As Colorado State University student Colton Tapia was exiting the Museum of Colorado Prisons in Cañon City, Colorado, he heard a little girl’s voice say, “Trust me,” followed by a loud and sinister giggle. Fear quickly set in, as there wasn’t a little girl in site. In fact, Tapia and a group of men were the only people in the building.
This spooky recollection is not a fictional story. The incident came from a reported paranormal encounter. Tapia never heard the little girl’s voice again, but to make things a little spookier, the ghost did not come looking for him. Tapia and his paranormal investigation team went looking for the ghost.
Tapia, a criminal sociology student, is pursuing a unique line of work in the field of paranormal investigating. Tapia has accumulated immense success since he initially became interest in the field during high school when the television show “Ghost Hunters” sparked his desire to become a paranormal investigator.
“I used to be really skeptical, but watching that show made me curious,” Tapia said.
After realizing that he was interested in paranormal investigating, Tapia created his own investigation team, called Eastern Colorado Shadow Trackers Paranormal Research and Investigation.
“I went to my high school and created a sign up list,” Tapia said. “I just tried to get people interested. I bought my first recorder and used my mom’s dinosaur camera to do our first investigation at my high school.”
Investigators Matt Laughlin and Jay Young responded to Tapia’s sign up sheet and joined the team.
“I started paranormal investigating when Colton started the team,” Young said. “I started investigating because I was seeing things and talking to things, and I just wanted to see if I could find something.”
What is investigated
Eastern Colorado Shadow Trackers Paranormal Research and Investigation is a non-profit investigation team that looks into paranormal activity at both famously haunted venues and privately owned locations that are not yet confirmed to be haunted.
Tapia said his team strictly pursues investigations of ghost related hauntings.
“We try to avoid demonic activity,” Tapia said. “Demonic activity is not a good thing at all.”
The investigation team focuses on residual and intelligent ghost related hauntings. Tapia described residual hauntings as a tape recorder rewinding and playing itself over and over again.
“You’ll see the same thing at the same time every day,” Tapia said. “It is usually leftover energy that triggers these hauntings.”
Tapia said an intelligent haunting is more like talking to an actual person.
“It is an actively aware and very intelligently-minded spirit, usually human,” Tapia said. “These spirits have human qualities. They are able to touch things and interact with the environment.”
Conducting the investigation
The team utilizes multiple devices to investigate hauntings.
“Our investigations are usually fully recorded with specialized cameras that can see into different parts of the visible light spectrum, including the ultraviolet spectrum,” Tapia said. “We use highly sensitive audio recording equipment to try to get answers to questions and to talk with spirits and try to get reactions.”
Laughlin said the team begins an investigation by researching the building or home that is believed to be haunted.
“We make contact with the owners or proprietors and maybe talk to some other people who have investigated that location,” Laughlin said.
Tapia said the next step is to perform the investigation.
“We do the investigation at night,” Tapia said. “Then we come back and do a review of everything we recorded, which could take days, and compile everything we found.”
During its six years of investigating, Eastern Colorado Shadow Trackers Paranormal Research and Investigation has confirmed three hauntings, including Cripple Creek Outlaws and Lawmen’s Jail Museum, Museum of Colorado Prisons and Strasburg Fire Department.
“We have done a lot of investigations,” Tapia said. “We can say three locations had something. The others we aren’t entirely sure about.”
Tapia said his team conducts a strict review of their findings before confirming a haunting.
“We don’t confirm that anything is haunted until we know that we cannot explain it, which is why we mark every time we move, or talk, or whisper while the recorders are going so that we don’t mistake it for something paranormal during the review,” Tapia said. “If there is absolutely no cause, that is when we can say that there is probably something paranormal happening.”
When the team does confirm a haunting, Tapia said audio recordings are usually the source of evidence.
“We have a lot of electronic voice phenomenon recorded,” Tapia said. “If we have female voices, when there wasn’t even a female there, or if we’re having a kid talking with us, and there were no children there, we can typically say, ‘Okay, there is something here.’”
Tapia said the team had a strange experience with audio recordings during their investigation at Cripple Creek Outlaws and Lawmen’s Jail Museum.
“We were sitting in the basement of the left most room,” Tapia said. “We had put a recorder in a different room on the complete other side of the building and we were asking questions. We heard a very loud growling off to our left side, which was the corner of the room.”
Tapia said the strange part came during their review of the audio recordings.
“We captured that sound on the recorder that was in the other room, even though we heard it off to our left side.”
A recording of paranormal activity. Other clips can be accessed on their website. (Audio by Eastern Colorado Shadow Trackers Paranormal Research and Investigation.)
Helping the spirits
Eastern Colorado Shadow Trackers Paranormal Research and Investigation’s ultimate goal is to help spirits.
“Let’s face it: No one would like to be stuck on earth for eternity,” Tapia said. “We try to help them move on and let go of grudges. We are not entirely sure if it works or not, but we feel like we do help a lot.”
Tapia said his team accomplishes its goal by attempting to remove spirits from confirmed haunted sites.
“A lot of times we try to respectfully, but assertively, tell the spirit that it needs to leave,” Tapia said. “We just try to reason with it.”
Although paranormal investigation is something the team enjoys doing, Laughlin said it also serves an important purpose.
“It allows us to open our minds to the supernatural,” Laughlin said. “It is good to try and help people or spirits move on, which gives it a purpose rather than it being a fun activity.”
Investigation at Strasburg Fire Department
Tapia said one of his most convincing moments was during an investigation at the Strasburg Fire Department, another one of the three haunted locations.
“We were sitting in the command center taking a break, and we heard the phone ringing,” Tapia said. “The firefighter who stayed with us told us that it wasn’t a 24-hour station and that people shouldn’t be calling.”
Tapia said no one responded when he answered the phone.
“I assumed it was just a wrong call,” Tapia said. “The fire fighter went over and looked at the number and told us that it was an extension, meaning that someone was intercomming the phone from within the building.”
After learning that the call was coming from inside the building, Tapia said that he sent a team member to stand by each phone in the building.
“I called the phone that was calling us to figure out where it was coming from,” Tapia said. “No one was answering, which wasn’t right because there was someone at every phone.”
Tapia said he could hear the phone ringing.
“It was in an office right next to the command center with full glass windows that had one entrance that was locked,” Tapia said. “We were looking at that room the whole time. And what’s worse is that after the investigation, the fire department called me and told me that the phone didn’t even work. They have no clue how it was even working.”
Tapia described that experience as one of the creepiest ghost encounters he ever had.
“It was clearly calling us and messing with us,” Tapia said. “We loved it.”
Tapia plans on becoming a police officer after graduating from CSU, and wants to utilize the tools he accumulates in the police force to remain passionate about paranormal investigation.
“It makes me feel like I am actively trying to help someone who wouldn’t otherwise get help,” Tapia said. “We are helping spirits who are stuck here who everyone is ignoring. We like to think of it as a police officer trying to talk a suicidal party down. We just try to help it understand and cope.”
Collegian Reporter Randi Mattox can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @randimattox.