More than 50 people inside the Simpson Barn in Johnston fell quiet, straining to hear the scratchy recording: “I won’t leave.”
People began nodding their heads, smiling and chattering to their neighbors. The recording they had just heard is one of several electronic voice phenomena — or EVPs — shared Friday by Dan Berger of Waukee, founder of the Iowa Paranormal Advanced Research Team.
The presentation was arranged by the Johnston Public Library for the Halloween season.
The team, also known as the Iowa Ghost Hunters, investigates paranormal happenings at no cost for people across Iowa and in some other states.
Tammy Wilhelm of Des Moines and Gail Wiegmann and Lisa Van Ellen, both of Johnston, listened intently to Berger's presentation.
Before the presentation began, the three women said they believe in paranormal activity and have experienced some unexplained happenings themselves.
“I’ve always been interested in paranormal activity,” Wiegmann said. “I do believe in ghosts.”
Tammy turned toward Lisa and said, “She’s particularly sensitive to this kind of thing.” Lisa just smiled.
“Paranormal is simply something that can’t be explained through normal processes or what we know," Berger told the audience.
EVPs are one way paranormal investigators can detect whether there is unexplained activity.
“In the investigation where the voice was recorded, the team went in to assist an Iowa woman with some unexplained things happening in the home," Berger said.
Berger and his team, along with the family, were able to discern that the voice, which they recorded following their initial investigation, was the spirit of the great-grandmother, who was very protective.
She simply did not want to go away. There were other issues in the house as well, and the family was able to correct some of the issues, Berger said.
The EVPs are recordings of voices that can’t be heard by the human ear, but are caught by the recording equipment, Berger explained.
Sometimes the spirit or voice that is recorded is actually talking to the investigators and sometimes it simply doesn’t seem connected to what they are doing, he said.
“We don’t tell people what to do, or to get rid of spirits, but we can discuss issues we identify through the investigation, and make suggestions if it gets to that point,” he said.
Berger shared several voice and video recordings of unexplained phenomena after first explaining that the team does not investigate to prove there are spirits, but to find out why something happens.
And, more often than not, an explanation can be found. One home the team investigated had weird noises coming from the walls of the house. Turned out bats had moved in through a damaged portion of the roof.
“We investigate everything, from doing an extensive history on a house, to finding out about family history and much more,” Berger said.
Berger also showed several videos of phenomena that could not be explained away. One showed a soccer ball that had been sitting on steps suddenly flying up into the air and bouncing down the steps for no reason.
“It was a ball that was nearly deflated, and it was sitting on old steps that curved up," he said. "There was no reason for that ball to go anywhere."
Lisa Van Ellen could relate to some of what Berger said.
“The women in my family going way back are pretty sensitive to what’s around them, to what’s there and whoever wants to make contact known,” she said.