There's Something Strange In The Neighbourhood...
Paranormal investigations are a popular thing overseas, and seeing a gap in South Africa - particularly Cape Town - Marc Leitao decided to look into the various claims himself. The draw card was primarily exploring the history and heritage of sites, and getting to the bottom of the stories and lore that most people have to share. Marelise Jacobs spoke to Marc about his team of investigators and their goal to see if these strange events could be explained logically, debunked, or if there is in fact something that cannot be explained.
What goes into the process of investigating a haunting claim?
Marc: This is all dependent on the type of claim, and the site in question. We would receive the query, and if it was not possible to resolve online via advice, or the client gathering hard evidence, we wouldd schedule an investigation. We would then research (if possible) the history of the site, and see if there are any past events that could potentially lend to the basis of the clients’ claims. We would then select a suitable set of members, and head out. Once on-site, we would do a “walkthrough” with our various pieces of equipment to ascertain a base-line of fluctuations, so that we understand what external influences may influence false-positives on the investigation itself.
“... It was a massive site, with history spanning back to the 1840’s. From the get-go, it felt as though we were not welcome...” - Marc Leitao, Cape Town Paranormal Investigations
An example of this: Microwaves. Even in their powered down state, they emit a fair amount of Electromagnetic Fields, which can cause incorrect readings on some of our equipment. We would set up, whilst a member is briefed on the site and house rules, and commence to go “lights out”. We then ensure that everything that can be switched off, is switched off, preferably at the mains.
People often ask why investigations are always done in the dark. They absolutely do not have to be done at night only, the reasons we operate in the dark are two-fold. Firstly, night time is generally quieter, less traffic, foot traffic, ambient noises, and it is calmer. Secondly, and more importantly, our camera equipment sees in a range of spectra that aren’t visible to the human eye, for example, infrared and ultraviolet. This is assisted greatly by the dark, and increases our chances of actually capturing something of relevance.
What has been one of your most exciting or scary investigations? Was the situation resolved?
Marc: There have been several exciting cases, which I will cover in a second, however, one must differentiate from what one sees on American TV, episodes that are created with main purpose to stir drama and excitement. Some of our investigations end up being rather flat where nothing happens for the majority of the night, no matter how many stops one pulls out! That being said, there were a few notable cases, my favourite of which was a site which had to remain confidential. It was a massive site, with history spanning back to the 1840’s. From the get-go, it felt as though we were not welcome, even skeptics on the team were commenting about how they felt uneasy, as if they were being watched, or an oppressive sensation as they walked through.
As the investigation progressed, there were instances of giggling (child spirit) and fluctuations on our equipment all over the show. There were responses on our equipment, almost as if in response to our line of questioning, and noises that would point to objects having been thrown around. The particular site had dozens of claims of activity, and we were definitely part of seeing this first hand. At one point, our white noise/radio frequency scanner picked up a voice which held a conversation for a bit with one-word answers in direct response to our questions. We asked if the “entity” would sit with us and heard a chair drag on the floor - almost as if it was pulled out. Shortly thereafter, we asked if the entity was bad, or good, and we received the response, “Devil”. Now, of course, one cannot list that as “evidence” per se, as there are external factors such as Audio Pareidolia that come into play with question and answer sessions, however, I wouldd be lying if it didn’t freak us out just a LITTLE bit!
Our goal on investigations is not really to resolve matters. We do not partake in blessings, cleansings, exorcisms or anything of the sort. Our goal is, first and foremost, to document happenings from a scientific point of view, using the different gauges and equipment that we have, and attempting to draw conclusions from there. Understanding that investigations, to be done really well, involve multiple visits to the site, controlled tests, controlled recreations, etc. This can take several hours, and run late into the night. Ideally, it should span over the course of a few days to really test theories, however, not many sites have the availability to allow such a length of time. The length of our investigations run according to availability of the site, and whether there is much activity happening to warrant continuing.
Do you find there are cultural differences in the approach to the paranormal and do you have to then adjust your methods in such a case?
Marc: Absolutely. I am proud to say that CTPI is a diverse team with members from all walks of life, and belief systems. Whilst we absolutely do come across those that are skeptical, I feel that our angle, being one of logic and debunking, primarily, allows for skeptics or non-believers to put up with our investigation out of a matter of curiosity. As my team is completely self-funded, we find that once we meet the client, or chat with them, and they find out that we are not all about creating drama or stirring trouble, they go along with it as we explain the equipment and keep them involved throughout.
With regards to other cultures, that is what makes South Africa great for this kind of endeavor. The rich diversity of our people means that we have SO much to learn from other cultures, and their ways and means of dealing with such claims, and it is both rewarding and educational for us when we encounter something that is not “common” or something that involves much, much more research. We then set up time with the community leaders in instances where there are different cultures involved and listen to their methodology. All extremely interesting!
“...The theory suggests predominantly two types of hauntings namely intelligent and residual...” - Marc Leitao, Cape Town Paranormal Investigations
Instead of a building being haunted, have you ever encountered individuals themselves who, wherever they may be, experience strange things?
Marc: We have indeed. The theory suggests predominantly two types of hauntings namely intelligent and residual. Residual revolves around a "memory" or instance being recreated or replayed again and again if conditions are right. The speculation around this type of haunting is that it is caused by such intense energy at the time of happening, emotional or otherwise, that it has in a way become embedded in in the area in question. This could explain some of what people see when they claim that people in period-style dress walk through walls etc. These are not considered "intelligent" hauntings, as they will not engage with you, nor respond. They will just play back when conditions are right, continually.
An intelligent haunting is one in which a potential entity is aware of your presence, and can interact through different ways. Perhaps move something, cause fluctuations on equipment, touch a person, speak, etc. The majority of our catches has been of an "intelligent" nature, i.e. it was deemed that there was potentially something responding to questions or requests, however, the search continues for seeing a full-bodied apparition manifestation!