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21st century ghost hunters take on Fossati's delicatessen

By Gheni_Platenburg
Oct. 30, 2011 at 5:30 a.m.

Crimestoppers auction winners, Sheila Newland, right, and Korie Krohn read over the history of Fossati's Delicatessen before the paranormal investigation.

Living, breathing customers with a pulse are not the only ones who enjoy grabbing lunch and spending time at Fossati's delicatessen.

According to the Golden Crescent Paranormal investigative team, spirits do, too.

On Saturday, the Fossati family received the results of an investigation done by the team two weeks ago at the oldest deli in Texas.

"We communicated with who we believe to be Emelie Fossati," said Rob Calzada, founder and lead investigator of Golden Crescent Paranormal. "We can't say with certainty that it was her, but we asked Emelie if she was there, and the light came on, so it makes us think it was her we were communicating with."

Emelie Fossati was the wife of Fraschio "Frank" InvesNapoleon Fossati, the Italian immigrant who started Fossati's in 1882.

The restaurant, billed as the oldest deli in Texas, moved into its current building in 1890.

Emelie Fossati died in 1938, followed by her husband in 1939.

"We told them sometimes we would get a funny feeling," said Therese Bomersbach, 69, who is now part owner of her grandparents' restaurant. "It was real interesting. We were real excited about it."

The Fossati family is not alone with their "funny feelings."

About three in four Americans professed at least one paranormal belief, according to a recent Gallup survey.

While the most popular was extrasensory perception, mentioned by 41 percent, 37 percent believed in haunted houses, 9 percent believed in the ability to channel a "spirit-being" to temporarily assume control of the body, and 21 percent believed people can communicate mentally with someone who has died.

Additionally, 42 percent believed people can be possessed by the devil.

With an estimated 44 shows currently on television with titles containing the word "ghost" or "paranormal" and more than 900 worldwide horror films made annually in America, including the box-office hit "Paranormal Activity," Americans' mainstream obsession with paranormal activity seems to be at an all-time high.

But what qualifies as paranormal activity in real life, however, remains the topic of much debate.

21st century ghost hunters

"Our philosophy is no place is haunted without evidence," said Calzada. "We try to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that nothing is happening, but when no explanation can be found, it could be paranormal."

Established in February 2009, Calzada's group typically conducts one or more investigations a month, mainly in the Crossroads.

After what he believed to be an encounter with his dead brother, Calzada said, he decided to learn more about paranormal investigations in hopes of helping others by calming or ridding their home or business of paranormal activity.

"People are afraid to come forth to express what they've seen because they don't want to be labeled as crazy," said Calzada. "We want to give families some answers to what they may have suspected all along so they know they weren't just imagining these things."

Before an investigation begins, Calzada said, his team conducts research about the allegedly haunted location and conducts interviews with the claimants about their mental and physical health.

Calzada said situations such as untimely or tragic deaths, unfinished business or simply an unwillingness to leave loved ones behind can all lead a paranormal entity to take over a location.

"Spirits are people without bodies. At one point, they walked the Earth, had a job, a family," he said.

Bomersbach, who described her experiences with the entity in the deli as non-menacing, said things are often moved around or they fall off the wall and the coffee maker has been known to turn on by itself, all without a logical explanation.

Investigators said they were able to communicate with who they believed to be Emelie Fossati for about 75 minutes, during which time they asked her a number of yes and no questions and she responded by turning a flashlight on and off.

Although his team did not capture any images on video during the six-hour investigation, they did capture audio on tape from various entities.

Emelie "said in Italian that she was proud of what we've done with the place," said Bomersbach.

Calzada said the paranormal presence wanted to be there, describing cold spots in the room. "They loved the place so much, they didn't want to leave."

A typical investigation includes the use of K-2 meters, a spirit box, Infrared cameras, recording devices and, most importantly, prayer, Calzada said.

"I don't see how you could sleep at night if you didn't believe in God and do what we do," he said.

Paranormal investigating is not without its risks, said Calzada.

He explained that investigators are vulnerable to being possessed and the inhabitants of the business or residence become vulnerable to attacks brought on by the entity's anger at the investigative team's presence.

"We will never know all the answers. I don't think any team will," said Calzada. "But we learn more from every investigation we do."

Mass media messages

"Paranormal activity in Texas has not changed one iota," said Rhett Rushing, a folklorist at the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio. "It's the expression and the way we convey it that has changed."

The origins of the ghost stories, urban legends and ghost hunting likely stem from a time well before the Roman Empire, said Rushing.

