For many, Halloween is merely a celebration of costumes and trickery and is not taken too seriously. But for many others, like Patrick Theisen and Amanda Nelsen, the holiday makes for a perfect environment for the supernatural.

Theisen says he has been touched, pushed and even choked, but unlike most who perform these acts, those who did them to Theisen were invisible, he said. These instances he believes were not normal, but rather paranormal.

One of three cofounders of Northern OuterRealm Paranormal Society, the likes of whom also include his fiance, Amanda Nelsen, and Diana Atkinson, who could not be reached in time for publication, Theisen has chased what many call  weird or out there, spooky things, like ufo’s--that’s unidentified flying objects--ghosts and recently, bigfoot.

NOPS is one of over 100 paranormal investigation groups in Minnesota, Theisen and  Nelsen said, but their group offers something a little different, autonomy to its members. Where many groups assign hard-line duties, such as running wires for specialized equipment and disallowing members, especially new members, from making investigative decisions, NOPS aims to give all members a chance to dive headfirst into the field of paranormal investigation.

 The couple is based in Northfield, but their network spans the entire state and acknowledged that their hundreds of investigations have taken them all over southern Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and many other parts of the Midwest.

Their work, they described, is that of service, most notably to those whose homes they enter, homes to which they are invited, homes their clients call “haunted.”

The service comes in the form of the “cleansings” they perform. Cleansings, the couple stated, involve the act of purging “trapped or angry spirits” from individuals’ homes, through the use of a litany of prayers, candles and a swath of materials.

They perform such rites differently each time, Theisen said. The largest factor for the difference is the religion of the individual or family who contacted the group. Such factors are discussed prior to any ceremony.

If a client’s family is Catholic, for instance, they might include a rosary in their rites. Non-religious clients might experience ceremonies resembling nondenominational or Wicca, or pagan witchcraft, processions. Universally, clients of NOPS have reported that the cleansings have been effective in their goal to rid homes of what the group and its clients call ghosts.

“When we’re done, you look at the faces of the people who live there, and it’s like a kid who was just born,” Theisen said. “They often say the energy is just different,” Nelsen quickly added.

Theisen, who was raised Catholic, stated that the perceived success of their cleansing ceremonies, no matter their origins, has opened his mind to other religions.

The membership of NOPS varies greatly in their religious backgrounds or, in many cases, its lack thereof. This has not stopped the group from engaging in prayers. Like their clients, members of the group are free to engage in the prayers of their choosing.  The do so before,during and after investigations as a means to protect themselves from otherworldly dangers, they said.

        Tools of the Trade

One might wonder how anyone could possibly prove the presence of an apparition. For NOPS, that proof is given through specialized instruments, cameras and even cellphone applications that detect and interpret what the group calls voices of the dead. Tools measuring electromagnetic fields, night vision cameras and electronic voice phenomena transmitters and recorders are within NOPS’ arsenal. Tools in the group’s cache can cost  from just over $20 to well over $1000.

“One thing we go through a lot of is batteries,” Theisen said.

Another tool Nelsen fancies are dowsing rods, the kind plumbers use. The rods are essentially two thin copper wires, about an eighth of an inch in diameter, that run about a foot with a 90 degree crook.

She noted that the rods have a narrow margin for human error and admitted that naturally occurring electrical currents caused by flowing water or electronics can make the rods move. These factors, she said, are the reason those using them for paranormal investigations need to be supremely careful when doing so. She noted users should  not only keep track of external, electrical  factors, but should keep their hands still and level. She added that  she believes her other worldly sensibilities make her and other successful users well-suited for the tools.

“The theory is that if you have sensibilities, you can actually communicate with the dead with them,” Nelsen said as she  held the rods in her hands.

Nelsen explained that she can ask a series of yes-or-no questions and the supposed presence can cross or uncross the rods depending on the request.

“Can you straighten the rods for me?” Nelsen said from under a gazebo in Lions’ Park in Shakopee, as the rods began to move. “Go ahead straighten them.”

Nelsen added that many discount the tools, including those well known in the world of paranormal investigation. Theisen, for example, has not had any luck with the rods.

       Past Investigations

When the group is not investigating homes, they go to larger, often abandoned facilities. A recent trip to Nopeming Sanitorium in Duluth, which is widely known throughout Minnesota’s ghost hunting community, yielded what NOPS’ founders call compelling evidence. That evidence comes in the form of voice recordings and numerous photographs. One member of their team of twelve present at the investigation was allegedly mysteriously cut on the nose when walking down an empty hallway.

“Blood just started trickling down his face,” Nelsen said.

The pair also stated that the group heard a voice of a child “clear as day,” during another investigation without any instruments.

They currently do not charge for their services, but many clients have offered money and have donated small amounts of money to cover the costs of the investigations.

“I just do it for the thrill,” Theisen added.

      Meeting Skepticism

The  group is under no spell when it comes to their claims, being that they understand not everyone will take their findings seriously. After all, there  are plenty of reasons curtains might rustle, objects might roll across the floor or individuals might see figures in their homes.

Humming or broken pipes, for instance, might rumble walls; non-level floors might cause toy cars to roll; black mold can make homeowners feel lethargic and can even cause hallucinations. That is precisely why the group checks for all these factors and more when they enter the home of an individual who feels they are being haunted. They go so far as to ask clients about any medications they may be taking, as well as about histories involving drug or alcohol use. It is when they eliminate all other possibilities that they begin investigating a home for paranormal activity.

“I’m into this for the scientific exercise,” Theisen said.

But skepticism  has come from within their ranks as well. This, the pair said, is perfectly reasonable and welcomed.

“We get it, everyone has their beliefs,” Nelsen said. “But we just encourage and invite people who don’t believe us to come on just one investigation. They’ll see.”

New members, especially from Belle Plaine, are always welcome to join NOPS. Information about membership can be found online and on Facebook.

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