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Ghost hunting

Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee visit possibly haunted Fitzsimmons Road at night

Oct. 16, 2008

Imagine walking east along Fitzsimmons Road just before midnight on a cool, fall night. The road is surrounded by Bender Park’s wooded trails and, as it approaches Lake Michigan, is interrupted by foreboding barricades shielding traffics from the drop-off of a cliff.

Now imagine knowing that the road, once a popular drag-racing strip, is rumored to be haunted by the ghosts of drivers who plummeted to accidental — and sometimes intentional — deaths.

Many who have visited the site at night claim to have heard engines revving, cars crashing into the lake, screaming and crying, and to have glimpsed apparitions in the forms of young men and women climbing up the cliff or cheering racers on from the sidelines.

Believable? Perhaps.

Even for a skeptic, the spookiness factor is huge, as every snap of a twig, scuffle on the pavement or voice in the distance is amplified. Unless you happen to have a team of paranormal investigators at your side, attributing every sensation to the most likely rational causes.

I had that luxury when I accompanied the Paranormal Investigators of Milwaukee on an Oct. 11 investigation of Fitzsimmons Road.

We met about 10:30 p.m. to begin hunting for ghosts — the investigators equipped with tools such as electromagnetic frequency scanners, Geiger counters and ultraviolet headlamps, myself with only a pen and notepad and the anticipation of having my first ghostly encounter.

Noah Leigh, PIM founder, introduced me to the other investigators — Michael Tovar, Steve Gomon, Karen Kolasa and Chris Reilly Jr. — and explained how the night would proceed. PIM’s goal is not to declare a site as being haunted or not; by using science, it aims to establish an environment that is as controlled as possible, so it’s easier to explain any odd occurrences.

“We’re just kind of a fact-finding mission. We’ll come in … and try to find logical explanations to things that (people) might think are paranormal,” Leigh said.

Controlling an outdoor environment is difficult, he said, but the group had done an initial walk-through earlier in the evening to establish baseline readings and to stake out the site.

We began walking east along the road, and soon ventured down a wooded path to the north. One of our first observations was random bursts of warm air — a sensation that, based on accounts of visitors to the area, has been perceived as paranormal.

However, the group was quick to note that the proximity of the We Energies power plant, combined with the rise and fall of the pathways, could account for the unusual disbursement of air.

In my hoping-to-be-frightened state of mind, my first reaction was to believe I was in the presence of a spirit. Likewise, I easily could have chalked up voices in the distance, the foggy haze of smoke and the sound of machinery — all of which were decidedly generated by the power plant as well, investigators agreed — to a haunting.

“Even people who are trained to rule out the obvious can be easily fooled,” Tovar pointed out.

Tovar — one of the group’s “sensitives,” so named because of his ability to sense and sometimes communicate with spirits — eventually led us to a clearing at the end of the road, where he sensed a male spirit near the cliff.

He and the team attempted to communicate with the spirit through electronic voice phenomenon, which picks up static noise often believed to be spirits, but Tovar sensed the spirit pulling away from the group. He most likely was not an active spirit at the site, but simply passing through, Tovar said.

We decided to walk back to our cars, keeping our eyes peeled for the set of headlights that supposedly can be seen traveling down the road at midnight — our last chance at encountering the paranormal — but had no luck.

The PIM team has yet to review the data they collected. Based on what they experienced Oct. 11, their preliminary verdict is that those looking for truly paranormal activity likely won’t find it along Fitzsimmons Road.

For those just looking for a good scare, though, it may be a good place to start.

Julie Becker can be reached at (262) 446-6606.

GHOST HUNTER FIELD KIT

For those who simply must hunt down a ghost this Halloween season, here are some rules and tools of the trade:

• Don’t do anything illegal. Police will enforce no trespassing and park hour regulations.

• Bring a buddy and a flashlight, especially when investigating at night.

• Carry a camera and audio recorder, to capture any evidence that may not be detected by the human eye or ear.

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