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Ghost hunters explore local graveyard

PORT ORCHARD — It was no accident that a group of ghost seekers gathered at Hi-Joy Bowl Saturday night.

“I used to work here, and was told many stories about the place being haunted by a ghost,” said James Graham, 33, who grew up in South Kitsap and recommended that the members of Kitsap Paranormal Investigations meet at the bowling alley’s restaurant before checking out a nearby cemetery.

In 1961, a janitor named James Smith was found dead inside the bowling alley in a crime that remains unsolved. And though the the building burned down in 1980 and was rebuilt, Graham said many employees, himself included, report encounters with a ghost they call “Smitty.”

“I worked there as both a mechanic and a janitor, and once when I was cleaning the women’s restroom, I heard someone come running by me, but when I looked, there was no one there,” said Graham, explaining that other employees reported machines turning on and trash can lids flying off by themselves.

Even before his days working with Smitty, Graham said he was interested in “things that can’t be explained,” and while looking for groups of other believers, he found Kitsap Paranormal Investigations.

Formed last November, the group now boasts 93 members throughout the county and beyond. It hosts social gatherings for all members, and offers free, private investigations by “trained, experienced” ghost hunters for anyone in the surrounding area who feels they are sharing their space with a spirit.

“We just did an investigation at the Bremerton Community Theatre,” said Natalie St.Tours, who helped organize Saturday’s outing, which was technically not to investigate the bowling alley, but rather the tiny Colby Cemetery on Southworth Drive.

“My goal was to find some places where we could start investigating,” said St. Tours, a Gig Harbor resident, explaining that while the group was not asked to investigate reports of ghosts at the cemetery, many of the members had expressed interest in observing the spot.

“A couple of members said they had been there before,” she said, adding that none had stayed there for long because some had seen “red eyes” and left, and others turned back when they arrived to find another group heading out in a hurry because they had been “spooked by something.”

On Saturday, Graham, St. Tours and several gathered around dusk to spend the next few hours watching, listening and recording whatever happened.

“It’s never really going to be the same experience everywhere you go,” said St. Tours, who made sure that all attendees paused to hold a “protection prayer” for themselves and their equipment before entering the cemetery. And once inside, St. Tours reminded all to be respectful of the graves and each other.

“This is a learning experience,” she said. “We all just bring what we have,” which she said includes digital recorders, cameras and even cell phones.

Once the investigation is complete, St. Tours said the group will post their findings, including photographs, recordings and descriptions, on the Internet.

The group can be found at www.kitsapparanormal.org, or at http://paranormal.meetup.com/550

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