Something startles you awake. You open your eyes to investigate but other than your alarm clock glowing 2:34 a.m., the room is blacker than the back of your eyelids. You lay still listening, trying to pinpoint a noise that could have woken you. But the house is deathly still. Too still.
Suddenly a force pins you down. You struggle to break free but it's as though you're wrapped tight in cling film. You try to scream but the constriction squeezes the air from your lungs. The presence grows stronger, pressing its full weight on you. Hands probe over your body, first on your shoulders, then downward over your stomach and onto your legs.
Then, as quickly as it began, it's over.
Soaked in sweat and trembling uncontrollably, you lay frozen in dreadful anticipation, waiting to be attacked again.
Terrifying encounters like this have become part of an ongoing nightmare for a North Sacramento woman. Only it's not a nightmare. It's a terrifying reality. And it's what drove her to reach out for help from the paranormal research team at California Haunts.
"It all started a couple years ago. And then it started getting more intense. I tried calling a few places for help. Thankfully, Charlotte called back," explains Susan (Susan's real name has been changed to protect her privacy).
"Most of the stuff didn't really bother me," Susan says. "It was kind of interesting. But now, sometimes it's scary."
According to Susan, the interesting, seemingly harmless little events like footsteps thumping across the living room floor, phantom scents of perfume arising out of nowhere, and her daughter suddenly playing with an unseen friend, have progressively been replaced by more sinister encounters, such as the sudden feeling of breath on her neck, large shadowy figures appearing in doorways, and even physical assaults.
"We believe there's the ghost of a man and a little girl here," explained California Haunts founder and lead investigator Charlotte Kosa while setting up video-monitoring software outside the home. "During our preliminary investigation, we actually saw an apparition of the girl at the kitchen table and captured an EVP of a man's voice telling us to "get out"."
(Listen to the EVP here)
While Kosa continued to sync her laptop with four cameras strategically placed inside the home, her team of investigators and Sensitives (one who senses and communicates with spirit) scurried about inside, checking batteries, laying cable and otherwise prepping for the evening's activities. When the last power cord was in, they signaled for the investigation to begin and the house went dark.
ROOM 1: The Office
The evening's activities began in the office, which according to Susan and the California Haunts team, is the most active area of the home. The team began by taking EMF (Electromagnetic Frequency) readings while Caren, one of the team's Sensitives conducted an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) session. EVP sessions entail a person asking a question to the presence, followed by 10-20 seconds of silence to capture a response on digital recorder that may be undetectable to the human ear.
Only moments after beginning, investigator Christina said she experienced the sensation of being touched by something. Christina, an experienced member of the team, has been around such encounters on prior investigations, but her perceived contact with this particular entity shook her to the point of temporarily removing herself from the investigation.
Caren continued calling out questions into the darkness while others recorded the session and scanned the area with EMF detectors and cell censors. Although nothing was heard or seen in the room at the time, the following recording was discovered while reviewing the audio evidence days later:
ROOM 2: The Master Bedroom
From the office, the team moved to the adjacent master bedroom where Susan says some of the physical attacks have occurred. Caren led another EVP session while investigator Chuck snapped off pictures in hopes of catching something unusual on camera.
Unexplained objects have been captured by investigators on ghost hunts by randomly taking pictures in the right place at the right time. According to the California Haunts team, pictures are taken in a series of three. If something appears on one shot that's not present on the other two, it could be evidence that something ethereal was captured.
Unfortunately for the visual aspect of this story, no such phenomena were caught on camera in the bedroom. In fact, other than Susan's rather large cat crying out from within its shelter, the master bedroom was quiet on the night.
ROOM 3: Susan's Daughter's Room
While the master bedroom was quiet, Susan's daughter's room was anything but still. Todd, another sensitive, joined up with the group in the room. Todd claims his ability to see disjointed parts of ghosts, surfaced in January after losing a very close friend.
As soon as he entered, Todd detected a strong male presence that moved from one side of the room to a point directly over investigators Laura and Christina who were taking cell sensor readings on the opposite side.
Cell sensors work by detecting variations in electromagnetic frequency. Widespread speculation holds that ghosts draw energy from a surrounding space when making noise, moving objects or appearing. EMF detectors and cell sensors pick up on resulting spikes or dips in frequency in the area.
Laura followed Todd's direction with her cell sensor to a point on the wall where the little device instantly erupted in a series of beeps and flashes. When she moved the meter to either side of location, it went silent, but every time she returned to that specific point, the monitor screamed back to life.
Seconds later, investigator Christina was scanning an adjacent area when she came to a crucifix hanging on the wall. As soon as the monitor passed over the cross, it spiked. Christina moved her monitor to left and right of the emblem and it went quiet. But the second she placed it in front of the cross again, it exploded back to life, just as Laura's had done on the connecting wall.
Due to the consistency and strength of the signal emitted at the two points in the room, both Laura and Christina (and I) assumed the readings were likely being produced by some kind of electrical output within the wall. But as they were holding the beeping, glowing meters over the areas, they simultaneously went silent. No lights inside or outside the home had been touched. Nothing was plugged in or unplugged. The activity ceased entirely, and neither investigator was able to produce another recording in either of the two spots again that night.
Satisfied with the events in the guest room, the group documented the experiences and exited to the living room. I however, felt compelled to return to the office.
ROOM 4: A Brief Return to the Office
I entered the dark office where Todd had also returned, quietly monitoring the movement of what he claimed to be three spirits in the room.
As I listened to more of Todd's experiences with the afterlife, I felt a strong vibration on my rear pants pocket. I reached back to switch off what I assumed to be my ringing cell phone but found my pocket empty. Then I remembered I had moved the phone to my front pocket and turned it off at the onset of the investigation. I pulled the phone out of my front pocket and found it still powered off.
During this time, my audio recorder also picked up the following strange sound that appears to be a voice saying "no":
Minutes later, as everyone gathered in the living room to review the evening's events, I had a chance to ask investigator Chuck about an experience he was said to have had during the previous investigation of the home. The first paranormal contact the self-proclaimed "debunker" said he'd ever experienced, in fact.
"We were in that room, the [office], and we were going through all the readings and all of a sudden I felt this tingling...down below in the front," said Chuck.
"He goes, "it's vibrating"," added Caren who was standing nearby.
When I told them about my identical experience (differentiated only by 180 degrees around the waistline) in the same room, Chuck and Caren were certain I'd experienced the same thing.
Neither my experience, nor any of the other episodes that happened during the investigation can be viewed as conclusive proof of a haunted house. Nobody was held down on the night. Not a single person felt a breath on their neck. And no sightings of a little girl's ghost were reported.
However, enough peculiar incidents did happen in North Sacramento that evening to understand why someone like Susan would want to have their home investigated, and why inquisitive, intelligent and perfectly sane people like the California Haunts crew would want to learn more about what makes things go bump in the night.
"The things we captured on the EVP last time. Christina's experience tonight. And all the things that have been going on with [Susan] are pretty significant," says Kosa. "There's definitely something here."