By day, they are like most Long Island adults, tending to their jobs and families.
But by night, they’re investigators — not of the living, but of the dead. To be a part of the Long Island Paranormal Investigators (LIPI), one must dedicate countless nights and hours determining whether or not a spot is haunted. On Thursday nights, they meet in the basement of a house in Selden, New York to discuss upcoming events and investigations, analyze gathered evidence, give out awards and occasionally enjoy a beer with a side of electronic voice phenomena (EVP).
The founder and lead investigator, Michael Cardinuto, said he has been on over 550 investigations since he got into the business, when he founded the LIPI around 2003. The group formed after Cardinuto and some friends investigated an abandoned hospital. They later started investigating more Long Island urban legends that they read about on the internet. Their first official investigation was Sweet Hollow Road in Huntington, which some believe to be haunted.
As the years passed, the group has acquired extensive knowledge, new team members and equipment.
“I know my shit,” Cardinuto said. “I run this like a business. Hands down, I would definitely put this down in the top paranormal groups in the world.”
And it is a business with many parts. Members are part of different departments, with duties that range from coordinating events to researching cryptozoology, the area of study that tries to prove the existence of folklore such as Bigfoot. All of the members, however, have the core responsibility of showing up. They must analyze all the audio, footage, pictures and other forms of evidence captured throughout investigations. Some investigations are even overnight or out of state and all investigations, private residences and areas throughout Long Island. Investigations, the business’s main product, are free of charge.
Lead investigator Dimitrios Haritos has dedicated his basement to LIPI’s cause. The walls are lined with equipment, awards and racks full of files. Awards are given out to members each meeting, recognizing qualities such as leadership.
“As somebody who started on another team, I can say it’s absolutely true [that LIPI is in the top paranormal groups in the world,]” Haritos, a 12-year LIPI member, said. “I know what other teams look like, I know what other teams operate like. You see each other once every three months, there’s no in-depth training or anything like we do here, it’s kinda like, ‘Figure it out on your own,’ which is like how most groups tend to run. This place is like college.”
The training at LIPI is extensive, Cardinuto said, as paranormal investigating does present its dangers.
“Paranormal investigating can be a dangerous field to get into,” Cardinuto said via email. “Many people may go out and investigate with good intentions but you never know what may possibly follow you home. The majority of the locations we investigate are considered to be safe but there are those few were you do open yourself up to something extremely negative. We also do many house investigations every year and you never know what you could be walking into. We have an extensive training program in our group teaching our investigators the dangers of coming in contact with a negative entity, elementals, Djinn (spirit beings) and even demons.”
Multiple forms of technology must be mastered, according to the group’s website. This includes a barometer, which is said to recognize the manifestation of a ghost or spirit when the pressure increases or decreases; a Cem IR Thermometer, which reads a surface’s temperature; and a DVR system, which can record multiple rooms throughout a location at once to check for any captured apparitions and cameras and recorders.
Any evidence captured on audio is known as an electronic voice phenomena (EVP) and can have multiple categories ranging from Class A EVPs, which are loud, clear and high quality, to Class D EVPs, which are poor quality and questionable.
“Believe it or not, paranormal activity isn’t really a common thing, and it’s not what the movies and TV portray it out to be,” Cardinuto said. “When we go into a client’s house, we are able to debunk about 80% to 85% of the claims to be something that normally occurs. That does leave between 15% and 20% of the unknown. Once you deal with that unknown, there are a million questions people ask. That is what we are trying to do, is to help answer some of those questions people may have by using our investigation methods and getting to the bottom line of what is happening.”
During a meeting in May, the group analyzed some high-quality audio from an investigation in Rogers Mansion, a historic building part of the Southampton History Museum. This investigation allowed the public to join in and learn about what LIPI does.
On one EVP, “Don’t, go, move away, what!” can be heard. The group listened over and over again, theorizing the possibility of it being multiple voices and nailing down exactly what could be heard. “It’s definitely ‘Move away,’” Cardinuto said. “I’ll fight you to the death.”
Haritos asked the group that caught it if they were with people when the audio was captured.
“The audio was at my feet,” investigator Michele Cassone said. “I wasn’t holding it or anything.”
“Everyone in the group was mad quiet except for one girl who was like, ‘I want a ghost to touch my butt,’ very loud, yes,” investigator in training and employee at the Southampton History Museum, Conner Flanagan added, as the group laughed. “And it was just me and Michele talking the whole time.”
Cardinuto said the group makes it a point to differentiate captured human whispering and an EVP. “When going over our EVP analysis, many people ask us how can you tell it’s an EVP and not a person. When we are investigating, we train our investigators not to whisper, and if someone does whisper, we make it a note in the recorder. There are also many times that we investigate that there are multiple recorders recording at once. If one of the recorders pick up an EVP and the others do not, that gives the EVP more credibility, because if it was one of us talking, it would be on all of the recorders.”
The Stony Brook Press got to see LIPI in action in May when they were invited to join an investigation at Manorville Hills County Park. An animal researcher who has access to parks after hours contacted LIPI asking them to do an investigation of the park, saying that he felt uneasy at certain areas.
