September 23, 2009 > Are the Meeks and McConaghys still in residence?
Are the Meeks and McConaghys still in residence?
By Simon Wong
Photos By Bill Mancebo
The American Paranormal Research Association (APRA) investigated Meek Mansion in July and McConaghy House at the end of August for signs of paranormal activity. Meek Mansion is closed to the public for renovation but McConaghy House is open for tours 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. on weekends except in January when the house is closed.
Although Bakersfield-based APRA does not have 501(c)(3) status, it is a not-for-profit organization. It does not solicit donations and members pay for the investigations themselves - travel, board, lodging and equipment.
Founded in late 2006/early 2007, the small organization has earned the respect of its peers for rigorous scientific investigative techniques, third-party scientific analysis of audio and visual recordings and the volume of material collected. That reputation has attracted a benefactor who has provided some equipment. Chapters will open in Ohio and Pennsylvania in 2010.
The core group consists of founder Brandon Alvis (website designer, by day), co-founder Justin Pfeiffer (college student and business-stationery printer), Joey West (construction worker), case manager Sylvia Ray (pharmeceuticals), photographer Bridgette Olden (hair stylist) and researcher Linda Casebolt (fitness center manager).
"We approach historical societies, such as in Hayward, San Fernando and Santa Clarita, and ask about the history of their buildings. We don't visit because they have a tragic history or reports of paranormal activity. We're interested because they have a long history," explained Alvis. "Usually, we investigate over two nights to avoid daytime contamination such as human activity and traffic and hold an event later to help raise funds for the historical society. Our case manager, Sylvia, makes the initial contact with the historical societies with which we've worked. Not all properties have paranormal activity"
Alvis lost a brother to cancer in 1995 and another committed suicide in 2004. These personal losses raised his awareness of the possibility of life after death. Before founding the organization, he researched the field of paranormal investigation. Wishing to remain true to scientific principles, he contacted engineers, doctors and scientists who share his interest, built relationships and help explain, prove or disprove the evidence APRA collects.
Pfeiffer comes from a very devout family and has many questions his faith cannot answer. West, like many people, was curious but was serious enough to join APRA. Ray has had in interest in the paranormal since her youth. Olden and Casebolt, friends for many years, are believers. Both recall experiences as children. Their natural curiosity and desire to understand drive their research and pave the way for others to follow.
Evidence is collected with infrared cameras, audio devices, motion detectors, electro-magnetic field detectors, temperature gauges and other equipment.
"We switch on multiple devices simultaneously and switch them off simultaneously. The voice recorders run in voice-activation mode. If one or more has a longer recording than the others, something has been detected and we can be reasonably sure it wasn't from natural sources which all the devices would record. Only one person may ask a question at a time. Generally, EVP (electric voice phenomenon) is picked up by the questioner's device but this doesn't apply to all evidence and can vary according to location," Alvis stated.
APRA members describe themselves as skeptics. They and their team of scientific experts explain away whatever they can. What remains is presented to their audience who decide if paranormal phenomena have been recorded.
Ray hosts APRA's weekly, internet-based radio show about ghosts and hauntings at 8 p.m. (PST) on Fridays. The focus is on life after death ranging from apparitions to residual hauntings and can be heard at www.apraparanormal.com and www.blogtalkradio.com.
"We agreed to investigations at the Meek Estate and McConaghy House for three reasons," said Hayward Area Historical Society's Collections Manager Heather Farquhar. "First, visitors constantly ask 'Is it haunted?' or 'Are there ghosts?' Second, APRA is willing to present its findings at an event following the investigation to raise funds for the properties they investigate. Third, interest in paranormal investigation with shows like Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters International, etc. This is an opportunity to spread the word about the work we do at the house and tap into new audiences.
"Once news broke about paranormal activity at Meek Mansion, stories began to surface. One gentleman recalls his daughter asking 'why is that man wearing old-fashioned clothes?' when she visited the property as a little girl. He couldn't see the person. She's now in her twenties," said Farquhar.
APRA will present "Voices from the Past" in early December. The public, limited to 80 people, is invited to learn about the findings, how to use the equipment, collect and review data at both houses and participate in workshops. All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Hayward Area Historical Society. Snacks and refreshments will be provided on both nights and dinner on Saturday.
For more information about the American Paranormal Research Association, visit www.apraparanormal.com. Email membership enquiries to email@example.com.
For more information about the Hayward Area Historical Society, visit www.HaywardAreaHistory.org.
Voices from the Past: a two-day paranormal event
Friday, December 4, 2009 (6.30 p.m. - 3.30 a.m.)
Saturday, December 5, 2009 (3.30 p.m. - 3.30 a.m.)
Both days begin at the Meek Mansion, 17365 Boston Road, Hayward, CA.
Call Carrie on (510) 581 0223 to purchase tickets ($75 per person).
Lest anyone dismiss the above too readily, this reporter arrived at McConaghy House a skeptic and left less-than-intrepid, somewhat shaken by what he and APRA's investigators witnessed on the second night.