We have great pleasure in talking to Stephanie Sutera the Associate Director of Thames Society of Paranormal Investigations (TSPI) based out of New London County, Connecticut
Welcome Stephanie and thank you for agreeing to talk with us about your society and your valuable work researching paranormal activity.
Q. When was TSPI founded and what brought about its formation?
A. Thames Society of Paranormal Investigations was founded in 2010 but I wasn’t a member until about six months in. Founder and Director Shamus Denniston grew up in a haunted home so his interest in the paranormal was rooted at an early age.
Before forming the team he haphazardly worked with other groups but was dissatisfied with how they conducted their investigations. At that point he made the decision to form TSPI with Co-Founder Todd Radley and do it his way.
Q. How many members are on your team and what are their various roles within the group?
A. Currently there are nine members on the team, but we are always looking to add more!
Director Shamus Denniston, myself, and Senior Investigator and Co-Founder Todd Radley are the leaders of the group. There is also our Tech-Manager Grant Kokernak, Medium Emma Martinez, Marilyn Marin our Public Relations Specialist and Shamus’ younger brother investigator Eamonn Denniston.
Our newest teammate is Laura Palmese who is currently going through our investigator in training course. Lastly there is Harrison Fortier our team Consultant with whom we discuss our findings with. Each one of us has at least one area of expertise that helps the team work like a well oiled machine.
Above: TSPI Members: (L to R) Grant Kokernak, Shamus Denniston, Stephanie Sutera and Todd Radley.
Q. Which areas of the paranormal is your group particularly interested in researching?
A. We primarily focus on ‘Hauntings’, but sometimes even that brings you into some other areas. For instance you might encounter certain theories that fall more into the categories of demonology, possibly cryptozoology, or interdimensional beings. Those are all subjects that you can’t totally avoid in our field, but they are not areas that we focus on.
We are definitely parapsychologists with some emphasis on the psychic side, but primarily on the data collection and research of paranormal activity side.
Q. I see that as a society you place great emphasis upon honesty, respect and professionalism. Why do you consider it to be such an important and integral part to your work?
A. One of of primary goals is to help people and we want our clients to feel comfortable and they are going to get the best service possible. Sometimes our clients ask us to come in because whatever phenomenon that is happening to them is disrupting their way of life, is frightening them and their family, or others feel embarrassed about discussing what is happening to them.
Having a team they feel that they can trust and feel free from ridicule puts them at ease. It has to be difficult to let strangers into your home or place of business. Why make it harder on them?
Q. I understand that one of your roles within TSPI is that of Associate Director. What does this entail and how did you personally become interested in the paranormal?
A. My responsibilities as Associate Director sort of vary. Firstly, I assist Director Shamus Denniston in leading the team. Our roles differ in the way that Shamus Denniston is more the liaison between the current and potential clients and TSPI.
Now I am more involved with our online presence and the secretarial side of the business. Basically meaning working on our webpage, paranormal online networking, updating our social media, working with radio producers and publicists, and keeping us organised.
We work very well together and are very good friends. When we have an idea that we want to pursue Shamus and I make it happen. Sort of the conductors leading a symphony if you will.
Q. The Connecticut area of the United States is often seen as a hotbed for paranormal activity. Why do you suppose this is and what are some of the more historically significant locations you have investigated in the area?
A. All of New England as a whole is such an important area for the early part of this country’s history and even before that when the land belonged to its Natives.
In Connecticut we have had several battles fought on our soil and the kind of energy that is produced during events such as those tend to leave an impression in time, better known as residual hauntings. The state has also done a fantastic job at preserving these battle sites and forts plus some very important homes and estates from Connecticut history as well.
Some of the most historically significant cases that we have done are located along the Thames River where The Battle of Groton Heights was fought during the Revolutionary War. It was less of a battle and more of a massacre! 800 British soldiers led by traitor Benedict Arnold stormed Fort Griswold, in Groton, Connecticut which contained only 150 American soldiers. 80 of the colonialists and 51 British soldiers met their demise before the Americans surrendered.
A few other great places we have been are the Mother Bailey House which was the home to one of the Daughters of the Revolution. The Samuel Huntington Homestead which was the home of technically our first president according to the Articles of Confederation and was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
Then there is The Governor Jonathan Trumball War Office in Lebanon, Connecticut where most of the meetings for The Council of Safety were held. Important individuals would would meet on behalf of the revolution at that location. George Washington is said to have been one of the attendees at these meetings. There are many others too. We are pretty lucky to work in New England!
Q. What has been your most frightening experience whilst working for TSPI?
A. There was this homecase in Massachusetts that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The home was also used as a daycare and this family was being terrorized by a negative entity. There were claims that it would manipulate toys, use the baby monitor, and was aggressive towards the family. They said that even some of the children who attended the daycare would avoid certain rooms in the house.
Right before we came to investigate one of the clients was shoved while getting out of the shower. The whole night was very uneasy. I have been doing this for such a long time that there isn’t much that spooks me anymore but that house did.
It was our Medium Emma Martinez’s first case so we wanted to see what she could do so we didn’t fill her in on anything.
On the second floor there was a small room that a man suffering from alcoholism had committed suicide in. We brought her up there and Emma totally passed her first test by sensing that right away. The whole investigation just felt dark and uncomfortable and was definitely one of the more scary places we have hunted.
