned 18, I went into the military and became what they call a “human intelligence gatherer”. It is part investigator, part interrogator and part counter intelligence agent. I learned a lot about investigating, interviewing and processing information for truth. Sadly, my military career was cut short due to an injury that caused shin splints whenever I marched over extremely long distances. However, the experience I gained in the military would prove to be valuable in investigating the paranormal.
When I left the military, I went into the ministry. Since I was ordained by the same type of church that I grew up in, I was able to experience the supernatural as an agent of the Church. This was different for me because I was in control of the situation. I could decide if something was legitimate or not.
It was here that I had my first real undeniable supernatural experiences. Most of my experiences were with what I would call diabolical spirits.
I was fortunate enough to be mentored by two men from very different cultures than my own. One was a former Buddhist monk who converted to Christianity and became a minister. The other was a man who founded ten churches in Zimbabwe , Africa . The supernatural played a much larger role in both of these men’s cultures than in my own. I learned a lot from both of them.
While the church I was affiliated with was completely open to talking about angels and demons, ghosts were a different story. In most churches, the subject of ghosts is very taboo. To this day, most churches in America will not openly discuss the subject and anyone who does is usually admonished. Many churches teach that ghosts do not exist, but as a student of the Bible myself, I couldn’t see that the Scripture was so clear cut on the subject. Much of what the church teaches on the subject is based on traditional translation of Scripture. In searching the Scripture for my own answers, I could not draw the same conclusions that many of my peers did. I saw a Bible full of the supernatural. I saw people able to communicate with the dead. I saw the ghost of a prophet speaking from the grave. I saw that the disciples themselves believed in ghosts.
Once I left the ministry, I was able to talk with other Christians about their belief in the supernatural and I found that many of them felt the same way as I did. Studies show that even though they are taught the contrary, more than one third of Christians believed in ghosts. I found that many of these same people were having experiences that they could not explain. They felt that they could not turn to the church for fear of being ridiculed or labeled as “possessed”.
That is really where this began for me. I began helping those who felt they had no where else to turn to. That is what sets DPI apart from a lot of other “ghost hunter” groups. They focus on the dead. We focus on the living.
What exactly do you do, what is your part in Dayton Paranormal Investigators?
I am the founder and lead investigator for DPI. I am very hands on. Basically, I coordinate and lead any investigation we might be involved in.
Do you truly believe in Paranormal Activity?
Yes, without a doubt. Even if I had never experienced it in my life, I cannot deny that it has been a part of the human experience for as long as history has been recorded. Some of the oldest religious writings talk about angel-like and demon-like entities. In Asia , there is a documented belief in ghosts as early as 800 BC. If you look at some of the oldest existing works of Western literature, you will find a prevalent belief in ghosts. There is a ghost in the Iliad. There is a ghost in Herodotus’ Tale. There is also a ghost in Oresteia. There are historical accounts that the Roman Emperor Caligula’s ghost appeared for a while after his death. Early historians Plutarch and Pliny the Younger wrote about ghost sightings. It is as much a part of the fabric of the human experience as love and tragedy. I simply cannot believe that something which seems to be such a large part of the collective consciousness of the human race could be entirely based in fiction.
Can share a story or two? And tell of us the scariest thing you have experienced?
As a minister and agent of the church I experienced a lot of what I would call diabolical spirits. I have encountered one person who was what we call “perfectly possessed”. That is when a person has completely given their body over to a demonic or diabolical entity. There is no longer a battle being fought. The person has surrendered completely. This is extremely rare. In this case, the person moved in ways that were contrary to human nature. They slithered along the ground like a snake in a way that is physically impossible for me to replicate. They coughed up a thick black substance which smelled like sulfur. Their face contorted in ways that seem impossible to do with our current muscle structure. They spoke in unknown languages and with voices that sounded very different than their own. I have also seen reportedly haunted or possessed objects move by themselves. Since leaving the church and becoming a paranormal investigator I have seen a lot of the same. Once you commit to doing this sort of thing, you see and hear all kinds of things, but for your own sanity you don’t think about them when they do not involve a case.
I am much more afraid of the normal than I am of the paranormal. I hate crawl spaces and unused attics. I have been scared many more times by a squirrel charging at me than by a ghost. Possums and raccoons have a knack for hiding in some of the scariest places in the house. I don’t like bees and I can do without spiders.
