Tales of the supernatural fair game to ghost hunter

Tales of the supernatural fair game to ghost hunter
January 11, 2009
By Tony Reid

HELBYVILLE, Ill. — Brian Hendrian is a deer hunter and, when he gets a spare moment, a stalker of the supernatural. He has been pursuing things that go bump in the night for the best part of 20 years but, so far, not one demon.

"There are a lot of demon cases out there," he says. "But I think they are fabricated. I've never been involved in one myself."

As ghost hunters go, Hendrian, 34, isn't exactly typecast for the part. Quiet, relaxed and unemotional, he sits in his living room full of deer head trophies and doesn't look the sort to be easily transported to a state of ectoplasmic joy by the prospect of seeing dead people.

But he is gripped by a burning curiosity to know the answer to the ultimate question: What happens to us when we die? And while maybe two haunting cases in 10 turn out to be worth his time, he says he has experienced enough to become a "skeptical believer."

"People getting slapped, pushed around, voices that just come out of thin air, I've witnessed things I can't explain," says Hendrian. "There is a lot of fraud out there, but not all of it is fraud."

To help sort through the cases, he has gathered around him a group of like-minded spirits, so to speak. He's the founder of organizations that include the Shelby Paranormal Research Society, the United States Paranormal Society and the Shelbyville Cryptozoology Research Society.

The Cryptozoology folks hunt for "hidden animals," creatures whose existence is not recognized by science—at least not yet. Hendrian says there is a lot of fraud in this area, too, but he believes there is credible evidence for the existence of both an "unknown biped" (Big Foot) and of something large and toothy slinking through the Illinois undergrowth.

"We get a lot of black panther reports in Illinois," he says. "And I believe there is something out there."

When on the trail of ghosts, he starts by a series of gentle e-mail or phone interviews with the person claiming their home or whatever is haunted. If it looks good there, he will follow up with a face-to-face meeting and, eventually, a site visit.

"It can get dead boring when nothing happens," he says. "And you also need a sense of humor."

His wife, Renee, has joined him on many hunts. Though she has experienced strange sounds and the icy presence of something she couldn't see, she has not been frightened out of her wits. But she says it will take something dramatic and scary to make science stop snickering and take the supernatural seriously.

"As technology advances, I think it might be possible to get some pretty definitive proof," she says. "To maybe actually catch a full apparition on video for everyone to see it, and to where you can see nobody faked it."

In the meantime, it's back to the hunt for the truth and the more than occasional exposure of the fraudulent. Her husband and two of his fellow enthusiasts—one in Joliet, the other in California—host a weekly Internet radio show that features ironic awards distinguishing particularly blatant supernatural scams.

One of the Shelbyville ghost hunter's favorites is the eBay vendor who claimed to be selling "ghosts in a bottle," actual spirits banished and sealed in bottles by real live ghostbusters.

"And people were actually buying this stuff," Hendrian says. "It just gets more ridiculous."
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