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Paranormal Investigation

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According to a 2013 Harris poll, 42% of Americans believe in ghosts, 36% in U.F.O.s, and 26% in witches. The paranormal courses give you a multidisciplinary approach to studying the unknown. You will examine the paranormal state, from understanding the role of spirits in different cultures to understanding investigative techniques and practices.

PLEASE NOTE: Harper College does not maintain a capability to investigate paranormal cases. Our instructors are not able to help with individual situations.  There are a number of paranormal investigation groups across the country. We do not endorse any group, but you can get information about such groups at these two websites or through a web search.

 You should never pay for a consultation or investigation. Reputable groups generally do not charge for investigations.

Listen to this! What do you hear? What do you think?

This is an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) recording we picked up during one of our CE Paranormal Investigation courses in October, 2011. The investigator asks, "Walter, are you in the hallway?" A voice responds, saying, "I was just down there." Can you hear him?

Do you believe in ghosts?

Note: not all courses are offered every semester. 

Online Paranormal Courses

More Than Mere Ghost Stories: Investigating Folklore - ONLINE

Noted paranormal historian Ursula Bielski goes online to describe places and events that have transcended folklore to become important paranormal investigations. She covers important Chicago paranormal sites such as Lincoln Park and the old City Cemetery grounds, Robinson Woods, and Bachelors Grove, as well as events including the crash of Flight 191, the Iroquois Theater Fire, and the Eastland Disaster. Also examined are incidents from around the country including the Borden murders, the Battle of Gettysburg, and the Galveston Flood. Ursula is an author and the founder of Chicago Hauntings, Inc. She holds an M.A. in American cultural and intellectual history.  LAA 0114

The Ghost in You: When the Living Produce the Paranormal - ONLINE

Ursula Bielski will examine paranormal phenomenon thought to be produced by living people. Review her research into electrokinesis, PK and precognition, phenomena that seems to be produced by the living. Will also include theories on poltergeists and related experiments (the Philip experiment). Ursula holds a B.A. degree in history from Benedictine University and an M.A. in American cultural and intellectual history from Northeastern Illinois University. Her academic explorations include the Spiritualist movement of the 19th century and its transformation into psychical research and parapsychology, and the relationships among belief, experience, science, and religion. LAA 0116

Investigating Demons and Exorcisms - ONLINE

Within the world of Paranormal Studies, a special place is reserved for demonologists. Ralph Sarchie has become noted in this field because of his extensive involvement in cases involving demons and exorcisms. A retired, and highly decorated New York City Police Sergeant, Sarchie is also the best-selling author of Beware the Night: A New York City Cop Investigates the Supernatural, which inspired the film Deliver Us From Evil. His television series The Demon Files ran on Destination America. In this class you will come understand the complete stories behind the cases Ralph has investigated as he presents a full framework for the investigation of claims that demons are at work and when exorcisms are conducted. LAA 0115

Paranormal Investigation Courses

 Paranormal Investigation I: Introduction to Investigating

Begin with a typology of entities and hauntings as classified in Western culture. You will look at the proper use of equipment and software, the evidence review process, and potential pitfalls. Then examine the audio, video, and photo software that can be employed in evidence review. Instructor: Mary Marshall. LAA 0206

Paranormal Investigation II: Site Investigation

Learn to conduct a paranormal investigation under the direction of Bob Jensen who has more than 20 years of investigative experience. You'll capture EVPs, and use photography and video to capture images. Prerequisite: Paranormal Investigation I. LAA 0207

Paranormal Investigation: Local History Research

You will use microfilm as well as electronic newspaper and periodical databases, including those of the Chicago Tribune and Daily Herald, and historical societies to research local hauntings in history.
Instructor: LAA 0307

Paranormal Investigation: Managing a Team

You will learn how make decisive investments in equipment, manage people and schedules, and monitor performance on and off site as you build your investigative team. Instructor: Mary Marshall. LAA 0407

Ghosts and Spirit Entities: Global Perspectives

Develop a broad knowledge of how spirits are understood globally and the social roles they play that will give you a new perspective on how Western societies consider ghosts, spirits and the paranormal. Instructors: Mary Marshall, the founder of The Paranormal MD group, and Scott Cashman, who earned his PhD at the University of Massachusetts in cultural anthropology. LAA 0107

