Magnolia Plain (hero image)

photo by: Jamie Pearce

October 28, 2015

Seeking Spooks and Specters: Ghost Hunting with Jamie Pearce

  • By: Lauren Walser

Just because a building is old doesn’t mean it’s haunted. Jamie Pearce, a paranormal investigator in Jacksonville, Florida, knows that firsthand. But she does believe that older is better.

Through Historic Haunts Investigations, Pearce and her 20-person team have investigated ghostly activities in more than 25 states since 2004. Pearce is also the author of five books on the paranormal, with a sixth due out in December. Here, she shares some insight gleaned from more than two decades of exploring the things that can’t always be seen.

How did you get into the field of paranormal investigations?

My mom used to flip houses, for pretty much my entire life. By the time I was 10 years old, I had lived in 10 different houses. I loved it—it was like a new adventure.

I was about 5 years old, and we had just moved in to a house in St. Petersburg, Florida. My mom tucked me in, and I went to sleep. I woke up some time in the early morning hours to see an elderly woman standing next to my bed smiling. She pulled the blanket up tucking me in, bent over and kissed my forehead, then stood up and disappeared.

I sat up like, ‘Whoa! What was that?’ I got up and went through the house. My parents were asleep, and there was no one else in the house.

Thank heavens my mom never poo poo’d anything growing up. I asked her about ghosts, and we talked about how some people just kinda hang around. This fascinated me, and I wanted to know more. I read books on the paranormal and watched Unsolved Mysteries, which did legit reports on hauntings, to learn as much as I could.

As I got older, I became involved with the Michigan Ghost Watchers and was lead investigator for three of their chapters. I took courses in Parapsychology with HCH Institute in California then started my own group.

Photo of Jamie Pearce.

photo by: Kilted Photography

Jamie Pearce is the founder of Historic Haunts Investigations and has been investigating the paranormal for more than 20 years.

Drayton Hall in Charleston, South Carolina.

photo by: Jamie Pearce

At Drayton Hall, a National Trust Historic Site in Charleston, South Carolina, Jamie Pearce sensed the presence of something supernatural, which she chronicles in her books.

What inspired you to turn your abilities into a business? How did you know there was a need for your services?

From an early age I have always wanted to help others. As my passion for the paranormal got stronger, and my knowledge on it [grew], I realized there were people out there who needed help. They didn’t know how to handle their restless happy haunt, or they thought they had a demon in their attic, et cetera, and I wanted to help. I realized these people need someone to talk to and someone who can hopefully answer their questions and help them.

Early on, so many were scared to talk about ghosts. It was taboo, or people thought you were nuts if you mentioned them. When people found out I was out there, along with others across the world, that gave them some relief knowing they could talk to at least one person about it.

My team has been around for over 11 years, and we conduct investigations for free. If we are booked, or it’s an extremely long distance to drive, I will recommend someone in their area that I know is reputable.

With some of our investigations, the clients just needed someone to tell them, ‘Yep, Grandma is still here, and she isn’t going to hurt you,’ and they have been relieved. Other times, we found it wasn’t a demon in her attic, it was a rather fat raccoon, and he fell through the beams and is the reason the ceiling cracked. We have helped other clients calm things down, or have helped spirits move on.

An apparition at the Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon in Charleston, South Carolina.

photo by: Jamie Pearce

Pearce captured this image of an apparition at the Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon in Charleston, South Carolina.

How do you perform an investigation?

We have a lot of equipment! We have EMF meters of all kinds—they pick up on the electromagnetic field. Ghosts tend to manipulate that when they are around.

We have one EMF meter called the K2. It’s so simple. We have found this is a great one to use for yes or no questions. We’ll set three meters up and tell them to use this one for yes, that one for no, and this one for maybe. We get great responses with those.

We use many other EMF meters as well, like the Mel Meter. There are many versions of this, but they all pick up on EMF and temperature. Ghosts are known to drop the temperature because they are using the energy around them to manifest.

We have many different cameras, from thermal imaging, IR cameras, full spectrum, still cameras, et cetera, to try and capture something paranormal. In all my years investigating, I have only captured four full-body apparitions. That is one of the hardest things to capture, and when you do, it’s so exciting.

