Seeking spirits

Ghost-hunting group tries to root out the supernatural truth.

Photo by Shannon Sturgis Alan Lowe and Jason Hall are members of Little Rock's Spirit Seekers group.


— Ghost hunting in real life is a lot like you might see on TV, except without the editing.

“A lot of times, it's like watching paint dry,” said Alan Lowe, co-founder of the central Arkansas nonprofit Spirit Seekers Investigation, Research and Intervention Team.

“You may sit there for two hours waiting for something to happen, and maybe it never does,” added Jason Hall, Spirit Seekers assistant director of investigations.

But sometimes something does happen, or at the very least something odd will turn up when what Lowe called “the real work” of ghost hunting begins and hours of video and audio and hundreds of photographs are reviewed by several sets of eyes. Sometimes that mysterious blinking light bulb is merely the result of faulty wiring, but sometimes events seem to defy conventional explanation. A bright circle that cannot be explained away as dust or moisture of a reflection may appear on a photograph only to disappear when efforts to recreate it are made. A voice unheard by human ears but captured on recording may respond to questions posed to thin air. A tap on the shoulder might be felt, but turning around reveals no one there.

These and more have been among the findings of Spirits Seekers in its almost six years of investigations. And though the group has traveled all over the South and responded to e-mail questions from all over the world, Lowe and Hall say there is certainly no lack of supernatural happenings right in their own back yard (literally, since Lowe says his own house is haunted — “Would I live in anything else?”). Together the two have authored a new book called The Ghosts of Little Rock, and in its 97 pages cover some 18 sites in and around the capital city where some say the events of the past — be it the murder of a prostitute, a grave disturbed, or an angry lynch mob crying for blood — still echo down through the ages.

“Probably my favorite story in the book is Woodson Lateral. It's always just creeped me out,” said Hall, who joined Spirit Seekers about three years ago. Hall described Woodson Lateral Road as a remote stretch of road between Little Rock and Redfield where local legend says a young girl was killed in a tragic car accident decades ago. On rainy spring nights like the one on which she died, she can reportedly be found standing by the roadside looking for help that never came, even seeking rides from passers-by only to mysteriously vanish from the passenger seat when they get to town.

It's not a tale that's unique to that highway, or even to Arkansas, and Hall said he's never seen the ghost himself, but nonetheless said “it's a bad place — you can feel it.”

Most sites in the pair's book are well-known landmarks open to the public, such as the state Capitol building, the MacArthur Museum of Military History, Mount Holly Cemetery and the Toltec Mounds State Park. There are also a couple bed and breakfasts, an old hospital building no longer standing and a private residence that once housed Union soldiers and their Confederate prisoners.

Putting together the book, said the authors, was simply a matter of wanting to share their experiences with others. Many of the chapters are based on the final reports of different Spirit Seeker investigations, and all the chapters tell the stories behind the various locations and why they're believed to be haunted. Some of those stories are ugly, like that of the young girl found dead in the towers of a stately downtown church. Others are more colorful, like ambling ghosts reported at a local comedy club, mistaken by staff for inebriated patrons.

One of the more harrowing experiences, said Hall, came on a night spent in the Old State House Museum in downtown Little Rock, which for a time was used as a medical school, while setting up a night vision camera in a room where headless mannequins wear the gowns of former first ladies.

“I don't know if it was being surrounded by all those headless bodies or what, but ... you walk into that room and there's this sense of dread, that you've just got to get out,” he said, to Lowe’s agreement that he independently felt the same, so much so that he couldn't even bring himself to step foot inside.

Aside from geographic proximity, these locations are all connected by a diligent system of research and study that Lowe doesn't shy away from calling scientific, even if mainstream science might scoff at the notion.

“We always want to make sure we don't put anything out there to the public that's not as authentic as possible,” said Lowe. “We don't want to put trash out there. We know how hard it is to get people to believe in this stuff as is. If we sell trash, it only makes it harder.”

Still, he points out that studies show some 65 percent of Americans believe in ghosts, and in Europe the numbers are even higher. For his part, Lowe says the work of the Spirit Seekers, related in part in the book, amounts to proof of a spirit world, a world in which the energy the human body releases upon death mingles with that which science has proven surrounds us every day. And for him that makes ghost hunting more than just waiting for something to go bump in the night.

“Sure it's fun to go out and get scared, but what we want everyone to understand is there is a spirit world, and they're not here to hurt us,” said Lowe. “We don't know why they're here, but they are.”

In fact, in central Arkansas, they may be all around us.

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