When Samantha Harris was 2 years old, she guessed what her birthday present was.It was then that she decided she had a connection with the metaphysical.Harris became interested in the paranormal, researching ghostly activities at a young age. The psychology senior started the Michigan Paranormal Research Association, or MPRA, her freshman year at Central Michigan University. Once she transferred to MSU, when Harris took her efforts to research the paranormal a step further, conducting house cleansings and paranormal activity investigations across the state.MPRA is in talks with A&E TV about making a sequel to the popular paranormal series, “Paranormal State,” which chronicles a similar group at Penn State. The group has been filmed for a few different versions of a pilot, and the project still is in talks with producers of A&E TV. However, contract disagreements have caused Harris and her crew momentarily to pause on the possible television show.
Cleansings involve Native American rituals that use sage, sea salt and other herbs, along with a smudge stick, to rid bad spirits from a home, Harris said. MPRA posts listings on Craigslist or sometimes in the Lansing State Journal to let people know about house cleansings the group performs. Because of the taboo nature of the paranormal, those who contact the MRPA through their Web site, michiganpra.com, sometimes are shy about needing a house cleansing. “Some people are hesitant, and I don’t blame them,” she said. The need for a house cleansing can vary, with different symptoms at each house. “Some people will have trouble sleeping or seeing weird things, or will have physical side effects that they didn’t even consider were part of the situation,” Harris said. Last year, the MPRA went to a couple’s home in Grand Ledge who contacted the group and were concerned about having sleeping problems. The team first sat down with the couple and talked to them about what they intended to do in the home. The couple did not feel they needed a full-fledged paranormal investigation, but a house cleansing, Harris said. “It wasn’t like there were weird scratches on the walls or anything, but there was definitely sleep disruption,” she said. The group doesn’t just visit homes. The next step for the group is working on doing a paranormal investigation at the state Capitol building in Lansing the coming weeks, Harris said. “We’ve heard weird stories about it,” Harris said. A house necessarily does not have to be haunted for a house cleansing to be a good idea, Harris said. “It can clean up energy, illness, or if there are a lot of fights in the home it brings in positive energy,” she said. Once people have the MPRA come in to their house to do a cleansing, Harris said they have no further complaints. The cleansings do not cost money, but Harris said she does not mind accepting donations for long trips or supplies. “This is unlike phony psychics I’ve dealt with who charge $500 to cleanse a house,” she said. Harris did a house cleansing at her own house in East Lansing when she moved in this semester, she said.Seeing the strangeIn addition to house cleansing, the association takes part in extensive paranormal investigations. Last spring, the group went to the Historic Holly Hotel in Holly, Mich., where the group brought surveillance cameras, dowsing rods and digital voice recorders to properly assess the area for activity, said Kyle Gask-Wilson, an Ingham County compliance officer and member of MPRA. Because the hotel is notorious for creepy activity, the group was welcome to dig around for activity out of the ordinary. Hotel manager Jessica Allis said paranormal research groups often nose around the hotel with strobe lights and ghostly gadgets. It’s from these expeditions that the hotel has begun a section called “The Ghosts” on its Web site, hollyhotel.com. “It is 100 percent for certain that (these groups) do experience haunted things at the hotel,” Allis said. What the MPRA search turned up was an undeniable paranormal presence, said Gask-Wilson, who is a senior investigator of the group. “There was a light anomaly that came out through a floor and shot up through the ceiling,” Gask-Wilson said. “And once we looked through the pictures, we noticed that you can actually see a figure of an older gentleman who looks like he has a tuxedo on.” On the voice recording, Gask-Wilson said the group heard traces of a little girl’s voice, although the room the voice recorder was in remained empty. The MRPA Web site has personal photos Harris has submitted that depict instances of paranormal activity, such as ghosts in the background of the photos. Harris avoids posting photos to the Web site that include orbs, or ones that have what appears to be a ball of floating light, because they are not as legitimate. The most active times the group is contacted for house cleansings or investigations are in the fall and spring, Harris said. In the winter, during cold and stormy conditions, there is a correlation between the weather and the existence of paranormal activity, she said. “During the fall, we have what is called a thin layer between our world and the paranormal world; it allows them to make more contact with us,” Gask-Wilson said.