We also have dowsing rods and flashlights, which are also great for Q&A sessions. We use the mini Maglite and turn it to [the setting] where if you tap it, it will turn on. We usually use at least three for this experiment (and three different colors). One will be yes, one is no, the other maybe, just as before. Touch the red one for yes, the blue for no, et cetera.

“ I love history and old historic buildings, and even if they aren’t haunted by the dead, I have always said they are haunted with history. ”

Jamie Pearce, Paranormal Investigator

We also use digital recorders in hopes of capturing EVPs, or electronic voice phenomenon. We have captured some great ones over the years. One of the best was during an investigation in St. Augustine, Florida. Eric (one of my investigators and my lead investigator for my Orlando chapter) was doing an EVP session in the back area of an antiques store where a couple of child ghosts are known to be, and he captured a little boy say, ‘Hey, what are you doing in there?’ as if he was inquiring about the equipment.

We do research the property through land records and historic societies to get the background on the places. We conduct interviews with each person living or working at the location separately to see how their stories jive or don't with one another. We get a base EMF and temperature reading throughout the location so we know what is normal for that building, then we start setting up equipment. My team members each take turns in the different areas or rooms and watching the monitors.

Sometimes investigations are very exciting with all kinds of activity, then other times we are bored to tears with nothing happening. I think that is one thing that keeps us going besides helping others: never knowing when something might happen.

Magnolia Plantation & Gardens in Charleston, South Carolina.

photo by: Jamie Pearce

Jamie Pearce toured Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, South Carolina, and gathered paranormal stories for her books.

Old houses and old buildings often have reputations for being haunted, either because people have experienced something inexplicable, or just because the age of the building lends itself to feeling creepy. In your experience, do most old buildings have ghosts? Or is that just an assumption people make?

A lot of people seem to think if it’s old, it’s haunted, and if it isn’t old, then it isn’t haunted. Well, it doesn’t have to be old to be haunted, but I do agree there is a better chance of it being haunted if it is old. I love history and old historic buildings, and even if they aren’t haunted by the dead, I have always said they are haunted with history. We have investigated land, new homes, old homes, and more, but I have to admit for me, the older the better. I am also post cognitive, which means I see things from the past. It doesn’t always happen, but so many times when I go into historic buildings I just tune into the building’s past and see and feel so much.

Tuckahoe Plantation in Richmond, Virginia.

photo by: Jamie Pearce

Jamie Pearce is the descendent of the family who built Tuckahoe Plantation, the boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson, in Richmond, Virginia. She has sensed supernatural activity at the site.

What makes a place more likely to be haunted?

Any place can be haunted. Some spirits stick around because they feel it is still their house and they don’t want to leave it, others stick around because they are scared of what the afterlife has in store for them. Others stay here because they have unfinished business, like if they were murdered and they want justice to be served. We have also seen cases where a parent dies and they want to stay to keep an eye on their kids.

A lot of folks seem to think cemeteries are the most haunted places. Not so. Would you want to sit in a graveyard by yourself if you were a ghost? Most people return to the places or the people they love. Although some cemeteries are pretty darn cool.

Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana.

photo by: Jamie Pearce

Jamie Pearce investigated the ghost of a girl named Chloe at Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana.

What is one of your more memorable investigations?

The Myrtles Plantation in St. Francisville, Louisiana. I saw this when I was little, I believe on Unsolved Mysteries, and I just became so intrigued by the story. I got in contact with the owner, and we later became friends. She so graciously allowed me to investigate her inn for my second book, Historic Haunts of the South. I even put their photo on the cover.

I hoped so much to get in contact with one of their resident ghosts, Chloe, and I did. She tucked me in! If you want all the details, you really need to check out the book. The place is so historic and so haunted, it’s a must-do for any paranormal fan.

Jamie Pearce's Historic Haunts series.

photo by: Deric Pearce

Jamie Pearce is the author of five “Historic Haunts” books, with a sixth due out later this year.

Any final thoughts you want to share?

My final thoughts might sound a bit sappy. I love history, and I love the paranormal. I am so blessed to be investigating some of our country’s most amazing sites and writing about them for a living. I truly love what I do: educating people on the paranormal and history, and touring some amazing locations. I hope I get to continue my journey with Historic Haunts for a very long time. As Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin said many years ago when he started his restoration project at Colonial Williamsburg, "So the future may learn from the past."

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Lauren Walser headshot

Lauren Walser served as the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

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