Armed with infrared cameras, electromagnetic field detectors, night-vision goggles, high-definition video cameras, digital voice recorders and their channeled sixth senses, the crew of DDP stalk through the night investigating locations of suspected paranormal activity in East County.
Lead investigators Irene Ritchie and Raquel Rangel have been going on ghost hunts for years, exploring California haunts such as the Queen Mary Hotel in Long Beach and the Preston Castle in Ione in search of physical evidence that ghosts exist.
“I’ve always been interested with the paranormal and urban legends involving spirits,” Ritchie said. “I’ve had this curiosity all my life.”
Ritchie said at age 3 she encountered a spirit in the form of an old man with long white hair and talon-like fingers, who tormented her for several months by following her around the house, aggressively asking if she wanted to play. Similarly, Rangel, Ritchie’s cousin, was visited by the spirit of an elderly man who used to chase her through her grandmother’s house when she was a child. The two were surprised to find out years later that an elderly spirit visited both of them, but are unsure if it was the same old man. Nonetheless, the incidents sparked a fire within both of them to find out what goes bump in the night.
Ritchie and Rangel formed DDP earlier this year to formalize their hobby into an organization designed to assist people who might have encountered a spirit or other paranormal activity. They purchased sophisticated equipment to properly investigate places of inquiry, and officially began home investigations this month.
“When you have a paranormal experience, you don’t know what to think,” Rangel said. “You might think you are imagining things, but if it is persistent, then you might think you’re going crazy, so we offer this service to give people peace of mind. Maybe you have some type of activity going on in your house – or maybe there’s a raccoon in your attic.”
DDP services are free of charge, and residents don’t need to stay in the house while investigations are conducted if they don’t feel comfortable, but Ritchie said some people are interested in the process. So far, the DDP team has conducted investigations in the homes of friends and family, but is willing to travel anywhere on the west coast if it offers a chance to scientifically document the existence of spirits.
DDP historian Patty Herrera, also a cousin of Ritchie and Rangel, is a novice to ghost investigations, but once Ritchie and Rangel found out that Herrera had been visited by a deceased uncle, Rangel’s father, in her dreams, they knew Herrera was a perfect fit for the team.
Herrera said Rangel’s father periodically visits her in her sleep just to say hi and check in. During one of his visits, he told Herrera not to worry about her brother, which made no sense to Herrera at the time. But the following morning, Herrera awoke to news reports of a shooting at the New York New York casino in Las Vegas, where her brother was staying. While her parents, unable to reach their son, were worried, Herrera heeded the words of her uncle and knew that her brother was OK.
“I can’t explain it,” Herrera said. “I’m not sure why he visits me, but he stops by and has conversations with me. It’s not scary. I talk to him just as I would talk to anyone face to face and then he goes off. Not sure where he goes, but he always seems to come back.”
Herrera said as a researcher she’s learned about a lot of suspected paranormal activity in East County, particularly in Antioch. One of the most common legends is the story of the white witch of Black Diamond Mines.
It’s believed that the spirit of Sarah Norton, a midwife who lived in the Antioch area during the 1870s, haunts the Rose Hill Cemetery, where she was buried against her will. Norton, who died in a horse carriage crash, had told her children that she didn’t want to have a formal service if anything were to happen to her, but since Norton was such an important member of the community, the townspeople insisted on a public service.
Despite two attempts to hold a service, which were canceled due to violent rainstorms, the people decided to stick it out during the third storm and hold the funeral. Since the town went against her wishes, people believe the vision of white light, described as a gliding woman, who has been seen floating among the headstones at the cemetery, belongs to Norton.
Herrera said Antioch, as one of California’s oldest cities, is a hotspot for other paranormal activity. Other sites of suspected activity include the El Campanil Theatre and the slaughterhouse on Empire Mine Road. Also in East County, the Byron Hot Springs is allegedly a haunt for local spirits.
The DDP team, which consists of 10 investigators, hasn’t found any evidence of spirits since purchasing the new equipment, but plans to go on investigations each weekend, whether at residences or public places. Ritchie said she’d love to spend a night in the Stanley Hotel, the location that inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining,” while Rangel would like to spend an evening at Alcatraz. Herrera said she’d like to visit the Island of the Dolls in Mexico.
However, the main purpose of DDP is to help explain unusual occurrences and help people who believe they might be haunted understand what’s behind the inexplicable incidents. If a presence is detected, DDP also provides a free house cleansing service, which involves communicating with the spirit, asking it to leave, and blessing the house.
Ritchie advised that if you suspect paranormal activity, telltale signs include cold spots, flickering lights, doors that open, close and lock on their own, items falling off shelves and tables, whispers or voices, plus knocking, tapping and footsteps.
“Sometimes things happen that people can’t explain, and if you go online looking for answers, there aren’t a lot of services in California to help people if they suspect they’ve had a paranormal experience,” Ritchie said. “We want to help people find peace of mind. Maybe it’s just your imagination or maybe it’s something else. Either way, we want to help people find answers.”
For more information or to schedule an appointment with DDP, visit www.deltadiabloparanormal.com.