By, Macy Goodnight; January 2021: With the changing leaves and a lingering chill in the air, the coming of Fall can conjure eerie inspiration. October is a time when many find entertainment in exploring the unknown, but for some, it is a year-round endeavor. Would you seek to find spirits in the dark?
Co-founders and lead investigators Rolando and Amanda Bustos, and Jeff Johns have been investigating the paranormal together since 2004, and became T.O.P.S., or Tulsa Oklahoma Paranormal Studies, in 2016. Their group has completed nearly 100 investigations in Oklahoma and surrounding states, and they share over 60 years of combined experience in the field of study between them. Their focus is to alleviate fear and provide sound answers for their clients, while seeking proof of paranormal activity. The team has investigated many residential and commercial buildings, including the world-famous Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa. Each of their members offers a unique perspective to their team and have individualized reasons for their commitment to the work.
Amanda attributes her earliest ghostly experience to when she was three years old. Her grandfather had passed away, and it was a short time after that her mother found small Amanda sitting on the bathroom counter, having no way of getting up there by herself. When asked how she managed the feat, Amanda said that her grandfather lifted her up there. “My mother explained to me that my grandfather had passed away and couldn’t have done that,” she said. “She also told me how I relayed things to her that only my grandfather could’ve said.” Amanda’s experiences with the paranormal have speckled throughout her life, and it was those occurrences that led her into the research of it, to find answers. Amanda is also an empath and a medium and can provide reiki healing and oracle readings.
Rolando is the skeptic of the group, but has seen and experienced enough over the years to convince him that there is more to understand. “There have been many things that have happened that I can’t explain,” he said, “but I really want to see a real ghost!” His first, most convincing experience occurred in an abandoned house that they were investigating. Although he was dressed warmly, he felt a spontaneous cold chill pass through him. After, while sifting through the recorded audio evidence, he heard the voices of children. “That house was littered with EVPs,” he said. Specialists in the paranormal field call disembodied voices EVPs, or electronic voice phenomenon.
Jeff grew up interested in the paranormal. As a teen, he and his friends would explore abandoned, reputedly haunted buildings, and one in particular inspired him to join a paranormal group. “We had all kinds of unusual things happen there, and heard a lot of footsteps,” he said. “It was substantial enough that it made me want to learn more.” With a background in filmmaking, audio, and video, he is highly skilled in the technical analysis of recorded evidence.
While investigating, the team has a range of tools they utilize, including video and infrared cameras, audio recorders, flashlights, and two-way radios. Additionally, they use a K2 meter to read EMF (electromagnetic field) readings, and a “spirit box,” that theoretically allows for entities to communicate by manipulation of radio frequencies, creating an audible message. All of these tools are used carefully and objectively, to ensure all evidence is validated.
Once a client has contacted the group, they conduct a preliminary investigation to establish claims and clients’ needs, as well as obtain baseline readings. Studies are done at night when it is quieter, and there is less disruption or interference. The team attempts to “debunk” claims and to find realistic causes for them. However, if replication and evidence prove irrefutable, then they issue it as proof that something paranormal is actually happening.
One investigation that the team remembers vividly was a residence where the client’s daughter was afraid to sleep in her own room. During the preliminary interview, they asked for specific hotspots in the home to cover, and set up their equipment accordingly. “There is a theory that entities can attach themselves to things, like antiques or land,” said Amanda. “There were some old dolls that happened to be in the little girl’s room.” Using the dolls as a trigger to instigate some kind of activity, Amanda said out loud, “Hey, I’m playing with these dolls, what do you think?” Upon reviewing the audio and video later, she heard a response to her question on both recordings that was not audible at the time of asking. Clearly and unequivocally, she heard a woman’s voice reply, “DO NOT TOUCH IT!” “I don’t get creeped out very easily,” said Amanda, “but that did it for me.”
Preliminary investigations are done before sundown to set up equipment and review claims. The team also must make sure the location is safe before investigating after dark. Permission is always obtained prior to investigation.
Tools of the trade include a “spirit box” that utilizes radio frequencies to relay messages from possible paranormal entities, a voice recorder to catch EVPs, or electronic voice phenomenon, and a K2 Meter that measures electromagnetic fields. The team often experiences spirit communication, and have recorded countless voices from the other side.
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