Some people may be scared by the things that go bump in the night, but not Rick Coherd. In fact, it makes his night.
Coherd is the founder of Delmarva Historic Haunts, a Milford-based paranormal investigation group that offers public ghost tours while also privately investigating known and suspected haunted homes, businesses and landmarks.
“People often ask me if there's something out there,” Coherd said. “Yes. Is it a whole person? I don't think so. I think it's a piece of someone.”
Coherd said his pastor calls them echoes of people's past.
“Some people don't want to leave places or people behind, so they leave a little bit of themselves,” he said.
Delmarva Historic Haunts is in the midst of its public season, offering tours nearly every weekend in the fall. During the rest of the year, his group spends its nights conducting investigations throughout the state. They document their experiences using video, recorders and other equipment and post their findings on YouTube.
Intelligent – Will try to communicate through a variety of means.
Residual – Like a recording that plays over and over. Energy is stamped in an area.
Poltergeist – Not like the movie. Usually light-handed. Mostly displacement of objects.
Demonic – Never had living form.
One of the group's popular videos was taken in March 2012 from the Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal. The video shows figures moving around the terminal's restaurant dining area before disappearing into thin air.
In the video, Coherd says the footage is raw and not doctored in any way. He said the terminal may be inhabited by the many of the mariners who were buried in a grave under the terminal building.
“Each investigation is like a classroom; the only difference between me and you is I've been to more classes,” Coherd said. “And guess what? I'm not teaching. They are.”
Coherd considers himself a para-historian; someone who is interested in the history of the people and places he is investigating. That differs from many other paranormal groups, he said, which focus on scientific findings more than history.
In addition to the ferry terminal, he and his team also hold public tours at the Lewes Historical Society complex each fall. The group's next tours are slated for Oct. 19 and 26. Beginning next year, Delmarva Historic Haunts will offer tours in Milton. The group will privately investigate locations in the spring before opening it up to the public in the fall. Coherd said he hopes to gain access to the Milton Theatre, Irish Eyes and other private residences.
“There's a lot of stories that have not been told except by the people in town,” he said. “Maybe it's time for people out of town to know these stores. Why keep it close to the vest? Sometimes there could be something to all this lore.”
Delmarva Historic Haunts does not benefit from the ghost tours; all money collected is donated to the organization hosting the event, usually a historical society. Over the last two years, the group has raised more than $30,000 for local historical societies.
Ghosts can come in many shapes and forms, Coherd said, from temperature changes in a room and sounds to full-body apparitions plainly visible to the naked eye. Other phenomenons are not realized until the team analyzes the video footage and recordings from the investigation.
Vaporous anomalies – Ghost sightings frequently reported as mists or vapors.
Full-bodied apparitions – A ghost that appears to have a full body from head to toe.
Partial-bodied apparitions – Often seen as torso and head with legs cut off at the waist or as only pair of legs walking.
Shadow people – Full- or partial-bodied apparitions that appears as dark, two-dimensional shadows.
Phantom vehicles – Sightings of ghosts taking on the forms of vehicles.
Cold spots/ temperature anomaly – Spirit or ghost that feeds off the heat energy in its immediate vicinity.
Orbs – Appear as translucent or semitransparent spheres.
“I know there's something out there; not always, but sometimes,” he said. “We want to be there for those sometimes.”
Coherd's passion for the paranormal began at an early age. He said he had a few paranormal experiences as a child, which always went hand-in-hand with his deep appreciation for history.
He later worked as a florist at the White House for nine years during the Nixon, Ford and Carter administrations, where he and others had paranormal experiences in the very historic building.
“The maids and butlers told me their stories,” he said. “That kind of fed me for awhile.”
After retiring, Coherd relocated to Milford. He worked at Fort Delaware in New Castle County for six years, and was featured on an episode of “Ghost Hunters” when The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) investigated the old fortress.
He was also a member of Delaware Ghost Hunters before starting his own group. His team consists of about a dozen investigators, including his wife Jeanne and daughter Kelley.
Jeanne said she was always on the fringe of her husband's passion. She never really got involved until he needed help with a tour in Lewes.
“We were thrown into it and we had stuff going on,” she said. “That kind of got me hooked. I'm still kind of skeptical, but we've had things happen to us that I can't explain. You just have to keep an open mind. There's some kind of phenomenon going on.”
Coherd said he hopes to expand his investigations into neighboring states and even try to get to down to Florida. His ultimate dream, he said, is to investigate centuries-old buildings in Europe. But in the mean time, he said, Delaware is a gift that keeps on giving.
“This area is so rich in so much history, so much lore,” he said. “It's fascinating. It's like we were put here at the right time and everything comes together. In life when things just start gelling, you got to go with it.”
For more information about Delmarva Historic Haunts and a list of upcoming public tours, go to www.delmarvahistorichaunts.com. To view the group's YouTube videos, go to www.youtube.com/user/DHH2011. To reserve a spot for the public investigation at the Lewes Historical Society complex, call 302-645-7670.