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Spooky Site May Satisfy Those Moved by the Spirits

Relax, Ghostweb isn't all scary stuff. Its advice? 'Mutual coexistence.'

November 23, 2000|STEVE CARNEY | carneysteve@hotmail.com

Plenty of Web sites feature live audio and video. But what about audio and video of the dead?

Start with the online home of the International Ghost Hunters Society, http://www.ghostweb.com. It features an archive of 7,000 photographs of spirits, orbs, ectoplasmic clouds and space-time vortices, plus advice on how to shoot them yourself. There's also Electronic Voice Phenomena, a page of tips on how to record ghostly sounds, and Real Audio files ranging from a speech by Confederate Gen. George Pickett, from beyond the grave at Gettysburg, to another spook exclaiming, "Killed Harry with a post!"

In addition, the IGHS offers home-study courses ("Certified Paranormal Investigator"), a list of its standards and protocols ("Ask the spirits of the dead for permission to take their photos"), and telephone and e-mail contacts for the skeptical or the scared.

"We get calls from people who are freaking out," said Dave Oester, 52, the affable co-founder and Webmaster of the society, based in Crooked River Ranch, Ore. "They want to know if they need to worry. Most spirits in a house will generally watch over the people. It's kind of like having a grandmother or a nanny in the house."

Interest at Ghostweb naturally spikes around Halloween, with daily visitors increasing from a normal of 3,000 per day to 10,000, said Oester, who holds a doctorate in religion from Universal Life Church and is an ordained minister through the church.

Recently a man in Montana called, saying that while he was in his basement workshop a ghost kept letting his dogs into his house. Once, his friends even spotted the ghost carrying a tray of food to a backyard barbecue. He asked about an exorcism.

"We said exorcism doesn't do any good. It doesn't work," Oester said. "We recommend mutual coexistence. He might hear voices or hear footsteps. We gave him some ideas on how to take photographs. He said, 'Maybe I'll have to learn to live with it and accept it.'

"A lot of spirits, they play the pranks on people because they enjoy the humor. We advise the people to go with the flow. If they get you good and scare you, just laugh. If you're a happy camper, you'll have ghosts who are happy campers. If you have a lot of negativity about you, you'll draw ghosts that are negative."

Oester's spirited pursuits began in 1992 when he and his family moved to a house in coastal Oregon.

"My shortwave radio was playing 'Waltzing Matilda' over and over again, and it wasn't plugged in and didn't have any batteries. That was the beginning," he said.

He wrote two books about ghosts and other phenomena, and in 1996, he co-founded the IGHS with his wife, Sharon Gill, a specialist in grief counseling and a fellow professional photographer.

"Shortly after that, we decided to put up a Web site and post our ghost photographs," he said. "In July of '96, there were only one or two other Web sites about ghosts."

Inspired by an online Father's Day card sent by his son, a student at Cal State Northridge, Oester decided to create the IGHS Web site himself, using HTML editing programs Hot Dog Pro and Hot Metal Pro.

"That way I know where everything is, and it makes me feel like I've accomplished something," he said. "It was easier than I thought."

Since then, the site has ballooned to 12,000 files and has crashed two servers because of visitors camping out for days to download spooky snapshots. Oester said his current Web host, ImagineSuccess.com, which charges him $2,000 a year, has enough capacity to handle visits from the society's 13,000 members in 87 countries.

"We have a monastery over in Italy with monks who were being haunted by other monks," Oester said. "Ghosts are everywhere. There's no place you can run where you can't find them."

Including the World Wide Web.

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Steve Carney is a freelance writer.

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