White: Who’s hunting the ghosts?

What drives someone to put themselves in the spookiest spots our state has to offer?


Image by Ava Weinreis

by Spencer White

Editor’s note: This column contains reference to a drug-related death. 

Minnesota is no stranger to old, decrepit buildings and dingy caves — the preferred hiding places of many of our favorite phantom friends.

So-called haunted areas are all around us, rumored to be filled with ghouls and goblins. With these frightening spots just itching to be explored, who among us is willing to be the one who delves into their depths?

Among those exploring the Earth’s more ethereal inhabitants is Jerry Ayres, who first started investigations into the paranormal in 2010 after the death of his former boss, a bar owner. Ayres described coming across his former boss outside of the bar while on a drive with his ex-wife.

“The owner was wearing a goofy hat, denim cut offs, no shirt, no shoes and drinking a very large bottle of Jagermeister,” Ayres said. “And she said, ‘you know, that guy’s gonna end up killing himself.’”

Ayres said he discovered the next day his former boss had died in the night due to a cocaine-related overdose.

Around six months later, Ayres, his ex-wife and a few others would return to the bar he used to work at to do a paranormal investigation. Ayres said it was clear to him the place was haunted.

In their investigation, Ayres and his crew took a photo of what appears to be a strange woman in the window as well as a recording of a voice of whom Ayres believed to be his former boss saying, “it’s over Jerry.”

This would be the beginning of a long obsession with the paranormal and the birth of Ayres’ group, the Supernatural Investigators of Minnesota. Since then, Ayres has investigated a number of paranormal activities, even in fields like cryptozoology and UFO sightings. He also hosts his own supernatural radio show, “The Calling,” where he talks about all kinds of supernatural occurrences on a weekly basis.

Ayres also said, in recent years, his psychic abilities have increased, a trait he said he shares with his mother. He recounted instances of coming into physical contact with people and seeing visions of their lives or of their lost relatives. He said he no longer likes to indulge in his abilities, however, as it is a very stressful burden to carry.

I certainly don’t blame him.

Ayres said he had up close and personal ethereal interactions, including an attack from what he describes as “shadow people,” which caused him to contract histoplasmosis, an infection that is usually contracted from bat and bird feces.

There are many views on why paranormal investigation can be so appealing to some: two major theories being the appeal of its social nature and the psychological validation that comes with perceived understanding.

“I think going out ghost hunting or going out looking for Bigfoot with your friends could be a very, very interesting way to spend an evening,” Charles Randy Fletcher said.

Fletcher is a professor at the University of Minnesota and has been teaching The Psychology of Paranormal Phenomena course for 14 years.

“It satisfies some need for understanding,” Fletcher said. He also said the feeling of control in situations that seem unexplainable can be an alluring factor.

Supernatural endeavors like ghost, bigfoot and UFO hunting are often considered pseudoscience. Those who partake in such investigations, Fletcher said, are in danger of falling victim to confirmation bias.

“In science, we are taught that the way you try to support your hypothesis is by trying to prove that it’s wrong,” Fletcher said. “That is an unnatural act. What is more natural for us when we believe something is to go out and look for confirming evidence.”

This is the danger. Supernatural investigation becomes pseudoscience when the focus is on confirming evidence rather than attempting to find explanations contrary to what you already believe or are hoping to find.

Investigations into the supernatural can be fun. Going out with your friends to find mysterious entities sounds like a wonderful time. The danger lies in investigating these entities without the proper scientific approach.

If you choose to go out with your EMF reader and a couple of friends to the local haunted house, be sure to follow the scientific method before making any decisive claims.

Also, be kind to the ghosts. You don’t want a run-in with any dangerous entities because you didn’t treat them and their resting place with adequate respect. You never know what spooky sorcery could be placed upon you.