Team searches for paranormal answers year-round
Jennifer Lauer and her husband, David Schumacher, froze at the top of the stairway in an empty house.
The owners, who had moved out, asked the paranormal researchers to check out the home, where the owners reported sightings of the apparition of a small boy.
“We were standing side by side,” Schumacher recalls. “We said, 'If someone is here, please let us know.'”
“Immediately, it sounded like someone whispered 'yes,'” he continued. “The voice sounded like a man's voice, and we both heard it in our ears that were closest to each other. It clearly said 'yes,' but was a long, drawn-out 'yes' that sounded like, 'yyeesssss.'”
Schumacher felt breath on his ear as the reply rippled between him and Lauer.
Neither can explain what happened several years ago in the Sun Prairie home.
“I don't know what it was,” Schumacher said. “It was a response out of mid-air.”
The two, who live in northern Illinois, have spent almost two decades trying to explain the unexplainable.
Lauer is executive director of the Paranormal Research Group, formerly known as the Southern Wisconsin Paranormal Research Group.
She started the group in Janesville in 1999, where she lived much of her life.
Schumacher is co-director and head of research.
Objectives of the group are:
-- To conduct research using the scientific method.
-- To create, promote and encourage the use of research and research literature.
-- To share information with the paranormal and parapsychology communities.
-- To collaborate with other like-minded research groups.
Schumacher joined the group in 2004 because he was looking for “a science-based approach to find out why these things are happening.”
“Jennifer and I were both on the same page looking for answers,” he said.
At first, the group responded to public requests to investigate places, and it also collected data from public locations that were well-known for hauntings.
Lauer estimates the group has investigated some 300 places, including homes and businesses.
“We had a team of people,” she explained. “If it was a large building, we needed a larger team. We set up digital audio and video systems.”
Depending on what people were experiencing, the team also logged environmental factors, including radiation, temperature, humidity, light intensity and electromagnetic fields.
In addition, researchers brought a healthy sense of skepticism to rule out mundane reasons for footsteps in empty halls and fleeting figures that vanish.
In 2011, the group dropped Southern Wisconsin from the name and began shifting direction.
Today, it no longer investigates locations where strange things occur.
Instead, Schumacher and Lauer focus on phenomena including near-death, out-of-body and end-of-life experiences to examine the question of whether there is life after death.
“We are trying to look at it subjectively to see if data supports it on the science side,” Schumacher said. “We are not trying to change anyone's beliefs or opinions.”
“We work with doctors, professors and Ph.D. students, people who do this for a living,” Lauer added. “They all do research in their individual fields that focus on death, but none of them are combining all the research to look at the overall larger picture to see how it fits together. This is what makes us different.”
Lauer and Schumacher said they are combining information they have gathered during the last 18 years with research in the medical, psychological and neurological fields to search for answers.
They do their research at night or on weekends when they are not at work.
Lauer is a television producer who has created programming about the paranormal, crime and food. She has associate degrees in both business and computers.
Schumacher manages a technical sales team and has a graduate degree in molecular biology.
When he joined the paranormal group in 2004, he never thought he would still be seeking answers more than a decade later.
“The more I learn and read, the more passionate and interested I am in the topic,” Schumacher said. “For a while I was a skeptic on all this. But I've become more open to the possibilities of life after death and to the possibility there is something to all this paranormal phenomena that people are reporting.”
Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.