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October 31, 2012 12:10 am


Paranormal investigators use various recording devices and electromagnetic field detectors to discern spirits. lo1031paranormalPC1.jpg

Paranormal investigator Tim Henderson of Spotsylvania looks into ghostly mysteries in the area and beyond.



It's the subtle whisper, sometimes unheard by the human ear. It's the soft brushing against the skin. Or even the rare vision of an apparition.

Those and other mysteries of the paranormal have long fascinated former cop Tim Henderson. He considers himself a Christian, but said something has always drawn him to happenings outside the range of normal experience or scientific explanation.

Growing up in the Fredericksburg area, with its rich history and tales of ghosts, fed his curiosity for a long time.

The 42-year-old Spotsylvania County resident has been an officer with Fredericksburg city police and a deputy with the Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office, and most recently worked in law enforcement at Fort A.P. Hill. But a bad back forced him into early retirement.

Looking for a new challenge, Henderson decided to take on investigations of a different color.

So in 2009 he founded Fredericksburg Area Paranormal Investigations.

Now as the head of FAPI he leads a small group that does free paranormal probes at homes and historic sites in the area and beyond.

You might soon see FAPI investigators doing their thing on television.

The group was filmed recently investigating the historic Weems-Botts Museum in Dumfries for an episode of "My Ghost Story," which airs on the Bio channel Friday nights.

The 250-year-old house was owned by Parson Weems, who in 1800 wrote tales about the life of the young George Washington. The house was later owned by Benjamin Botts, a defense attorney for Aaron Burr, who was tried for treason in 1807.

Henderson said the Weems-Botts episode should run sometime soon, maybe in November.

FAPI also is scheduled to do a live investigation soon at the museum for Channel 7 News in Washington.

For Henderson, investigating paranormal activity is "a passion," but it's also something he thinks many people misunderstand. Often, he says, people are frightened of unexplainable things happening in their homes.

"People just don't understand it," he said. Some, he added, may also fear perceptions if they talk about seeing ghosts or say that their house is haunted.

The popular perception is that ghosts are evil, but Henderson said that's rarely the case. Many, he said, are human spirits that can communicate intelligently, while others are residual manifestations composed of leftover energy.

The FAPI crew uses the unusual devices of the paranormal investigations trade. They have handheld equipment that supposedly measure changes in electromagnetic fields or the temperature. Audio recorders, cameras and video recorders also play key roles in investigations.

Gut feelings also are important, and FAPI uses "sensitives," people purported to be able to sense spirits physically and intuitively.

"We all enjoy it. We love it," said one of FAPI's sensitives, Jeanne Rector, who works at Quantico and said she has been able to "see and hear things since I was little."

Henderson admits that much of what they discover can leave even investigators "scratching our heads," but he added that they always get something, be it a voice caught on an audio recorder, a temperature change or a soft touch on the arm.

Sometimes what they find helps people understand what is happening, Henderson said.

On a recent weekday evening a group of FAPI investigators wearing black T-shirts gathered around Henderson's minivan in the parking lot of a Stafford shopping center. They talked for a bit about the night's investigation, then got into their cars and headed out, led by Henderson's Mazda minivan with "FAPI" on its license plates.

They spent several hours that night attempting to communicate with spirits in a vacant farmhouse the owner said served as a Civil War hospital and has possible ties to slavery's Underground Railroad.

The owner, who asked to remain anonymous, bought the place because she had an unexplained connection with it. She's researching the property, but also brought in FAPI to see what they could find out.

Aside from some subtle experiences by the crew that night, they didn't collect much physical evidence beyond some audio. Two of the group's sensitives, however, picked up on presences--including a boy wearing knickers and slave spirits in the attic and basement areas--along with some information that may relate to the owner's connection to the house.

Henderson said paranormal evidence isn't always straightforward, though he added that he has some clear recordings from other investigations and visits to area Civil War battlefields.

FAPI is still a small group, but Henderson would like to expand and possibly get a television gig, which doesn't seem beyond the realm of possibility given the explosion in paranormal-focused shows in recent years.

Whatever happens with FAPI, Henderson plans to continue his chase for the mysteries of the paranormal.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

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