Jon Rogers joined in early spring, and Dave Spinks joined this past summer. Johnson refers to them as the resident skeptics in the group. Both come from military and law enforcement backgrounds.
Rogers, 29, served two years in the Navy, then spent another two years as sheriff's deputy in Norfolk, Va. Spinks, 43, was a military police officer for nine years with the Air Force, then worked as a correctional officer and federal officer for nine years before retiring to West Virginia, where he was born.
"I had a grandfather from West Virginia," said Spinks, who grew up in New Mexico. "He was a World War II vet and smoked like a freight train -- we used to visit him in the summer."
When Spinks was 15, he had a dream that his grandfather was standing over him.
"I kind of did a double take in the dream," he said. "It was pretty weird to see him there."
In the morning, Spinks said his uncle called to tell him his grandfather had died the night before.
"He'd come to see me to say goodbye."
Rogers had seen some strange things before joining the group, too.
"I had a friend whose apartment had some poltergeist activity," he said. "Doors would slam. Things would fly from shelves."
Rogers and Spinks said their law enforcement backgrounds have led to some interesting investigations.
When the group explored the prison in Moundsville, the spirits, they said, knew about them, knew they'd been police officers.
"And we tried to provoke them," Rogers said.
The pair sat in a seclusion cell taunting ghosts until finally a cell door somewhere slammed, and one of their recording devices picked up a voice that said, "They're down here."
A good sized group
Johnson said reality TV, movies and books the past couple of years have been a boom for paranormal groups, particularly in West Virginia. Some of the groups, he said, are good and seem to be approaching the field seriously and soberly. Others are just fly-by-night clubs that are more social than scientific.
"I've seen some groups come and go," he said. "You hear about them or there's a website that springs up, and then they're just gone in three months or six months."
WVPI isn't a big group, but Johnson believes there are enough people to go out and investigate without the excursion turning into an invading force.
They try to go out at least once a month, but sometimes life and work schedules get in the way.
"We get out as often as we can," he said. "We try for 20 to 30 investigations per year."
Ghost hunting gear
There's a lot of gear that comes with paranormal investigating. Some of it sounds elaborate, like the EMF detector, which aside from detecting the presence of ghosts is usually used to measure electromagnetic radiation around power sources such as power lines.
Johnson said the group also has four night vision cameras, three digital cameras and five voice recorders.
"I've spent more money than what I have on equipment," Johnson said.
They also have some low-tech gear, such as normal, everyday flashlights. These are used as a way to help the spirits "talk" to the investigators. Johnson and his team load them with batteries, then loosely connect the body and the head of the light.
Spirits, he explained, can sometimes be coaxed into using the weak connection to turn the light on and off as a way to answer simple yes or no questions.
"We have a few other toys," Johnson said.
But no "Ghostbuster" proton packs, like in the movies.
"I wish," he laughed.
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.