'I'm a Ghost Hunter—I've Had 100 "Paranormal" Encounters'

My interest in the paranormal really started with Ghostbusters. I was a big fan back when it was really popular and all the kids had proton packs. Plus, I grew up next door to a cemetery. I don't think I connected it with actual death straight away, it was just a place to wander with pretty stones—it was interesting to me.

We moved to the Chicago area and during middle school I took a trip to the Gettysburg Battlefield. I was 14 and had what I believe was my first paranormal experience. We were standing on a battlefield and when I looked over towards the trees on the edge of the field, I saw a group of soldiers who started to come across the field. I thought they were reenactors, but it was a Tuesday afternoon, so I asked my mom if she could see these men too, and she said she could. My mom is very blunt, she would be the kind of person who would say, "you're crazy!" if she hadn't seen it. The soldiers seemed to stop about halfway across the field and it was almost like they disappeared and then it started again. It kept happening over and over, almost like a glitch. We asked my dad and sister who were also standing by, but neither one of them saw it.

We went to the visitor's center and asked one of the rangers who the re-enactors were. The ranger said there was nothing scheduled that day, so unless there was a huge illegal re-enactment, which I guess is possible, it wasn't re-enactors I saw. My dad still didn't believe it, he thought we were messing with him. He is a realist and he does not believe in the paranormal.

At the time, I also had a history teacher who was really into the paranormal, that's when I really started to believe that what I saw in Gettysburg was a ghost. My teacher had his own ghost tracker group in Indiana and would tie the paranormal into history lessons. I don't know if he was technically supposed to do that, but he did and I ate it up. From there I joined a ghost trackers group to get into it.

I love the unknown and I love to solve mysteries. There are people who do believe and people who don't believe and there are people who could go either way. I'm one of those people who is always looking to solve something. You don't have a conclusion until you have proof, so I'm always searching for that. I'm related to people that are skeptics and we agree to disagree and that's that. People can believe, or not, and that's fine.

Ghost hunting was always a hobby for me, I went to college, studied healthcare and worked in a hospice until I had kids. After they got old enough to go to school—during the pandemic—I started writing about my paranormal experiences and spotlighting different places. Some were places I had been to and others were ones I wanted to go to. I would write the history behind the location and the supposed hauntings. I never thought anything would come of it but it started to grow quickly and then I decided that maybe I needed to bring people with me on investigations.

I believe I have had close to 100 paranormal experiences, but I've investigated more than 1,000 places over the past 20 years. Usually I determine if somewhere should be investigated from tips I'm given by people or general research online. Now at least, I get messages from people saying I should check a place out, though I may not have heard of it. They will tell me that it's really haunted.

Every location is different, especially if it's outside versus a huge hospital or jail. But I always have tons of cameras with me, because the best proof is on camera. I'll set action cameras up throughout and I'll have an electromagnetic field (EMF) reader with me. I also come armed to the teeth with voice recorders and place them throughout. I will stay in a location for six to eight hours, there's a lot of coffee involved, but I'm more of a laid back investigator, I sit there and see what happens. Usually night time is best, I don't know if it's the creep factor, but if you're taking pictures, a dark background and a flash certainly helps to pick out anomalies better than daylight.

Last year I investigated the jail in Indiana that John Dilligener escaped from and I believe I was followed all night by "something." I went up to a floor where there are no lights or electricity so I couldn't really see much, but I had the feeling that someone was watching me, so I turned around and walked back up the cell block. I only took a few steps before I heard very loud footsteps behind, almost stomping, so I turned around, but there was nothing there. I took a few more steps and felt this push behind me; it felt like an open hand. I thought, OK, I'll go a little faster, something wants me out of here. I walked down the stairs to where my co investigator was and explained what had happened. As soon as I had finished talking we heard a door slam. These doors are propped open so people don't get stuck, but something slammed.

My co-investigator jumped out of their skin, and then these really loud bangs started. I caught it on camera, but of course, unless you were there you could say that someone else was up there doing that. However, there was only one entrance and you would have had to go by us to get in. I know the owners of the jail were still outside because as we came downstairs, I saw them sitting on the porch of the attached sheriff's house. There is no back entrance and there is only one stairwell going up, which is where we were standing. I also have action cameras everywhere and on playback there was nobody else there.

These bangs started to get louder, so I told my co-investigator that we should take a break. As I was walking, a shadow appeared to "walk" in front of me, both of us saw it, and I felt a gust of wind. We were inside. My co-investigator saw my hair blow back and he said he was done. It was pretty creepy.

Over the years, I've heard footsteps and I've caught what I believe to be disembodied voices on audio recordings. Every place is different. There have been quite a few instances of capturing footage that I can't explain. The only problem is that if someone isn't there, how am I supposed to prove to them that there wasn't another person present? I have caught an image of what I believe to be a spirit, where it appears you can see his knapsack, and I have caught the sound of regimental drums, but again, someone could say it's an overlay. That's where it becomes hard to convince people.

It depends on the situation but my belief is that in some cases it's a "residual haunting." It's not actual spirits, it's almost like a memory playing over and over again. Then we have what I call "intelligent hauntings" which is where I believe there are spirits that are stuck and hanging around in the afterlife. This is where I believe ghosts are present who will interact with you, touch you and try to get your attention.

Ghost Hunter Erin Egnatz Investigates 'Haunted' Locations
Erin Egnatz has been interested in the paranormal since she was 14 years old, and has spent 20 years investigating 'haunted' locations. Erin Egnatz

I have been to The Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi Bay and I have visited places like Salem, Massachusetts which is famous for its witch trials, The Alamo Mission in Texas and Sleepy Hollow in New York. I didn't have what I believe to be encounters with the paranormal in all of them, but in some, I did.

Sleepy Hollow had something going on, but it was more a feeling I had, so it's nothing I can prove. I've gotten used to what I call the "energy change." I believe spirits give off energy and that I can sense the difference in energy. I don't think I'm psychic or anything like that, it's just a feeling. And I got that feeling in Sleepy Hollow. At the USS Lexington, I heard a loud disembodied voice. In the video I took, you can hear a scream and you can see the door closing, because I was wearing a GoPro camera at the time.

My approach is that if I can't recreate what I see or hear, no matter what I try, then I have something unexplainable. But if there's a possibility, even a small possibility, it could be something in the environment, then it becomes a "maybe." If a door flies open on its own, I want to make sure it doesn't swing easily. I'm just trying to verify that that is not what made the noise that we have heard.

It's possible that what I experience is not explainable by science but is not paranormal activity. Anything's possible in my mind. Some people might say it's "demons." I say that something that is unexplainable is happening, so let's find out why. My curiosity piques. I just want to know what it is.

All I can do is bring what I have and everybody can make their educated guess. I do know that people are starting to get into the science of the paranormal. Harvard has a course in parapsychology, so maybe they can develop something that can help us on a scientific level. But as with many things, some people believe and some don't, and that's fine. I think a healthy amount of skepticism is good. You're going to weigh skepticism with the evidence you're left with, so I think it's great that people are starting to look into it.

I would want skeptics to understand that I get why they are skeptical, but I would ask them to try opening their mind a little bit. Do a little reading and see how you feel after that. I've taken skeptics out with me to places I believe to be really active with paranormal energy, and they leave saying "oh my god!" So give it a try; keep an open mind.

Erin Egnatz is a ghost hunter, history lover and paranormal writer. You can follow her on Instagram @hauntingsaroundamerica or find out more at hauntingsaroundamerica.com.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Jenny Haward.