Studio City resident Marcus Lindsey, 32, always loved reading ghost stories from the time he was 6 years old. When he became a private investigator, things got a bit more serious and he started looking at things in a more analytical way.
Then, he met and fell in love with Clare Benavides, 30, a teacher who works with autistic children, and discovered her interest in paranormal phenomena. She once heard her name spoken in a supposedly haunted house, but remained a serious skeptic.
Through mutual friends, they teamed up with local guy Jason Gates, 28, from Idaho, who used to take dates to cemeteries. He also had a lot of gadgets that helped record psychic phenomena. They formed Paranormal EXP, based in Studio City, to record and document unusual paranormal phenomena.
After nearly two years of recording and experiencing some supernatural occurrences, they entered a competition for the Travel Channel’s TV show Paranormal Challenge, where they are competing against other paranormal teams. Thousands of paranormal investigators from across the country auditioned for the chance to be on the show, said Travel Channel’s publicity coordinator Katelyn Balach.
Zak Bagans and a team of judges monitor how each team performs and researches ghostly happenings, and this week it is at the abandoned Linda Vista Hospital in Los Angeles' Boyle Heights.
“I think we got in because we looked a bit different,” Benavides said. “I’m Hispanic, Marcus is Asian and Jason is white." Most of the ghost hunters around the country tend to be white males, and rather serious.
"We also have a good chemistry and we joke around a bit together, and we are calm,” Benavides said.
Lindsey added, “But we do get scared sometimes.”
“We try to find any rational explanation at first, we look to see if the camera has malfunctioned, and try to rule out the paranormal,” said Benavides.
“We look back at the history of the area, and see what has happened in the past,” Lindsey said. “We look to see if there’s water around, what the area is built on and what kind of rock is around.”
Even with all the skepticism, their equipment has recorded unexplainable voices—usually short phrases, sometimes not audible until the recorder is played back, an occurrence that is called EVP, for electronic voice phenomenon.
On their website is recorded their most frightening close encounter with a spirit at the Vulture Mine in Wickenburg, AZ. They write:
While sitting there with the recorder next to him on the floor, a voice is heard saying, “Look up.” Immediately before Marcus stated that he felt he had been scratched. As he came down, Clare was able to see that there was a long and thick red line on his neck and had not seen him scratch himself in any manner.
Benavides swore she hadn't scratched him, and Lindsey said he noticed that if other psychic investigators have been to a site, then activity seems to increase on their instruments. The Ghost Adventurers camera crew had just come through the Vulture Mine before Lindsey’s encounter.
The local team also said that the Los Angeles area has many psychic investigators, who can be rather territorial.
Lindsey has lived in Studio City for the past seven years.
“We love Studio City—there are great restaurants and bars,” said Benavides. This group can be seen hanging out at or getting an.
They say they want to explore local haunts, like theat the Radford underpass, and other Studio City hot spots.
They don’t take photos much, because many times those can be explained away as faulty cameras or dust.
On the TV show, the team was filmed over three days at the creepy abandoned hospital in Boyle Heights. The teams were to use the same equipment at the same location. The reality show revealed the personalities of the individual team members through their trials during the testing.
For now, Paranormal EXP is a hobby for the team. They have the equipment in the car and even sell online some of the specialized devices like the K-II EMF Detector and the Trifield meter TF100XE.
Benavides said, “We generally don’t charge; it’s a nonprofit experience. We want to help people.”
Lindsey added, “We also want the opportunity to test more places where something has already occurred.”
They don’t consider themselves psychics, or having any unusual powers. Their equipment can often be picked up at a, but they do offer specialized equipment for recording paranormal phenomena.
Benavides explained that it is very difficult to say something from the other side, which is why they only record phrases and words that sometimes seem insignificant.
What is not insignificant is the TV competition, which could put this local team on the map with the better-known paranormal investigators. They will have a viewing party Friday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at in Burbank, and watch the Travel Channel show at 8 p.m.
We will let you know on Saturday how the competition turned out.