Profile: Tri-State Paranormal Research

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Tri-State Paranormal Research on Paranormal Challenge

Tri-State Paranormal Research organization burst into the public eye via a spirited winning performance on episode two of Travel Channel's Paranormal Challenge from Eastern State Penitentiary, which aired on June 24. The Metuchen, NJ team -- Sharon Hensen, Peter Gargiulo, Tony Nistic -- bested the unit from Northampton County Paranormal in a head-to-head competiton judged on teamwork, knowledge and usage of history and equipment, and, of course, evidence gathered on the scene.

I talked with Team Leader and organization Co-Director Sharon Hensen about her group.

What is your organization?
Tri-State Paranormal Research
Who are the primary members?
Sharon Hensen, Susan Norrell, Peter Gargiulo, Tony and Jennifer Nistico

How did they get involved?
I was asked to join the group about eight years ago after my own house was investigated by the group. My children were seeing ghost children. Sue Norrell sent an application in to TSPR and was interviewed. We met Tony and Jen at an event and we asked them to join. We also met Peter at The Stanley Hotel and we insisted that he join our group!
When did the organization form?
I'm not quite sure when the group originally started as I joined later on. My best guess is that it formed in 1997.

What are your regular activities?
We try to meet at least once every other month. If we have an investigation we'll usually meet beforehand and go over the history of the haunting.

How often do you investigate?
In a good month, maybe once. We get busier as we get closer to Halloween. I'd say we do five-nine investigations per year, not including "pay as you go" spots (like Fort Mifflin, Stanley Hotel, etc).
Why do you do this?
I do it to help people and to learn more about the paranormal. It's a nice feeling when someone is no longer afraid of their house.
Do you charge for services?
Never. Ever. Never ever!
How do people get in touch with you?
Usually through our website. We do get a fair amount of investigations from team members who knows someone.
Please detail a typical case.
We'll receive an email through our website with a person claiming that something is haunting their house. We'll go out and interview the potential client and get details. We ask about drug and alcohol use as well as any mental illness. (That's the hard part!)

We'll ask about any medications that they may be on. (Some medications can cause hallucinations.) We'll then do a mini-investigation for about 30-45 minutes and see if we caught anything on audio or video. We then decide whether or not the potential client needs an actual investigation. From there we decide on a date and which team members will participate.

Usually the larger the house the more investigators we'll bring. Once the investigation is set up, we'll either meet up or conference call each other to make a plan of action. We set up teams and areas that need to be investigated. Once we arrive at the clients home (or place of business) we break up into groups and investigate an area for a set amount of time. If we seem to be getting alot of activity in a particular area, we'll stay in that area a bit longer.

Each time gets to investigate each area. We then go home and listen to our recorders, look at our pictures and video. Once everything is looked over and analyzed we return to the client and present whatever findings we came up with. Most people just want to know that they're not crazy.
TriStateParanormalEvidence.jpgPhoto evidence gathered in Metuchen, NJ home - note ghostly figure ascending stairs on right

TriStateParanormalEvidenceCloseup.jpgDetail from above photo

Please detail an extreme case.
We had one case where a woman was taking a recorder into bed with her and was claiming that a man's voice was communicating through the recorder while she was sleeping. After reviewing the medications that this woman was on and listening to the recorder, we determined it was her talking in her sleep. She didn't want to hear it so we advised her that we would not be able to assist her since she wasn't willing to hear that she might not be haunted at all.
What equipment do you use?
Digital voice recorders, video cameras,  digital cameras, KII meters, Ovilus, "shack hack," Mel meter, and our five senses!

What makes you different from other similar organizations?
I think what sets us apart is the time it takes for us to review our findings. We go through everything with a fine toothed comb. If someone in the group catches an EVP we all listen to it and try to debunk it. If there is ever any doubt about a piece of evidence, we won't present it.
Do you have advice for individuals/organizations looking to get into paranormal investigations?
Be prepared to meet some crazies in this field. Not everyone who thinks they're being haunted actually is. And you're going to come across alot of dirty basements/attics/house. It's not all fun and games. Evidence isn't just going to fall into your lap.
How did things go on Paranormal Challenge?
One of the team members had connections with the producers and we auditioned. We waited about a week, then found out we were on the show. We were VERY excited. Since Eastern State is only about an hour from Metuchen, it was quite convenient. Everyone on the show is super organized, so the first day we were out of there by 7 in the evening and got to go home to relax and get over the TV jitters. The investigation itself was on the second day and night, and they put us up in a hotel in the area that night, then were back for the third day to present our evidence and hear the verdict.

I had a blast! It's incredible to see how much work goes into a TV show. We thought it was pretty cool to have our own "wrangler" on the show. I was brave enough to put on the POV camera twice, in the "mad chair" and "the hole."

How did you pick team members for the show?
Well, Peter was the connection to the show, so he was definitely going to be on the team! Tony is our tech guy, so we needed him. And I got to go because my co-director Sue got to do a cameo on Ghost Hunters, so it was my turn.

Did you do anything differently because you were on TV? Did it feel different?
We were more aware of our actions than we might usually be - you don't want to look like an idiot! We wanted to be very professional and represent the group well. It was also less scary because there are people around and we were being observed from the nerve center at all times.

Do you get afraid at investigations?
I'm much more afraid of the living than the dead. The dead can't do anything to you. If we investigate a cemetery at midnight, I am more concerned about running into a drunk or a mugger than a ghost! I am not afraid of the dark.

Anything else you'd like to add?

I've become way more skeptical since I started doing this eight years ago. Most hauntings have a logical explanation and most people don't want to hear it. Having a haunted house is the "in" thing right now.

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Eric Olsen is a career media professional and serial entrepreneur who has written influentially on a vast array of topics for periodicals, books, TV, radio, and the Internet. Olsen founded and published award winning online magazine and oversaw creation of the original content organization…

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