Horror Films, Vampires and More

Gothic in America: More Than Vampires, Ghosts, and Nightmares

Writer and educator, Mihaela Stoica will help you develop a deeper understanding of the themes that define the gothic genre while examining its cultural significance. Discover the meaning behind the stories of vampires, ghosts, and things that go bump in the night. Instructor: Mihaela Stoica, author and and native of Romania. LAA 0149

Hysterics: Horror and Hysteria in Film

You will cover films that pushed physical and mental boundaries, and discover what relevance those films had in their time, and how horror has changed to fit into popular and paranormal culture today. Instructor: Kiel Cross. LAA 0271

Please note, not all courses are offered every semester.

Despite the Winchester Mystery House's cheerful appearance, this massive California mansion's history is edged with tragedy, mystery ... and maybe some ghosts. Naturally, it has inspired a chilling horror movie, Winchester, which opens in theaters today. But before you go to the movie theater, wander through the curious past of one of America's most infamous homes.

1. THE WINCHESTER HOUSE IS NAMED FOR ITS MISTRESS.

Sarah Lockwood Winchester—the wife of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester, whose family created the Winchester rifle that was heralded as "the gun that won the west”—designed and oversaw the construction of the sprawling Queen Anne-style Victorian mansion that bears her name. Construction on the 24,000-square-foot home, which is located at 525 South Winchester Boulevard in San Jose, California, began in 1886.

2. MANY BELIEVE SARAH BUILT WINCHESTER HOUSE OUT OF FEAR.

Overcome with grief in the wake of her husband's death from tuberculosis in 1881, folklore states that Sarah sought out a spiritualist who could commune with the dead. While she was presumably looking for solace or closure, she was instead given a chilling warning.

Through the medium, William told his widow that their tragedies (the couple had only one child, a daughter named Annie, who died at six weeks old) were a result of the blood money the family had made off of the Winchester rifles. He warned that vengeful ghosts would seek her out. In order to protect herself, William said that Sarah must "build a home for [herself] and for the spirits who have fallen from this terrible weapon."

Sarah was advised to leave their home in New Haven, Connecticut, behind, and move west, where she was to build a grand home for the spirits. There was just one catch: construction on the house could never stop. "If you continue building, you will live,” the medium warned Sarah. “Stop and you will die."

3. THE HOUSE WAS UNDER CONSTANT CONSTRUCTION FOR 38 YEARS.

In 1886, Sarah purchased an eight-room farmhouse in San Jose, California, and began building. She employed a crew of carpenters, who split shifts so construction could go on day and night, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, for 38 years. The work only stopped on September 5, 1922, because the octogenarian mastermind behind the home died of heart failure in her sleep. It's said that upon hearing the news of Sarah's death, the carpenters quit so abruptly they left half-hammered nails protruding from walls.

4. THE HOUSE IS FULL OF ARCHITECTURAL ODDITIES.

Sarah issued many bizarre demands to her builders, including the building of trap doors, secret passages, a skylight in the floor, spider web windows, and staircases that led to nowhere. There are also doors that open to blank walls, and a dangerous door on the second floor that opens out into nothing—save for an alarming drop to the yard far below.

5. AN EARTHQUAKE ONCE RATTLED THE HOUSE AND TRAPPED SARAH.

In 1906, the great San Francisco Earthquake caused three floors of the then seven-story house to cave in. A 1900 postcard of the place shows a tower that was later toppled by the natural disaster. That tower—plus several other rooms destroyed in the disaster—were never rebuilt, but cordoned off. As for Sarah, she was safe but stuck in the Daisy Bedroom, named for the floral motif in its windows. She had to be dug out by her staff, as its entrance was blocked off by rubble.

6. THE HOUSE WAS DESIGNED LIKE A LABYRINTH.

Some say the labyrinth layout was meant to confuse the ghosts, allowing Sarah some peace and a means to escape them. She was the sole architect of this extraordinary home, and no master building plan has ever been uncovered. So Sarah may be the only person who ever truly knew all of its secrets. When movers were called in after her death, one lamented its labyrinthine design that includes many winding hallways. One mover toldAmerican Weekly the Winchester House was a place "where downstairs leads neither to the cellar nor upstairs to the roof."

