- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2002

The study of ghosts has been going on for centuries as believers and nonbelievers have tried to document concrete evidence of the spirits' existence. Illusionist Harry Houdini, inventor Thomas Edison and author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle all have looked into these apparitions, with mixed results.
One group has been seriously investigating the existence of ghosts in Virginia for the past two years and has created a Web site to chronicle its adventures into the unknown and help reveal the mysteries of the spirit world.

Virginia Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society (VGHRS)
Site address: www.virginiaghosts.com
Creator: The VGHRS is a nonprofit organization that studies supernatural occurrences. Its key personnel and regional directors live in or near Virginia.
Creator quotable: "I created the site to provide a Web-based headquarters for the Virginia Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society. The site serves as a place to give the public free information about urban legends and alleged hauntings in the state of Virginia. The site also provides a place that people experiencing the paranormal will have a place to ask questions about their particular situation," says Bobbie Lescar, founder and director of the VGHRS.
Word from the Webwise: The site's creators have worked hard to balance the importance of using intelligent investigative techniques with the excitement of looking for real spiritual remnants of the dead. The site's variety of sources, devoid of any cheesy banner ads never pounding visitors over the head for monetary contributions or charging to check out a haunting gives it a stronger air of credibility than most of the ghost sites I have checked.
Using a black background and extensive splashes of eerie fluorescent green-and-white lettering, the site plunges visitors into the world of poltergeists; electromagnetic field meters; and hair-raising, first-person accounts as it offers three primary sections, Navigation, Interactive and Cases, to relay a wealth of text-based pages.
While perusing the numerous subtopics in each section, I found the 14 classic signs of a haunting, an editorial on some of the greatest hoaxes from Skeptical Enquirer magazine, a history of electronic voice phenomenon, the various types of ghosts or apparitions that might exist, a look at six famous ghosts around the world, a chat room with regularly moderated events, and more than 50 stories and reports about locations thought to be haunted in Virginia.
The majority of the site concentrates on 36 ghost cases being reviewed by the VGHRS, ranging from a hotel in Norfolk with an unruly piece of wood; to the Fredericksburg Cemetery, where faces appear in the trees; to a private residence in Richmond that contains a friendly spirit. Each case presents initial interviews with the haunted people as well as reports from the staff.
Perhaps the best way to demonstrate the seriousness of the VGHRS is to take part in the online course given in partnership with the Toronto Ghosts and Hauntings Research Society (www.torontoghosts.org). The multipage document ends in a test that must be taken by all potential members. It clearly defines the actions that need to be taken when one is investigating a supernatural manifestation, down to team members' qualifications and the equipment needed.
Ease of use: The simple design of the site will work even with older versions of browsers. Only the Real Player plug-in is needed to enjoy some of the content. I would love to see more physical evidence of hauntings (i.e., photos, video and audio), but the mix of a community atmosphere and seemingly authoritative viewpoints will give visitors a perfect night of reading after their Halloween festivities have concluded.
Don't miss: One case I found especially chilling involves a haunted residence in Chesapeake, Va., that was investigated by the society in 2000. The famous home had been featured on the Montel Williams Show in 1999 and had apparitions, orbs, voices, footsteps, strange mists rising from the floor and a living doll that bruised. Called the "pot of gold" of paranormal investigations by Miss Lescar, the place was scrutinized intensely by her and six team members. All of their notes, analysis, evidence (including footage of the doll moving its eye) and potential explanations can be found under the Chesapeake House area.
Elements on the horizon: New story submissions and investigation reports are added frequently.
Comprehension level: According to Miss Lescar, the VGHRS Web presence is intended for an adult audience 18 years and older.
Overall grade: B
Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the sites before you act to be sure it's accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your own physician.

Have a cool site for the science or technology fan? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).


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