Which haunted place would you not visit

Paranormal phenomena: out and about with haunted researchers

by Roland Rödermund
Spooky is her hobby, witching hour her happy hour - and the love for the supernatural brought her together: Out and about with the terribly nice "ghost hunters" Daniela and Frank Werner.

Black cat from the left. Only the color of the fur of Dünner, the slim house tiger that is just roaming the living room to greet you, could be a first indication of the uncanny passion of its owners. "He also has a brother, the fat one," says Frank Werner, 56, while his wife Daniela, 45, pats the petite cat on the back. "Don't be frightened, the other one is under the table."

Looking for the phone to the other side

It'll be about the horror later. Now let's get to know each other: get warm at a coffee party. The common search for spirits requires trust. And serenity. This is a prerequisite for a hobby that drives Daniela and Frank to rather dark, rather deserted places - and for which they have a lot of patience: The two are haunted researchers, self-proclaimed, "not ghost hunters," emphasizes Frank. "You can't hunt ghosts."

But you can already track them down: For this purpose, Frank founded PRG-HH in 2004, the Paranormal Research Group-Hamburg, currently eight members, mostly out and about at night. Then they visit dilapidated houses, castles, castle ruins, battlefields from the Middle Ages, museums and old warships. But why? "We're actually looking for the phone on the other side," says Daniela, and they share this passion. Well then, I think and take a marzipan cookie.

The couple assumes that there is an energetic secondary world to our real world. And that it makes itself felt through spooky phenomena or ghosts, which can be measured with all kinds of equipment. The fact that most paranormal investigations do not take place during the day is not due to the horror factor. "We're not spooky," says Daniela. At night only environmental influences or background noises of natural origin are excluded. The eye is a deceptive organ, and in the dark the senses are sharpened.

Incidentally, "the other side" does not answer to scare us. "You're completely messed up by horror films," she says. They may no longer look at them, too predictable and clichéd. "The light goes out, a door creaks, eerie music starts ... and ghosts are always evil." But they are not at all, believes Daniela. "They just want to communicate with us, like when I pull Frankie by the sleeve and say: 'Listen!" "Ghosts pluck subtly, not with rattles or howls.

In "normal" life, Frank is an event technician, he could also pass for a fur seal - white, accurately trimmed beard, very sympathetic Hamburg dialect. Daniela is confronted with the boundary between life and death every day at work: The trauma nurse takes care of people with the most severe traumatic brain injuries. You could also say: she experiences the real horror in her professional life. Perhaps that is why this small, gentle woman is so fearless in her search for ghosts. They both seem caring and empathetic, also when dealing with one another.

"It would be difficult if Frank weren't interested in the paranormal," she says. There won't be many who spend the night at their ears and evaluate tape recordings for days in order to make out a distorted voice from the beyond. Or those who like to rent haunted castles, spend the night in places where a murder happened ...

They call it belief, others call it whimsy

Frank has a trained perception and of course immediately notices my skeptical look, he smiles understandingly. As a haunted researcher, one is used to raised eyebrows in disbelief. "In the end, it doesn't matter whether you believe us or not," he says. "We just follow our convictions." Many would say: their whimsy. According to a Statista survey from 2013, however, around 20 percent of Germans believe in the existence of supernatural beings - incidentally only adults among those surveyed, not four-year-olds - and almost three quarters also admitted to having witnessed a paranormal phenomenon at least once in their life be - as light that scurries through the room, footsteps, a sudden cold wave or a ghost. But of course not everyone reacts as openly to paranormal signals as Frank and Daniela, but clearly with fear. Is that the dead Aunt Helga knocking? Or someone walled in alive centuries ago?

Volunteering to help ghost victims is part of the mission of the PRG-HH. The group has long conversations with people who think that someone or something is up to them. Often there is a natural explanation behind it - how relieving! -, but sometimes not, then those affected at least have the feeling that they are not considered crazy. Frank and Daniela are often the first to say: "Oh, you're just imagining that!"

All theory is gray, it is getting dark, and slowly we want to get to the bottom of the ghost ourselves. Before I start, Frank shows me the team's really considerable collection of devices in the study: optical and acoustic recording devices, temperature meters, humidity meters, thermal imaging cameras, night vision cameras and ghost detectors such as Gauss Master and K2 ... It beeps and flashes, the instruments could be taken from the legendary movie "Ghostbusters "from 1984 - not a year younger. Do you really need that much equipment? "We don't know at what frequency or in what form energies report," explains Frank. He is a master at the soldering iron and converts cameras so that they are suitable for night use, or the radio into a ghost box that scans the frequency range for secret messages.

