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Historic Kosciusko, Mississippi, is a popular pit stop along the Natchez Trace Parkway. Best known as the birthplace of Oprah Winfrey, it’s also home to Southern Paranormal Investigations, a team of ghost hunters dedicated to explaining the unexplainable. We asked co-founder Donald Martin to share more about his fascinating job tracking all of the things that go bump in the night.

RELATED: 15 Must-See Stops Along the Natchez Trace Parkway

How did Southern Paranormal Investigations get its start?

Our group was founded in February of 2014 by Doyle Goss and me. Although we’ve been friends since the 1980s, our mutual interest in the paranormal came at different times. Doyle used to record dispatch call times from a scanner and report them to the local news. One night after replaying a recording, he heard a male voice on his recorder. This was the first EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) he had ever caught. He wanted to know more about it — what it was and where it came from.

My interest came much earlier. I’d always loved reading stories about ghosts and other paranormal activity. Doyle and I decided to attend a weekend ghost hunt in Tennessee that was open to the public. During the event, we were able to capture several unexplained EVPs and voices at times when no one else was present. After that event, we formed what’s now known as Southern Paranormal Investigations.

Paranormal Investigators

The Southern Paranormal Investigations team

Explain, in layman’s terms, exactly what it is that you do.

We research places that have suspected paranormal activity. These places sometimes open to groups in the paranormal community for investigation. Many places we visit have been seen on paranormal TV shows — they’re all listed on our website.

We’re also contacted by private residents or business owners who believe they have paranormal activity in their house or building. We’ve investigated more than 80 different locations to date. We look at each place to prove or disprove unexplained activity. We use many different electronic devices and hands-on experiments to gather evidence. Any evidence we capture is thoroughly examined and goes through a debunking process. We try to recreate evidence any way we can to see if there is a reasonable cause for what happened. If, in fact, we can explain it, then we have debunked it as paranormal activity. Although we want to gather evidence of the paranormal, we only want 100% true unexplained evidence. We then share our findings with our followers and the public through social media and on our website, and let the viewers come to their own conclusions.

Would you call yourself an expert in paranormal investigation?

Although we have a vast knowledge of the paranormal and paranormal investigations, we do not consider ourselves experts. The term ‘expert’ in our minds means we have learned most everything there is to know about the subject. We are constantly learning new techniques or trying new experiments to further our knowledge in the paranormal field. We do coordinate with other groups and individuals — to work together on cases and share our knowledge and findings with others to help promote paraunity. We believe everyone can learn from each other if given the chance. It’s not a competition; we’re all looking for the same answers.

When a home or business owner asks you to investigate paranormal activity, what do they want from you?

When we are contacted for private investigations, some want validation and some want possible history or background as to who or what is behind the activity. Others want help in removing the spirit. And some don’t mind the spirit remaining, but would like it to stop certain activities. Our group can help with all of these things. We can research whether the spirit is someone who may have ties to the location, the land around it, or possibly an attachment to an item that was brought in. A haunting can even be an attachment to a person who resides there.

Kyle Davis is a member of our group who is sensitive to the spirits. In layman’s terms, he can feel the presence of spirits in the area. We have nicknamed him our ‘Holy Ma’; he can perform a cleansing, give comfort to the family and even perform an exorcism if he feels it is something other than a human spirit. The exorcism is much different than what you see on TV and in movies. Our main goal is to help the homeowner and family feel safe in their own home.

Do you ever offer opportunities for members of the public to participate in your investigations?

We have recently started a side project called Southern Paranormal Events. We are managing two locations for both public and private paranormal events. The Old Southern Funeral Home and the Old Attala Jail are both locations in our hometown we have investigated and found profound paranormal activity. We set up events at both locations so the public can learn about and participate in a real paranormal investigation.

Paranormal groups can also rent one or both locations and conduct their own investigations. Sometimes we’re asked to participate in private investigations, but we leave that up to the group that has booked the location. Both locations are less than a half-mile apart, so it makes it easy for a group to investigate both in the same weekend or night. They can also sleep at the Old Southern Funeral Home before they travel back home if they’d like. We also have our eyes on two more historic locations in the area to add to our events.

The Old Attala Jail- paranormal investigation

The Old Attala Jail is available for the general public to accompany the SPI team on investigations, or it can be rented out by groups for private investigations.

Do you ever get scared?

Each of our members has shared what we call personal experiences with each other. Many times, the experiences are not caught on camera or audio due to strange equipment failure or sudden battery drain. These experiences can range from certain electronic devices having spirit interaction on command or disembodied voices (voices you can hear with your own ears) to actual spirit contact on the body.

Some past members have had experiences so unnerving that they’ve had to take a break from investigations for a few weeks. Certain activity has caused members to feel uneasy in certain locations, almost like a sixth sense. Members have also reported the feeling of sadness, the feeling of being watched or a sudden energy drain — like you could fall asleep at any moment. Once you’ve experienced it a few times, though, it becomes somewhat ‘normal’ to you.

What makes you passionate about your job as a paranormal investigator?

