“Wait, did you hear that? Was that a knock?” I asked Nicole.
“I can’t breathe,” she gasps, “I need my inhaler.”
Later in the evening Dawn Kirkham, the lead sensitive and founder of the group, tells a story that makes Nicole’s shortness of breath all the more strange. A while back, a young girl visiting the museum with her mother had a similar experience with choking and shortness of breath in the very same room. Dawn was contacted, and upon speaking with the girl, was able to link her experience to a ghost who had been hung in very nearly the same spot back in the late 1800s, and who gets a kick out of showing unsuspecting tourists what his final moments felt like. Coincidence? Maybe. Creepy? Definitely.
Dawn got interested in the paranormal about 15 years ago when she was awoken “both physically and spiritually” by a late night spectral visitor. This event prompted her to join the Spiritualist Church in the UK, where she is from. There she partook in medium training and development, where she honed her skills as a sensitive. It was suggested to her by another member of the church that she might enjoy going along on some paranormal investigations. She was immediately hooked and her path was set.
Dawn has a sister here in Victoria, BC and after a few visits, like many others I’ve met, she decided to move to the Island in 2009. Hoping to further pursue her love of the paranormal, it wasn’t long before she wandered into the Maritime Museum in Bastion Square, and asked if she could do an investigation. After vetting her abilities as a sensitive, the folks at the museum agreed, and it wasn’t long before her solo venture attracted more like-minded individuals and her team grew into what it is today.
Although the event we attended was a public one, BBP’s main purpose is to help private citizens who are being tormented by bumps in the night, and it has hundreds of such clients, all of whom are helped free of charge. A haunting, for those who don’t understand what’s happening, can be a frightening ordeal, and so Dawn and her crew do everything from helping to assure people of their sanity by confirming that a haunt is taking place, to debunking through rational, commonplace explanations. Spirits are thought to feed off of fear and other heightened emotions and by calming these individuals, Dawn helps them to reclaim their homes. Sometimes this is done simply by teaching the acceptance of who and what these spirits are, and other times by what she called “transitioning spirits”, or helping them cross over, ridding the location of these entities altogether. Quite often though, it’s just a breeze or an old creaky house that are the real culprits, and this is the explanation that most clients hope for.
Because their services are offered for free, groups like BBP have to raise money for their very expensive equipment as well as day-to-day expenses, and what better way to raise money than by giving curious groups of people a taste of real investigations. The gathered hopefuls on the night Nicole and I attended were what you would expect. There were the goth girls, an Inspector Clusoe look-alike, a few 20-something couples out for a romantic scare together, and, of course, a few eccentric sensitive/medium types. Altogether I counted 28 of us, not including the dozen members of Dawn’s team, not one of them a confirmed skeptic, and most with a look of nervous excitement on their faces. I’d venture to guess that some of them were outright scared, a guess confirmed by the clammy, shaking hand that Nicole held during the “protection circle” ceremony at the beginning of the evening.
The event was held between 10pm and 3am Saturday night.The first hour was an introduction to the team, a rundown of the equipment and concluded with the aforementioned “protection ceremony” to call out any spirits wishing to communicate with us and “raise all of our energy levels” in order to facilitate said communication. BBP has a vast array of equipment and methods to enhance the evening. Equipment includes K2 meters, Mel meters, SB7 spirit boxes, digital voice recorders, IR video cameras and for the first time ever, an Ovilus, an electronic device which contains words that spirits are said to be able manipulate to “speak” to the living. Methods include table tipping, glass moving, pendulums, scribing, dowsing and communication in various forms through the sensitives and mediums in attendance.
