Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ghost Hunters Want To Search Retired Ferries

It's worth saying boo about. A psychic believes she discovered a ghost aboard the Washington State Ferries. Now a Snohomish County group wants to use scientific equipment to hunt for paranormal activity aboard the recently retired 81-year-old Steel Electric-class ferries. They're throwing a new scare into the ferry system that goes way beyond problems with corroded hulls. "I expect to find residual energy," said Georgia Kalasountas, a psychic who said she felt the presence of a ghost while riding a ferry to Bainbridge Island. "I would expect people to communicate with me who say, 'Yes, I was here.'" Haunted souls, lingering spirits and echoes from the past may inhabit the state's oldest ferries, she and others contend. The Washington State Ghost Society, based in Mukilteo, has been trying for more than a year to get permission to board the ferries to collect evidence of ghosts and other signs of what they described in their written proposal as "energy surpassing the finite state of death." If the group's wishes are granted, it would be the first time paranormal research has been attempted on the ferries with state approval. The ghost society has looked statewide inside private homes, hotels and public buildings, including the old Carnegie Library in Snohomish. At the library, the group reported they detected signs of the ghost of a former librarian. "She revealed that she remains because she was so heartbroken at being fired or laid off," the group said on its Web site. "She loved that place. It was her heart. She didn't want to leave, and so she never has."Over the years, crew members on the aging ferry fleet have reported experiencing different paranormal phenomena, said Marian Smith, who coordinates the research studies for the ghost society. Kalasountas said she is one of the group's "sensitives," a specially trained psychic who is tuned in to picking up wavelengths from the beyond. On a ferry ride to Bainbridge Island more than a year ago, Kalasountas believed she had an onboard encounter. "I remember having this feeling of energy," she said. "It's a sensation you feel. It's something that you recognize. It feels like a connection to a person." That's when the ghost hunters sent their formal proposal to the ferry system. They outlined their mission, the benefits of their paranormal research and their methodology. "We do it to benefit the scientific community and the general public," Smith said. "Some people think it's off the wall and some people believe there's something to it." The ferry system turned them down. "I was delighted by the request. We just weren't able to accommodate it," ferry spokeswoman Marta Coursey said. The ferry system gets all sorts of requests, she said. One group wanted to convert one of the aging Steel Electrics into a floating shopping mall, another wanted to sink a ferry and make it into an underwater destination for scuba divers. This is the first time in recent memory a group has wanted to look for ghosts, she said. "They're old boats. It's sort of like an old house," Coursey said. "People think that an old ferry never dies." Officials couldn't justify the time it would take to allow the ghost hunters aboard. Plus, there were safety and security concerns. Crew members weren't sure about chaperoning people with infrared cameras, digital audio recorders, thermometers and electromagnetic field detectors as they roamed engine compartments, gangways, galleys and passenger areas. In November, after the four Steel Electrics were pulled from service due to corrosion problems and safety concerns, the team of paranormal researchers saw an opportunity.With the vessels "put out to pasture," the ghost hunters believed they might be able to move forward with their investigation, Smith said. The historic nature of the Steel Electrics, which carried thousands of passengers across Admiralty Inlet from Port Townsend to Keystone, made them prime settings for paranormal research, said Jeffrey Marks, the ghost group's president. "Maybe something in the past stayed behind and maybe we can go in with some of our equipment and capture that," he said. There's more to ghosts than Casper, bed sheets and frightening visitations from Christmas Past, Marks explained. "I think it's finding the nature of consciousness and reality," he said. Unlike the movies, the paranormal researchers said they are trying to understand the communications from the other side, not exorcise spirits and ghosts. "We try to distance ourselves from ghost-busting because people don't take them seriously," Smith said. The researchers' quest to look for ghosts on the state's oldest ferries may have reached a bitter end. The vessels no longer carry Coast Guard certification and that makes it nearly impossible for any member of the public to go aboard, Coursey said. The last hope the researchers have to inspect the ferries may be if a buyer steps forward and grants permission to the group. The ferry system is now trying to sell the vessels. Until the ghost hunters get the green light, they can't verify stories about the lingering spirits of ferry passengers or crew members who still ride the boats. "Until we can get on there and do our thing, then we can't say this is for sure," Smith said.

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