The paranormal is something our group is very passionate about. It’s a hobby most would not even try because of misconceptions about what it is that we do or why we do it. All of our members have regular jobs. We have a property manager, a firefighter, a computer tech, a movie producer and even a coroner.

Everyone has a different reason why they became an investigator. For some, it was something they experienced personally and now they want answers. For others, it’s the adrenaline rush they feel when the activity hits. One thing we all share is wanting to find out more about what we have seen and heard on investigations. We want to prove the existence of spirits, ghosts, shadow people, etc. Whatever you choose to call paranormal activity. As a group, we share a passion for helping others understand or for helping anyone who is experiencing activity. We can also try to get rid of the activity or just be there to help validate what they have seen or heard. Not many people tell others about the activity for fear of being judged, ridiculed or called crazy. Southern Paranormal is here to help any way we can.

Southern Paranormal Investigators

Here, SPI team members conduct an investigation.

What do you consider to be some of the most haunted places in the South, and why?

We have had the unique opportunity to investigate some of the most haunted places in the country. Some of the most memorable ones in the South include the Sorrel-Weed House in Savannah, Georgia. We have been there on two occasions when it was managed by our good friend Nick Woods. Shortly after our most recent investigation there, we got word that Nick had passed away. We haven’t been back yet to see if he may still be around — he was very attuned to the spirits there. Other favorites include the Deason Home in Ellisville, Mississippi, the Woodruff–Fontaine House in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Old South Pittsburg Hospital in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. These are a few of the better-known locations we have investigated in the South, and all are active.

Some of the most active locations we’ve been to are under the radar to most paranormal investigators since they haven’t been investigated that much. The Old Southern Funeral Home here in Kosciusko is very active. From the very first investigation there, we’ve caught many EVPs, seen shadow figures, witnessed strange lights and even heard a disembodied female voice on numerous occasions. One group (Fox Family Paranormal) caught a shadow figure on camera. Miranda Young, with Ghost Biker Explorations, caught disembodied voices carrying on a conversation while the group slept in one of the viewing rooms. The same group caught the noise of the elevator going up to ‘drop off a new body’ to the embalming room — this noise was also caught while they slept. A little girl’s voice was caught saying, “Hi!” in the chapel, and another was caught saying, “Help me.”

The Attala County Courthouse and the old Attala County Jail are also very active here. I think we’ve gotten a lot of different activity at both locations because we have been there more than any other location and become more attuned to the spirits that reside there. We feel like they’re learning about us as much as we are about them.

The Old Southern Funeral Home- Southern Paranormal Investigations

The Old Southern Funeral Home is a hotbed of paranormal activity.

What evidence do you have to offer skeptics who don’t believe in ghosts?

We are skeptics ourselves — you have to be in this line of work. You can’t go to every location claiming every little thing is ‘paranormal.’ It doesn’t work that way. We’ve caught stuff before and were excited about it, but then after returning home from a location and really digging into the evidence, we found a plausible explanation for it. It’s heartbreaking, to say the least, but when you get that top grade EVP or a video of a spirit showing itself, it makes all the work you have put in worth it. To the skeptics, I say come on an investigation or two with us; see what we do and how we work. We can offer you all the evidence in the world, but if you don’t have an open mind and open yourself up to experiencing it, you won’t believe anything. We have lots of evidence on video and audio on our websites. Check them out.

Will you get activity at every location or investigation? No. We have caught little or nothing at all at some of the most haunted places in the United States. It’s not that the location isn’t haunted — the spirits didn’t want to communicate with us at that time. It happens.

What advice do you have for those who want to experience paranormal activity themselves?

If someone is interested in the paranormal, my advice is to start reading about it. Keep an open mind and learn as much as you can about it before going on your first investigation. Look for groups or people in your area who have been involved in it for a while. Do research on them as well; be skeptical, but have an open mind, too. Many places offer guided investigations to the public — look for them in your area. You don’t have to go out and buy the latest and most expensive devices to have a paranormal experience.

Your simple smartphone has a voice recorder. If it doesn’t, you can download one for free in your app store. Use it with a good pair of noise-canceling headphones to conduct an EVP session, where you and a small group of people sit in a location trying to get responses from questions you ask.

Remember to speak in a plain, loud voice. Don’t whisper — whispers can be mistaken for an EVP. Any noise from you or anyone else must be tagged in the recording so that it’s not mistaken for activity. Examples would be moving feet, stomach growls, movement of clothing, walking around, or whispering. Pause in between questions to listen for responses. Keep each session to about 10 minutes. Keep an open mind; you never know who might be trying to speak to you or touch you!

Southern Paranormal Investigations is comprised of Doyle Goss, Donald Martin, Rebekah Martin, Kyle Davis, Gavin Brannan, Troy Dupuis and Sam Bell. To learn more about their work and how you can partake in a public investigation, visit them online at southernparanormalms.com. Plus, you can listen to some of Southern Paranormal Investigations’ best-ever EVPs here and watch videos of their investigations here. All photography provided by Southern Paranormal Investigations.

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