Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Dixie "Beer Drinking" Ghostbusters of South Carolina

Chris Grady, a Twisted Dixie ghost hunter scans, for paranormal activity
Except for the eerie flickering of our flashlights, we batted away low branches and overgrown shrubs of the old cotton plantation in total darkness. There was no moonlight. It was, Grady Carter noted, “a perfect night for ghosts.” At that point his nephew Andy held up a hand and pointed into the woods. “I heard voices,” Andy said. We all stopped. Chris Carter, his cousin, whispered, “I see a red light.” “The spirits of dead slaves,” Grady confirmed. “A demonic orb.”

Grady, 66, is the winner of three purple hearts in Vietnam; his son, Chris, 41, is a former long-haul trucker; and Andy, 46, is a former bodyguard. Now all three Carter men are Twisted Dixie, a team of paranormal investigators — or, to use their less preferred term, ghostbusters. For fees upward of $2,000 per demonic possession, they camp out at night in clients’ houses, barns, businesses or woods and “document paranormal activity,” Andy explains, referring to “ghosts, demons, poltergeists.”

Twisted Dixie grosses a little more than $50,000 a year, sometimes charging fees for long investigations and sometimes working on spec at famous sites like Fort Sumter and the Burt-Stark Mansion in Abbe­ville, S.C. — often called the birthplace and the deathbed of the Confederacy, and the home of Twisted Dixie. No matter the job, they always work at night because, they say, that’s when ghosts tend to whisper.

On this night, Twisted Dixie was investigating a supposedly haunted 1820s plantation house and its cotton gin, located deep in the woods around Antreville, S.C. Cotton plantations are good places to find ghosts, Chris explains, because they house a lot of the tortured souls of dead slaves. “We got a call from this woman four weeks ago,” Andy said. “She’s home alone with three young ’uns ’cause her husband’s away a lot. She heard a lot of screaming coming from the cotton gin, and she swears it was running again. In 2005, the former owner bulldozed some old slaves’ quarters in the woods, and we think the slave spirits are furious.”

not a ghost
The cotton gin took up almost the entire barn. It was a monstrous machine, all gears, levers, belts, funnels, steam boilers and bits of cotton caught in its jagged teeth. At that point, the investigation officially began: Chris opened a cooler and passed out 24-ounce cans of beer; everyone lighted cigarettes; Andy unfolded aluminum deck chairs. Then we all stood around in a circle, heads bowed, while Chris recited a prayer to St. Michael the archangel, “to deliver us in battle from malice and the snares of the devil.” Chris explained that ghosts manifest themselves to mortals because they’re looking for help from their torment. “So we say the prayer so they won’t follow us home,” Chris said. “Sometimes they will, because let’s face it, if you were a ghost, would you rather hang out in an empty house with other ghosts, or with people and have a good time?”

Grady and I sat in the low deck chairs, while Chris and Andy fanned out around the gin, depositing small cameras and tape recorders here and there. Most of their equipment was purchased from Radio Shack and not necessarily as sophisticated as the “discount paranormal research equipment” for sale on Not like the Lutron EMF/ELF Electromagnetic Field Tester ($79.99), or the FLIR ThermaCam B2 Thermal Imaging Camera ($8,949.99). Andy said that device is “bull,” but he’d take it if someone gave him one.

Grady and I watched Chris and Andy until we could see only the glowing ends of their cigarettes. Grady popped another beer and told me about his own ghosts. “I had 83 confirmed kills,” he said. “I can’t sleep at night. The terrible things I done haunt me. I see them over and over.” Chris and Andy returned from deploying the equipment, grabbed two more beers from the cooler and lighted new cigarettes. We hung around for an hour or two, talking softly, looking, listening. The conversation inevitably turned to the origins of the paranormal-activity trade. “All the slaves come from Africa, where they were into all kinds of spirituality,” Andy said. “That’s where you get voodoo, things like that.”

Before leaving, Andy called on one last trick. He tried to bring out the ghosts by imitating a 19th-century slave overseer cracking his whip. “You can’t hide from me,” he screamed into the dark barn. “Get your asses back to work. When’s the last time you talked to someone? So why don’t you communicate with us?”

But the ghosts, it appeared, would have none of it. So Andy and Chris collected their cameras (one of which, they claimed, caught a bluish gray orb) and tape recorders (it picked up a hissing noise, they said). They packed up their gear, popped more beers, lighted cigarettes and trudged back through the woods to the old house, disappointed. Andy, who was part angry, part empathetic, could understand why the ghost wouldn’t reveal himself. “We’re disturbing him,” he said.

Source: New York Times

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