Witnessing the Paranormal
“It isn’t like the movie The Poltergeist,” said Karen. “Not at all.”
I was sitting in one of the only houses at the ranch that isn’t full of spirits. It was a humid day in Oro Valley and I couldn’t tell if it was the air that was making me sweat or the fact that I was at one of the most haunted places in the area about to have a conversation with paranormal investigators. I had goosebumps since the moment I woke up that morning along with a constant rush of adrenaline. Who knows, maybe I would spot a ghost.
Dodie Clelland and Karen Thurlow sat in front of me. Dodie was calm with a soft smile on her face as her long black hair rested on her shoulders. Next to her, Karen sat quietly with high top American flag Converse shoes and fire red hair.
Dodie and Karen are the co-founders of the Canyon State Paranormal Investigators and their hair colors aren’t the only differences between them.
“I am the more practical one; I say let’s sit down and go over our footage,” said Karen. Dodie laughed and replied, “She keeps me grounded.”
Dodie is what she calls sensitive, meaning she can see, feel or hear the spirits. She can also usually communicate with them. “I always know when I walk into a place that something is there,” said Dodie. “I can feel them; I can feel their emotions.” But Dodie knows her feelings aren’t evidence. “I have them and I know they are real,” she said. “But there is no way to prove what I feel is real.”
That is where Karen comes in. She is in charge of the technical equipment used in the investigations. “This work is not like television at all,” said Karen. “You have to go over your audio, you have to go over your video, you have to go over your photographs and this all takes hours.”
We were having this interview at Steam Pump Ranch. Old ranches like this can be a hot spot for ghosts. Dodie and Karen have found many to be haunted. If you’re out exploring and find one of these old ranches, you may want to pay close attention. Steam Pump Ranch is one of Southern Arizona’s best kept secrets.
1874 two German immigrants, George Pusch and Johann Zellweger bought the land and established the ranch as a way-station for cattle companies driving their herds through the area. The name of the ranch came from the use of a steam pump that drew water from an aquifer along the Canada del Oro wash to make an oasis in this dry region.
In 1933 a man named John Proctor bought the property. John’s daughter Betty married Hank Leiber, a professional baseball player for the Chicago Cubs and the New York Giants. As the baseball spring-training industry emerged in Tucson in the 1950’s, the Steam Pump Ranch became an occasional headquarters for parties and barbeques for professional baseball players training in Tucson.
Before I arrived at the ranch I imagined one large house with chicken coops off to the side and maybe a barn. But instead what I found was four to five houses on a large piece of land. There are homes that the caretakers use to occupy and other properties for the different families that owned the ranch throughout the years.
While there is deep cultural history here on the ranch, there is also a paranormal presence looming over it that isn’t talked about much. Warren Lazar is a board member of the Oro Valley Historical Society and he joined us to talk a bit about the ranch’s history .Warren has also experienced the darker side of the ranch first hand.
“It started when the caretakers on the ranch would complain that they were getting hit with rocks continuously and they could hear children giggling,” said Warren.
Warren, others from the historical society and people from the town decided to hold their own investigation. They went out to the ranch at night with electronic magnetic field meters, recorders and cameras.
“We were all standing there out by that tree as a voice goes, “get out.” Everyone is looking at one another saying I didn’t say that. Then we walked over to the Proctor-Leiber house and before we went in we started getting hit with rocks. They were little pebbles and we heard these kids laughing. We put a recorder inside on the counter. We had a baseball and we set the baseball up in the kitchen and we set other toys outside. Then we hear someone yell at as, “hey you,” so we asked “who is in here?” and a voice came out really strong, “Matilda.” Matilda was Pusch’s wife. Then all these voices started hammering out. As we started to leave all these kids started giggling. Also the toys we had outside were totally moved and the baseball wasn’t there. It was put into one of the big rooms where there was a pool table. When we went back to the car we started playing the tapes back and it was just amazing. One of the greatest things we heard was, "take your best shot" and then we heard pool balls slam.”
