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Searching for the supernatural
Todd Telle, student, establishes a paranormal research group
Todd Telle has experienced it all — the feeling that someone was watching him in an empty room. He’s seen and heard things he couldn’t explain. He’s felt a cold draft on his skin when the windows were closed. Now, he’s searching for answers.
Telle, 30, is a paranormal researcher. He, along with friend Blair Mindak, 28, and five others, make up the paranormal research group Spirit Busters.
“Our overall goal is to help people that are experiencing paranormal disturbances that don’t have any other path to go,” Telle said. “A lot of people that experience paranormal activity don’t have any idea what to do.”
Telle’s interest in the paranormal started when he was he was about four years old. He would wake up at the same time every night to use the restroom. When he left his room he would see her — the Blue Lady, an apparition of a woman standing in his house.
“From then on, I was hooked,” Telle said. “I didn’t know what was happening and my parents didn’t believe me.”
As he grew up, Telle continued to have experiences with the paranormal. When he was 19 and living in Portland, Ore., Telle was terrified by a presence he believed to be evil.
Cups would move. Doors would lock. Silverware trays would shake. This was until one night Telle woke up to see a “black swirling mass” descending on him from the end of his bed.
“Especially after the thing in Oregon, I realized that I went through this, there are other people who are going through this. I have to learn how to help people so that they don’t feel like they’re insane,” Telle said.
After moving to St. Louis for a job as an enterprise architect at MasterCard, Telle bounced between different paranormal research groups with Mindak. Unhappy with the way the groups were being run, Telle and Mindak decided to split off and make their own group — Spirit Busters.
Since Spirit Busters formed in January 2011, the group has investigated places including the Lemp Brewery, Kaskaskia (a village in southwest Illinois with many reported paranormal sightings) and individual homes.
One woman called Spirit Busters to investigate her home, which she believed to be haunted after her son died unexpectedly.
“People who call us, they need help,” Mindak said. “A lot of people are really desperate because they can’t explain what’s happening. It’s really fulfilling to be able to go into someone’s home and almost give them their mindset back of taking control, and being able to encourage them to help the situation.”
This year, Telle enrolled in communications classes to advance his career. His first class in 11 years was public speaking with adjunct professor Bill Sharpe. One of the first assignments in the class was to discuss different social groups each student identifies with. Telle mentioned paranormal research.
“I was nervous to announce it at first, because you never know exactly what people are going to think,” Telle said. “What continues to surprise me is the amount of people that perk up and become automatically enthusiastic about it and have their own stories to tell.”
He piqued the interest of more than just the students in his class. Soon after, Telle began talking about the paranormal with Sharpe. After exchanging stories and theories, Telle and Sharpe began discussing the creation of a paranormal research group at Webster.
“The thing that drew me to (Todd) was that he approaches it in a scientific way, his crew approaches it in a scientific way, which is a way I think it should be approached,” Sharpe said.
Telle and Mindak both know that a certain amount of skepticism is required in paranormal research. Before making assumptions, many different explanations must be considered.
“Todd and I would be foolish if we went to someone’s house to investigate it and walked in with the assumption that it was a ghost or it was a spirit,” Mindak said. “You have to walk into it with the understanding that it could be an air conditioner creaking, the neighbors’ noise. It could be something that you can’t explain. There are all kinds of options. You have to be open-minded; I think that’s one of the most important things.”
Telle hopes when the group at Webster gets started, people from all different beliefs and lifestyles will participate.
“It’s not going to be a group if we don’t have skeptics, people that just flat-out don’t believe,” Telle said. “It’s not a group for believers.”
The paranormal group at Webster is still in very early stages. Telle is focused on building awareness and gathering names for the first meeting. The plan for the group, which does not yet have a name, is to get people together to discuss personal paranormal experiences. Telle then hopes to take volunteers out on location to research.
“We don’t want to just talk about it in the classroom setting and then just go home,” Telle said. “Especially with the group I’m in now. Once we get into investigations, we’d like to take some volunteers that can go be part of the whole process, learn investigation, apply their knowledge and come back and share their experiences with the rest of the students.”
Sharpe, who does not necessarily consider himself a “believer,” is eager to appease his curiosity for the unknown.
“The fact of the matter is that there are a lot of unanswered questions we probably will never get a concrete answer to,” Sharpe said. “But that doesn’t mean you don’t ask the question … Whatever leaves the body upon death is energy. That energy has to go somewhere. If it doesn’t go back to a source, then where does it go? What if it doesn’t want to go anywhere?”
While definite plans are still in the works, Telle believes a paranormal group at Webster is something that will interest a lot of students. He is excited to see students from different majors apply their skills towards paranormal research.
“The word paranormal speaks for itself,” Telle said. “The people that are going to be attracted to it are the ones that already know what it’s about. Everything you’ve learned in horror movies and stories around campfires, everything that scares you and the things that go bump in the night — it’s probably true.”