Arts & Life
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This article was published 14/9/2014 (2154 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
When Jeff Richards was just five years old and staying over at his grandparents' home, he woke up in the middle of night to see his grandfather standing at the foot of his bed.
He was told the next morning that his grandfather, who was in hospital with an illness, had died in the night and was already gone when Richards saw him. "He gave me a wave, he turned and walked out of the room," Richards, 29, said. "I knew I had seen him as a spirit."
That event stayed with him as he grew up and became the motivation behind Richards' quest to prove the existence of the paranormal, assuage fear of the supernatural and help any spirits he encounters.
Richards, known as an "intuitive" -- sensitive to the paranormal, was among at least a dozen presenters at Winnipeg Paracon 2014 at the historic Marlborough Hotel. The three-day event, which ended Sunday, also included displays and vendors.
Using contact ceremonies, pendulums featuring ancient objects and "automatic," or spirit-guided, writing, Richards said he often sees and hears dead people and has even been physically attacked by angry spirits.
"Through my quest, I've captured some amazing evidence," Richards said.
Richards, researcher/cultural liaison Priscilla Wolf, investigator Bill Connelly and elder/spiritual guide Tom Charles make up a team of paranormal investigators who use both traditional First Nations and scientific methods to investigate reported ghosts and haunted locations in Western Canada. Their investigations and adventures are the subject of the documentary series The Other Side which last fall aired its first season of 13 episodes on APTN (www.aptn.ca/theotherside) and are currently being shown on Vision TV (www.visiontv.ca/shows/the-other-side).
"I'll go into a place and start making notes in my book of all the things that I see and feel, the energies of the space, and Priscilla works to corroborate it historically through her research," said Richards, who is of First Nations descent and continuing to learn about his roots. "We look to corroborate it further with Tom as our elder and Bill using our technical equipment when we actually do make contact... Spirit is always present in aboriginal culture and I rally against fear of the supernatural and paranormal."
Richards and Connelly were stalked by a spirit in season one that followed the team from an investigation at Moose Jaw's Western Development Museum to their next investigation in North Battleford. In Episode 5, which can be seen on the APTN website, the team returned to the museum to confront the spirit which had scratched Richards' neck and repeatedly touched Connelly's arm.
The team was eventually able to extricate themselves from the spirit -- watch the episode to find out how -- and do not speak that spirit's name for their own safety.
"We still get contact with him occasionally. There was some communication that Bill was attempting on our radio program (in Saskatoon) using a device called a spirit box, the spirit is given a voice through this device, and he got very a specific name coming through and it was that guy," Richards said.
The team is filming season two right now, but would not disclose a location, only that the Dakota language is involved.
"This season, I really feel like we have closure on both cases that we've done at the beginning here," Richards said. "Will something follow us from future places? That remains to be seen."
The Marlborough may be one of Winnipeg's spookiest locations after the murder of 16-year-old Grace (Edith) Cook took place in August 1943 in Room 503. After the perpetrator killed her, he returned the new shoes he had bought for her, and which she was wearing when she died. While her killer was found, tried and hanged in July 1944 at Headingley Gaol, many say Edith Cook's ghost haunts the hotel.
It is that story which is behind the book Buckle My Shoe by Selkirk's Maureen Flynn, who also appeared at Winnipeg Paracon. She had with her a pair of shoes similar to those Cook had been wearing when she was murdered.
"I always felt since I learned of Edith and was here that she wanted her shoes back," Flynn said. "I decided to buy her a pair, I brought them here to Paracon and I'm going to leave them with the hotel and I'm hoping they'll get them into the area that was her old room. It's not a functioning room anymore, but I'm hoping they can slip them in there and that would make her happy."
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