"Hello, my name is Noah. These are all my friends," Noah Leigh declares, his voice echoing in the empty concert hall. "We are not here to hurt you or to try to make you leave, we’re just trying to communicate with you. So if there is anyone that would like to communicate with us, would you please come forward and tell us your name?"
I am sitting in row S, seat 1 inside the Riverside Theater. It is pitch black and I sit silently in the dark listening to three members of the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee (or PIM) at work.
"Did you used to work here?" Noah asks.
Noah founded PIM in 2007 with the goal of starting a team that would take a skeptical and scientific approach to their investigations. They look not just for phantoms, but more earthly explanations. His team currently has about nine members. Joining him for this Riverside investigation are team members Jann Goldberg and Michael Graeve (more commonly known as "Gravy.")
I sit here with them (and possibly ghosts) in the dark because I’m working on my second book, which will document various people around the country who search for the unknown. PIM was just the type of group I was looking to join up with locally. They are a prime example of a ghost hunting team— professional, organized, experienced and active. They conduct investigations frequently, searching for ghosts at the Brumder Mansion, the former Pabst brewery and a wide range of private residences, haunted farm houses and creepy abandoned buildings. They have traveled around the state and taken road trips to haunted landmarks like the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.
I wanted to find out all about PIM and the art of ghost hunting. Will I have a ghost encounter? Sitting in the dark theater, I feel cold air on my back, but that's just a draft in the old building, right? Or is there something in here?
This night, PIM has returned to investigate the Riverside’s ghost stories, and there are many. There have been reports of ghostly footsteps walking across the stage. A mischievous, light-flicking ghost is said to haunt the theater’s light booth and ghostly children have been heard running and laughing through the halls of the fourth floor.
All of this has intrigued the members of PIM who have showed up for their fifth investigation at Riverside. The team convenes at the Riverside’s stage and starts setting up equipment. PIM has an array of electromagnetic field detectors, thermal imaging cameras, audio recorders, temperature monitors and a lot of other gizmos that I have no clue about.
After their session in the main theater PIM moves through a couple more spots in the Riverside, conducting sessions in the light booth, the fourth floor hall and the third floor where an apparition was spotted in the men’s room.
I join the team in Gravy’s living room a few weeks later for their monthly meeting and evidence review. This particular investigation of the Riverside didn’t reveal anything substantial, but interesting past experiences keep the theater on PIM’s list of favorite spots to investigate.
Their first Riverside investigation – Case no. 110909 — took place in September 2011. That’s when they captured three different EVPs — that’s Electronic Voice Phenomenon, spooky ghost whispers caught with audio recorders. Then there was Case 111203, where they caught a whisper on the second floor of the theater at 12:58 a.m. PIM’s most compelling Riverside evidence comes from Case 120218 in February 2012. There, not far from where I was sitting, they captured a female whisper. It sounded to me like she was saying "tell me."
Was that really the voice of a ghost? Check out PIM’s case files and decide for yourself.
Tea Krulos is a freelance writer from Milwaukee. His first book, "Heroes in the Night," is out Oct. 1 from Chicago Review Press.