SHERIDAN — You know you closed that cupboard door last night — and the night before that, and the one before that. But somehow, it’s open every morning.
You feel cold when you pass through the doorway into the study.
You swear you saw something…over there…and the dog keeps barking at the empty staircase.
You are a level-headed person, but you can’t shake that feeling of unease you feel in your house or the worry that maybe you’re going crazy.
“Sometimes it’s to prove they’re not crazy to themselves,” Founder of Sheridan Paranormal Research Starr Lyles said about why people call her organization for help.
Always it’s because people need to know if that old house they bought on Avon Street or that business they work at on Main Street is haunted, which can mean myriad things.
“Sheridan Paranormal Research is a club dedicated to investigate what appears to be paranormal and seek out the truth behind what goes bump in the night,” Lyles said.
Lyles founded Sheridan Paranormal Research approximately five years ago, but she has been interested in ghosts and paranormal activity since she was a child in Tennessee. Her interest grew when she became a Christian minister 25 years ago and began to see things she could not humanly explain.
She and her team of ghost hunters differentiate between ghosts — the soul of a person that is stuck on earth — and spiritual beings such as angels (good protectors and messengers) and demons (evil spirits that wish to destroy and cause fear).
If Sheridan Paranormal Research discovers what they believe to be an evil spirit in an investigation, they counsel their client to seek professional spiritual help from a minister.
If the team finds ghosts, they help their clients deal with that knowledge by teaching them how to talk to a ghost or by encouraging them to ignore the ghost as best as they can.
“Personally, I don’t engage ghosts in my own home because once they know you can hear them, they will bombard you,” Lyles said.
Sheridan Paranormal Research does not use psychics or mediums or do rituals. The organization approaches ghost hunting from a skeptical point of view, seeking to find the root cause — be it physical or ghostly — behind the sights, sounds and feelings that make someone feel haunted.
So, with the knowledge that you’re probably not crazy, here are a few tips for what to do about that door, that cold feeling, that unexplainable touch on your cheek.
Signs of a haunted house
The top five signs that a house or establishment is haunted include:
• Seeing a spirit in the form of a mist, shadow, full or partial body apparition. Be careful with orbs, though, Lyles said. Many are just dust or bugs. A ghostly orb will give off its own light and may not be round.
• Objects move without the aid of anything explainable. Doors open and close, rocking chairs rock, etc.
• Hearing voices or other unexplainable sounds.
• Being physically touched or scratched by something unseen.
• Animals responding — barking, hissing, acting scared — to something unseen by the human eye.
Lyles believes that 90 percent of these signs of haunting can be explained through physical causes such as wind, old pipes rattling, etc.
Even the 10 percent that can’t be explained don’t mean the house is haunted. The explanation may be beyond the investigator’s realm of experience. In Lyles’ opinion, about 5 percent of all “hauntings” are actual hauntings.
“The imagination is a very powerful influence in what we believe to be happening right in front of our eyes,” Lyles said.
Who do you call?
Often, you don’t need to call anyone — not even the ghostbusters. There are tools at your fingertips for researching your house or business to see if its history lends itself to being haunted.
“Sheridan is notorious for suicides, murders, assaults, drunken revelry, prostitution. There’s lots of history here,” Lyles said.
If, in your research you become convinced your house is haunted, it is your choice whether to get confirmation from an organization like Sheridan Paranormal Research, which is nonprofit and does not charge for services, or whether you want to deal with it yourself.
Lyles said it is okay to ask the ghosts to leave you alone or leave your house. It is your house, after all. She does not recommend becoming friendly with a ghost.
Hit the books
Whether you research your house yourself or enlist the help of ghost hunters, you will most likely be visiting the Wyoming Room at Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library and the County Clerk at the courthouse.
Michael Dykhorst, who is an assistant librarian in the Wyoming Room, said people should come in an look at old maps to see if their house existed where and when they think it did. Often, if it’s a more notable house, the library may have information on it already. Otherwise, the owner should go to the county clerk to look at the record of who has owned the house or business through the years.
