On a recent autumn evening, four members of Inner Light Paranormal assemble within the living room of a home in rural Forsyth County. It’s cold outside — far colder than it should be for late October in north Georgia — and all except one member, a woman named Teresa Bass, seem glad to seek refuge in the home’s warmth.
The paranormal investigators introduce themselves: There’s Scott Tolbert, who leads the squad; equipment specialist Jeremy Brown; Graham Crosby, who’s in charge of electronics and security; and finally Bass, one of the group’s psychics.
Since 2009, members of Inner Light Paranormal have investigated homes all over north Georgia and beyond. Their main goal is to help those who seek them out using a combination of self-proclaimed psychic talent (such as Bass) and high-tech equipment to determine if there is evidence of supernatural activity.
On this particular evening in Forsyth County, they’ve lined up their equipment on a nearby table, not because that’s necessarily what they’d do before an assignment, but rather to show the visiting guests — a Forsyth County News editor and photographer — the kinds of gadgets used in an investigation.
The gear is a mixture of the fairly high tech and, in some cases, the strange and unusual. Take the “spirit box” for example. It’s a shuffler of AM/FM radio frequencies that, according to the team, acts as a communication tool between our world and a hypothetical spiritual realm.
The members of Inner Light Paranormal brought two of these devices along on the evening in question: one, encased in a woodgrain container covered in crucifixes and Bible verses; and the other, a more generic and practical-seeming spirit box, looking closer to a cheap stereo speaker.
Bass said she prefers the latter. She feels the newer, woodgrain spirit box garbles whatever message ghosts on the other side might be trying to convey. With her alleged abilities though, Bass relies less on such technology as others in the group might. Bass has been communicating with spirits since she was a toddler and the link, she said, has only gotten stronger.
Bass doesn’t like it here, she said.
This home in rural Forsyth County — specifically, an entryway to the basement — fills her with anxiety.
“I don’t feel comfortable,” she said, her hand moving to caress a crucifix hanging around her neck. “I would rather not be here.”
‘Whoa! Did you see that?’
Brown said he felt the same way. Though not a psychic, he does feel a weak connection to the supernatural. And, he also sensed a sort of unease coming from Bass.
“That explains that … I think I’ve been feeling that coming off of you,” Brown said as he switched on a “REM-Pod,” which registers a break in the energy around it — meaning if one (living or otherwise) waves his or her hand in front of it, the device lights up and sounds an alarm.
At this moment, other members of the group got up from chairs and gathered in a central point of the living room. Each person, except for Bass, picked up a handheld recording device or a detection gadget of some type and switched it on, testing batteries and sound levels.
Though a man of few words, Brown’s enthusiasm for paranormal phenomena was evident in his excited gestures and facial expressions as he tried to explain his mania.
“It’s kind of a long story, so I’ll try to keep it short,” Brown said, which, he absolutely does, summing up his lifelong interest in the supernatural in about 15 seconds. “I used to watch shows like ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ and (movies like) ‘Ghostbusters,’ and then when ‘Ghost Hunters’ came on back in 2004, I was just blown away.”
Added Brown: “I couldn’t believe people could get together in real life as a group and go investigate. The rest is history.”
Brown walked to a corner of the living room where the other three members congregated: at the edge of the stairs leading down to the basement. Tolbert, holding a paranormal detection device in each hand, called out:
“Anybody here? Hello?”
There were a few seconds of reverent silence in which it seemed nobody even breathed. Members of the group seemed lost in thought, concentrating. And then, a beeping sound broke the collective reverie.
“Whoa! Did you see that?” Tolbert said, huge grin on his face, gesturing toward the gadget in his hand. “It went all the way over.”
This indicated, apparently, that the group of investigators and members of the media weren’t the only ones in the room.
“If we go downstairs, will you please talk to us?” Tolbert politely asked.
‘Not your typical graveyard hopper’
Tolbert led the group down the staircase — a set of steeply descending stairs with an eerie blind corner reminiscent of that from a horror movie — all the while calling out questions and sometimes demanding the identity of who or whatever may be listening:
“Talk to us. Tell us who you are,” he said as the group entered a small downstairs bedroom. At this, Tolbert switched on one of the two spirit boxes, and the interrogation continued.
Tolbert said he got the bug for the paranormal many years ago as a young person, during a nighttime visit to a cemetery with a friend.
“We saw some really crazy stuff that night,” Tolbert said. “I couldn’t believe what I saw.”
Tolbert’s pet peeve is when people think certain pop culture stereotypes are true to life; or, more specifically, if folks think he and his buddies are going to show up at homes with proton packs strapped to their backs to battle slimy apparitions, well, that’s just not true.
“I try to keep this professional,” Tolbert said. “I’m not your typical graveyard hopper who goes out looking for ghosts. This is a real thing, and people out there need help. It makes you feel good when you’re able to help somebody.”
Tolbert held up a finger to pause the conversation. There was something coming through on the spirit box.
“Are you through talking to us?” Tolbert asked.
Something sounding a lot like a cuss word sounded through the speakers. Members of the group gasped, eyes growing large.
“I don’t appreciate you using that kind of language OK? You gonna talk like that you can leave,” Tolbert said.
No response, just static.
Tolbert paused and then added, “I’m going to turn this off now if you’re done. On the count of five, OK?”
A flurry of static-studded vocalizations interrupted the white noise, and out of the spirit box came words that sounded to even the most skeptical, objective listener a whole lot like: “1, 2 …”
‘I get pictures in my mind’
“He’s counting down,” Bass said. “I think he must be getting tired of this.”
Crosby — who by his own admission is the group’s most skeptical of paranormal goings on — at first found himself leery of the notion that a so-called spirit box could act as a medium between worlds.
“At first, I was like, ‘OK, you’ve got a radio going through a bunch of stations, and of course words will occasionally be heard,’” Crosby said. “But, it’s not like you think. It’s not random. There’s too much that corresponds correctly to specific questions you ask it.”
Crosby and Bass are a couple. Often when Bass picks up on something strange, Crosby claims to feel the vibes too.
When she sees or feels something from another realm, she said, “it’s like looking through a viewfinder … and I’m often feeling the emotion of a place that might be from a long time ago … and I get pictures, quick little snapshots, of it in my mind.”
When visiting a purportedly haunted location, Bass feels “drawn to certain areas or to a certain person,” she said, gesturing toward the top of the staircase. “When I feel that pull, it’s like anxiety, like if there was somebody standing at the top of the stairs waiting for you.”
Crosby and Bass walked together out of the small basement room.
Tolbert — finding both the alleged spirit and the group itself were apparently done with this trans-realm conversation — switched off the spirit box. The whole group headed upstairs.
Tolbert’s paranormal team is nonprofit. They do not charge for their services, though they do accept donations for gas sometimes just to help get them from haunting to haunting.
Tolbert said, in the end, it’s an exciting hobby “but (we are) mostly all about helping my clients … this is something we do out of the goodness of our hearts.”
He said people contact Inner Light Paranormal often about strange noises or phenomena in their homes. Most of the team’s time is spent trying to debunk the notion that a residence or building is haunted.
“It can be anything … the house settling … faulty wiring or pipes,” Tolbert said. “But sometimes, just sometimes … (on video or audio) you capture something amazing. And that’s what makes this all worthwhile.”
For more information, visit www.innerlightparanormal.com.