I wasn’t really clear about what to expect, even though I’ve seen the Ghost Hunters shows and all the knock-offs many times on TV, and White Noise is one of my favorite scary movies. And, after meeting the Studio City-based team I did about them, I watched their chilling episode on the Travel Channel’s Paranoral Challenge (), and was a little scared after seeing how they did their investigation at a creepy abandoned hospital.
Studio City has its —and a rather recent one at that. Last year, about half a dozen calls (maybe more, because police stopped counting) of a tall shadowy figure and clomping footsteps. When approached, the figure would disappear.
(Check out the detailed story here.)
The sightings were at the Radford Avenue bridge underneath the 101 Freeway where and a body was found in the trunk. The freeway was shut down, around 50 fire and police investigators arrived, and after a few days, they identified the body as that of , but they said it !
Read Patch's .
Even though no family members went in front of TV cameras asking to find his relative’s killer, someone was leaving flowers and candles at the site for months. Patch tried reaching family and people who knew Rathert, who had a troubled history of jail time and rehab, but no one wanted to speak on the record, and more sensational crimes were dominating the media.
We were the only one who seemed to care, and North Hollywood Local Editor Craig Clough was even more determined to not forget the odd story of Russell Rathert. Now, the case is closed, even though plenty of questions remain unanswered.
Could this reality-show-winning team of young investigators find an answer?
Craig’s wife, Ivy, came out to the scene with me to meet the four investigators—and to ground me.
We met at the site at 10:30 p.m., the eve of the one-year anniversary of the car found under the bridge. were the team from the TV show and they were joined by Jason’s girlfriend, Amanda Hills, who helped work some of the equipment and used a hand-held night vision video camera to collect possible visual evidence.
At first, Clare suggested that the investigation be scuttled. “We want to be sensitive to the family out there and don’t want to bring up any difficult memories or seem insensitive,” she said.
Jason found an online testimonial that Rathert wrote that detailed his drug addiction and his plan to clean up and help others. Written in 2008, it talked about his disabled mom, a son he hadn’t seen in 13 years, and his desire to get a college degree.
I explained that it seemed that Patch was the only media following the case, and that is why we invited the team out. Police theorized that he was out on a binge with friends, died of an accidental overdose, and they put him in the trunk and set it on fire.
Aug. 29 was his birthday, and he would have been 51. Sept. 1 is my birthday, and I am the same age. Aug. 29 is Clare’s birthday, and she is much younger. But, it’s possible that Russell Rathert was celebrating his birthday with friends.
The first thing they did was walk around the area with their EMF (electromagnetic field) detectors. They showed readings of EMF spikes in certain areas, but I told them that I was pointed out a different area of where the car was burning. Then, I pulled out my computer which had photos from the LAPD that they just released that showed the scene, and sure enough, the spikes of activity on the meter was where the car was shown in the photos, and not where I thought the car was.
“We need to do a walk-through first to record what the equipment shows, and then we will know if there is any anomaly later,” Marcus said. “We need to establish a baseline.”
Marcus and Jason then tried to recreate the shadowy figure, by walking and then driving back and forth under the bridge. Sometimes the shadows could look seven to 10 feet tall, but the noisy overpass seemed like it would muffle any footsteps, and nothing that drove overhead sounded like a clomping of someone walking.
Every recording also was meticulously interrupted with “tagging” which explained certain things going on, such as “Jason walking” or “Clare talking” so that they don’t mistake it for anything paranormal when listening back over tapes.
Paranormal EXP is a hobby for this team. They haven’t taken any money, and they have day jobs. They primarily approach investigations as skeptics, but keep open minded.
“We would much rather come up with a logical, reasonable explanation first, rather than something paranormal,” explains Clare.
They recorded with a giant directional microphone, or “Bionic Ear,” and they had a stationary night vision video camera recording the entire time and pointing at the burned car location.
Just before midnight, we all stayed quiet for 10-minute stretches. We heard the cars and trucks rumble overhead, but nothing more.
Then, we went to the middle of the bridge, where we sat and took turns specifically calling out and talking to “Russell.” Jason started off, explaining how he empathized with the story he found online, and hoped to help find out what happened to him.
At one point, they set off a barrage of questions, and then listened afterward for anything on the tape. Nothing.
Then, Marcus pulled out a “spirit box” which is a roving AM radio monitor that doesn’t actually stop at any station, but keeps scanning. Supposedly, spirits can get messages across through a device like this a lot easier.
That device elicited a bunch of words: “Russell” was clear, as was “Dave” and disturbingly, my name “Mike” was fairly clear a few times. As I sat near the edge of the circle, I felt a cool breeze and watched the temperature gauge on the MEL-Meter that they had dipped quickly from 70 degrees to 63 in a matter of seconds, and at the same time the K-2 meter lit. Both devices were on the floor, not being held or touched by anyone.
Then, the most unusual thing happened. As we were listening back to a recording, a distinct smell of burning rubber hit us in just the little circle of six. It couldn’t have come from the freeway, we were too far in the middle under the bridge, and we would have smelled it in other areas. It was just in that particular small circle, and only for a few seconds, then gone. It was obviously not something anyone could record, or even prove, or post on the Internet like some of the EVP recordings that Paranormal EXP has on their website. But it did happen.
We went on for a few more hours. Odd sounds occurred, like tapping (“Was it a rat up there?” Marcus asked) Tiny pieces of rock rustling and falling at key times ("The bridge settling because of all the traffic above us," Jason suggested.) Nothing was conclusive, nothing would change the mind of a die-hard skeptic.
They were careful not to prompt each other when they heard something, to offer the power of suggestion, and they did the research meticulously. They were going to study the tapes and recordings, which could take days, and see if anything more came up.
It was a fascinating experience, not scary at all.
In fact, the scariest part of the whole thing was an email that I received an hour before going out there, from a possible rival paranormal investigation team, that wrote ominously, “I strongly warn you that I wouldn’t go out there with them.” The paranormal investigations world is competitive.
As far as the bridge, well, we didn’t solve anything in those wee hours of Wednesday morning as far as Russell Rathert and the burning body in the back of the car, but it was a fantastic experience.
Stay tuned and we will link to the Paranormal EXP coverage of this investigation.)
And, no doubt, there will be other times.
(Check out the video above of the team doing a summary of the events.)