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November 23, 2010 > Voices from the Past 2010

Voices from the Past 2010

By Simon Wong
Photo courtesy of Hayward Area Historical Society

Skeptics, believers and the curious attended Hayward Area Historical Society's (HAHS) second annual Voices from the Past event at two Victorian properties which Bakersfield-based, non-profit American Paranormal Research Association (APRA) has investigated for the past two years.

The Meek Mansion opened on September 18 - 19 from 6 p.m. until 3.30 a.m. Whether Halloween contributed to what happened at McConaghy House, on October 30 - 31, is unknown. APRA continues to detect much activity which is atypical of most properties. Inexplicably, most sites cease to yield any phenomena after repeated visits by a given investigative team. Activity mysteriously resumes when new investigators arrive.

Thirty-six people attended Voices from the Past 2010. APRA founder, Brandon Alvis, and team members Michael Rudie, Jonathan Herrera, Eric and Tracy Borghesani (accompanied by son Nicholas and daughter Megan) presented findings from previous investigations at the start of both evenings.

The Saugus Train Station, built in 1887, was saved from demolition in 1980 and was the first structure to be moved to Heritage Junction Historic Park, operated by the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society at William S. Hart Park in Newhall (two miles south of the train station's original location). While upstairs in the station master's living quarters, a modern-day AMTRAK train passed by on tracks about 50 feet away and investigators recorded an Englishwoman's voice ask clearly "Will that be on the train?" All of APRA's members are American. In the past, the station building had lodgings managed by an English couple.

The servants' quarters and the children's playroom are the most active places in the Meek Mansion. When investigator Linda Casebolt asked "Do you have any questions for us, a young boy replies "No, why?"

All Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVPs are recordings of dead people) are examined with a spectrum analyzer which displays audible frequencies and white noise. The latter should be inaudible to the human ear but the EVPs emerge from the white noise. A mixture of awe, excitement and nervousness invariably surfaces on seeing or hearing APRA's evidence for the first time.

"I began paranormal investigations in 2006 but my interest was awakened after I lost my oldest brother to cancer in 1995 and my second brother to suicide in 2004," explains Alvis. "These events made me consider the possibility of life after death."

The visitors toured the properties with HAHS Collections Manager Heather Farquahar to orientate themselves and learn about the Meek and McConaghy families before investigating in small groups led by APRA investigators who taught the visitors how to use infrared cameras, audio devices, motion detectors, electro-magnetic field detectors, temperature gauges and other equipment.

Jenny Hosel and Nick Mortenson, San Leandro, have seen Ghost Hunters on TV. Cautiously skeptical, Nick more so than Jenny, they had no experiences of the paranormal and looked forward to seeing what they might discover.

"Go! Go! Go! Right now!" ordered a man's voice in reply to the question "Is there anything you'd like to tell us?" in the servants' quarters at the Meek Mansion. In the cistern in the basement, "20 years old" was the response when investigators asked the age of anyone who might be present. Another group witnessed activation of motion detectors in the play room and servants' quarters without seeing a physical being pass by.

In the spacious attic, a man's voice identified himself as "Archie." The EVP was loud enough and clear enough to obviate the need to hold the digital recorder to the ear to discern what was said. Those present were delighted.

According to APRA, rivalry has emerged between Archie McConaghy, who died in his twenties as a result of a farming accident, and APRA founder Brandon Alvis who is also in his late twenties. Might this explain the high activity levels at McConaghy House?

Even the most steely-nerved are wary of upsetting forces and phenomena that cannot be explained. On a previous investigation, the APRA team quickly vacated the property when it recorded a man's pained voice beginning to recite the Lord's Prayer after Alvis had thrown down the gauntlet to whatever might be there to show its presence.

Matt Goldman, who accompanied APRA to the fundraiser, suggested playing music throughout McConaghy House. Small groups of visitors occupied different rooms and remained motionless and silent until the music stopped before conducting EVP sessions. As the music permeated the house, there was a warmth in the poorly insulated attic on an otherwise cold night. That dissipated instantly when the EVP session was over.

On the ground floor, as the music played, the group in the study saw two human shadows speed along the hall and activate motion detectors.

"It was a surreal feeling. The shadows were on the hall wall and visible through the study doorway. Given their direction, they seemed to make for the foot of the stairs to reach the attic, the source of the music and where the McConaghys used to hold dances. It was strange to see such energetic motion without sound," explained Ben Cahill, Castro Valley.

APRA is recording its investigations and findings in a documentary series "A View From The Other Side" which it hopes will prove informative for other investigators and people interested in the paranormal.

"We've investigated many historical locations throughout the US," said Alvis. "APRA enjoys raising funds for them so we can help preserve history in our own way. Hopefully, this enables these buildings and the historical societies that own or manage them to inform and educate future generations."

"We hope to be able to return to Hayward in early 2011. People interested in the paranormal should visit the Meek Estate and McConaghy House which have yielded a wealth of evidence. The more people we bring into McConaghy House, the more energy we seem to provide. The family has a sad history and this might also account for the continued activity. We are skeptics. Our panel of scientific experts scrutinizes and explains away our findings. Is what remains evidence of paranormal activity? Our audience decides," he concluded.

To see video footage of investigations, visit (Meek Mansion) and (McConaghy House) and click on link titled "McConaghy Estate - APRA Paranormal Investigation."

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