Bill Slevin has had a lifelong interest in the paranormal, originally in his native New Jersey. But for the past 22 years, he’s been investigating paranormal phenomena, mostly on behalf of private clients, here in Florida, and he has been running the Coral Springs-based Paranormal Existence Research Society (P.E.R.S.) for the past 11 years, investigating more than 400 homes on a volunteer basis. He has appeared on Travel Channel’s “Ghost Asylum,” and he lectures regularly at conventions and local libraries.
With Halloween just a couple of months away, we thought it was time to learn more about how he approaches his unorthodox work—and maybe hear a great ghost story in the process.
In terms of the volume of inquires you receive, has it increased over the years, or decreased, or stayed pretty much the same?
It’s increased. When I started it was very different. It was very quiet. Nobody wanted to contact anybody, because they thought they’d wind up in the mental hospital. People like us, we thought we’d wind up in the mental hospital with them.
Since all these [ghost hunting] TV shows, it’s greatly increased, because they confuse everybody. Every sound they hear, they think it’s paranormal. And it’s now kind of cool to be haunted, so some people want to be haunted!
People need to remember, a lot of those sounds are added by a sound designer later in the process to make it sound spookier.
Exactly. They don’t understand that when we do public investigations, we go to abandoned locations. Sometimes we’re there five hours and we don’t get a thing. I watch the shows; they’re entertaining. But if you watch a show for an hour and nothing happens, you’re not going to watch it again. I would, because I know that’s how it works.
Florida in particular has such a rich and deep history of paranormal sightings and legends. What accounts for this: Is it just the largeness of our population, or is there something more unique about Florida?
It depends where in Florida, because you have St. Augustine, which is the oldest city in the country, so it’s known as the most haunted city in the country. So you have some areas like Key West, where there’s a long history of hauntings, and there are a lot of ghost tours.
Do some cases have a natural, prosaic response?
When we get the initial contact from somebody, we’ll contact them, get all the basic information. We have a huge form on our website that we make them fill out, because it weeds people out. If they take the time to fill out this ridiculously long form, then I know they’re a little serious. And just from experience, we weed them out from who’s just playing games, and who’s really scared. When we go to see them, I have a ton of equipment. But when we go to people’s homes, I don’t use 90 percent of that equipment, because it’s not accurate for somebody’s house; it’s great for public investigations.
When we go, we sit with them like counselors. My team is very different than a lot of teams out there, because we are there to help them no matter what it is. If it’s not paranormal, we’re going to do everything we can to help them anyway, because they’re scared. We sit down, and we’ll spend four or five hours with them sometimes, hearing everything, letting them talk, and trying to figure out what we think it is.
I’m an empath. I’m not a medium, but I can sense spirits and I can sense energy. I will do walk-throughs of the house, see what I can feel, because the [spirits] can hide from me, but most of the time they can’t.
What do you mean by that?
It’s strange; a lot of people will say the house is haunted, we’ve got things moved around, we heard noises. And then the investigators come over and nothing happens. Sometimes the ghost will not come out. It’s like an animal that’s hiding in the closet. But they really can’t hide from people who have any kind of ability like an empath or a medium, because we can feel them, even if they’re not alerting us that they’re there. And a lot of times, we help the people by starting out 99 percent of the time by telling them it is not dangerous, it is not demonic. Everybody watches these shows and thinks everything’s a demon. It’s an extremely rare occurrence that you run into demons. I’ve done probably 500 homes in my time, and I’ve been on about 10 cases that I believe were demonic, five or six that I’m sure were. It’s a very different thing; they don’t just hang around your house and make a noise. You’ll know.
What are the trademarks of those demonic cases?
Demons have three stages: infestation, oppression and possession. The difference is infestation is how they first come in. Most of the time, demons are only brought it through two ways. Usually, somebody invited them in: They’re using a Ouija board, they’re doing a séance. Or if the person is severely depressed, demons can attach to them, because they’re looking for a weak-minded person that they can possess. So infestation can be a little tricky at the beginning. It can seem like a haunting, because they may make noise. They’ll do some knocking, little things to let you know they’re there, to let them in. Oppression is when they come in and try to break the person down. They try mentally and physically—they’ll attack you physically, mentally, to where they can get you to the point where you’re not fighting them. And then they could possess you.
But again, it is a very rare situation. If I go into a house, I can feel the energy, and there’s a different level of energy when it has to do with demonic. A ghost or spirit, they were a human person at one point. They’re not there to harm you. Maybe they haven’t moved on, they don’t realize they’re dead, or they have some unfinished business. So when they make noises, and close the doors, they’re just letting you know they’re there. Where with a demon, it’s more of an attack. When I come in, they don’t want us there. And they only react to religious provocation. So if you pull out a cross, you pull out holy water, they can’t hide from it. They will come out. I’ve had team members attacked. It’s very rare, but there is a huge difference.
Do you have among your tool set a crucifix, in case there is demonic case?