"People have been into this for thousands of years," said Rushing. "The fact that nobody really knows what happens to us when we die opens the doors for the spooky ooky."

The progression of mass communication from books to radio to television and now cable, movies and the Internet have provided more mediums through which paranormal messages can be distributed to larger audiences.

From the Hispanic-rooted story of La Llorona, the weeping woman, to the story of Cucuy, aka The Boogeyman, and even the Italian-rooted story of the Vanishing Hitchhiker, Texas is a cultural melting pot of scary stories, said Rushing.

Mass communication researcher Glenn G. Sparks has spent years analyzing the effects of horror stories such as these on audiences.

In his scholarly article titled "Paranormal depictions in the media: How do they affect what people believe?" he analyzed the effect of movies such as "Poltergeist" and television program such as "Unsolved Mysteries."

He concluded that certain types of messages may promote paranormal beliefs. However, other types of messages may help to promote critical thinking and discourage easy acceptance of ridiculous ideas.

Good vibrations

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred.

These words may be a law of thermodynamics, but it also serves as another explanation of paranormal activity, according to some paranormal investigators.

"We are a 99 percent spiritual being in a 1 percent meat suit. We come from a source of energy. When we leave our little meat suits behind when we die, we return to being pure, positive energy or becoming one again with our Source," said Terri Jay, a New York-based self-proclaimed psychic and medium. "Only the positive thoughts, positive feelings and memories can go with us to the Other Side. Everything negative, thoughts, feelings, memories, pain, suffering, etc., gets shed off or left behind since it's not a vibrational match to the Other Side. This negative energy garbage dump that we leave behind can actually take on form or substance and cause paranormal activity."

Jay, who said she has a national television show coming out in the next few months and hopes to de-bunk all of the untruths about paranormal activity using quantum physics, said she has never talked to an unhappy person on the other side or someone who felt that they had unfinished business.

"When people have left their physical form and went to the other side, they are not concerned with earthly matters," said Jay. "People who have passed are not there for guidance or to save us.

Jay expressed her disdain for many of the paranormal-related television shows and movies out today.

"I am always amazed at the ridiculousness of ghost hunting shows where they lock the people in a building and do their ghost hunting only at night," she said. "I have I have been in many places where I have picked up on the stuck negative energy of either deceased people and or just negative energy that exists. I can feel it and see it with the lights on in the daytime."

Religious explanations

"There is an unseen world we bump into every day and don't give credit to," said the Rev. Kevin Benton, Philadelphia-based author of the best-selling book 'A Field Trip to Hell.' "The Bible supports it as being real."

Although the Bible supports the existence of spirits, both angelic and demonic, it speaks against divination, the act of foretelling future events or revealing occult knowledge by means of augury or an alleged supernatural agency.

Benton said a number of Bible verses support this belief, including Leviticus 19:26-37, which demands believers refrain from practicing witchcraft or conferring with mediums or wizards.

The Bible also admonishes layman attempts to communicate with demonic spirits.

"There are people who are called and anointed to exorcise demons, but it takes someone with a certain walk of life and a connection to God to do that," said Benton.

While different religions share different views on the paranormal, the Gallop survey on paranormal belief showed that Christians are a little more likely to hold some paranormal beliefs than non-Christians, 75 percent vs. 66 percent.

Meanwhile, some Christians believe there is a correlation between demons and poltergeists to aliens.

There is a belief that the nephilim, or the "sons of God," as mentioned in Genesis 6:2-4 and Numbers 13:33, were in fact aliens, according to Timothy J. Dailey's book "The Millennial Deception: Aliens, Angels, and the Anti-Christ."

Based on his research, author and researcher Peter Kling claims poltergeists are the spirits of the nephilim that are trapped on Earth.

"When humans die, we go back to the main source of life - God, if you want to call it. Energy keeps us alive, and then goes back to the creator, but the energy of the nephilim, God doesn't want back."

Additionally, interviews taken of ex-Wiccans and Satanists indicate a high level of personal contact with various alien types, especially during coven meetings and holiday rituals, according to Dailey's book.

Learning to live among them

While there is still debate about whether Casper is truly a friendly ghost, a visitor from another planet, or even if he exists at all, most agree that the idea of paranormal activity is not something to be taken lightly.

"It's really important to understand the other side is right here," said Jay. It's not somewhere else."

For many like Bomersbach, the question of whether we are truly alone has been asked and answered.

"It's not haunted," Bomersbach said about the deli. "It's just one of our ancestors reminding us to keep going."

She added with a smile, "It gives the restaurant a little more personality."

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