“He contacted us this year about Manorville Hills County Park,” Cardinuto said to the group prior to the investigation. “I drove past there at night — it’s pretty rough just being in the car, let alone getting out at night in the dark. I don’t know what to expect, I don’t know the history. Me and Dimitrios are taking a hit tonight.”
The hit was having to stay with the animal researcher while the other members of the group got to go anywhere and do anything they wanted. In exchange, Cardinuto and Haritos expect that the group will be their lookout on another Thursday.
The group laughed together. “That’s the deal for tonight,” Cardinuto said. “I don’t know how long we will be; we will kind of play it by ear. Group leaders, make sure your walkie is working.”
After meeting the animal researcher at a Wendys after a Thursday meeting, the group traveled in a line of cars to the investigation site, parking on the side of a road absent of street lights. After getting out of their cars, they traveled single file into the woods, breaking up into smaller groups as they traveled deeper into the unknown. The Stony Brook Press stayed with Cardinuto, Haritos and the animal researcher. It was quiet, besides the sounds of frogs, crickets and footsteps.
Stopping on a bridge surrounded by a pond, Cardinuto and Haritos began taking photographs with a full-spectrum camera, which covers all spectrums of light that can’t be seen by the naked eye, a thermal imaging camera, which captures the temperature of different objects, and a regular digital camera.
Haritos said of the thermal imaging camera, “With this, they say that if a spirit is manifesting, it might be drawing in heat energy to cause a cold spot, or it will be bundling up energy in a certain area to cause a hot spot. And hopefully, if there is a change, this camera will pick it up.”
However, Haritos said, one must be familiar with the area, because the hot and cold spots could be caused by numerous environmental factors such as the cool spring breeze that was present that night.
“When I go to these spots, I expect something,” the animal researcher said. “Every once in a while, I’ll see a light or hear a voice. I don’t care about that. This is different.”
He had an experience that drove him to contact LIPI during July 2018. While at the park after hours, he heard something move. At first he thought it was a male deer, but he began hearing heavy breathing.
“Went home and tried to match up the call, there’s nothing even close. I have animal guides, bird guides. I looked through all of those and nothing.”
“Maybe we should try to do an EVP session,” Haritos said, adding, “What we’re going to ask [is] generic questions. If we had more history on the location I would gear more of my questions towards the history. But what we’re looking to do is, hopefully on my audio when I ask a question, an answer will come through and I’ll be able to hear it later when I play it back.”
When Haritos began the session, he started by saying, “Hi, how’s it going tonight? My name is Dimitrios. I don’t mean you any harm, I’m just looking to communicate with you tonight. Now that you know my name, tell me your name tonight.”
A moment of silent flares, besides the constant sounds of crickets and frogs, followed by an occasional breeze. Generally, he said, they wait about 30 seconds before asking another question, because a spirit would have to use a lot of energy to make itself heard on a voice recorder.
“Can you tell me what you see from where you’re standing?” Haritos asked. Thirty seconds pass.
“If you’re here with us tonight, can you give us a sign of your presence by making a loud noise or a bang, some type of sound that’s not one of these frogs.” Another thirty seconds pass by, as does a train in the distance.
“Do you know what year it is?” Thirty seconds.
“In my hand is a camera, it can take a picture of you. Can I take a picture of you if you stand right in front of it?” He took a photo with his thermal imaging camera.
He closed out the EVP session by thanking any surrounding spirits. He said that many groups often try to provoke the spirits by being mean to them, but that LIPI does not believe in that technique.
“We had one of our investigators years ago asking provoking questions on a client’s house case we were at,” Haritos said during the investigation. “He started to feel stinging on his back and he lifted up the back of his shirt and there were scratch marks. So we told him to take a break and we sent him outside with another investigator. We told him to take a few minutes and he went outside, he got even more mad, he was like, ‘I wish you were here cause I would mess you up,’ taking out all the curses involved. And then, within a few seconds, he started burning again, this time there were so many scratches on his back, it broke the skin. He was bleeding. It wasn’t demonic. He just pissed off something he shouldn’t have. A negative spirit could just be someone who was an asshole in life.”
When asked what people should know about paranormal investigations, Cardinuto said, “If you decide to investigate or go ‘ghost hunting’, never go alone, and have some way to protect yourself when you are on site. If you are passionate about it, I would say look for a reputable group out there that would take you under their wing or assist you in starting your own group LIPI loves helping people who are really passionate about the field, get into the field.”
After some time, the group reunited to check out another part of the park, but was stopped by nature itself, as the woods were blocked off by overgrown vines. The animal researcher became interested in some frogs he heard, so LIPI turned back and ventured back to their cars.
“We checked out a couple of locations, new locations, so that you guys get to experience them for the first time, as we did,” Haritos said. “It seemed pretty quiet for the most part. We’re not going to know for sure until we go through our audio and video footage to see if we caught anything and also our photography.”
After analyzing the footage, audio and photographs, nothing was caught. However, Cardinuto said they were going to go back to see if they can catch anything.
“As the Founder of LIPI I am extremely proud of what we accomplished since 2003 when we started. LIPI is a family and we are all passionate about the field. I love the fact that when we all go out and experience this unusual phenomena together, it makes it worth everything you give up for that experience.”