I’m immediately hooked. On a personal level, this is my neighborhood, or at least it used to be. I grew up in El Sereno. We had El Cucuy, Bloody Mary and La Llorona, stories about Lincoln Park and White Memorial. My Dad went to Cathedral, rumored to have been built upon a burial ground, (hence the mascot name of The Phantoms), but I could never get anyone to actually talk about it. These neighborhoods, the collective culture generations of residents have created on the East Side is relatively unknown to anyone outside of it. Here is a group that is not only interested in the paranormal in relation to this part of Los Angeles, but in preserving, documenting and sharing the history that has been made here. The team is even working on a documentary featuring local people recounting their own experiences. At this point I’m not simply hooked, I think I may be falling in love.
On Friday night the team hosts a Meet And Greet/Website Launch Party at the historically haunted Linda Vista Hospital in Boyle Heights.We arrive only forty five minutes into the event, only to find out they have been over capacity for some time and have had to turn people away. We are able to get in just in time for their standing room only presentation in Linda Vista’s chapel.
We wander the rooms of the hospital, take photographs, pet the resident cat and talk to other attendees. The party is winding down. Berni assembles four of his team members, Dawn Gomez, Director of Investigations, Tatiana Santana, Media/Investigator, Joey Martinez, Occult Specialist and Toulina Gresham, Researcher, in the chapel and we talk.
I cannot help but abandon my pad of pre-written queries and get the most intriguing question out of the way. “What exactly does an Occult Specialist do?” Joey Martinez, who fills this role is eloquent and soft spoken. “Mostly research,” he explains. BHPP founder Berni later adds more about this unique position, “Joey is a student of parapsychology and utilizes this when we come to a case where there is evidence of a use of a Ouija board, or some kind of Satanic worship. With his insight to the occult and local knowledge of the habits and trends of local teenagers, were are better prepared to see the case from a different perspective. The occult is something that BHPP does not delve into, but agrees that it is there, so we acknowledge its existence but do not give it to much energy.”
They are delighted by the support from the community, both local and paranormal. Friends and family’s attendance at the night’s event was expected but a packed house, with some guests even turned away was a big surprise. All this attention, including now well over 1,000 fans on Facebook, seemingly overnight, has been pulling in an almost unheard of fifteen to twenty calls a day for investigation requests. An average team is lucky to get that many requests in a year. So, how do they choose? “Residences come first,” says Dawn Gomez, “Places like Waverly come second. We want to help people. The people come first.” Again, I am struck with the genuine concern, appreciation and gratitude each one of these investigators displays. I, am not so nice. Waverly comes first.
Each member of BHPP came to the team already having personally experienced some unexplained, possibly paranormal occurrence. As much as I’d love to hear every story, I shelve this topic in lieu of a similar one. I think every Paranormal Investigator has at least one moment from a past investigation they’ve done that they’d love to relive again. There is no hesitation from Gomez and Tatiana Santana. Theirs was just this past week in the boiler room of the structure we are now standing in. The sounds of walking, the shuffling footsteps the growling captured on EVP. Toulina Gresham, nods in agreement.
When it comes to preparing for an investigation BHPP does as much research as they can. Borders is a favorite research place, You Tube is used a lot, as well as the all important personal accounts of others. Martinez explains how crucial It is to consider a witness’ mental stability, possible drug abuse etc. Gomez adds that they do everything to make sure various accounts “match up” and is sure to inform clients that some questions will be personal. They try to “delve deep,” as any good investigator will.
Once possible evidence is captured they make every effort to debunk it, revisiting the locations when possible. They present their findings to the client and will release any possible evidence only after obtaining permission. They make it evident that a client’s privacy is paramount.
“We’re going to find the truth,” says Martinez.
All heads in the paranormal community should now be facing East.
Team photo by Eddie Ruvalcaba. Footprints at Linda Vista photo is property of BHPP.