With its history of bloody battles, eerie graveyards, and creaky taverns, even some skeptics consider Boston to be a hotbed of supernatural activity, and paranormal investigator Michael Baker is no different.
“I can say very confidently from what I’ve found that paranormal phenomenon is real.There are some very strange things happening out there. I have recorded data and evidence. I’ve witnessed it,” said Baker, founder of The New England Center for the Advancement of Paranormal Science, also known as Para-Boston.
The Salem resident crouched on the ground at King’s Chapel Burial Ground with his homemade Electromagnetic Spectrum Sensor, but it’s a fool's errand to try and capture any paranormal activity in the midst of a bustling city.
To catch any action, Baker says, one must be patient and wait in silence, typically in the dead of night. Sometimes it takes weeks, while certain investigations are carried out over the course of several years.
Most of his cases occur at private residences. He has checked out many homes in Dorchester, East Boston, Chelsea, Everett.
“Ninety-nine percent of the cases can be explained through hysteria or psychological issues or misconceptions,” said Baker, who has a background in biomedical electronics. "Some people just want their house to be haunted, and other people want closure; to know whether they're crazy or not."
But it's one percent that feeds his passion for paranormal science.
Baker said he has recorded eerie events like a woman hysterically sobbing, tribal drums, a piano playing and what sounds like people speaking. Baker charges no fees for his services, out of concern that it could affect his credibility.
Para-Boston includes about 15 volunteer researchers and typically takes on about 25 cases per year; fall is its busy season.
"It's dead in the summer," said Baker. "When Halloween comes around people are more open to having their houses investigated."
Para-Boston has studied The Wayside Inn in Sudbury for five years. His website offers video of a dark shadow seemingly appearing out of nowhere.
Researchers also recorded the sound of a piano playing in the middle of the night, though the piano is in a glass display case.
Their equipment also captured the sound of a woman sobbing and witnessed hot water faucets turned on at full blast in the middle of the night.
"She was not just crying. This woman was bawling," said Baker of the mysterious sound. "It's very sad."
If could be given free reign to conduct his investigations at any of Boston's most notoriously haunted locations, Baker said he'd opt for The State House and The Omni Parker House.
Still a skeptic
On mediums, or people who claim they can communicate with the dead, Baker quipped, “In my opinion there are two kinds of mediums. Those who claim to be medium and are not and know they’re not, and those who claim to be medium and they’re not and believe they are.”
“I haven’t found any good, compelling evidence beyond the realm of statistical averages,” said Baker. “And I’ve put on ads, and I haven’t found anyone who is willing to be tested. The people who back away are suspicious to me.”
Regardless, Baker understands people's need to reach out for answers.
“People are fascinated by paranormal activity because it's a mystery. And the answer to it can affect all of us. For some, the idea of an existence after life gives you another shot at things.”