When I was young, I had an experience which scared me. I was in the 8th grade at the time and I watching the movie The Exorcist with a girlfriend and her little brother. They were Catholic and had a statue of The Virgin Mary holding an infant Jesus in her arms sitting on top of the television. As we were watching the movie, the statue (for no apparent reason) broke in half. The head of Mary just fell right off the statue. We felt just a very evil presence in the room. Then, there was the shadow of a large bird circling the room, but there was no bird. All three of us in the room saw it happen. We all felt the same thing.
I tried to tell my parents, but they just scolded me for watching the movie. Watching that movie was not acceptable by my Pentecostal parents. I tried to tell a minister, but once again I was just reprimanded for watching that kind of movie. No one was willing to help me understand or deal with what I had experienced. I felt alone in it and that is probably why I do what I do today. I do not want people to feel alone when they are experiencing something like this.
There are lots of momentary scares on most investigations. When you hear a bang in a dark basement, you are going to jump. Anyone will, but you remind yourself why you are there and you get back to work. I do not allow fear to grip me when I am on an investigation because I believe that certain entities feed off of the negative energy. I am not afraid of ghosts because most of them are just residual energy and the ones that aren’t need a lot of energy to manifest or move even the smallest of objects. I am not afraid of demons because I know I have authority over them and they really can only do what we allow them to do.
What is your approach to a new case?
We do things differently than most paranormal investigation groups because our mission is probably different than most of them. We really aren’t what most people would consider a “ghost hunting” group. We are not interested in proving there is a ghost in the old abandoned warehouse. We don’t sneak into graveyards in the middle of the night or padlock ourselves into an abandoned hospital to look for ghosts. We don’t do classic style ghost hunts; we do investigations. We don’t go looking for ghosts; we wait for them to come to us.
I don’t want that to sound like I look down on those groups that do those sorts of things. I see the merit in that if it is done the right way. They are doing something important, but that just isn’t something we are interested in doing.
A case for us really begins when we are contacted by someone who believes they are experiencing paranormal activity. They normally find us through word of mouth or through the website. I will conduct an initial interview with the client which consists of about 40 standard questions. The answer to these questions will give me a better understanding of what is going on and (perhaps more importantly) how the client feels about what is going on.
From this initial interview I will develop a profile for the case. I will use this profile to determine if this is a case that I feel DPI should take. There is a lot that goes into that decision. Sometimes it is agonizing. There is more to it than most people think. I want to help everyone, but not every case will benefit from this type of investigation.
For some groups the most important question is if they believe there is paranormal activity going on or not. That is not really the case for DPI. The more important question to me is if the client truly believes that there is something paranormal going on. Then, I want to determine how they feel about it. Is it fear or fascination? This all goes back to our philosophy of focusing on the living and not the dead.
I never make a determination about what is actually happening until after an investigation. I assume there is a perfectly natural explanation for it all. Sometimes, even if I know there is a natural explanation for what the client has described, I will take the case anyway. I think this is another thing that makes us different than a lot of other groups. If the client is truly in fear of what is happening, it doesn’t matter to me if I think I am going to collect any good evidence or not. It only matters if I think DPI can make a difference in the lives of those involved.
We turn down a lot of cases. We don’t accept cases from clients who are just looking to validate that their location is haunted for business purposes. We don’t take cases where the client isn’t looking for help. We don’t take cases from clients who are not willing to be honest with us. It is important we know about some very personal issues such as drug use, medications or a history of psychological issues. There are a myriad of reasons why we may not take a case. I may ask a client to do a second interview with someone who works with the team that has a different area of expertise than I do. For instance, we have a certified building inspector, a psychologist and a minister who are either a team member or a friend of the team that I may ask to interview the client.
Often times, clients are just looking for a consultation. They may not be willing to open their home up to strangers. They just want to know how they can improve their situation on their own. I understand this and I spend a great deal of my personal time counseling people who may be experiencing paranormal activity either by phone or through email.
