No experience necessary. The only requirement is interest in
ghost hunting and an open mind.
Most moms' groups meet in someone's living room, maybe at a
restaurant. Even the library. But this night, Christie Chaidez, Liz
Mason and Theresa Ban are sitting in a dark hallway of an abandoned
building. Peeling paint hangs from the ceiling like it's melting
off a hot surface, and a musty smell hangs in the cement
"Did you see that? The meter moved," says Chaidez, pointing to a
small device in her hand with lights ranging from green to red.
"Really?" says Mason, her eyes lighting up. "There's something
The gadget is an electromagnetic field detector, a device used
by ghost hunters to pick up on unexplained fluctuations in electric
energy. Chaidez and Mason are prowling the Maywood Home for
Soldiers as part of their ghost hunting group, the Paranormal Moms
Society. Chaidez helped found the group back in 2007 when she and a
mom friend discovered their mutual interest in ghost hunting shows
"We thought, 'Why couldn't we do that, too?'" says Chaidez. "At
first, it was just the two of us in a cemetery at night with a
flashlight and a tape recorder."
Since then, the group has grown both in size and
"At first, I thought we're never going to find anyone, but I was
amazed how many moms out there were really into this," says
Its members, including Chaidez, Mason, Ban and Jennifer Morales,
meet throughout the year to conduct investigations. The
investigation at the Maywood Home for Soldiers was just for fun,
but usually, the group investigates at private homes after people
reach out to them for help. They arrive in the early evening and
stay into the dead of night, often returning two or three times if
necessary to validate or debunk the resident's experiences.
Of course, they love the thrill of an investigation, but their
favorite part is helping people, especially other moms.
When they think about the two dozen or so investigations they've
completed, one stands out. A mom in Palatine was distressed because
her son, just 8 or 9 at the time, refused to sleep at their house
due to the strange presence they'd experienced-slamming doors and
eerie voices. She called the Paranormal Moms to investigate.
What they say they found was the spirit of a little girl, one
who wanted to play at all hours of the night. The group advised the
mother to lay a blanket down next to her bed at night and invite
the spirit to rest beside her. After that, the activity quieted
down and the little boy no longer was scared.
"That mom was literally in tears," says Chaidez. "She finally
understood that the spirit didn't mean any harm."
At the abandoned Maywood Home for Soldiers, the group roams the
halls with flashlights. The three women are reminiscent of the
Scooby Doo gang, with each one having her own distinct look-Ban
tall and thin with long blond hair, Chaidez shorter with bright red
hair and blue eyes, and Mason with full black curly locks and
dark-rimmed glasses. They're excited to be here, especially because
they're the first paranormal group that's been allowed to
investigate the place.
"It was originally a home for widows, women whose husbands were
killed in the Civil War," says Mason. "In those days, as a woman,
you would have been left homeless if you didn't have family to take
care of you."
The Georgian revival building then became a home for the blind,
a place for wounded soldiers from Vietnam to convalesce and
finally, an assisted living home, before being abandoned in the
Since then, it's been sitting empty, becoming derelict. But
Mason and Ban, who both grew up in Maywood, remember it fondly from
"Whatever is here," says Mason to Ban, "it must be because they
loved the building as much as we did when we were kids."
The group uses surveillance cameras to look for shadows and
movement within the building, as well as electromagnetic field
detectors, night vision goggles and digital recorders to gather
EVPs, electronic voice projections, or ghostly voices that they
find when reviewing the tape.
Despite the fancy equipment, the group says at their heart,
they're really just a regular moms group doing something they love
that gets them out of the house and with friends.
"As a mom, so much of your time is given to other people-your
children, your husband, your home, your work," says Chaidez.
"Some women want to go to the bar. This is our thing. We want to
What do their husbands, co-workers and friends think of their
spooky hobby? Most are supportive, although they do meet some
skeptics. Chaidez says her husband thinks she's "crazy," and Mason
says she can't talk about it to her Latina mother, who doesn't
believe in messing with the spirit world. Ban says most people she
tells are intrigued, although her 15- year-old son wasn't impressed
"He was skeptical, but I showed him some of the evidence we've
found," says Ban. "All of the sudden, he's started watching the
ghost shows with me."
As the sun sets and the investigation gets into full swing,
there's one last question for the three investigators: Do you
believe in ghosts?
"I believe there is a spirit life out there," says Mason.
"I think there's a lot of unexplained things out there," says
"Me?" says Chaidez, pointing to herself. "I've seen too many
things not to believe."
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