Gene Caswell, co-founder of the Jefferson County Paranormal Society and self-described paranormal investigator, demonstrates one of the tools he uses while searching for paranormal activities. The meter reads electromagnetic changes in a room. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Gene Caswell, co-founder of the Jefferson County Paranormal Society and self-described paranormal investigator, demonstrates one of the tools he uses while searching for paranormal activities. The meter reads electromagnetic changes in a room. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com)
Members of the Jefferson County Paranormal Society aren't afraid of the things that go bump in the night. Instead, they try to find out what those things are.

The society conducts investigations hoping to provide rational explanations for mysterious sounds or paranormal events, co-founder and lead investigator Gene Caswell said.

Nearly 90 percent of the time, some type of "paranormal activity" can be explained by an animal, piping issue or even carbon monoxide, Caswell said.

"We go in and try to debunk everything," Caswell said. "We try to figure out something logical to put (people) at ease."

The group of investigators would rather put homeowners at ease by finding a loose pipe or high electrical concentration from an old refrigerator than make people feel unsafe in their homes.

"We're also helping them know they aren't crazy," he said.

Still, there are about 10 percent of activities that can't be fully explained with a simple answer.

After years of being involved with other paranormal groups, Caswell and a group of Jefferson County residents formed the Jefferson County Paranormal Society in 2008. The other groups Caswell had been involved with before either weren't active or he didn't like their investigation techniques.

"We're not in it for the thrills," Caswell said, noting the society doesn't do investigations in cemeteries.

Soon people began to call the group to look into happenings on their property or in their homes.

Once, someone called sure that paranormal activity was going on in their home. Something would cause a sound under a chair and a set of window blinds to move. After the initial interview, the group set up equipment and began looking into possible causes.

Caswell used to work in maintenance, so he usually checks out possible plumbing and electrical issues that homeowners might not know about as one of the first steps in the investigation. During the check, he found an unsecured pump in the basement.

Every time the pump turned on, a pipe would hit the floorboards and cause the sound under the chair and the window blinds would move. It turned out the pump was malfunctioning, which caused it to turn on several times each day.

Case closed.

Another investigation involved a ghost or spirit walking across floorboards at about the same time every evening.

After setting up some investigative tools, the team found a temperature change caused the boards to expand and pop. Because the slats were so close together, the other boards in house would creak and snap to sound like someone was walking in the hallway.

Case closed.

Yet, other documentation from area locations like the Crump Theatre in Columbus isn't as easily explained. The group set up their equipment for an investigation and recorded a voice that wasn't from someone in the group.

Caswell had been in a part of the theater used to segregate theater-goers in the past. While he was there, he questioned how people felt about sitting in the segregated area.

The group picked up an electronic voice phenomena that gave an answer to his question - not right.

Caswell still hasn't been able to provide a reasonable explanation for that experience, and there are a few other instances like that as well, he said.

Most of the time, people are grateful to find out whatever causes the noise can be explained as something mechanical or a change in the weather, he said.

But others who ask the team to investigate aren't so pleased to hear they aren't living with something unexplainable.

"Some people don't want to hear their place is not haunted," Caswell said.

Sometimes, it's best just to agree to disagree about paranormal happenings at a location. But Caswell often leaves a bit of insight with people who believe the group just didn't find their paranormal housemate.

"I think spirits are around all the time," he said - some spirits just decide to show themselves every once in a while.