Group documents the unknownFriends from Cottage Grove form ghost-hunting team
By: Scott Wente, South Washington County Bulletin
An evening out for one group of friends from Cottage Grove might include sitting in darkness in the most haunted places they can find, with hopes of catching audio or video of the paranormal.
The Sanity Check Paranormal Investigators, a team just over one year old, are friends who decided one day that they wanted to work together to experience and document paranormal activity like ghosts and spirits.
They follow a scientific approach to ghost-hunting, said the group’s founder Ken Gangi — creating a record of what’s there, and investigating to discover the difference between paranormal and naturally caused events.
“There are times when we’re able to debunk a lot of things,” Gangi said. “It may be something that the wind’s blowing and it’s moving something; that’s why this is happening.”
Gangi said personal experiences piqued his curiosity in the paranormal.
Years ago, Gangi was in the military, stationed in Norfolk, Va. and he lived with another man in a hotel room. The man, who had been living there before he moved in, warned him he might hear things at night, but just to ignore them. One night he was sleeping in the living room area of the one-bedroom apartment and, he heard footsteps on the carpet coming toward him, and then felt a brush on his arm, he said. He then heard the apparition moving toward the kitchen. Then pots and pans started clanging and doors started opening and closing. His roommate came out of the bedroom shortly after and said he, too, had seen something walking by his bed, he said.
“We had two grown men that basically scared each other, so we went down and sat down at the kitchen table and started playing cards,” he said.
Soon after, two glasses flew out of the cupboard and broke in the sink, he said. The two were so shaken they ended up sleeping on the porch, he said.
They later learned a man had committed suicide at that end of the hotel.
More recently, about two years ago, Gangi’s family stayed at a lighthouse in northern Minnesota known to have paranormal activity.
“We went to bed and our shades got completely ripped off the window,” he said. “That’s where I basically decided that I wanted to find out more.”
Gangi researched parapsychology, talked to investigating teams in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and ended up joining one, but it didn’t go out and investigate enough for him so he decided to start his own.
“Sanity Check is a group of friends that got together … I told them what I want to do and some of our team members have their own personal experiences, but never pursued them,” he said.
Sanity Check has done seven investigations so far of residences and businesses including Valentino’s Night Club in South St. Paul and the Mabel Tainter Theater in Menomonie, Wis.
“We’re not thrill-seekers, we don’t go into clients’ homes or their business to scream and laugh and just get scared,” he said. “When you take it from that perspective to a scientific level, your fear isn’t there. You’re more interested in what it is and why it’s happening.”
Before going to investigate a place they research its history and talk with anyone who has experienced haunting there, Gangi said.
They work at night, between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. and they start each investigation with a protection prayer. Then they split up into groups of two or more and go to different parts of the building that could be haunted. They’ll ask questions of any spirits present, and sometimes they’ll hear responses when they play back their audio recordings.
Equipment like video cameras, electromagnetic field detectors, still cameras, audio recorders and an infared thermometer helps the group detect and record paranormal activity, Gangi said.
Everyone on the team has a job to do, Gangi said, whether it’s interviewing, research, analyzing evidence or technical support.
“I don’t think I could put together a better team than this,” he said.
Members pay for the equipment themselves and they don’t charge the owners of the businesses and residences they investigate for their work.
“It’s hard for me to charge somebody for something that I want,” he said. “I want to go in there and experience this … and be able to analyze it and learn from it.”
There are T-shirts for sale on the group’s Web site, and the proceeds go to fund their work.
The name Sanity Check Paranormal Investigators came from one of their first clients, Gangi said, an Ellsworth, Wis., woman whose family and friends thought was insane when she said she’d experienced a haunting. She told group members, “they thought I needed some kind of sanity check,” and they’d found their name.
Gangi said he’s had a lot of interest from people who want to join the group, but it’s currently closed to new members.