LENOX -- In early August, Brenda O'Brien stood in one of Ventfort Hall's bedrooms, holding an electro-magnetic field detector and the hope for a ghostly experience.
The detector light had been green, showing that the energy around her was stable. But suddenly the light turned red, denoting a quick energy change in her space, and she said she felt someone touch her head.
O'Brien is a two-year member of Chicopee Paranormal Investigators, or CPI, and what she said she felt at Ventfort Hall isn't evidence of ghosts but is something those in CPI call "a personal experience."Others in the group have had those moments there, too.
CPI, a five-person team that was formed nearly five years ago, has investigated historic Ventfort Hall nearly 20 times over the past few years, many times with members of the public.Nearly every time, the investigators said they have caught audio or video evidence of paranormal activity, from a barking dog to a door opening and closing on command.
On Saturday, CPI members will head back to Ventfort for another public investigation, where they will bring 11 already chosen, paying members of the community ($50 fee) to each room and hall in the mansion, which was built in 1893, is undergoing renovations, and serves as a Gilded Age Museum open year-round.
Steve Carrion, a CPI member for four years, said he believes that whatever paranormal element exists at Ventfort is "obviously intelligent" and knows the group is there.
The team has investigated other places, such as The White House Inn in Wilmington, Vt.
As with any investigation CPI conducts, preparation is necessary, including researching the history of the location and setting up equipment to record whatever might happen during an investigation.
Cameras and electronic voice phenomenon (or EVP) detectors will be scattered throughout Ventfort to record any video and audio, and electro-magnetic field detectors will be used to record energy changes.
Several other devices also make up the technical side of this eclectic line of work.
"There's a lot that we use that all kind of works together," O'Brien said. "If one goes off, we bring another one near that should be doing the same thing."
The group focuses on its equipment for one reason: to record evidence.
Laughlin, who founded the group, explained that after going on investigations with other paranormal teams before CPI was born, he thought those teams handled their work the wrong way.
The groups were using mediums and personal vibes as evidence, Laughlin said, so he started his own team and tried his "own way of doing it."
"All we give for evidence is anything we catch on audio and anything we catch on video," he explained. "We don't give feelings. Feelings are thrown out the door, because if you're in a place that's supposedly haunted, it's going to make you feel on edge, and sometimes that feeling of being on edge [makes you] think something's happening.
"Really, it's not. It's your own mind playing tricks on you."
Mark Monette, office manager of the Ventfort Hall Association -- which was formed in 1994 to rescue the building from a developer who wanted to demolish it and put up a nursing home -- said he frequently goes on CPI's investigations and has altered his skepticism about ghosts after seeing CPI's findings.
"I definitely believe we have something here," Monette said.
Laughlin said there have been only been two times that CPI "hasn't caught anything" at Ventfort. Carrion said the community is always welcome at CPI's public investigations there and that the $50 fee goes toward the renovation of the hall.
After Saturday, the next public investigation of the mansion will be Nov. 17, and slots remain available for that tour.
For more information, call O'Brien at (413) 537-0033.