- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

LOVELAND, Colo. (AP) - What is it? That feeling?

It’s a tightening of your chest, a flutter of your heart, a chill, denseness in the air. It’s unsettling and unexplainable, the feeling you get when you walk into certain old buildings. Almost as if you just inadvertently walked into someone else’s fight.

Richard Estep believes you might have.

He also says it might be a branch of science we don’t yet understand.

That’s why the Longmont man has been working as a paranormal investigator since the mid-‘90s.

People have been reporting ghost sightings and haunted houses since ancient times. The first written ghost story, tales of an old bearded man rattling chains, dates to the first century A.D., in Rome.

Although ghost sightings through the centuries have been largely disregarded by the mainstream as imaginary, the stories have persisted. Estep wants to know why.

Why do some people swear they experience something supernatural, while the person right next to them sees nothing? How could unconnected and unknowing strangers claim the same paranormal experience in certain locations?

Estep has his theories, and he has dedicated his life to investigating it deeper.

“If we could replicate this in a lab, we would solve this mystery by now, but this is not being investigated by anybody other than teams like mine,” he says. “It’s arguably the most important question that humanity has ever faced.”

Estep runs the not-for-profit, volunteer-run Boulder County Paranormal Research Society, which conducts free “scientific, objective investigations” on the supernatural in Boulder County and beyond.

He recently released two books, “Haunted Longmont: Haunted History and Colorful Coloradans,” a part of the Haunted America series, and his autobiography, “In Search of the Paranormal,” a collection of the most unusual and chilling cases he has worked on in his career.

He was set to speak about his findings at the Longmont Public Library.

Profits from Estep’s book sales benefit the Longmont Humane Society. He says he doesn’t want to turn his ghost-hunting into a money-driven business for fear of cheapening the work or appearing sensational.

His Longmont book features 20 different haunted properties in Longmont, just a handful of the many he says he has experienced firsthand. Some are in prominent businesses, such as the Dickens Opera House or Cheese Importers, formerly the city sanitation building. Others are in private homes, typically older structures. That’s the bulk of his work.

“In a town the size of Longmont there are always one to two significant hauntings going on at any given moment,” Estep says.

Still, the number of real-life haunted houses in town fluctuates, he says. A spirit might flare up for three months and then disappear for 30 years, he says.

“It’s very unpredictable. That’s part of the reason it’s so difficult to research. You cannot make this happen on schedule,” he says.

That’s also why he’s hesitant to support ghost-tour companies or properties that promote a spooky time.

Most people who live in truly haunted properties don’t like to advertise it, he says.

On Halloween, Estep planned to take a small group of people (open to the public) inside the Dickens in Longmont. He offers no promises of what might happen, although he shares the history.

He and his team of volunteers use scientific methods and a specific process to investigate activity, his website says. Among the gadgets they use are electromagnetic field meters, audio recorders, video and still cameras, temperature probes, laser grids and Geiger counters, none of which is specifically designed to detect ghosts.

In other words, the gadgets are considered reliable in the “normal” world, not a questionable product used only for paranormal research. He questions the legitimacy of that.

Estep believes some supernatural occurrences are a natural recording in the environment, like an echo, especially in a location where there once were intense emotions. In these cases, a person might even experience a “recording” of a person who still is alive but located somewhere else.

In some other cases, he says, the human spirit has survived even though the physical body has died.

To Estep, this is science. Not scary.

Things are often scary when we don’t understand them, he says.

“Back in the day, if you had seizures you were possessed by the devil, because they didn’t understand it,” Estep says. “Things that I take for granted in the medical profession today were regarded as witchcraft and supernatural just a few centuries ago. What are they going to think in 300 years from now, looking back and laughing at us?”

As he sees it, just because conventional science says it can’t happen does not mean it isn’t occurring.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” he says. “I think we’re really dealing with a branch of science in its infancy that we don’t understand yet. We are like cave-dwellers looking at the moon trying to figure out what it is. But one day, this will all be in school textbooks and understood, and there will be nothing spooky about it whatsoever.”

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Information from: Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald, https://www.reporterherald.com/

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