Waikato's most haunted
Things that go bump in the night go bump a little more often in the Waikato than other parts of the country.
That's according to the Quantum Foundation, a paranormal investigation team founded by Lisa Austen and Tracey Royce in 2009.
They're not ghost hunters or ghostbusters – they're Hamilton's very own paranormal investigators – and if there's something strange in your neighbourhood they are "who ya gonna call".
The fearless duo say their free service is in high demand in the region which, according to the group, is home to a number of "paranormal hot spots".
The NZ Skeptics group isn't convinced, saying there is usually a perfectly reasonable and logical explanation for anything dubbed as "paranormal".
Mrs Austen and Miss Royce have conducted 10 investigations at private and commercial properties in the Waikato in the past 16 months.
"We don't go looking for ghosts as such, we go in trying to put clients' minds at rest," Miss Royce said.
"We're not ghostbusters either. We don't get rid of whatever is there.
"We can call in people to do that."
They take what they call a "scientific, research-based" approach to the supernatural. They ignore the horror movie hype and seek natural explanations for alleged "hauntings".
"We wanted to take a more investigative approach rather than a ghost hunting approach, which is just going out for sh..s and giggles basically.
"We weren't interested in that."
Using camera equipment, digital voice recorders, electromagnetic field readers, and photo analysis software, the pair amass information overnight and spend up to eight weeks reviewing footage.
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Most of what they uncover is "mundane". For example, the common phenomenon known as orbs – patterns of light which some people believe to be spirits or energy from another realm – are actually just airborne particles reflecting light into the camera lens.
But the pair remain undeterred.
They have both had experiences they can't explain and it drives them to uncover the truth.
Mrs Austen claims she witnessed a "full-blown apparition" (ghostly figure) while on an investigation at a private residence in the Waikato.
Miss Royce said she had a time slip experience – an alleged paranormal phenomenon in which a person, or group of people, travel through time via unknown means – at one of Waikato's most haunted sites, the Waitomo Caves Hotel.
The team have also conducted two investigations at Hamilton's Diggers Bar after a series of mysterious events led staff to believe it was haunted.
They captured five electronic voice phenomenon – communication by spirits, energies or extraterrestrials – at the bar that included laughing, a voice saying "it's coming" and one instance of aggressive swearing.
Others, however, believe the answers, if there are any, are a little closer to home.
David Riddell, journalist and member of the NZ Skeptics group, said gullible people were often suckered in by folks with fancy equipment who purported to be ghost hunters of sorts.
Electromagnetic fields? "We are awash with them from all sorts of sources, like cellphones, radio signals, that sort of thing."
And devilish laughs or spooky voices caught on tape? "Unless you are in a vacuum then nowhere is completely silent. A tape recorder is always going to pick up all sorts of different things, especially if it is left on overnight."
But Mr Riddell said sometimes just because something could not be explained it did not mean it was of another world."A lot of people, when faced with something they can't explain, automatically say must be something supernatural. But sometimes it is OK to say you simply don't know what it is."
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