Investigating the paranormal in Wellington County
by Chris Daponte
Whether at the county museum in Aboyne, the Elora Centre for the Arts or numerous private properties, ghost stories abound throughout Wellington County.
In fact, according to a local group intent on investigating these cases, the county is renowned for its level of paranormal activity.
“From what we’ve read, it’s one of the hot spots in Ontario,” said Bruce McClelland, one of the co-founders of Wellington County Paranormal Investigators (WCPI).
Yet of the dozen or so investigations the group has conducted since its establishment in 2010, very few have come from within Wellington.
“I’m sure [the activity is] out there, but people don’t want to broadcast it,” said McClelland.
Fellow WCPI founder Joe Cairney, who lives in Centre Wellington Township near Belwood, says not a lot of people are aware of the group’s services.
But even when they are, he continued, a number of factors
can make them hesitant to contact the group about an investigation, with concerns ranging from privacy to embarrassment to scepticism about WCPI or the group’s ability to help.
But most often, any apprehension is assuaged by the group’s professional approach.
“We’re not thrill seekers, we’re investigators,” Cairney stressed. “We bring real world investigative techniques to the paranormal world.”
He noted that together, Cairney, McClelland and third co-founder Russ Teeple, of Hamilton, have over 70 years of
investigative experience, notably in corporate investigations. We are bonded investigators with real experience,” McClelland stressed.
Cairney said the WCPI founders, aided by a team of three other investigators, use the tools they have acquired over the last two decades to conduct their investigations.
Those include: personal observations and intuition, photography, regular audio and video recordings, infrared cameras, laser grids (to detect any movement), electronic voice phenomena recordings, laser thermometers, and electromagnetic field indicators.
“But there’s more to it than walking in with the technology … there’s a lot of research involved,” said McClelland.
He explained WCPI looks into such things as the minerals in the ground in the subject area, as well as the background of the building/property. “At the end of the day, if nothing else, they’ll get a whole history of the property,” McClelland said.
WCPI will investigate any residential, commercial or institutional buildings or properties for anything reported by owners as out of the ordinary.
The majority of inquiries they receive involve strange phenomenon – unidentifiable noises/voices or objects mysteriously moved – in private homes of varying ages.
But the group says it will also look into other paranormal activity such as possible sightings of UFOs or “cryptids” (defined as creatures whose existence has been suggested but not scientifically proven – for example the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot).
“Anything that is not normal, we’ll look at,” said McClelland.
Before starting any investigation WCPI officials meet with potential clients and conduct at least one interview. If both sides decide to proceed, two to three investigators are assigned to the job.
Investigations can take anywhere from two to eight hours (plus possible follow-ups or return visits if necessary), in addition to the review of materials, background searches and other research, which can add up to 40 to 80 hours in total.
Through it all, WCPI tries to ensure confidentiality.
“We’re just regular guys and we’re very low key,” said Cairney, noting the group does not use marked vehicles or equipment. He added WCPI always remains neutral, which ensures clients are not judged, investigations are not compromised and investigators do not predetermine the outcome.
“We’re not in it to prove or disprove anything,” Cairney said.
In fact, WCPI will seldom confirm or deny paranormal activity. They simply present clients with a final report, usually within a week, on their findings – or in many cases, the lack thereof. McClelland and Cairney said it is surprising how many possible cases actually turn out to be noisy pipes, a neighbour or something else completely ordinary.
“We want to give them peace of mind,” said McClelland, adding most people who want an investigation are either “at their wits’ end” or scared – or both.
“They’re just looking for help and they don’t know who to turn to.”
And while the cases that may include paranormal activity can take their toll psychologically, retaining the services of WCPI won’t make matters worse by hitting clients in their pocketbooks.
“No one should ever pay for [paranormal investigations],” Cairney said, noting all WCPI services are offered free of charge.
“Finding some resolution and giving clients peace of mind is our reward,” said McClelland. “When you see the look of contentment on people’s faces, that’s fulfilling enough.”
Added Cairney, “It’s something we’re interested in and it’s something we enjoy.” He said even when WCPI debunks suspected paranormal activity it is a gratifying experience.
So how does one get into the field of paranormal investigations?
For Cairney, his interest in the subject matter first materialized as a teenager in Scotland, where he experienced things he could not explain. He spent a lot of time reading and researching the paranormal and his interest was further piqued by Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World, a British TV series in 1980.
“I seemed to have a connection with that,” he said.
Cairney, who was a firefighter in Scotland, moved to Ontario around 1990, living in Mississauga, Brampton and Orangeville, before eventually settling near Belwood about seven years ago with his wife Joycelyn and the couple’s four children.
“We love it here. We’d never consider leaving,” he said, noting they moved to the area in part due to Joycelyn’s desire to own horses.
Despite numerous changes in scenery, Cairney’s curiosity about the paranormal never waned.
After repeated discussions with McClelland, and various strange experiences while working together in corporate investigations, the pair came up with the idea of pursuing paranormal investigative work.
“We saw things where you can’t explain what happened,” said McClelland.
Cairney described one incident he says occurred about five years ago at an estate home in Mississauga. While there for an investigation, Cairney said he and another person entered the basement, where it was cold enough they could see their breath – despite it being a “beautiful summer night.”
When the pair was exiting the basement, Cairney said he heard what seemed to be an extra set of footsteps following them as they ascended the staircase.
Looking back from the top of the stairs with his partner, Cairney said he saw the old, rickety steps move one at a time as if someone was following them up the stairs.
“That’s not normal,” he quipped as he recalled the incident.
It was the culmination of a number of such eerie stories that motivated Cairney, McClelland and Teeple – all professed “history buffs” – to form a paranormal investigators’ group in their spare time (all three still have their day jobs).
Since its inception in 2010, the trio has run WCPI with their personal equipment out of their own homes. They will investigate anywhere in southern Ontario, though they want to focus on the Wellington County area.
McClelland said the group hopes to have a headquarters set up in the Fergus area by the fall. The group is hoping that move, combined with some exposure, will help build its clientele.
“What we’re finding is a lot of people have concerns but are reluctant to come froward,” said Cairney. Yet he noted the feedback the group receives from clients is overwhelmingly positive.
“Many, many people have said that just talking to us is a relief; a real weight off their shoulders,” he said.
WCPI is currently setting up an investigation in Waterloo Region and is looking for other potential projects in the area – and also for more investigators to join their team.
“We want to keep busy doing this,” Cairney said.
Added McClelland, “This type of thing is not for a lot of people, but we enjoy it.”
For more information or to request an investigation visit www.wcpi.ca or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 12, 2013