7. SOME SAY THE SYMBOLS IN THE HOUSE POINT NOT TO GHOSTS, BUT FRANCIS BACON.

An alternate theory on the Winchester House's perplexing design declares that Sarah was creating a puzzle full of encryptions inspired by the work of English philosopher Francis Bacon. There's speculation that clues to the house's true meaning are hidden in the ballroom, the Shakespeare windows, and the iron gates. This theory suggests that Sarah was a member of a mystic society like the Rosicrucians, or a secret society like the Freemasons—or possibly both.

8. THERE ARE OTHER THEORIES, INCLUDING THAT SARAH WAS "CRAZY."

Others speculate Sarah was coping with her grief with a flurry of activity, or that she was simply "crazy." However, Winchester Mystery House historian Janan Boehme paints a happier picture, imagining that the continual renovations reminded Sarah of the good times when she and William built their New Haven home together.

"I think Sarah was trying to repeat that experience by doing something they both loved," Boehme told the Los Angeles Times. She also suspects that Sarah was just an ardent—albeit eccentric—philanthropist who used her family fortune to purposefully employ the San Jose community. "She had a social conscience and she did try to give back," Boehme offered, noting the hospital Sarah built in her husband's name. "This house, in itself, was her biggest social work of all."

9. ONCE IN WINCHESTER HOUSE, SARAH WAS RECLUSIVE, BUT NOT ALONE.

There is only one known photo of the widow Winchester, which was taken surreptitiously. Though she was reclusive, she was never alone. She had 18 servants, 18 gardeners, and the ever-present construction team working on the grounds. Every morning, Sarah met with the foreman to discuss the always-evolving building plans. And it's said that each night, she visited the Séance Room to speak with the spirits, who weighed in on plans for the house's unusual design.

10. THE HOUSE WAS AS OPULENT AS IT WAS ODD.

The home boasts 950 doors, 10,000 windows, 40 stairways, 52 skylights, 47 fireplaces, six kitchens, plus a trio of elevators, and once-groundbreaking elements like wool insulation, carbide gaslights, electricity, and an indoor shower, complete with a sewage drainage system.

11. NO ONE IS SURE HOW MANY ROOMS THE HOUSE HELD.

Following Sarah's death, Winchester House was converted into a tourist attraction. But when trying to get a room count, the new owners kept coming up with different numbers. After five years of renovations, they estimated the number of rooms to be about 160, which is the number most often quoted today.

12. SARAH HAD AN OBSESSION WITH THE NUMBER 13.

Among the secrets Sarah took to her grave was why she insisted that so many things relate to the number 13. The Winchester House has many 13-paned windows and 13-paneled ceilings, as well as 13-step stairways. Even her will had 13 parts, and she signed it 13 times. But the pièce de résistance might be the house's 13th bathroom, which contains 13 windows of its own.

13. IT’S A NATIONAL LANDMARK.

The Winchester Mystery House earned landmark status on August 7, 1974. The fascinating mansion is still owned by the family (families?) who purchased it from the Winchester estate in 1922 for $150,000—however, their identity is another Winchester House mystery. But thanks to them, tourists can now explore 110 of the 160-some rooms Sarah dreamed up. The Winchester Mystery House even boasts special tours on Halloween and Fridays the 13th.

14. IT’S REGULARLY CITED AS ONE OF THE MOST HAUNTED PLACES IN AMERICA.

To this day, Winchester House is a destination for believers who hope to have a paranormal encounter of their own. A popular spot for such activity is the corridors of the third floor, where tour guides have claimed to hear footsteps and disembodied voices whisper their names.

In a Reddit AMA, a Winchester House tour guide confirmed that the house’s third floor—only a portion of which is accessible during house tours—is definitely the spookiest part of the house, “because that's where the servants lived, so there's been a lot of reported activity there. Also, when you are on that floor you can never really hear any of the other tours, so you feel pretty isolated.”

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