By Daniel Tozier
During the day, the halls of Pasadena-based skin care company Lather bustle with activity. Status meetings, performance reviews and watercooler rumors fill the air. But when the sun sets and the employees head home, another type of activity begins. Noises from dark and empty offices, the unsettling feeling you’re being watched, all fueled by rumors of a man murdered in one of the offices, decades ago, when the building was home to the Pasadena Hotel. These stories eventually made their way to us, and, eager for answers, we reached out to the Pasadena Paranormal Research Society and set up an investigation.
It’s unclear when the PPRS was originally founded. Initial investigations were limited to EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) sessions at the base of the Colorado Street Bridge, a known suicide spot going as far back as the Great Depression. When the original founders left, Jason Carrasco and Gil Saldana took the reins and have been leading the team ever since.
PPRS now helps people experiencing a wide range of phenomena occurring in homes, businesses and schools all over Southern California, never charging for their services.
Debunking the phenomenon is the first step of any investigation. Often they discover the source to be a carbon monoxide leak, odd electrical currents running through the house or undiagnosed psychological disorders. It’s only when such earthly explanations fail that the team breaks out their equipment and gets to work.
Back at the Lather offices, the PPRS team is carrying the last of their gear up an appropriately creaky staircase. Cables snake through the winding hallways leading to cameras equipped with night vision, staring into unlit offices. Everyone takes out their cell phones and powers them down, so as not to disturb the equipment. With our ties to the outside world severed, the investigation begins in full.
Carrasco and Anne O’Neill, the team’s sensitive medium, enter the first office. Carrasco takes out a small metal box and sets it on an employee’s desk.
“It’s a geophone,” he tells me.
Surprisingly heavy for its size, the device features a black switch, a row of red LED lights and etched at the top in all caps, the words PASADENA PARANORMAL. He taps the desk surface a few times to test the device. With even the slightest touch, the row of LEDs jump to life.
O’Neill attempts to speak with whatever spirits may be present, inviting them to communicate via the geophone. Carrasco keeps his K2 meter in hand, calling out fluctuations in the surrounding electromagnetic fields.
Taking up the rear is audio specialist Dirk Monapert. Though he’s a musician by trade, he leaves behind his hi-tech recording instruments, opting instead for a set of analog tape recorders.
“I pick up way more with tape,” he tells me.
After the investigation is completed, Monapert will comb through the audio. Oftentimes, there are sounds that went unheard in person and it isn’t until later that he learns someone was reaching out.
Saldana, fearing a recent illness has weakened him against darker energies, keeps to his post in the conference room, carefully watching the bank of video monitors. Carrasco and O’Neill disappear from one screen and appear on another as they move from office to office.
At the end of the night, we walk away without any hard evidence of the paranormal. Which isn’t unusual, Saldana says. “It’s very hard to get something. In 98 percent of the cases, we get nothing. … It’s not like on TV.”
The front door to Lather closes behind us. It’s late on a weeknight and the streets of Old Town are quiet and still. For a city with such a long and rich history, there are bound to be ghosts all around. Perhaps next time, we’ll get to meet one.