Q. What is your favorite location for paranormal work/research and why is this?
One my favorite locations has to be the Denison Homestead in Mystic, Connecticut. It is a roughly 300 year old farm house that is still run by the Denison family to this day. Much of the original artifacts remain in the home and it is now run as a museum.
Thames Society of Paranormal Investigations has had two investigations there one of which was published in a book titled Mystic Seafarers Trail: Secrets behind the 7 Wonders, Titanic’s Shoes, Captain Sisson’s Gold, and Amelia Earhart’s Wedding written by Lisa Saunders.
The reason I would say it was one of my favorites is that I was able to capture a very interesting picture of a partial apparition that is in my opinion one of our best pieces of photographic evidence. The image was taken in one of the upstairs bedrooms inside the homestead.
Q. If you had to pick one essential tool for your ghost hunting kit what would it be and why?
A. You would think that being a photographer I would pick my camera, but the digital recorder is the best friend to Ghost Hunter aside from maybe their flashlight which is more of a safety than anything.
After doing years of investigations I can honestly say that 90% of our evidence is an EVP. That’s the reason why some instruments have come and gone but recording audio has been a staple for decades. Now that we are in the digital age it’s become easier to collect audio data. Before you were using analog and buying tapes although analog is still used as an alternative. Now you can collect and store a lot of data in just a small recorder.
Another great added bonus is that microphone technology is improving all the time and the equipment is getting cheaper. So anyone who is interested in paranormal investigation this should be your first piece for your ghost hunting kit.
Q. An increasing number of people from all over the world are reporting seeing spherical balls of light, commonly known as ‘orbs’ What is your take on orbs and what should you be looking for in your visual data reviews?
A. This is actually a very controversial subject in the paranormal world. On one hand some teams swear by them while others claim that they are total bogus. What you need to understand is that most orbs can be easily debunked.
There is a phenomenon called lens flare that is the culprit of most orbs. This can happen by light that is bounced back into the camera lens. Dust particles and insects can also appear to be spiritual orbs by reflecting light off them.
Now TSPI has not completely dismissed that all orbs are just caused by light although almost all of them are. What you want to do is pay close attention to the behavior of the orbs and mark anything out of the ordinary. Reviewing hours of footage you start to be able to tell what is anomalous and what isn’t. Always look for a cause first because any sort of light interference may produce a flair if angled correctly or be caused by a reflection of light off a surface.
The team on one occasion caught what look like an orb that was emitting an almost electrical light which was like nothing we had every experienced before, So we do not totally dismiss the idea of the existence of orbs it’s more like the verdict isn’t out yet and we will keep researching.
Q. I understand that you have captured some of your best photographic evidence of paranormal activity using a specific photographic process – one called ‘The Sutera Process’. What exactly is it and how does it differ from other traditional photographic techniques?
A. In my experience I have had a lot of clients hand me photographs that they have taken with what they believe is paranormal evidence. Although we always consider it part of the claims I was never satisfied not knowing the conditions of the image was taken. I was left with questions like who was in room was there flash used or headlights from a vehicle driving buy shining in the windows?
That led to thinking that during our investigations we needed an element of control. So in order to do this I developed ‘The Sutera Process’. Basically what you would do is set your camera up on a tripod or sturdy surface to start and then take a succession of photos in a row. I just let my camera soak up any natural light in the room or I will use a stationary light. While using the technique you need to make sure your variables have not changed. For instance your investigators should remain still and in one place and you will also be checking for any added light pollution from a car, flashlight, or tree branches distorting light from a street lamp.
Now you have several photographs to analyze and compare and you look for any anomaly that has changed between each image. The data collected is now more controlled using this method. As far as I know most teams just take snapshots without any specific process except for trying to recreate some of the photographic claims by shooting in area said to be active.
Q. What is TSPI: The Revenant Review and why was it started?
A. We try really hard to keep our supporters updated with various forms of social media but they all were focused around just our team. We wanted to provide a place for the paranormal community as a whole to have a place for them to share their stuff.
We encourage others to share their articles, stories, and experiences or ask questions. We wanted a place for other teams to promote themselves, their events, and sell their gear. So we made The Revenant Review which is a Facebook group page so that all lovers of the paranormal have a place to go and one that was free of any paranormal bullying.
Q. Where does the TSPI team see itself going in the future and are there any areas of the paranormal that you would like to look more deeply into?
A. We are always looking for new avenues to pursue all of the time. Currently the team is doing a documentary webisode on how the team’s functions and roles in the group with a student from Connecticut College, but other projects are in the preliminary stages including our own webisodes on our investigations and there is a possibility of a paranormal weekly news programs as well. And of course we will still continue to concentrate on our radio appearances and doing public events.
Every year that goes by TSPI becomes a stronger and more experienced organization and I anticipate the momentum not slowing down at all in years to come.
Q. If anyone should want to contact the Thames Society of Paranormal Investigations how would they go about contacting the team?
A. Our website is located at www.tspiparanormal.com which contains The Haunted Blog, some of things we have been featured in, our team members and much more.
On Facebook our team’s fan page is located at www.facebook.com/ThamesSocietyofParanormalInvestigations and The Revenant Review address is www.facebook.com/groups/tspiparanormal.
If you have any questions you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you prefer to speak with us in person we can be reached on our hotline at 920.940.TSPI.
Thank you Stephanie for the fascinating account of your work at TSPI. May we wish you every continued success for your work and important research into the paranormal.