We were split into three groups, and ours started in the courtroom of the old museum, with the fun beginning almost immediately. One of the guests claimed to be a medium who is able to hear and speak with spirits and, while she shared a lost soul’s story with the group, Nicole and I settled in and tried to focus on the feeling in the room. At one point Nicole became freezing cold (I could feel her shaking) and the EMF meter in my hand shot from a 0.1 to 5.7 and then back to 0.1, at which point a couple of people saw a figure standing on the balcony directly above us and Nicole’s shivers suddenly stopped as quickly as they had begun. Shortly after that incident, Dawn’s handheld IR video camera battery was mysteriously drained. A group of four was formed to try some glass moving where a glass is placed upside down on the table between them and all of them place their index fingers lightly on top of the glass. Questions were then asked of a spirit named “Frank” who appeared to answer by enthusiastically sliding the glass back and forth to indicate yes or no answers.
At 12:15 we broke for a 45 minute snack and coffee break, after which our group moved down to the second floor. Shortly after arriving downstairs Nicole and I both felt what can only be described as a cold electric charge run up our backs. The really weird thing is that when I held my EMF meter in front of us is read 0.1 but as soon as I held it over my shoulder behind us it jumped to a 0.4 as if something were standing right there. I repeated multiple times with the same result and whatever this was seemed to follow us down the hall. Once we both agreed that it felt as if it had gone, I tried the same experiment with my EMF meter and got a 0.1 both in front and behind us this time. We found this to be both eery and rather compelling.
We set up camp at a large table and tried our hands at some pendulum work, attempting to elicit responses through the direction of our swaying pendulums (everyone was provided one). After some inconsistent responses we switched to the Ovilus and the spirit box which quickly scans radio frequencies and “allows spirit voices” to come through. I have to admit that we actually heard some faint but indistinguishable words come through the spirit box as well as one very creepy child’s laugh. We had some more success with the Ovilus though and at one point, after I had wandered off pursuing a strange shadow with one of the BBP group members, Nicole and the rest of the group asked the spirit that was “speaking” through the Ovilus if it would like to try scribing (a pen stuck through a hole in a wooden board with wheels, whose function is very similar to that of glass moving), to which it responded “won’t” and “Jesus” as if annoyed. Needless to say, after such an apparently negative response from the spirit, the fact that their attempt at scribing led nowhere wasn’t a big surprise.
Our group finished the night on the first floor, where Dawn, Nicole, myself and two other women in attendance made our way down to the old jail cells where we continued to get more communication through the Ovilus along the way. At one point it even declared “Light” directly after the woman holding it turned off her flashlight. It was as if the spirit wished her to keep the light on, which we all found very surprising to say the least. After sitting in the old jail cells and listening to the Ovilus tell us a strange and disjointed story about “green foliage” and being “hung”, we all retired back to the courthouse to share our experiences with the other groups. By the sounds of it, everyone had a fantastically creepy night with one gentlemen even hearing his full name, first, middle, and last, spoken through one of the ghost boxes. After forming another circle to close the communication with the other side, we were all sent on our way to process the evening’s events and try to get some sleep.
All in all we had a great time on this ghostly adventure with Dawn and her Beyond Belief Paranormal crew and it was certainly a unique and interesting break from my usual Saturday night. The only negatives I could draw from the evening were that there was perhaps too much of a focus on the typical spiritualist party tricks like table tipping, dowsing and glass moving. With the technology available it would make sense to focus more on the actual paranormal investigating rather than the spiritualism. The other issue was that, though I don’t doubt Dawn’s abilities as a proven sensitive, I did doubt some of the more outspoken guests who claimed mediums and I felt like their theatrics kind of watered down the experience for me. That being said, I did have a ton of fun and I certainly left the museum with some compelling experiences to ponder, so I’d say that it is definitely well worth the money. More than that, helping BBP be able to afford to assist their frightened clients is a worthwhile reward in itself.
Please join us again in December as we accompany Dawn and her crew on a private investigation in a client’s home!
Special thanks to the amazing Maritime Museum of BC for allowing us full access to the darkest recesses of the museum — it is well worthwhile to return in the daytime for the fascinating exhibits.
For more information about Dawn’s medium training, paranormal investigation, and more, as well as prices and upcoming events, check out these links: