It might be fair to say every day is Halloween for someone like Rick Pedersen.
The 44-year-old Surrey resident is a paranormal investigator – and a medium. “Actually, I’m an extra large,” he says, breaking into a gigantic grin as he refers to his imposing frame.
He’s the founder of the Society for Paranormal Incident Research Investigation Team, or SPIRIT BC, which aims to bring understanding to paranormal phenomena.
The group, which includes his wife, Paula, has helped sort out a number of local hauntings, as well as perform investigations across the Lower Mainland.
Their mission is to help people. That’s why they don’t charge for investigations.
“I don’t have all the right answers,” he says. “Nobody has all the right answers. I want to know what’s going on.”
Paula fields the phone calls from prospective clients before heading out on investigations, which blend Rick Pedersen’s psychic abilities with the technical side of modern ghost-hunting – infrared cameras, EMF meters, audio recorders and other devices.
Once on scene, he uses his abilities as a medium to locate areas in a home with the most potential activity, helping his techie team members focus efforts.
“It actually helps cut to the chase a lot quicker,” he says. “I’m kind of the spirit sniffer. As a medium, I can tell you where I’m picking up energies in the place.”
Then they let the cameras and recorders roll, while the investigators get to work.
“Once we pick up on stuff, some clients want you to clear the place. Some clients don’t.” A minority say they like knowing they have a ghost or a resident spirit around. “They fell like they’re being looked over, or protected. They just want to know who it is, what’s going on. I those cases, we don’t do anything.”
In cases where people are “freaked out,” he says, “it’s like calling the pest control guy – ‘Whatever it is, get rid of it!’ There’s a couple of things we can do.”
The first is to perform a sage-ing or smudging. “It clears the energy,” he says. Then a cleansing is performed. Mediums, he says, work with light energy, walking from room to room visualizing the light rising from the floor to the ceiling, like a smoke machine.
“By the time it’s over, I’m really, really spent.”
Pedersen envisions himself surrounded in white light, something he does as a protective measure. Otherwise, he intones, “you can actually take it home with you,” something he strongly advises against.
Occasionally, they have to perform a “release”, actively convincing a spirit that he or she has, in fact, passed away and that it’s time to move along to the next realm.
Some spirits require a good deal of persuasion. He encountered one spirit in South Surrey who was very attached to the property, eventually shouting “Leave me alone!” through another medium.
Psychic or not, paranormal investigation necessarily involves countless hours reviewing footage or data, looking for something that correlates with what the team experienced in the field, or to detect anything unusual taking place when the cameras have been left rolling all night long.
On a September evening at a local cemetery, his camera captured a series of orbs – spherical images that appear in the frame but weren’t visible to the naked eye.
Skeptics say dust close to the lens will show up as an orb, particularly with digital flash photos, something Pedersen says he takes great care to rule out with his technique.
Pedersen believes orbs indicate a spirit about to manifest or an actual spirit. “I believe that the more vibrant they are, that is the actual spirit. In some cases, you can actually see faces in the orbs.”
Two months ago, his camera lens captured a face at the Burnaby Art Gallery. Logging onto the Spiritbc.net website, where there’s a photo gallery of various case files, he points to a picture taken outside.
“You can see a little blonde girl’s face. you can see her hair, you can see her eyes.”
Inside, he felt someone try to shove him down the stairs.
“I refuse to go back.”
He’s unaware of haunted buildings in historic Cloverdale, but he knows of at least one home in South Langley that’s “exceptionally” haunted, his former home.
“I lasted six months. I had to get out of there. I couldn’t handle it,” says Pedersen, whose resume includes a stint as an auxiliary constable, five years as a civilian instructor with army cadets, as well as sales and marketing experience.
Over the past six years, Pedersen has been getting guidance from the Lighthouse Spiritual Centre in downtown Cloverdale.
He says it’s become more acceptable to discuss paranormal phenomena, thanks in large part to the proliferation of TV shows on the subject over the past decade.
Even as a kid, he had premonitions. The most intense was when his older sister Barbara was in hospital for routine oral surgery, but something went wrong. They were summoned to the hospital, in a panic, believing she was dying.
On the way there, a voice said, “Tell your mom, Barbara’s fine. When you get to the hospital, she’ll be sitting up in bed, smiling. There will be nothing wrong with her.”
When they arrived, it was as the voice described. It turned out the doctor who had called was an alcoholic who was drunk on the job. There’d been no emergency.
His mother, now 83, still talks about it.
Back then, he thought the voice was god. But now he says it was his spirit guide communicating with him.
Pedersen says everyone has the ability to see spirits – much in the same way as everybody can draw, but not everyone is Leonardo da Vinci.
“People are stifled as children to dismiss things we can’t explain,” he says.
“With training, people can take themselves to many different levels.” He’s continually developing and aspiring to improve. “It’s like anything, you have to practice.”
He offers would-be amateur ghost hunters a stern warning: “Some of this stuff can follow you home,” he stresses.
“It’s not always good energies.”