Once we decide to take a case. I will decide what the staffing needs of the case are. I believe that a smaller, well trained and mature group of investigators is much better suited for an investigation of this nature than a large group of people with various experience levels and reasons for being there. I hand pick my staff and often they are former clients. We only have two full time staff members and everyone else is only asked to be part of investigations where their specific skill set will aid the client. I only choose people who have a heart for helping people. I don’t choose people who just want to see ghosts. Most of the people I work with have seen enough of the paranormal to last them a lifetime, the only reason they are willing to see it again is to help someone.
We will conduct the initial investigation and then spend a week or so to review the evidence. We will then meet with the client and decide if anything more needs to be done. We then continue to follow up with the client for as long as they want to maintain that relationship.
Do you charge for your services? Why or why not?
We have never charged a penny for anything that we do. We do not accept donations either. We believe in the “pay it forward” method of payment. If you were helped by Dayton Paranormal Investigators, we ask that you be willing to help someone else that may be in your situation in the future. That is all. Like I said, we do this because we want to help people who feel they have no where else to turn. The church is reluctant to help people. The police do not investigate the paranormal. If we don’t do this, who will?
What kind of equipment do you use on a investigation?
It really depends on the situation. The most important piece of equipment is our brain and our senses. Sometimes you can have all the scientific equipment in the world telling you everything is normal when everyone in the room knows it isn’t. Sometimes we can be so focused on reading equipment that we miss the most obvious evidence in the case.
That being said, we want to collect as much scientific evidence as possible. We use digital voice recorders to collect electronic voice phenomena. We use video cameras with night vision to collect live action video. We use digital SLR cameras to collect photographic evidence. We use EMF detectors to measure fluctuations in electromagnetic fields. We also use both a standard thermometer and an infrared thermometer to measure any sudden changes in temperature. We may experiment with other equipment such as trap cameras, infrared cameras or even more experimental equipment depending on the situation.
In your opinion, what is the most mistaken for Paranormal Activity when it isn’t?
Most things have logical explanations. Animals make up a large part of reported paranormal activity, especially in rural areas. It may be raccoons in the attic, a cat in the crawl space or rats in between the walls. A lot of times, there is a structural issue with the building itself. That is why we are the only team I know of who has a certified commercial and residential building inspector that we can call in. It could be faulty wires, bad insulation or a shifting foundation that is the cause of some reports. Other times, it is a psychological effect. I get a lot of reports from people who watch a lot of paranormal investigation television shows and then start to interpret every bump in the night as a ghost. You never know what you will find on an investigation.
One thing that is often mistaken for one kind of paranormal activity and turns out to be something else is what we call a residual haunting or a residual ghost. We do not know what causes it, but what many people perceive to ghosts are actually moments in time that continue to play themselves over and over. One good example of this can be found at almost every major battlefield in the world. For instance at Gettysburg , people report seeing entire battalions of soldiers marching off to battle, but these soldiers are oblivious to our own presence. You can call out to them, get in their path or attempt to engage them in any way you choose and they will not react. They are not ghosts in the traditional sense. They are not disembodied spirits that retain a capacity to communicate and think like they did when they were alive. They are not really there. It is more like a movie. This can happen on a smaller level too. If grandma sat in the same chair every day for 20 years and rocked, you may experience a residual haunting where the chair rocks by itself. That doesn’t mean grandma is there in the room with you. It just means that there is some residual energy which continues to be present in that room.
Have you ever been able to get any documented proof?
Nothing that I would feel comfortable presenting to the public for two reasons. First, the very nature of what we do at Dayton Paranormal Investigators is a very private and personal experience. We are not interested in finding ghosts or other spirits in abandoned buildings or the like. While I find those kinds of legends fascinating on a personal level, that is not what we are about. We get involved only when the natural and supernatural worlds seem to be intersecting. The majority of our cases tend to center around people more than locations. Therefore, there are always people behind our cases. They may be your neighbors or your boss. Often times they involve children. This makes it difficult to present evidence to the public.
Secondly, I have a very high standard for what I qualify as evidence. As a decent photographer myself, I don’t trust most photographic evidence I see. I certainly don’t consider any kind of orb or streaks of light paranormal evidence. I have taken hundreds and thousands of photographs and that kind of thing can happen in any picture anywhere.
