Paranormal investigator LeeAnna Jonas on her first apparition and evil spirits at the Gilpin County Jail
When LeeAnna Jonas saw her first apparition during a fifth-grade basement seance, she was immediately hooked on the paranormal. Jonas has come a long way since then: She founded her own all-female ghost-hunting team, the Spirit Realm Investigative Project, which has been featured on the Travel Channel's Paranormal Challenge and will be on an upcoming episode of the Bio Channel's My Ghost Story.
Tawni Herren, Allyson McNiel and LeeAnna Jonas are the Spirit Realm Investigative Project.
We caught up with Jonas to talk about Colorado's haunted mining towns, hunting for ghosts, and the evil spirit she encountered at the Gilpin County Jail.
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Westword: What is the Spirit Realm Investigative Project?
LeeAnna Jonas: Well, we're a three-girl team, we're local, and we are paranormal investigators. We try to communicate with spirits. We try to help clients if they have haunts and they don't quite understand what's going on; we try to get answers for them to see if the place is actually haunted. We do background on the history of the location. And we specialize in the mining towns of Colorado. We've done, like, seventeen locations in Central City and Blackhawk alone.
Those two towns are so haunted, there's so much history, and there was so much death back in the mining days. There are a lot of spirits that are still there. A lot of disease, so a lot of children died very young. Mining accidents, prostitution, murder -- it was a very greedy town because it was known as the richest square mile on earth at one point because of the gold. So you know what that brings. That's almost a Vegas, where it brings people who want to make it rich and there's a lot of crime. It seems that we run into the same spirits at different locations, like they rotate in the towns.
We use scientific equipment as well as our bodies and our minds, because all of us are sensitive. And what I mean by "sensitive" is you can feel the energy, you can sense things. I've always been that way, but the more you do it, the more open you are to it and the more you can feel them around you. We use scientific equipment to prove that it's out there. We put evidence on our YouTube page; we don't put out anything we don't stand by. We try to debunk. We don't just say, "Oh, yeah, it's paranormal." We try to figure it out first to see if there's any other explanation. We don't put anything out that we don't believe in. We're there to explain to other people, also we're there to talk to the spirits and we do do crossovers if needed.
The first one we did was at Doc Holiday's casino. There was a little boy spirit who had been there for years and years and we came in contact with him and actually got his voice on a recorder and we told him that we would help him. And he did, he crossed over.
So if we do have a spirit that comes out and says "Help," I give them that option. If you want me to try to find someone to help you, you gotta tell me. We don't try to push any spirits into anything they don't wanna do. So we're there to help them, too, to tell their story. We're not into provoking, we're not into disrespect of the spirits. That's partially why I think they like us. You get teams in there who say nasty things to try to get them to do things, and we don't work that way.
Can you talk about a specific spirit that you've encountered?
Yeah, there's one that follows us to every single location, and his name is Jim Murphy. We haven't been able to find him buried in any of the cemeteries yet. We picked him up at the Gilpin County Museum in the area where there was a poker table. Wherever we go, we have an instrument that's called an ovilus -- and this is made by an engineer that's here in Denver, his name is Bill Chappell -- and what it does, is it picks up the energy from the spirits. Because, basically, just like us when we're alive, when you're dead that energy doesn't leave. It doesn't mean that you stay here with your soul, but the people who do stay here or are trapped or whatever happened to them tragically are still energy. That's why they drain our batteries and such. So this instrument actually picks up what they're trying to say and converts it into words. And wherever we go, the name Murphy comes up, Jim Murphy, and then afterwards he usually says "Central," which means he's from Central City. We did Buffalo Bill's grave and he showed up and he said "Murphy" and he said "Central," and I said, "Hey, Murphy! How's it going?" [Laughs]. So it seems like he always comes around us. No matter where we're at in town, he shows up.
We now have another one called Harriet Pierce who's following us, too. Her name keeps coming up. It's really interesting and it just makes you want to figure out the puzzle and the story. And that's basically what we are: We're storytellers. We're trying to communicate with the dead and find out what their story is. We've got a great situation to where the town likes us, the spirit likes us, and we keep going back to different locations and finding more about these people and we're trying to piece it together. It's kind of unique in a way, because a lot of teams just float around and hit different locations. They never make a connection, but we've actually made connections with these spirits, because they were people just like us. If you make a relationship with these spirits, they start to trust you. You still have to keep your guard up because you can't trust them totally, because there are evil, negative spirits out there that will take advantage of you and will attach to you and come home with you. We've already had that happen. That's just part of the hazard of the job.