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HAPPY HALLOWEEN, FRIENDS! So back in July I interviewed Artie Matos of EPIC Paranormal Investigation Center, which is based out of Staten Island. To give you a feel for the ambiance of our discussion, a few days earlier my roommate’s cat had broken my lamp (aka the only source of light in my bedroom), so I had to conduct this interview entirely in the dark. And it was terrifying. Artie had quite a bit to say regarding all things paranormal, so I only posed a few questions during our conversation; as he talked, though, I had a lot of frightening thoughts running through my head. For instance, during the part where he discusses entity attachment to inanimate objects (or “haunted stuff” for the lowbrow among you) I was frozen in fear, wondering if I’d accidentally purchased some ghosts from the Chelsea Flea over the last weekend. Also, as soon as we embarked on the “What is the difference between a ghost and a demon?” path, I felt extra vulnerable to demonic possession, just like I do every time The Exorcist comes up in conversation. I powered through, though, all with the goal of finding out what NOT to do if a ghost attacks. (Like a bear attack, only worse, kind of!)

I was also going to add some videos of their investigations (which can be found on their website), but my browser kept closing every time I tried to do that, which I interpreted as a bad omen and stopped. Fortunately for you I filmed our phone conversation on iMovie, so instead, I’ve taken the liberty of providing screenshots of my my afraid-looking facial expressions, which are (unfortunately) a hundred percent candid and (even more unfortunately) completely horrifying in and of themselves. (See also: you’re welcome.) Before we get started, though, if you live in (or suspect you live in) a haunted apartment, 1) I’m sorry, and 2) please read on to find out how you can obtain paranormal investigation services fo’ free! But for now, I will drag you down into my vortex of terror!

So tell me a little bit about how you got interested in doing what you do.

Well, in a nutshell, I’ve been researching the field of parapsychology for the last 20+ years now; I started in my early twenties. I was a science major in school, and I always loved science…astronomy, biology, chemistry…just, anything that had a problem and that needed to be figured out. Growing up in the ’70s as a child, I used to watch In Search of… with Leonard Nimoy from 1975. It’s an intriguing show based on conjecture and potential findings of anomalies, and it used to cover a whole paranormal spectrum. So ever since I was a child I was interested in these strange things, and in my twenties I became a little more serious in the field. What interested me most was parapsychology and its aspects, which include a plethora of different areas, including ESP, psychokinesis, apparitions, things of that nature.

And so tell me about what your group actually does, and/or how?

Well, our main concern is for families and children, and this is why I basically created the organization. We do not “expel” ghosts from the home. What we do is one of two things: we will either a) authenticate the phenomena, or b) try to rationally explain why it’s being caused. Now, 90% of the time, we’ve come across phenomena that has been very easily explained; we have found raccoons in-between the rafters of the walls, birds that have flown through, squirrels, bees…we end up being exterminators rather than investigators at times. So EPIC is an organization that really researches prior to doing an investigation.

Then to authenticate, we use video, optics, audio recordings…a full range of different meters, sensors and devices that detect any fluctuations in the environmental field. This is extremely important, because there are a lot of individuals and enthusiasts out there who will take an EMF, or an electromagnetic field reader, and will literally use the gear or the tool as a ghost detector. Now, there are no such things as ghost detectors; the equipment that came from this field was adopted or borrowed from other fields and applied to the field of investigative research and analysis. For example, the EMF reader was used by electricians and power line engineers to check electromagnetic field radiation, which is a serious thing, because this type of radiation (although invisible, like all radiation) does cause physical and psychological anomalies on people; it can cause wrinkling of the skin, rashes, vomiting, paranoia…anything. So we look for environmental fluctuations and/or changes in the environmental fields; it could be temperature, it could be electromagnetic fields, it could be radio frequencies.

It’s theorized that ghosts transmit sounds at a very low frequency, which can only be picked up by recorders and then upon playback will be heard; this, of course, is (as you may have heard) called an EVP, or electronic voice phenomenon. Now, there are times when an entity may very well be potentially heard live, which is known as a DVP, or a disembodied voice phenomenon. So we use the technology that’s available to us, and we take these different tools and properly apply them to the fields of research, investigation and analysis of potential phenomena.

So what’s the difference between a ghost and a demon, then? Apart from the obvious?

Well, a ghost is considered to be the disembodied essence, or what’s left, of an individual after their body passes. It’s who they are; their essence, their memories, their soul. They are free without bodily containment to go out and potentially cause physical changes; ghosts communicate by tapping, rapping, moving things…that nature. And they’re very benign, you know, they’re not malevolent in any way whatsoever. I mean, they can be; we’ve definitely experienced that, which is why we don’t try to provoke during an EVP session or a question and answer session.

If someone were to ask me, “What is a ghost?” I’d say, “I have no idea. Nobody knows that a ghost is.” And that’s the proper answer. However, in a more theoretically-based answer, I usually tell individuals what my opinion is, and that would be: a ghost is the free consciousness of a human body. It’s a form of energy, if you will, which brings to the point a theory which I’ve been working on myself about what ghosts are made of. We really don’t know, so I speculate this way: what are human minds made of? Neurons and bioelectrical impulses which deliver thoughts from one part of the brain to another. What’s the first law of thermodynamics in physics? It’s that energy cannot be created or destroyed; however, it has been known to change its form. If you apply the first law of thermodynamics to the free consciousness, the biological impulses, the memories of an individual’s brain…you cannot destroy the energy after the body dies, so what happens to bioelectrical energy? It changes its form from a physical aspect to a spirit form that is now considered to be what we know as a ghost. It makes sense, and I’m not the only one who speculates this theory.

However, a demonic entity, in science terms, is a negative force. One of the main things a demon does is it causes hopelessness, which is the biggest fear a man could ever have. These things are forces which do exist; I’ve personally dealt with this type of force twice in twenty-two years, and it’s not something I would want to experience if I didn’t have to. It is dangerous psychologically, and it is dangerous physically, because it can literally distort matter and move it. So these negative energies are very dangerous, to the point that it will try to break the family apart; a lot of times there’s the argumentative factor, where the families are arguing and fighting. Now, ninety percent of the time this is just family dynamics of problems, financial, so on and so forth. However, there have been times where these are the effects of the negative force within the household. This may come from inviting something in, you know, playing around with Ouija boards, witchcraft, Satanism…you know, bringing in a potentially haunted object, an inanimate object; demons tend to be associated with mirrors, because those capture the reflective essence of who they are. Again, these are theoretical points, but there are inanimate objects that are haunted, it does happen.

But the main difference between a ghostly entity and a demonic entity is that demonic entities are extremely dangerous, not only to investigate but also to deal with; it will try to hurt you, this is what its goal is. These are not entities to be trifled with. There are a lot of enthusiasts out there who say, “Oh, I’d love to see a demon.” Believe me when I tell you these people have no inkling of what they’re even speaking of. It is a force of nature that is astronomically immeasurable because of the factors by which it may be able to assert itself, either physically or psychologically.

So have you ever witnessed a demonic possession, then?

I personally witnessed a possession when I was twenty-seven. I was called in by an individual who said that a friend of his had a wife who was acting strange, and he believed that his wife might be potentially possessed. So the basis of it was that I went to the house, and the woman was upstairs lying down. So I spoke to the gentleman downstairs; it was him and this guy that came over who I knew. And so then I went to see her, just to speak to her, and at the time I hadn’t experienced or expected anything demonic-wise. So I spoke to her, and she was fine; she was articulate, she was lucid, she was fine. So I said, you know, “It was a pleasure to meet you, I just wanted to find out how you’re feeling, I know you’ve been feeling ill.” As I was walking from the chair to the door after I’d said goodbye to her, she said, “Oh, by the way…” and now, this is a very personal thing, so I don’t want to mention it, but only two people alive knew about it (one being myself and the other being the person who was there with me) and believe it or not, this woman who I’d never met in my life said, “How was that for you?” And then I looked at her, and she just gave me this grin.

It was the most terrifying experience for me, because right then and there (that’s one of the signs of possession, by the way, is the knowledge of unknown or future events) I looked into her eyes and I saw nothing. I mean, it was a demon, if you will…it wasn’t her, it was something…I don’t even want to call it a person. It was a thing, it was a monster, whatever you want to call it it was non-human. And it (excuse my French) scared the living crap out of me. That was the first time I’ve ever been frightened that much. I could not return to doing this kind of work for months on end until I finally found some closure. The way she looked, the way the room felt at that instant, it was like being smothered; the air was thick, it got tight…it was a very eery, uncomfortable feeling. Just a change of atmosphere that I’ll never forget. And the last thing I knew about this woman (and how I knew it was authentic) was that the Roman Catholic Church had to get involved. So I don’t know what happened; I never wanted to know what happened, I never wanted to go back.

Well, I was also going to ask you, has anything ever followed you home?

Oh yeah. I’ve had instances where…I mean, I’ve knocked it off as nothing, but I’ve had one or two instances in the past in which I believe I may have visited, researched, investigated locations, and had what we in the field call attachments. Now, it’s not the entity; not the ghost, not the demon, but it’s almost like an energy released by it, and it may potentially follow you home. The theory is that these things take a liking to you, or they have an attraction to you. It really depends on the individual and the entity. You know, this has happened, and I’ve noticed odd things that have happened.

I’ve also had…strangely enough in 2009, an investigation we did in Snug Harbor in a location called the Governor’s House, which, the only words I can use to describe it is an infestation of ghosts or paranormal activity. That location, believe it or not, was the first time after investigating that location that everyone in my group at the end was quiet. Everyone went together as pairs. Nobody would go alone anywhere. Everyone did everything so to the T, because they could not wait to get out of there. It was a frightening investigation. I mean, we did it, but there are EVP’s that we caught that are just unbelievable. There’s one in there where I say, “Do you hear that?” and my colleague points up to the stairwell and says, “Did you see that?” and I say, “What?’ There’s a black shape blocked out in the infrared light, and I say, “Yeah, what is that?” At that instant, from the stairwell, I freeze; I didn’t see this thing, but this thing came up to me, and it was incredibly large, enormously large. And this thing stood right in front of my face, if you will, because that’s what I felt, and you hear on the recorder an exhale. I calmly walked out, but I got startled, I got surprised. These things do happen to investigators; it’s not all the glory of what you hear on TV. Now, on the EVP, it’s a whispery, raspy female voice, and I say, “This is Artie, we just walked into the Governor’s House,” and you hear, “Shame on you!” It was a very tight investigation, meaning everything was done very by-the-book. We went in groups of two and three, and as we moved from room to room there were shadows, humanoid figures, temperature fluctuations of ten or fifteen degrees…in other words, the Governor’s House did not let us down.

Well that sounds terrifying…

Well, I’m speaking of two or three things that happened from 2006 until now, so that’s…you know, the cases listed on our website are a fraction of the investigations that we’ve done. We do quite a bit of residential investigations, and people don’t really want to make a big deal of those, so we have a confidentiality policy and protection act to keep everything anonymous. We’re very discreet and very professional when we investigate.

Well, in parting I guess, is there anything you SHOULDN’T do if you encounter a paranormal presence? Is it like a bear attack? You can’t outrun a ghost, I’m assuming…

Well, the first thing you shouldn’t do is try to communicate with this presence, because you don’t know what you’re walking into; you don’t know if it’s friend or foe, demonic entity or just a passing presence, because in the field of paranormal investigation they call it “residual” activity, or the residue of what’s left over of a ghost. It’s almost like a record playing itself back over and over and over again. And in parapsychology, it’s actually called a place memory, which is defined as a memory frozen in time in a specific place, and it just plays itself over and over; these do not interact with humans.

Now, intelligent, or interactive hauntings…you have to be more cautious with those. And you’ll be able to tell, but the individual experiencing the haunting should not reach out to whatever’s there until research is done. The best thing someone can do is to do research, and to do their homework; if it’s in your home, research you home, research the history. Find out what was on that land, on that lot, prior to your building even being built. Was there a cemetery? Was there a factory that burned down with employees? This could be the haunting not of your apartment, but of the land that it’s built on. We find things like that, so research is the best advice I could give to somebody. So don’t reach out to it, do your research, and keep a journal of the activity that happens. You might also want to reach out to a group, but before you do, please do your research on that; there are groups out there who want to do ghost hunting, and there are groups out there who want to do paranormal research and investigation.

Were you as scared as I was? If so, maybe you live in a haunted apartment, and maybe you’d like some info on how to cope with that situation, which is why I will send you to the EPIC Paranormal website; they don’t charge any money for consultations or investigations, so you have no excuse not to contact them. Unless of course your house is not haunted, in which case, AS YOU WERE!