By Andrea Swayne
With Halloween approaching we set out to find spooky tales of haunted places in the area and found an experienced ghost hunter in our midst. She shared her story of how she became a helper for both homeowners experiencing paranormal phenomena and the lingering spirits responsible for the hauntings.
For as far back as Capistrano Beach resident Kathryn Wilson can remember, her life has been full of psychic events, explained away as coincidence or imagination until finally finding her calling as ghost hunter and medium nine years ago.
“I remember psychic things happening to me and my family since I was a little girl. Dreams would come true. I would have very strong intuitive feelings that would also come true,” said Wilson. “My mother and grandmother were also psychic. I recall a few times when my mom would wake up in the middle of the night and insist on praying for someone. Then, later we’d find out that person had been hurt or passed away.”
Praying was a big part of Wilson’s life as a child and it remains so today. Having grown up Catholic, the family was nevertheless prone to open discussion about psychics and the paranormal.
“I always wondered about ghost encounters. Wondered if some of the strange things that I had experienced actually were interactions with spirits,” said Wilson.
She shared a story of visiting a family cabin in the mountains with her husband and extended family when her first son was still a baby.
“We had been to the cabin many times and my sister and I always slept upstairs. It was strange but whoever slept downstairs would always report being a little freaked out. One time, my sister and I decided to stay downstairs with my baby in a room with two twin beds with a port-a-crib at the foot of one of them. That night I was in the room rocking the baby to sleep when all of a sudden I felt someone gently squeeze my arm near the elbow. It didn’t freak me out because it almost felt reassuring somehow. I dismissed it as imagination, put the baby down and left the room. I didn’t tell anyone about what I felt,” Wilson said.
Wilson awoke in the morning to find her sister staring at her with a wide-eyed frightened look on her face and asking, “Did you see it? Did you see the ghost?”
“My sister told me she woke up in the middle of the night and saw a dull glowing green figure of a man she described as ‘minuteman looking’ with a tri-cornered hat and carrying a musket. The figure, she said, was standing between the beds near the crib and appeared to be guarding us. My sister said she tried to go back to sleep thinking she was dreaming but opened her eyes several times before morning and saw him still standing there. From the way she described him, the squeeze on my arm suddenly made sense. I had stuff like this happen to me for years and I always wondered if there was more to it.”
But, it wasn’t until nearly a decade ago, when Wilson’s two, now grown boys had reached their double-digit birthdays that she decided to pursue further knowledge and training on the subject.
She began attending lectures on paranormal investigations during the day and joining ghost hunting groups at night.
In 2006 Wilson joined the California Ghost Hunters, one of the only groups of its kind at the time.
“There are tons of groups now. Ghost hunting has become very popular, largely due to the number of TV shows on the subject,” Wilson said, acknowledging that some of what is depicted on television is true but much that they show is not considered good practice in her field.
“I realize that yelling at and taunting ghosts makes for good TV but think about it; you could be screaming at and disrespecting a spirit who was somebody’s grandma. It’s just plain rude.”
Shortly after beginning her studies, Wilson met a demonologist from LA who studies ancient religions and languages and researches procedures used throughout history to get rid of different types of paranormal entities. The two began working together to form a team to help those who feel they are being plagued with paranormal activity in their homes or businesses.
Since then Wilson has investigated over 200 cases, most have been referrals from other teams and usually in private residences where people report things in their homes moving, hearing voices, seeing apparitions or having children or pets frightened by unseen forces. Special priority is given to cases where children are frightened, she said.
“Many other teams only do scientific research-based investigations. They set out to gather evidence via the recording of electronic voice phenomena or EVPS, detecting electromagnetic fields or EMFs or capturing video evidence, but they don’t try to help the client get rid of whatever is going on. That’s where we come in,” she said.
Wilson was trained in using the most current investigative equipment as well as the more philosophical study of physics regarding the never ending nature of energy. She most often uses only her senses and a digital recorder.
“In the group I act mainly as a medium, to tell if a spirit is present, who they were, how they died, what they want and whether they are a human or nonhuman spirit. I go in and act as sort of a therapist, almost counseling and praying for ‘stuck’ spirits who are either too confused to cross over, don’t know how or are procrastinating leaving this world for whatever reason.”
There are plenty of mediums who claim to be specialists at helping spirits cross over, but Wilson does not claim to be one of them.
“I don’t like to say that I can cross people over, I think that is for God to do, but I feel like what I do, including praying for them, helps spirits become able to do it,” said Wilson. “I feel like this is my calling and I want to help.”
Wilson said human spirits can be attached to a person, place or thing and when they die they can become stuck, unable to cross over for some reason but unaware of why. She feels that perhaps those who died suddenly may be confused or others may be putting it off due to a feeling of unfinished business or in fearing judgment.
Wilson has some simple advice for those who think they may have paranormal activity going on inside their home.
She advises homeowners, renters or anyone living or working in such a building to never undertake ghost hunting on their own, as primary residents possess the authority to either invite or disinvite entities into or away from the premises.