"Let's go then," he says, reaching for two converted rifle cases with the equipment. The fat man, also black as night, peeps around the corner and briefly meows goodbye. It's getting darker outside. For Daniela, the death of her first cat almost 15 years ago aroused interest in the paranormal, she says in the car: "He was lying on my lap and was supposed to be put to sleep. Suddenly it was as if the whole atmosphere had changed with a snap of the finger. That was strange. I wasn't afraid, but I felt exactly how my hangover left his body. " After this rather comforting incident for her, she wanted to know how to explain the feeling - and in a forum she met Frank, who has been interested in the topic since the 1990s, since he and a friend appeared on vacation in Sweden : "The whole program, steps, knocking, cold breeze and even a white figure that flew through the air."

Mission top secret

There are different explanations for paranormal phenomena. For example: They would really be caused by beings, mostly souls of the dead. Sometimes there is also talk of split-off parts of the soul that act unintentionally or "confused", that is, not to frighten us. Other theories assume that objects, buildings or places absorb mental energies that are perceived by sensitive people. Another approach is that ominous-looking buildings like old castles can manipulate people's psyche. And of course there is the assumption that many people simply react to fear or stress with extremely lively imaginations. Let's see.

Through personal contacts, Frank has access to the vaulted cellar of an old Hamburg office building in the city center. Our mission is top secret - even if the Werners were granted admission to almost every old manor or military museum with persistence and charm, and sometimes were even allowed to live there for up to a week. In the current case, the administration does not want the building to be associated with ghosts or even ghost hunters. We meet the second Daniela from the group, called Gössy, last name Hormann, 34 years old. When it is completely dark, she will take over most of the essential work during the examination with the Ghost Box. But first I should get a feel for the darkness with a bit of "blind man's" on the upper floor. Equipped with the night vision camera, which immerses everything in coarse-grained green-black images, I am supposed to walk through a hall. Light off. Suddenly the mood changes. Scary, even if Frank stays around and gives precise instructions on where to go. Orientation is lost in an instant while my brain tries to remember the room when it is bright. How big is he? How high Shouldn't a table here somewhere ... Ouch! Oh there. And fear sets in, just like at the push of a button. But from what?

With what is going on in the world right now, the question is anyway what one should still be afraid of in the hereafter.

My head cinema inevitably throws up horror scenarios from "Blair Witch Project", "The Silence of the Lambs", "Paranormal Activity". Would I develop this paranoia too, would I never have seen these films? Frank switches the light on again. "Did you get a skin?" He asks. And Daniela admits: "Of course we are also afraid. After all, we are only human." But she is more afraid of this side of things: for example young people who go into the barricaded houses at night when one of their investigations is in progress. “And spiders!” Says Gössy, shaking himself. Frank mumbles: "With what is going on in the world right now, the question is anyway what one should still be afraid of in the hereafter."

The basement then fulfills all expectations that one can have of a haunted place: dim, nooks and crannies, morbid. The three build up. Gössy unpacks the ghost box, headphones and blindfold, while Frank and Daniela set up magnetic field meters and also darken the room. All three of them appear concentrated and conscientious, and proceed with a detective's zeal. Or is it still childish curiosity? In any case, paranormal examinations are not for the impatient - some evaluations take weeks.

Then Gössy puts on an eye mask and headphones. The noise of the Ghost Box is so loud that the three of us can still hear it. The device scans the frequency range as if you were rotating quickly from station to station on an old radio. Allegedly, you don't hit an actual radio station. Rather, ghosts should use this in-between as a kind of "carrier frequency" in order to make themselves audible to the inclined human ear. So Gössy knocks out all the words that she perceives, Frank and Daniela (and me too) hope that they make sense. Frank also explains that they are always polite and decent when communicating with the unearthly. "Hello, is there anyone else in the room?", "Would you like to tell us who you are?", "What should we know?" Although we are spread out and sitting in the Stockdusteren, the whole thing doesn't feel as scary at all as my "blind man's cow" game in the hall - it's somehow too strange for that.

Pier. Illustrated. Joachim. Thorsten.

During the 20-minute session, Gössy says the words "Pfeiler", "" illustrated "," Joachim "and" Thorsten ". What she actually cannot know: Before Gössy's arrival, Daniela and Frank were photographed here at the pillar, by Achim, whose full name is Joachim, and his photo assistant Thordis. Very bizarre. Is that a message now? A proof? Definitely for the three of them. Do ghosts sometimes just describe what we already know? Can they too - how human! - don't remember names? A few words and scraps of sentences are added by Gössy, but seemingly without context or reference. Daniela took the minutes, in the next few days the trio will evaluate what they have experienced. It's just a science in itself.