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Eugene Weekly : News : 10.29.09




A Captive Audience 

Hunting Ghosts at the Bijou

By Rick Levin

Next time you’re at the Bijou watching a scary movie, you might want to think twice about keeping your eyes glued to the screen. Word has it the theater is haunted by the apparition of a woman.

illustration by aaron sullivan

Come Saturday, Halloween morning, Lois Earl of the Oregon Ghost Hunters might capture scientific evidence that ghosts are kicking around the place. Earl said Monday she’s been pestering the owners of the Bijou Art Cinema for years, asking that she and her team of paranormal investigators be allowed to haul their Sony Cyber-shots, digital thermometers and electro-magnetic field detectors into the former mortuary — yes, mortuary — in order to flush out the female apparition rumored to be haunting the place. Or perhaps the spirit is Boo, the beloved Bijou cat who passed away this year.

“I’ve kind of been after them for a while,” Earl said Monday of her efforts to ghost-hunt the theater. “I’ve heard stories of them being haunted. I’ve just read a lot of things from people that worked in there. Projectors will act up, people will get creepy feelings in there, people seeing shadows out of the corner of their eyes.”

Earl, who founded OGH with her husband and daughter in 2007 to satisfy her lifelong curiosity about paranormal phenomenon (“We’ve lived in different places where weird things happened,” she explained), said that her inquiries into all things spooky have had the effect of making her more credulous about life beyond this mortal coil. “When I first got into it I went in with a lot of questions,” she said. “Now I’m more of a believer. A lot of times we’re left scratching our heads.”

Bijou manager Louise Thomas said the theater has brought in a handful of different paranormal investigators over the years. “I thought it was amusing,” Thomas admitted of past ghost-busting activities, “but by the end of it I was totally exhausted. Their cameras would lose their battery charge and I’d go, ‘Oh, crap, really? So they are here.’” 

Thomas said that, though she herself doesn’t feel a presence in the theater, she is now a lot less skeptical about the possibility something is out there. And, personally, Thomas said she’s curious if Earl and crew get any indication that the Bijou’s late owner, Michael Lamont, who died in 2007, is perhaps hanging around his beloved establishment.

In order to keep things on the level — and to avoid accusations of profiteering or publicity stunting — Earl said she refuses to charge for OGH’s services. “We do it out of our own pocket,” she said. The idea, as the group’s website (www.oregonghosthunters.com) claims, is to “set the standard for other paranormal teams.” Everything is based on a scientific model, she added, meaning that logical explanations are sought for any strange occurrences; when that fails, OGH gathers and documents evidence in as complete a fashion as possible. They are not, however, exorcists; in other words, they can verify whether a paranormal presence exists, but they can’t tell you what the hell to do about it. That’s up to someone else.

Having investigated several businesses and residences in the past couple of years, including the Heceta Head Lighthouse, Earl said she’s experienced everything from voices and sounds to a phantom tug on her clothing. (A couple of her clients were so freaked out they opted not to move into the house they asked OGH to investigate.) And yet, Earl said she never really gets frightened herself. “You think you’re going to get scared, but once you’re there your adrenaline gets going. You just want to capture more.”

Earl said that for OGH’s Oct. 31 investigation of the Bijou, it will be business as usual: “We’ll probably do the same basic groundwork,” she said, which includes getting base readings of temperature, sound and the theater’s existing electro-magnetic field. “That way if we get a spike, we know it’s out of the norm,” Earl explained.