I also think that most EVP ( Electronic voice phenomena)evidence is subjective at best. 99% of the time, I can give you what I think is an EVP and you won’t be able to make sense of it, but if I put the suggestion in your head of what I think it says, you will hear it too. The investigator in me doesn’t trust that. I need something concrete to qualify as evidence.
In the end, I wonder if anyone will ever be able to collect indisputable evidence of the paranormal. There is a paradox in trying to measure the supernatural with natural equipment. The greatest progress in this field has been made by men and women with little more than pen and paper . . . people like William James and Hans Holzer. If you and I are in a room and we both experience something paranormal but it doesn’t register on any of my equipment, does that mean it didn’t happen? You and I will always have evidence in the way of personal experience that will mean more to us than any EVP or photograph.
The new movie Paranormal Activity has created a lot of buzz. It is a movie that has frightened many people who have seen it. I was not able to sleep myself for two nights after watching it. Every noise in the house woke me. I asked Brenton if he had seen the movie and what his opinion was.
Yes I went to see it with my girlfriend who is also an investigator. I actually liked it on a lot of levels. I was surprised it was about demonic possession. I was under the impression it was about a ghost. It was a very smart kind of scare. They didn’t need big budget special effects and stylized Hollywood monsters. They scared you with things that you are already afraid of. That is what was brilliant about it.
What do you think of the way they portrayed Paranormal Activity?
You know, my girlfriend and I both commented on how they did their research. They obviously read a lot of info on possession. I would say up until the last 10 minutes of the movie, it is a classic case of demonic oppression. I have seen that same story play out in real life. It pretty much happens like that… very subtle at first and then progressing. The ending is not realistic. In reality, the worst cases of demonic oppression like that often end in suicide.
DO you know what exactly causes Ghosts, Angels, or Demons?
Nothing causes demons or angels. They are spiritual beings which existed long before you or me. They have a mind, will and emotions. They are working in both the spiritual realm and in the natural realm regardless of if we believe in them or not.
Ghosts are a different story. Another thing that sets DPI apart from a lot of ghost hunter groups is that we do not believe in any form of cohabitation with ghosts. If ghosts are here, they aren’t meant to be here. There is something out of order. Something went wrong with the natural process that happens after we die.
If a client tells me that they do not want to get rid of the ghost, but they just want to find a way to live with the ghost, I do not take the case. If it is the ghost of someone you know, then you should want that person to move on to whatever is the next chapter in their journey. If the ghost is not someone you know, then why would you want them in your home or business? If they are the disembodied spirit of a human, then at the root of it, they are still people. Would you let another stranger live in your house?
This is one of the many things people pick up from watching Paratainment shows like Ghost Hunters that I find myself constantly correcting. People think it is trendy to have a pet ghost now. It isn’t. It can in some cases be dangerous. That is one of the main reasons we went public with the websites.
How do you go about stopping demons, ghosts and Paranormal Activity in general?
Every case is different. There really isn’t a step-by-step guide to ridding your home of paranormal activity. No two cases are alike.
If you are dealing with a case that involves demons or some other diabolical spirit, then you must first determine why it is there. In my experience, these types of spirits can only enter through a door which someone involved in the case has opened. It isn’t always obvious. It isn’t usually something as dramatic as satanic rituals or a pact with the devil. It is usually something much more subtle. It can be a decision that was made that seemed insignificant at the time. Once you find that door, then you can shut it.
If there is a ghost involved, then again the first step is figuring out why they are there. This can be difficult because most ghosts are not powerful enough to communicate with the living. Do they not realize they have died? Are they trying to pass a last message along before they die? Are they here to warn us of something? Are they afraid of facing judgment in death for something they did in life? There can be any number of reasons, but in every case they don’t belong here. They are not where they are supposed to be and we need to help them get there. In some cases it can be done by helping that spirit realize where they are supposed to be and in some cases you have to get a little tougher and let the ghost know they are not welcomed in the world of the living any longer.
Is there anything else that you want people to know?
If you are experiencing what you believe to be paranormal activity, you are not alone. There are people who are willing and qualified to help. Dayton Paranormal Investigators has helped many people in your same situation. Many of us have been in your situation ourselves at one time. If you are in the Dayton , Cincinnati , Columbus or Northern Kentucky area and would like to contact us, there is a contact form on our website. Everything is completely confidential and nothing will happen that you are not completely comfortable with.