As Tommy Cook, armed with an electromagnetic field reader and a flashlight, coolly leads a group of paranormal enthusiasts along the dirt road leading to an old church, his daughter Kristen trails behind him, bundled and quivering under the cold drizzle of the October night.
For years, she would spend nights with her father watching Ghost Hunters on TV, talk about the recording he would bring home and listened to his accounts of the paranormal investigations he had conducted with East Georgia Paranormal.
These days, as an early childhood education major at Georgia State, Kristen is usually swamped with school
work and student teaching at Cedalia Park Charter School in Cobb County, and has little time to spend with her father. When he asked her to come out to the Gaither Plantation to give him a hand with the tours, Kristen took the opportunity to hang out with him in his element.
Throughout the year, EGP hosts paranormal investigations on the Gaither Plantation. Ghost enthusiasts coming from all parts of Georgia participate with EGP to find evidence of apparitions who have long been rumored to roam the property.
This night, the visitors are split into four groups of four, with an investigator assigned to each team. They would rotate turns checking out the main plantation house (where it’s been said that Cecilia Gaither, who lost the property in 1888 over $28 in taxes, can be seen rocking in a chair from her window), an old log cabin and the church.
The EGP team, who have conducted dozens of paranormal investigations across the Southeast, have been investigating 875 acres of the Gaither property for the past several years. While each of the team members has their own story of unexplained occurrences from different investigations, each person claims to be the most skeptical of the bunch.
“I have to see the evidence first,” said EGP member Jimmy Chappell. “I can’t say I completely believe, but there are some things I just can’t explain.”
Tommy is perhaps the team’s biggest skeptic, as he approaches each unexplained occurrence with severe scrutiny. Caretakers of the property have long claimed the door on the buffet in the dining room is always found open. It was an incident also reported as paranormal by many of the televised ghost hunting teams.
Tommy and his team, on the other hand, found the explanation: the flimsy floorboards, when walked on, cause little tremors across the floor, shaking the decorative crystals on top of the buffet. The trembling inadvertently causes the old buffet door to swing open.
As the group approached the church, Tommy and EGP member Anthony Byrd tells the story of the pastor who found his wife with another man. Blinded by rage, the pastor murdered the lovers, then turned on himself in a small room next to the pulpit.
Visitors over the years have claimed of their hair and clothing being tugged, with the incidents mostly occurring in the fourth pew. One paranormal psychic reported a child-like presence in the far corner of the left side of the church.
The church is nearly silent and pitch-black, marked with rain gently patting the roof and slivers of moonlight creeping through the grimed windows. The squeezing cold sends a continuous river of shivers down the spines of the team, some shuddering through their teeth.
Kristen uses the EMF reader, also called a gauss meter, to take readings along the perimeter of the church. If there was an apparition, it would send the meter into the red zone, indicating an electromagnetic disturbance.
She found nothing until she took it to the pulpit, where the meter made a few jumps.
“We’re not here to chase you out. We’re not here to disturb you,” Anthony called out to the dark. “We just want to acknowledge your presence.”
Minutes later, one of the visitors said he felt a presence next to him, applying pressure on his chest. He was sitting in the same area where the psychic had also felt a disturbance years before. Anthony picks up the gauss meter from the pulpit and tries to get a reading around the area, but found nothing.
Sitting next to her father, Kristen suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of dread. Huddled over, she waited it out and tried to ignore it. Once the team left the church, the ominous feeling immediately lifted off her chest.
“That was really weird,” said Kristen. “I don’t think it’s a feeling I want to have again. But this is fun.”
The church turned out to be the most active of the three areas. One of the other groups reported heavy activity in the attic of the house, where it was said that Confederate soldiers in hiding were murdered. Kristin and Tommy’s team, however, did not experience anything in the attic.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of activity compared to other nights, but you just never know with these kinds of things,” said Tommy, warming up by the fire after the hunt. “I’m glad we got to do another hunt, this time with my daughter at my side.”