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Ghost Stories : A Specter Inspector Hunts the Haunted

April 21, 1988|KENNETH J. GARCIA | Times Staff Writer

You're in your living room one night when, all of a sudden, your daughter starts floating above the sofa, the tea kettle does a jig on the dining room table, faces start appearing in the china cabinet and your dog starts swearing at you in a Cockney accent.

Should you call:

(a) Your therapist; (b) your optometrist; (c) your real estate agent; (d) the veterinarian; or (e) Charles Alexander Moses?

Most people wouldn't pick the correct answer, (e), which says a lot about the strange, solitary life of a ghost hunter. When one deals with the unseen and unfathomable, one remains largely unknown.

"My interest in ghosts and things like that is because I'm a curious person," Moses said. "I consider myself a skeptic with an open mind. But ghosts do exist. There are a lot of things out there that we don't understand."

30-Year Career

How else do you explain all the things that Moses said he's encountered during 30 years of investigating bizarre happenings. He says he's been hit in the back by invisible forces, seen appliances dance off shelves and taped voices of people known to be deceased.

Over the years, he's investigated hundreds of reported hauntings. He worked on the "Amityville Horror" case that was made into a book and then a movie, and he's chased strange entities from Malibu to London. He says he's talked to spirits and heard from all sorts of strange folks, most of them invisible. In one case, he said, something or other scribbled a "help" essage on a piece of paper.

But since chasing ghosts is not exactly a lucrative business, Moses works primarily as an advertising and public relations consultant in Burbank. Years ago, when he wasn't out seeking strangers in the night, he worked as Frank Sinatra's personal publicist.

These days, when he's not on a haunt or a publicity shoot, he can often be found in a classroom, teaching other would-be paranormal investigators how to track down apparitions, wacky poltergeists and the like. He finds students by placing ads in college bulletins and flyers mailed out from his office. Recently, six curious people paid $19 apiece to attend Moses' three-hour workshop at Pacific Coast College in West Los Angeles.

No Laughing Matter

They discovered just how serious Moses is about ghosts. Ghosts are no laughing matter, even the mischievous ones, he said. Moses said some people have been injured by ghosts. Almost all the people who have come into contact with ghosts have been spooked by them, he added.

Still, Moses said, most ghost sightings are not real. That's why a good ghost hunter always makes a thorough background investigation, checking out the ghost sighter's family history, medical background, and whether the person has been involved in the occult. If a person is on medication, he says, that may explain a lot.

Mainly Imagination

"In 99% of the cases that I have gone on, I found nothing there except someone's imagination," he said.

But in the cases where ghosts, apparitions or unexplainable happenings do exist, the people being haunted have dabbled in witchcraft, Moses claimed.

"Lots of people get involved with ghosts through Ouija boards or seances," he said. "The thing is, if you invite something into your house, you may not be able to get rid of it."

That's the funny thing about ghost hunting. Even if you catch one, Moses said, there's not much you can do about it. Sometimes they stay, sometimes they go.

Tools of the Trade

Moses suggests that if you want to hunt a few yourself, you need a few tools. A tape recorder, a camera, film, a thermometer, a flashlight, and a magnifying glass are the mainstays of ghost hunting. And don't forget pen and paper.

Tape recorders are used to pick up voices of spirits, and, as he shows in his classes, Moses has taped quite a few. One close friend who died came back once to inquire about his cat. He has it on tape.

The camera is for shooting apparitions. The thermometer is for picking up "cold spots," which ghosts are said to often leave behind. The flashlight and magnifying glass are to illuminate hard-to-see "things." Pen and paper are for taking notes, although a spirit occasionally may borrow it and scribble "help," as Moses discovered on a case he investigated.

Believe it or not, Moses said. But if you don't believe it, he asks, how do you explain all the bizarre things that happen in the world? He said he actually heard a cat talk to a little girl one time in a basement. And saw wallpaper that peeled itself off a wall. And heard things go bump and grind in the night.

"People who go looking for ghosts will probably find them," he said, "because they will make them up in their heads. But if you do a careful investigation, you realize that there are things out there. We just don't understand what they are."

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