"There are so many popular ghost-hunting apps, software programs, and TV shows out there right now that rely only on the tech side of things — but what people don't realize is that if you take the human part out of the ghost-hunting equation, you're really left with nothing. Sure, it may look like your app is detecting some sort of peripheral movement, or the people on TV may be tracking some remote electromagnetic phenomenon. But you have to remember that ghosts were once people, that you're dealing with human beings. Technology will only take you so far. You need that human sensory and extrasensory contact for the spirit to fully reveal itself as more than just a blip on a screen. You can't just go take a photo of a ghost with your iPhone!"
Master of Parapsychology, professor at JFK university, and Bay Area ghost detective Loyd Auerbach (www.mindreader.com) is speaking to me over the phone about the book he published earlier this year with psychic Annette Martin, The Ghost Detectives' Guide to San Francisco, a spooky and involving compendium of the duo's 16-year investigations into local paranormal phenomenon. Auerbach had just come from a weeklong conference on the paranormal at Atlantic University in Virginia, where hot topics included quantum psychometrics, split beam research, global consciousness projection and convergences, and — his specialties — recurrent research with mediums and parapsychology education.
That's some heady stuff for a down-to-earth guy who credits comic book geekiness as his gateway to paranormal investigation. "It's either surprising or not surprising that so many paranormal investigators are comic book geeks and old TV show fanatics," he says with a laugh. (Auerbach is also a well-known chocolatier: his Haunted By Chocolate line, www.hauntedbychocolate.com, will be featured at Berkeley's Spun Sugar shop for Halloween.)
Besides the ghost detectives' indepth sleuthing at places like Alcatraz, the Queen Anne Hotel, and Chinatown, I was particularly intrigued by Auerbach and Martin's concept of "residual haunting" versus actual haunting. "Residual hauntings are simply traces of emotion or action that clutters the psychic territory of a location — even living people can 'haunt' a place residually. A real haunting consists of a complex set of phenomena that naturally involve one or several spirits, but that moves beyond repetitive enactments and into a fuller narrative."
The ghost detectives do indeed experience fuller narratives — several of them chilling, like the barrage of negative feelings that assault Annette in Chinatown and the echoes of despair filling Alcatraz. And some are more, er, entertaining, like Auerbach's intimate encounter with a specter named Cayte at the Moss Beach Distillery that's jokingly referred to as "ghost sex."
The book was to have kicked off a series exploring Bay Area. Unfortunately, Annette, whose "gift of the white light" brought her a considerable amount of TV and radio fame, passed away in September. "I have so much material from our collaboration, I'm still planning to do something," Auerbach said. "And to answer your next question: no, I haven't exactly heard from Annette from the other side. But several of her psychic friends have, and I'm hoping my next project will involve seeking her out."
ENCOUNTER AT THE PRESIDIO OFFICERS' CLUB
An excerpt from The Ghost Detectives' Guide to San Francisco