In this series, I will be “sharing my notes” on various paranormal research groups. Each post will usually include key facts, a brief introduction, notable cases, and an introduction to a notable member. Feel free to jot down notes in your commonplace book. Today we start with The Ghost Research Society.
Founding Date: Late 1970s
Location: Oak Lawn, Illinois
Research Focus: ghosts, hauntings, poltergeists, survival after death
Research Methods and Tools: tape recorders, still cameras, video cameras, psychics
The Ghost Research Society was founded in 1970s Chicago by Martin V. Riccardo, a hypnotherapist and founder of the Vampire Studies information clearinghouse. This lay organization’s initial name was Ghost Tracker’s Club, but was changed in 1981. The following year, Dale Kaczmarek (see more below) became president. Kaczmarek also served as the editor of the society’s journal The Ghost Tracker’s Newsletter (back issues are available for purchase on their website).
Though their research focus is Chicago and northern Indiana, their membership is international. If you ever visit Chicago, you might even take one of their ghost tours!
They usually investigate private residences, oftentimes involving individuals with a Roman Catholic background. They have studied how the Catholic faith influences witnesses’ perceptions of paranormal experiences.
The Ghost Research Society has one of the largest collections of spirit photography and is experienced in analyzing them via computer technology.
The Ghost Research Society investigated Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, located in the suburbs of Chicago. Burials in the cemetery possibly began around the early 1800s. Workers killed working on the Illinois and Michigan Canal are said to be buried there. Further, it is rumored to have been a dumping ground for the Chicago crime families of the 1920/30s. So, already some interesting folklore. Paranormal legends and alleged activity include:
- A White Lady carries around a baby on the full moon.
- The ghost of a farmer and his plow have been seen. He allegedly died in a farming accident.
- A phantom farmhouse seems to float, shrinking in size as visitors approach it.
- A black dog has been reported near the entrance, disappearing when visitors approach him.
You can read about the history of the cemetery and the Ghost Research Society’s investigation here. A notable piece of evidence from their investigation is a photograph of the cemetery’s “weeping woman,” often called “the girl on the gravestone” (You can see the image here. I wasn’t sure about copyright.). The Ghost Research Society describes the photo’s history on their website:
After the film was processed, it was discovered that on one frame there was the unmistakable image of a strange woman sitting on a checkerboard tombstone in an old-fashioned turn-of-the-century, full-length dress. She had long brown hair and was staring off in the distance in profile. On closer examination, parts of her body are semi-transparent, especially her head and legs. Everyone on the team was stunned with this revelation as it seemed to coincide with the electromagnetic deviations team members were experiencing at the time. It is one of the clearest images this author has ever seen to date! It was taken by Jude Huff-Felz.
For a list of other research sites, along with detailed descriptions of their research experiences, click here.
Notable Member: Dale Kaczmarek
You cannot talk about the Ghost Research Society without talking about longtime president Dale Kaczmarek (born 1952), as he greatly influences their theories and methodologies. Below is a brief bulleted summary of his paranormal theories and practices.
- He has a twofold definition of ghosts, which falls into two categories: ghosts and apparitions. Ghosts include disembodied spirits of deceased people and “phantom replays” (Guiley 184). Ghosts have no recognizable forms, but manifest as sounds, smells, and sensations. Phantom replays “are lingering vibrations of events in certain locations that can be sensed by certain persons under as yet unknown conditions” (Guiley 184). On the other hand, apparitions are recognizable and lifelike. They take the form of humans, animals, or objects.
- Poltergeists are not non-physical entities, but rather “psychic explosions” of human agents. Usually these agents are females (adolescent to late teen).
- 90 percent of the spirit photographs analyzed by the Ghost Research Society have natural explanations.
Up Next: Society of Psychical Research
Ghost Research Society Website
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. New York: Facts on File, 1992.
“Bachelor Grove Cemetery,” Wikipedia