Click here to listen to the recording of children's voices.
Click here to listen to a male voice inside the building.
Warren contacted Dodie and Karen and they went out to the ranch to do their own investigation. Unfortunately it is difficult to schedule a proper investigation with the city and historical society, so they weren’t able to catch anything more substantial than Warren did himself. They hope to come back to conduct a thorough investigation.
Karen and Dodie started Canyon State Paranormal Investigators about 5 years ago, but this passion for the paranormal began long ago for both of them.
“I have always stalked cemeteries,” said Karen. “Where I grew up in Wayne, New Jersey there was a lot of Civil war activity in the area and I felt comfortable there.” It wasn’t always a paranormal interest for Karen. It began with her fascination for the history and sculptures within the cemetery and eventually that fascination grew into something more paranormal.
Dodie on the other the other hand has always been drawn to it. “I use to run around in the dark just to see what I could see,” she said. “Sometimes it was scary but most of the time it wasn’t.”
When Dodie was five, she and her mother entered a church in downtown San Diego. Her mother was talking to a man in charge of the church when the smell of smoke began to surround Dodie. Suddenly burned bodies began appearing all around her. “I remember grabbing a hold of my mom and telling her we needed to go, that there was a fire,” said Dodie. “But she just looked down at me very weirdly.”
The man Dodie’s mother had been talking to, said the church had burned down 40 years ago, killing a few people. It had to be rebuilt. Dodie’s mother grabbed ahold of her and said she could never say anything like that again because people would think she was crazy. “But when that guy said there was a fire, it hit me that even at 5 what I was feeling was real,” Dodie said. “It wasn’t something I made up in my head.”
The mission of Canyon State Paranormal Investigators is to help people who are having unexplainable problems in their homes. Dodie and Karen stressed that if someone does have a problem, don’t be afraid to look for help.
“People who have homes that are haunted are looking for answers and they are looking for help,” Karen said. “That is what we try to accomplish for them.”
The process begins with a phone interview so the investigators can learn the basics of the situation. This is followed by a face to face interview. “By then we are usually at the location so I will use my abilities to feel things out, and Karen will look things over” said Dodie.
After the interview the pair leaves the location, but they don’t tell the people seeking help whether or not they are going to investigate. They take some time to share their thoughts and then decide if they will do an investigation or will call someone else in to do a cleansing or a blessing. This decision depends on the circumstances. There have been times when Karen and Dodie have stepped into a home and because of the chaos of the family or home situation, they didn’t feel it would be safe for the team to be there. In this case they would have another member of their team perform a cleansing or blessing based on the family’s religious or personal preference.
Sometimes there are darker parts of an investigation that also keep the investigators away. “When you are open, certain things can attach to you and you can leave a place and bring them home to your family,” said Dodie. “You have to be very careful.”
There have been times spirits have attached themselves to Dodie. “It happens a lot with children,” she said. “If we go into a home and a child is haunting it, 9 times out of 10 that child comes home with me.” Karen pipes in, “But sometimes she invites them to go with her.”
The hair on my arms stands straight up and my eyes open wide when Dodie tells me this.
“Yes I take them with me so I can help them move on,” said Dodie. “What I do as a Sensitive is I let them hang out with me and I work with them and get them to move on if I can. “
I leaned forward full of curiosity and asked her what she meant. Do they sit down over dinner and chat?
“What happens is I will meditate and I can feel their energy and feel what they need; I will be able to explain to them why they are still here if I have an answer,” she said. “I don’t tell them where to go, I just say there is a right and perfect place to go to and that is what you need to find.”
One thing I admire about Dodie is that while she knows what she feels inside to be true, she also knows she doesn’t know everything.
“I don’t have the answer for where the spirits need to go because I don’t know where we are going when we die and I will never claim to,” she said. “The best I can say is that there is a place for you and you need to find that place.”
