If you’ve always been fascinated by the unknown, have an open mind, and enjoy sitting in darkness waiting for something otherworldly to happen, the Oakdale Paranormal Society may be the right fit for you.
Started by lifelong friends, Stephanie Hotchkiss and Sheri Rocha, the OPS officially got its start in January and they’ve already logged several ghost hunts, including a few with the California Ghost Chasers.
“I’ve always held a fascination and curiosity of the unknown,” said Rocha. “And being so close to the Mother Lode there’s a lot of history in our back yard.”
Neither Hotchkiss nor Rocha claim to have any special sensitivity to the paranormal but both have experienced phenomenon that could be considered otherworldly.
According to Hotchkiss, her parents told her stories of the haunted house they lived in when Hotchkiss was a baby. “I grew up hearing the stories from my mom. She always said that it was a shadow figure in the doorways and she would often see movement out of the corner of her eye and when she turned her head to look, nothing was there. After I was born, it always stayed by my crib, or in the doorway of the room I was in. Eventually the house burned down for unexplained reasons.”
Later Hotchkiss had an opportunity to speak with the current property owner who had built a shop that repaired and built pianos on the site that had also burned down. When Hotchkiss shared that she’d once lived in a house on that site that was supposedly haunted, the property owner became very animated, stating he’d had employees quit over sightings and unexplained phenomenon.
“Everything he said confirmed everything that my mom had been telling me all my life,” Hotchkiss said.
Rocha experienced a ghostly sighting when she was a child that frightened her, but it sparked a deep, abiding interest in the beyond.
“I’m not a sensitive but I see friends and family in my dreams,” Rocha said. “I’ve always enjoyed old cemeteries. I’m not obsessed with death but there’s something about old cemeteries that I really enjoy.”
But before you assume that these gals are eager to blame ghosts for every creaking floorboard, they’re the exact opposite. In fact, they try to debunk the evidence first.
“We always try to debunk first and look for a logical explanation,” said Hotchkiss. “Our first response is to not assume every single thing we hear is paranormal. We eliminate all logical explanations first. We want to separate local and paranormal and present what we believe is paranormal.”
Hotchkiss and Rocha realize chasing after the paranormal isn’t everyone’s thing and they don’t try to convince people one way or another.
“People have a right to believe what they want to believe,” Hotchkiss said.
“Until you experience it, you probably won’t believe it,” Rocha said. “And even then, sometimes people don’t want to accept what they’re hearing or seeing.”
When they’re on an investigation, they don’t do anything to antagonize or provoke and they always say a prayer afterward.
“We want to let them know they have to stay,” Rocha said. “We’re not there to antagonize. We’re here to learn.”
Currently, the Oakdale Paranormal Society is looking for new members, particularly those with the following skill sets and characteristics:
* Web design
* Technical skills
* An interest in the paranormal
* Likes to build and create things
* Easy to work with
* Team player
If you think you have a site worth investigating that’s within a 100 mile radius of their home base, there’s a submission form on the website (www.oakdaleparanormal.com) where you can submit your site for evaluation.
“It’s not the Hollywood experience,” Hotchkiss said of an investigation. “It’s a lot of sitting in the dark waiting in silence hoping to catch something.”
Rocha added, “Unless you’re sensitive or psychic you’re not going to (experience) anything. You’ll be surprised what is picked up afterward.”
The team records ambient sound in the hopes of catching EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) during each investigation.
There are some captured EVPs on the OPS website.
For more information, contact the OPS at 209-322-9540.