Wilson’s team and others have also discovered that spirits don’t like black lights, so for some, she says, sleeping with a black light on will keep spirits at bay.
Burning frankincense and myrrh, substances used widely in religious ceremonies for centuries, also seems to have the effect of calming spirit energy. The blessing of homes is also a common tactic.
Wilson also warns against drinking alcohol, or taking depressant drugs while in the presence of paranormal activity, even Benadryl, as these substances lower the body’s energetic defenses against spirits who would attempt to enter a living being.
“Any form of do-it-yourself spirit communication such as dowsing rods, Ouija boards, etc. can be an open invitation,” she said. “You might use a Ouija board 50 times and nothing happens, then on the 51st time all of a sudden you have chairs moving around the house.”
Wilson said she and her team have also investigated many reports of activity in bathrooms, both public and private. “We don’t really know why but we think it may have something to do with water and its ability to conduct energy,” she said.
Wilson also warns about unscrupulous groups who charge hundreds, even thousands of dollars for their services.
“Our team and other good reputable teams never charge for cases,” Wilson said. “It’s like if we put a monetary value on it, our hearts wouldn’t be in the right place. Our intent wouldn’t be pure.”
On hauntings in the San Clemente and Dana Point area, Wilson said she can’t talk about the confidential findings in most private homes but did offer a comment about one local residence.
“A former owner of the Doheny house in Capo Beach asked for my help and I can tell you there is definitely paranormal activity there,” Wilson said.
Wilson said that she has had requests to investigate Mission San Juan Capistrano and the Casa Romantica in San Clemente by people who have had experiences there. She would love to investigate these claims, but officials at both won’t allow it. She has, however, been allowed to search one mission, La Purisima near Solvang, Calif. and found much activity there.
When asked how she handles naysayers and those who would say the living have no place messing with the paranormal world, Wilson said she has yet to have that happen.
“I’m sure there are many who feel that way but nobody has ever given me a hard time about it. And, it wouldn’t bother me if they did. I know my heart’s in the right place,” she said. “What usually happens is that people who I would never think would be believers end up telling me a story of an experience they’ve had.”
Wilson is set to embark on a few ghost hunting trips in the near future that will take her beyond South County to investigate places with strong reputations for being haunted.
From November 16 to 18 she will travel to the second annual Preston Castle Paracon 2102—see www.prestonparacon.com–an event featuring a lineup of renowned speakers in the paranormal field.
Preston Castle, in Ione, Calif. is a place that she has investigated before and the site of one of her most memorable apparition sightings.
The castle was built between 1890 and 1894 and was the home of the Preston School of Industry, a correctional institute for boys, between 1894 and 1960.
Wilson said she once saw an unusual apparition at the castle, one that manifested itself as a shadow figure with a glowing head that appeared to be walking down a hallway.
“Ghosts appear in many different ways, from moving energy similar to heat waves you see on roads during high temperatures, ‘snow’ on a TV screen or a shadow figure, to 100 percent opaque, 100 percent translucent, green or yellow with a low glow or even in sepia tone,” Wilson said. “I don’t’ know if it has anything to do with how the person who sees them perceives them or how well they have been able to manifest.”
A member of another team described the same sighting to one of Wilson’s team members who then told her about it.
“I didn’t know the guy from the other team and I had not spoken to my team member about what I saw,” Wilson said. “I had never heard of this type of combination manifestation before, but having someone else see the same thing led me to add a new type of apparition to the list of known possibilities.”
Preston Castle also hosts overnight ghost tours and will be holding its annual Halloween Haunt, October 19, 20, 26 and 27 and can be found online at wwww.prestoncastle.com.
In March, Wilson is traveling to Phenomenology 105, an event in Gettysburg, Pa., March 21 to 24, to do readings as one of a featured group of specialists in the field.
Wilson reports that despite the spooky nature of what she does, she has never been terrified during a ghost hunt.
“I’ve never been terribly frightened but there have been times when I’ve picked up on some very negative energy and felt almost like I couldn’t breathe. It is uncomfortable but never terrifying,” said Wilson. “I have figured out that if I force energy outward from my core I can still receive information but I don’t end up crying or angry by taking in spirit emotions. Plus I have religious medals I wear as well for protection, just in case. My St. Benedict’s medal, blessed by the Benedictine monks and used in exorcisms, is said to protect against negative spirit energy.”
“I do private readings as well, for a donation only. Folks can pay anything they want,” Wilson said. “I often help people connect with a loved one who has crossed over or use my skills as an empath to give advice. Usually the questions are about the two biggies—love or money.”
Wilson’s group and others in the area will also host small groups of people interested in learning the ins and outs of ghost hunting.
“It’s very important for we who have been doing this for a while, to teach people the right way to do it.”
Wilson can also be heard live Thursdays at 8 p.m. on her internet radio show “Spooky Kathy” at www.liveparanormal.com. Archived shows can be found on iTunes, Blog Talk Radio and History FM.
Wilson also has a website in development, www.spookykathy.com that is set to launch next week.