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Ghost Hunters: Who Are They?

Ghost Hunters: Who Are They?
Chicagoland Haunts - Mike Duffins World -
March 2001
Mike Duffin

Credit to Michelle Bonadurer of Chicago, Illinois for sending in this material.

There might not be any job listings for it just yet, but more people are calling themselves ghost hunters each year. Ghost hunting is the process of documenting and observing paranormal activity. The equipment ranges from heat sensors to detect temperature changes and night vision goggles for serious ghost hunters to a simple disposable camera and notepad for beginners.

Not all ghost hunters devote their time searching for and documenting paranormal activity. Some give tours of haunted areas while others write books about the history behind haunted locations.

Troy Taylor has been hunting ghosts since 1992, but his primary job is writing and publishing books about the supernatural. He also founded the American Ghost Society, which holds conferences each year in Alton, Ill., where he lives.

"I've never seen a ghost," Taylor said. "I'm not a psychic or anything like that. I'm just a guy with an unusual hobby. To be honest, the ghost hunting aspect of it came about because of the writing."

Michelle Bonadurer, an administrative assistant who hunts ghosts in her spare time, has visited cemeteries, houses and even schools in the Chicago area that have been said to be haunted.

"I've never seen anything," Bonadurer said. "I've got photographs that are strange. Whether or not they are of paranormal nature I don't know."

Not everyone visiting places like Bachelor's Grove Cemetery and Resurrection Cemetery have been interested in the paranormal. Brad Bettenhausen, president of the Tinley Park Historical Society, said he wants the vandalism that has plagued Bachelor's Grove for decades to stop. He said ghost stories are a main reason the vandalism exists.

"I think the vandalism occurs because of the stories," he said. "It's been a destination for drinking for years. Now put on the ghost spin and people go out expecting to see ghosts and they get pissed. Instead of just leaving there's people who take an ugly turn and that's where the vandalism comes from."

Taylor and Bonadurer countered that legitimate ghost hunters respect their surroundings.

"The cardinal rule is to pay respect to any location you visit," Bonadurer said. "There's so many people out there who do this and we're trying to get a good reputation."

When mentioning ghost hunters to anyone in Chicago, the first name that usually comes to mind is Richard Crowe. He was the first to offer tours of haunted spots in Chicago. His first tour was part of a project he was working on as a graduate student studying English literature and geography at DePaul University in 1973.

"I was always talking about ghost stories around the campus and that was a big interest of mine," Crowe said. "I had no idea there was a career in this down the road. That happened when my geography professor asked me to put together the tour and we saw the great response. It just happened by accident."

While Crowe and Taylor make a living dealing with the supernatural, Bonadurer is contempt being an amateur.

"I already have a job, I don't need another one," she said. "We do this from the research perspective and we do it because we all enjoy it."

Even after years of field work and research, Taylor and Bonadurer said there will never be enough evidence to convince the skeptics. In fact, the only skeptics they aim to please are themselves.

"You'll never hear me say, 'I have a ghost,' or 'I've seen' or 'I've heard' because I don't know what it is," Bonadurer said. "I'm very skeptical. We want to make sure we can rule out everything."

"I try to keep an open mind," Taylor said. "I don't need to see it, but I need something really convincing for me to believe something is going on at a particular location."