The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Monday, October 27, 2008
Do spirits swim with Atlanta’s fishes?
Are specters now among the many species that inhabit one of the world’s largest collections of sea life?
Is the Georgia Aquarium haunted?
Aquarium workers and officials seem to think there’s a possibility, with hundreds of century-old artifacts of the Titanic Aquatic exhibit occupying the Georgia landmark’s northwest corner.
“I think it’s the lost souls from the Titanic,” said aquarium volunteer Margarit Mourino, who reported having a ghostly encounter around the exhibit containing artifacts from the ill-fated 1912 voyage. “I could feel like this hand moving over my head and through my hair.”
“We’ve had a number of volunteers report strange encounters when they were working the Titanic exhibit,” aquarium spokeswoman Meghann Gibbons said.
The aquarium brought in Roswell Georgia Paranormal Investigations this weekend to try to shed some light on what could be causing the incidents. Guiding the official decision, Gibbons said, was “of course” the proximity to Halloween. There also have been stories about ghostly encounters that have followed the exhibit.
The investigators were rewarded with purported recordings of ethereal voices and sightings of shadowy figures roaming darkened corridors. They concluded that not only was the Titanic exhibit a spirit dwelling, so was at least one other part of the building.
Not that the spirits are always cooperative.
The Titanic exhibit’s last stop before Atlanta was Miami. Were there ghost sightings there? Miami Museum of Science spokesman Tony Lima responded in an e-mail; one could hear his sigh: “I wish.” But he rebuffed any ghost stories during the exhibit’s South Florida stay.
Dianna Avena, who founded Georgia Paranormal and is its head investigator, was quick to acknowledge before the start of the ghost hunt Friday night that among her team’s goals is to debunk unfounded suspicions of hauntings. “Only about 10 percent of the places we are called to actually have paranormal activity,” she said.
Avena said her team uses scientific methods along with a bit of their own mysticism, like psychic or spirit-sensitive team members to detect ghosts.
Special meters measure electromagnetic changes caused by supposed paranormal activity. Thermometers detect a temperature drop when specters are near.
Late Friday night, Avena pressed through a list of questions for ethereal souls who may have been listening.
“How did you die?” she asked, seemingly of the air. “Why are you still here? Do you want us to go?”
One recording device purportedly picked up a high-frequency response inaudible to human ears, but audible when passed through the team’s equipment.
The equipment recorded team member Claudia Lee asking where to place an electromagnetic meter: “Where do you want me to put it?”
“Down,” came a whispered voice very close by. It wasn’t Lee’s.
Ghost “hot spots” were determined after two separate teams spent time in each of the rooms of the exhibit testing for activity.
When they conferred with one another, they had the same results, Avena said: An elderly woman haunted the First Class cabin replica of the ship. A young worker was spotted in one of the last rooms containing preserved dishes and clothing from the Titanic’s wreckage.
“It just makes sense that, especially with the Titanic exhibit, there would be residual [paranormal] energy,” Avena said. “When you have a strong emotional imprint, there could be some energy attached.”
As for non-Titanic apparitions, team member Bob Sturgess, a “sensitive,” said a Native American man was in a corridor behind the Cold Water Quest area, where new construction has begun.
“The old woman stayed away from us, but didn’t leave,” Sturgess said in his report. “The crew member was very interactive and actually touched my right shoulder after being asked to. The Native American did not want his picture taken and ran circles around us.”
Visiting Atlanta’s exhibit Saturday afternoon, Titanic enthusiasts Aaron Henley and Terri Cobb, both from Atlanta, admitted the prospect of ghosts from the shipwreck roaming the aquarium enhanced their appreciation.
“There’s a reverence,” Cobb said, “especially after reading those stories of people having odd occurrences that brought them to be on the ship beyond their plans.”
Henley found irony in the chance the exhibit could be haunted.
“Souls could still be at unrest,” he said. “The fact that they bought tickets to see loved ones, and those plans were never brought to fruition” that’s what haunting stories are made of.”