I can tell it is difficult for Dodie to explain the way she deals with this gift. Not because she is uncomfortable, but because expressing what she sees or feels is unexplainable. “I will tell you when you feel someone move out of that stuck existence that they are in, it is amazing,” she said. Dodie is grasping for words, “you feel the softness of the energy, but you also feel the leaving of the energy and the void once it is gone.”
Karen and Dodie said there are thousands of reasons these spirits decide to hang around. “For some it is just not realizing that they are dead,” said Karen. “Others don’t want to move on because there is anger, vengeance or confusion.”
Dodie mentioned that most often they are waiting. “They weren’t ready and they are waiting for something,” she said. “So they stay and then eventually they forget they can leave.”
Most paranormal stories arise from ghosts interacting with humans. But I wondered if these ghost can cause serious physical harm. Through their work the pair has noticed that if someone dies and they are an evil, angry or mad person, they stay that way if they get stuck. “A lot of times people will go to a house and say we’ve got a demon but it is not a demon, it is a really pissed off spirit,” said Dodie. “It is an angry person who died and became and angry spirit.” These spirits are doing mean and angry things because that is what they did in life.
“We have been scratched, we have been pushed and I have had my hair yanked and my head thrown back,” said Dodie.
While Dodie is explaining this to me, I wonder why sometimes she can see these ghosts and other times she can’t. She said she doesn’t know why this is. She mentioned it might be her state of mind or it might be because the spirit doesn’t want her to see it. But she said even if she can’t see them she can always feel them.
“A lot of times if I walk into the room and there is a spirit that died of a heart attack, I will have heart attack symptoms all of a sudden,” she said.
When she does see them, they come in all forms. From shadows, to black figures, to real humans. “Sometimes I have to double check because it looks like a person just walked into my bedroom,” she said.
Dodie and Karen know that the paranormal isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
“You don’t have to believe what we do, you can think we are crazy and some people definitely do,” Karen said. “It is not an exact science and I don’t think it ever will be, but the evidence is there.” The pair has collected substantial amounts of footage, photos and recordings of the sites they have investigated.
Dodie says she doesn’t get into arguments with people about their beliefs. It is okay with her if they don’t believe, but she does try to explain that we are human spirits and souls having a human experience on this plane, when we cross over our spirit and soul are still the same.
“We have free will in life, why would we not have it in death?” Dodie said. “This is just a shell, what is inside of us and who we are is what is important.”
As I watched the team leave, I wished I had seen or heard a ghost. But as Dodie and Karen told me, it isn’t that easy. You have to be open and patient. I have always had a soft spot for the idea of spirits coexisting with us. And while I am not sure exactly what I believe, being around two people who feel so passionately about what they do was inspiring. Like Dodie and Karen, I don’t know for certain what is beyond this life. But if I ever get into any spirit trouble, I know who I'm calling.
A Photograph of a Ghost?
The following are photographs taken of the same residence at different times. The first was taken by me during my interview with Dodie, Karen and Warren. It shows the caretaker's residence. The second photo is courtesy of Warren Lazar, taken while doing their investigation. It shows what many believe is the ghost of Carlos, the caretaker, in front of the home. It's strange for sure and I'm not sure what I see. You make the call.
Today, the Steam Pump Ranch is owned by the town of Oro Valley and the public can enjoy experiencing the history of the ranch. Every second Saturday of the month, Steam Pump Ranch hosts special tours, historic and cultural presentations, concert series and activities for children. And the Oro Valley Farmers’ Market takes place every Saturday at Steam Pump Ranch. For information and dates on activities at Steam Pump Ranch, check Oro Valley’s Parks and Recreation calendar of events at:
Also if you want to contact the Canyon State Paranormal investigators or look at their work you can find it here: http://krel40.wix.com/canyon-state-p-i
Have you been on this adventure? What did you think? Comments and updates welcome by clicking here.
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