Yes, I have an entire cleansing kit. When we go to somebody’s house, it’s not like you see on TV. We don’t do five-hour overnight investigations unless we feel it’s necessary. Because endgame, we’re going to cleanse the house. Personally, we don’t need to do that big of an investigation. We’ll walk around, see what we feel, and do a cleansing. I’ll use sage, palo santo wood, I have holy water. I use a singing bowl that cleanses energy. I use protection spray. Everything I have is blessed by a bishop in the old Catholic Church. His name is Bishop Long, an exorcist who’s done 30 documented exorcisms. We try to protect ourselves as much as possible. I’ve been lucky over 30-something years that I’ve never had anything attach to me or really attack me.
My wife supports me in what I do, but she does not like it. She feels I’m going to bring something home.
Do you work with EMF (electromagnetic field) readers?
In a house, the most trusted piece of equipment is an audio recorder, because there’s really no way to manipulate an audio clip. For homes, I will bring certain scientific devices. An EMF meter is good to have sometimes if you want to check certain areas. It’s tough in a home, because a home has so much electronics going on in the house that it will trigger that thing to go off a lot. It’s great in an abandoned building where there’s no power.
I bring in an EDI machine, which is an environmental detection instrument, which does temperature changes, humidity changes, vibrations. Again, that’s all scientific evidence. It’s not, OK, there’s a stick figure on the screen, it’s a ghost. I don’t like to bring out equipment in front of the clients, because it can scare the hell out of them. We have recorders sometimes where you can get some crazy stuff coming through that might be nothing, but who knows what they’ll hear.
Have you gotten any memorable EVPs (electronic voice phenomena)?
There’s so many different types of recorders out there, and you have to have a good team, and you have to have good people around you to keep track of what’s going on. When we’re in a public investigation, I have a Tascam audio recorder, something that looks like a Fitbit that’s an audio recorder on the wrist. I’ll have multiple recorders running so that if something comes through, did we capture it on different pieces of equipment? We do have somebody on our team that uses what’s called an RDR 60, which is considered the holy grail of ghost hunting equipment. But the problem is, it’s one of those things that has a lot of controversy to it. It’s a Panasonic audio recorder back from 1998, and it was discontinued, originally because people kept returning them, saying that they heard voices coming through. Panasonic put out a statement saying that there was a flaw in the electronics, and that a lot of times it records the inner workings of the actual recorder. Who knows, because they’re not going to say ‘we’ve got ghosts coming through it!’
With this recorder, I will tell you this: It does turn out the most results I’ve ever heard in my life. That’s what makes me question it sometimes. I’ve heard it answer direct questions. There’s no way I can debunk it. But a lot of times it comes through staticky and very garbled. I can hear “help,” the other person heard “get out,” another person heard “shut up.” It’s very subjective, so I try to do what we classify as a Class A EVP. So if I hear something, I’m going to play it to two or three of my team members, and not tell them anything, and have them write on a piece of paper what they heard. And if everybody hears the same word, that’s considered a good EVP.
Just to follow up on the Ouija board: We do a lot of educational work; we speak at conventions. And one of the biggest questions is about Ouija boards. They’re really no different from any piece of equipment I use. It’s a communication device. It’s about the intentions of the person. I know other teams that use Ouija boards on investigations. It’s not going to do anything unless you have bad intentions. I tell people, most of the time, a person pulling out a Ouija board is somebody who maybe lost their recent relative and are trying to communicate with them, and that’s what happens. They think they’re talking to that person, because a spirit or demon is very manipulative. So they’ll convince you it’s them, and that’s how you invite them in.
Have you ever seen a full-body apparition or other visual phenomena?
Yes. It was before I did my first residential. It was a personal experience. It’s one of the things that made me fully believe.
When I was in high school, we had a party at this girl’s house. This was one of the oldest houses in our town. I tell everybody right away: I was not drinking, I was not smoking, because I had to babysit a few people. At the end of the night, there were four of us left. Me, the owner of the home, and a couple other people. I got up to go to the bathroom; I walked out of her room, and there was a long hallway. I stopped in my tracks; I was not scared, but I was definitely frozen. There was a full apparition of a guy. It was an old man. It was all white, but very detailed. He had overalls on, a hat—he looked like a farmer. And he was standing at the end of the hall, and just staring at me. I would say three to four minutes, but I’m sure it was 20 seconds. He looked at me, nodded a little bit, and walked through the door and into the other room.
I woke up the girl who lives there. I said, are you sure nobody’s in this house? You don’t have a grandfather, an uncle, in another room? Your parents didn’t come home early? She said, no, why, did you see somebody? I go, yeah. She said, was it the old guy in the overalls? That just confirmed everything to me. She never told people, so it’s not that there were stories going around. I said, yeah. She said, he doesn’t bother you. He’s here all the time.
She told me a story that one night, her mother woke up, and she was pulled out of bed by this guy. And she got scared, and she heard a noise downstairs, so she called the cops. And when the cops showed up, they got somebody who was breaking into the house. So they feel he woke her up to let her know somebody was breaking in. I always tell people, they’re not always there to harm you. But I don’t know if I’d still want it hanging around my house!
For more information about the Paranormal Existence Research Society, or if you think you may be experiencing spirit activity in your home, call 844/354-4678 or visit paranormalexistenceresearchsociety.com.