Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA)
October 30, 2007
Section: News
Ghost clusters? Pomona spirit search is a Fox hunt


   David Allen, Columnist

Is the Fox Theater haunted, and if so, who ya gonna call? Online Extra: Read more David Allen colunms In this case, it was the band of Azusa-based ghost hunters who placed the call. They heard that a movie location manager scouting the long-closed Pomona theater saw a face in a bathroom mirror that - uh-oh - wasn't hers.

The ghost hunters then called Jerry Tessier, who is in escrow to buy the downtown movie house. Tessier one night let them into the theater, which dates to 1931 and is dusty with disuse, and they were so impressed they've been back on three other occasions.

No ghost sightings as yet, but their audio recorders pick up sounds inaudible to the naked ear, heard only when the recordings are dumped into a computer and analyzed with ghost-hunting software.  "So far it's just been a lot of voices. A little girl. A voice said one of our investigators' names. A lot of whispering," Troy Tackett, founder of the West Coast Paranormal Research Society (www.wcprs.org), told me by phone last month. He continued: "One recording says 'Get out.' One says 'No, thank you."' Well, the latter ghost is at least polite, and as for the former, Tessier, the developer, speculates that maybe that ghost is actually playful. To demonstrate, he pushed my shoulder with his palm while saying in mock-surprise, "Get out!," like Elaine shoving Jerry on "Seinfeld."

Always on the lookout for marketing gimmicks, Tessier added that if enough evidence is gathered, a "haunted Fox" tour could be mounted someday.

Unable to wait, I arranged to tag along on the society's next ghost hunt. Thus, on Oct. 6 at 9 p.m., I parked across from the Fox and crossed Third Street. A police car passed by and stopped.

"Do you have authorization to be here?" the officer asked me sternly.
"Um...yes?" I responded.

"Just messing with you. They told me you were coming," the officer said, laughing, and drove on. Whew. I knocked on the door and was allowed in by Troy Tackett. The Fox's lobby was ablaze from construction lights. A half-dozen ghost hunters were setting up equipment. We signed liability waivers provided by Tessier's company: "I have voluntarily chosen to enter the Fox Theater...for the sole purpose of filming, photography and other paranormal investigations."

I introduced myself to the crew. They range in age from their 20s to their 40s and most are friends or neighbors of each other. They have jobs in computers, property management, paralegal research, filmmaking and carpentry. Some were on their first investigation, some were veterans. The group's philosophy is to debunk ghost reports, and they try to remain objective, attributing some foggy photo images, for instance, to the copious dust inside the theater.

"You always want to try to disprove it," a team member told me. If the group jumps to a supernatural conclusion for something natural, its reputation will suffer, he explained.

One night in the Fox, they heard faint piano music that seemed to be coming from the stage. Rather than wet their pants, they went out a side door into the alley and learned that a loft-dweller next door "was playing piano at 2 a.m. with his window open," a team member said. "We don't want to say this place is haunted," he said, "unless we have multiple pieces of evidence."

Objectivity doesn't come naturally. Each ghost hunter, even the first-timers, told me he or she has had some contact with the supernatural.

"Have you been on many ghost hunts before?" a team member asked me earnestly. When I replied that this was my first, she asked, in surprise: "Really?"
"It's not really what I do," I admitted.

The ghost hunters were armed with the tools of their trade: infrared cameras, electromagnetic-field readers, digital thermometers, audio recorders, penlights and walkie-talkies. Also, crucially, matching T-shirts.

"Every single time we've come here we've gotten evidence. There's something going on," a team member insisted. "I don't want to say it's haunted yet. The Holy Grail would be a full-blown apparition."

I liked this particular team member, an outgoing man with the manner of a camp counselor. I would never have pegged him as the group's demonologist. He has that coveted position because he once, as a Mormon missionary, witnessed an exorcism, which he says changed his life.

At 10:40 p.m., we split into two groups. I went with Troy and another team member up the grand staircase to the mezzanine. The lobby lights were turned off, plunging the theater into darkness, the better to hunt haunts with.

Troy led the way with his penlight, and we followed. I clicked my penlight on only when necessary, mostly for jotting notes. Aiming the tiny light, I felt like Carl Kolchak, the monster-chasing reporter on TV's old "Kolchak: The Night Stalker."

In the projection booth, Troy began asking questions of any spirits who might be about: "Can you tell me your name? Are you bound to this room?"

On a previous visit, he had asked for a sign. A metal vent propped up in a window sill had fallen, spooking everyone. Nothing appeared to be happening tonight, though.

"It seems a little dead right now," Troy observed.
Dead?

Audio recorders were set up in various rooms, as were video cameras, which fed to a monitor in the lobby. A team member carried a camera and shot still images, three in a row, of any room we visited, to document any activity.

We prowled through the upstairs bathrooms and the manager's office. The only activity was a very large roach skittering across the carpet in the penlight's beam. Troy put an audio recorder in the women's bathroom at a team member's suggestion.

"People generally talk in the women's room," she noted.

At midnight, we walked through the cavernous auditorium and upstairs into the dressing rooms, the organ pipe room and back down to the broad stage.

Troy shouted questions. "Is anyone here?" he asked. "Can you tell me what year it is?"
I hoped the ghost knows what year it is. Especially if it writes a lot of checks.

A team member called Troy on the walkie-talkie, swearing that while in the lobby watching a video feed, he saw a giant shadow striding across the stage. This would have been just a few feet to our left, and we missed the whole thing.
At 1:45 a.m. I went to the balcony with three of the team members. The Fox balcony, in two tiers, has as many seats as most modern theaters, rows stretching toward the ceiling, far beyond the range of our penlights. The only light was what leaked in through the projection booth windows.

One ghost hunter shot photos every now and then, her camera flash exploding in the inky blackness.

"What is your name?" one of the women shouted.
Silence.
"Are you a boy?"
Silence.
"What did you say your name was?"
We didn't catch a name this time either.
"We have a special guest with us," a team member announced. "He'd like to write a story about you."
More silence. Maybe the ghost wanted to go off the record.

I left shortly afterward. After five hours inside the Fox, I had witnessed no full-blown apparitions and, in fact, nothing out of the ordinary (other than questions shouted at the air).
Although the night seemed uneventful, the group's later analysis of the audio recordings did turn up ghostly whispers. You can hear them on our Web site.

Audible are such disparate remarks as "who am I?," "kill you," "help me" and, chillingly, "hey."

Oh, and if there was anything particularly odd on tape at 1:10 a.m., that might have been me.
It is recorded in my notebook that at that moment, as I climbed the stairs to the Fox stage, I hit my forehead on a metal rod in the dark and whispered "ouch."

David Allen writes Wednesday, Friday and Sunday

E-mail d_allen@dailybulletin.com, call (909) 483-9339 or write 2041 E. Fourth St., Ontario, CA 91764. And read his blog at www.dailybulletin.com/davidallenblog
(c) 2007 Inland Valley Daily Bulletin. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.
2008 – edited for content by WCPRS for publishing on their website.