County Clerk Eda Schunk Thompson said lots of people come to the clerk’s office to research the history of their house.
First, they need the legal description of their house, which is the name of the subdivision and lot, block, tract, etc. If they don’t know the legal description, they can ask the assessor’s office for help using their street address.
People also need to know the approximate timeframe they want to search since the clerk has more than 800 books of records dating back to when Wyoming was a territory, Thompson said.
Once you find the right book, with the assistance of the clerk’s office, you can see everything that has ever been recorded against a property such as deeds, mortgages, rights of way, etc., to see the house’s chain of ownership.
“The history of the land and all the people are in that vault,” Thompson said.
Chain of ownership in hand, head back to the Wyoming Room and look for obituaries and news stories about past owners, Dykhorst said. If someone died in the house or was murdered, that may be a clue to its haunting.
The Wyoming Room also has biography files for Sheridan residents, and diary accounts can also be helpful.
“I wouldn’t really want to live in a haunted house, but that way you can know the history of your house and what the owners were like,” Dykhorst said.
Get the cameras rolling
Whether you do the research yourself or get help from an organization like Sheridan Paranormal Research, the next step is ghost hunting if you want to go that far.
After historical research, the ghost hunting team will conduct an interview with the house or business owner to find out what they’ve been experiencing, Lyles said, reminding them that feelings and goosebumps can’t always be trusted. They will then schedule a time to come in and investigate — preferably at night and when the owners are gone to make sure the space is quiet and uncontaminated. Dark also helps because shadows seen in the dark are more likely to be a ghost, Lyles said.
The ghost hunting team will bring in audio recorders, night vision cameras, digital cameras with flash, video recorders and thermal scanners to check for hot and cold spots. Teams will watch the camera monitors, and teams of two or three will investigate suspect rooms, never sharing what they experience so the team after them won’t be influenced and so similar experiences can provide validation.
After the investigation, Sheridan Paranormal Research evaluates its footage from its eight video cameras and voice recorders. Finally, the team will sit down with the client and discuss what was found, pointing out any ghostly images or voices that were discovered — or explaining the physical causes that were found. The team will also offer advice on what to do about the haunting.
“We encourage them not to be scared,” Lyles said. “Our main objective is to help people, to help them find a path to helping themselves.”
• Find Sheridan Paranormal Research online at sheridanparanormal.com.
Sheridan’s notorious haunts
Sheridan has lots of history and plenty of houses and businesses that seem to be haunted. Some of the most notorious include:
• Sheridan Inn
• Kendrick Mansion
• American Legion building
• Cady Building on Main and Alger streets
• Mac’s Moving and Warehouse 201 building
• Holly Sugar
• The Rainbow Bar
• Porcupine Ranger Station in the Bighorn National Forest
The Sheridan Police Department wants young and old alike to be safe and happy while trick-or-treating on Halloween. Here are a few tips to keep in mind tonight. Also, there are no scheduled hours for trick-or-treating. Just be safe and smart.
• Go only to well-lit houses and remain on porches rather than entering houses.
• Travel in small groups and be accompanied by an adult.
• Know parents’ phone number in case an emergency telephone call is necessary.
• Bring treats home before eating them so parents can inspect them.
• Stop at all corners and stay together in a group before crossing.
• Use flashlights, stay on sidewalks, and avoid crossing yards.
• Cross streets at the corner and do not cross between parked cars.
• Have children get out of cars on the curbside, not on the traffic side.
• Drive slowly in residential areas and watch for pedestrians.
• Watch for children in the street and on medians.
• Exit driveways and alleyways carefully.
Also keep in mind that local businesses such as McDonald’s, local churches such as Sheridan Wesleyan and 1st United Methodist, and local assisted living centers such as Sheridan Manor and Westview, have also put out invitations in Sheridan to young trick or treaters. These are safe alternatives for younger children and more convenient for parents.
Above all, have a Happy Halloween, be safe and have fun!