By ROBERT JORDAN, Index-Journal

ABBEVILLE, SC (AP) – Kids love ghost stories. Some children never grow up.

Others grow up and become paranormal investigators. Ghost stories in Abbeville and Greenwood counties piqued the interest of Patrick Welsh and Courtney Bautista. They, along with members of their team, the Paranormal Society of Savannah, will travel to Abbeville to search for suspected hauntings.

The visit to Belmont Inn in February was prompted by Bautista, who grew up in Abbeville and shared ghost stories she grew up with to members of her team.

People want answers as to why things are happening, she said. “That’s the main reason we do things, to give them a fence.”

Political cartoons

Welsh formed the team two years ago. He and his father had discussed it for years, he said. “When COVID-19 hit, people were staying at home and we were bored to death. I thought it was a good time to go out and have some stories.

His father, brother-in-law and a childhood friend agreed and they made the team and it snowballed from there, he said. The team now has 17 members who bring a variety of knowledge and skills to conducting investigations.

One of the goals is to teach people how to get answers. Welsh said the team will be offering a course in paranormal research. Investigative efforts are free. The course costs $ 20. The Abbeville class is scheduled from 12:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on February 12 at the Belmont Inn.

Paranormal activity covers anything that cannot be explained, such as supernatural phenomena, phantom activity, and poltergeists, Welsh said.

One of the goals of the courses is to teach people how to conduct a survey, explain basic equipment and what mistakes to avoid. The lessons also involve professionalism, such as obtaining permission to access the property.

Bad actors can get hurt and destroy property, or they vandalize, get drunk and smash beer bottles on private property, he said.

“We spoke to some residents and owners who told us and had to reassure them that this was not our cup of tea. We do not vandalize; we respect everyone’s property, ”said Welsh.

You wouldn’t believe how many people go to places they shouldn’t and are faced with black mold, lead, asbestos or places that fall, he said. You always want to check a location first.

“You walk into a place illegally, some bad things can happen to you, from a health point of view,” Welsh said. “We insist on safety before every investigation. “

Bautista joined the Welsh team in March. She said she was a member of another team and had a workshop and decided to come. As a case manager, his duties range from handling phone calls and computer work to graphic design, video editing, and working with audio and video.

This changes from his job as a barista and cemetery tour guide. “When I want to de-stress, I go through the files and the evidence,” she said.

One of Bautista’s favorite memories is his first team investigation. At Grove Point Plantation in Savannah, she and another member of the team contacted the spirit of a little boy. Part of their gear was a voodoo buddy (a warmth seeking teddy bear) which is really good for use with children’s minds.

They asked the spirit to touch him. She said the spirit literally threw the bear across the room – it flew off the table.

“I was losing him; it freaked me out a bit, ”said Bautista.

Welsh’s interest in the paranormal began when he was a child, when he saw apparitions. Eventually, he described a vision he had to his grandfather who said Welsh described his great-grandfather, a man who was killed in the 1930s.

His great-grandfather was apparently the meanest man in town. He was an alcoholic and abusive. Welsh said one story involved him pistol-whipping a preacher who berated him for being late at a church service.

According to his grandfather’s explanation, his brother grew tired of their father’s behavior and shot him six times in the back.

“I asked him to visit me a few times when I was a kid and I never knew why,” Welsh said. He did research and genealogy to find out why he was coming. “He wanted me to tell my grandfather he was sorry. And that he had been in limbo all this time.

“I think he had a choice to repent or stay where he was, in limbo, but I never saw him again after that,” he said.

“I think a lot of times they want someone to talk to, to listen to, someone to play with. A lot of them, I think, are fascinated by technology, like running water and electricity. A lot of them didn’t have that back then.

Learning from stories is one of the reasons he manages surveys. Welsh said he learned more history than he ever knew.

“The general need that people have to want to learn is what keeps us going,” he said. You want to see and do more and learn the history of the cities they are visiting.

Abbeville, for example, has a family atmosphere. “It’s like Mayberry to me. It’s kind of a home feeling where everyone is so nice; it’s a beautiful city; then we heard all the paranormal stories.

These stories involve the Belmont Inn, the Opera House and Bautista’s interest in the Old Rock House in County Greenwood. Welsh said people shared stories about possible paranormal activity in Abbeville County via social media.

Investigations can take up to two weeks, Welch said. Team members check a place’s history, talk to locals, and then research. The equipment includes laser grids, video and audio recorders, radiation and electromagnetic field detectors.

The team includes men and women with different voices, as some spirits may respond to a person with a high-pitched voice, while others prefer a deep voice.

Perhaps half of the cases the team receives involve paranormal activity, he said. Some people got angry because they thought their property was haunted, but the team couldn’t find anything.

“We don’t make up stories, we tell them as they are,” Welsh said. “It’s a bit like fishing; sometimes you don’t catch anything, you don’t even eat, but you keep coming back.

And when they find something? Most of the time, they’re playful spirits, Welsh said. In 30 years of investigations, he has encountered a malicious entity once, perhaps twice.

In case anyone was wondering, Welsh said he had never seen anything like “The Exorcist”.

“This stuff scares me. It is one of the scariest movies I have ever seen.

If necessary, the team can give a blessing to help a spirit cross. If there is a malicious presence, something above their pay level, they will bring in experts, he said.

Some people want to join a team after watching ghost hunting shows on television, Welsh said. “It’s something that interests you or not, there is no in-between.”

Qualifications required to be an investigator include a good sense of humor and good listening and communication skills, he said. Almost 300 people have expressed an interest in being part of the team. The courses are intended to eliminate people who, as Welsh explained, “are not from planet Earth”.

Just for reference, Welsh said it wasn’t an insult to call himself “Ghostbusters”. “Most of us love this movie,” he said. “We take it as a sort of badge. “

“Basically we’re interviewing the ghosts to see if we can come up with answers for the owner,” Bautista said. “It’s worth it sometimes. You get good stuff. I just hope we get answers to Greenwood and Abbeville.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.