John Warfield ain’t afraid of no ghost.
After serving 20 years in the military, Warfield -- with a pension and a part-time physical therapist job -- found time to devote to another passion: helping people cope with hauntings in their homes and workplaces.
He is now chief of operations for D.C. Metro Area Ghostwatchers (DCMAG).
Warfield attributes childhood experiences as the beginnings of his interest in the supernatural. He and his family would hear the sound of someone hammering in the house. Eventually, they discovered that a previous owner had passed away in the home.
“I don’t fully understand [the paranormal],” Warfield said. “You are in death as you are in life and for some reason, some people don’t move on.”
Warfield joined DCMAG in 2006, which calls itself "professional, disreet and law-abiding" -- hey, all things you'd want in a ghost hunting group.
The Metro area has a particularly violent history, Warfield said; the connections to the slave trade, the Civil War and political intrigue lend themselves to hauntings.
Each year as Halloween gets closer, calls to DCMAG start to increase. “[October] is a busy time of the year,” Warfield said. “It concerns me; why are [people] calling me just at Halloween?”
One of the worst cases he's seen occurred in Maryland, he said.
A family said their children would see visions of their grandmother walking down the hall, except her eyes would turn black. The experiences became so disturbing that the children stopped sleeping altogether and the family was forced to move out, Warfield said.
Evidence they accrued from the site included electronic voice phenomenon: the recording of spectral voices captured on recordings in empty or locked rooms.
Warfield and his team have also investigated hauntings at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Woodley Park; the Christmas Attic shop in Old Town Alexandria, and Historic Jordan Springs in Stephenson, Va.
He considered Historic Jordan Springs and the Christmas Attic shop to be particularly haunted places. Historic Jordan Springs has been a Civil War hospital, a drug rehabilitation clinic and -- legend says -- the mansion was built over Native American healing springs.
When Warfield investigated the Christmas Attic, he experienced his first direct contact when, he says, a ghost pulled his hair.
DCMAG sometimes works with a more well-known group, the Atlantic Paranormal Society of the SyFy channel’s "Ghosthunters" fame. Warfield said that producers have contacted him to make a show of his own -- but he isn’t in it for the money, and turned down the offer.
The team just wants to provide information and validate concerns about paranormal activity, he said. With some cases, Warfield will attempt to bring in healers, but sometimes there is not always a way to cleanse the home.
They don't charge for services; when customers express an interest in paying, the group directs them to selected charities.
“I’ve had my experiences and I’m just trying to help people," he said.
Last year they had a spike of activity and worked, on average, a case every week, but this year cases have been slow.
“A lot of weird people come out of the woodwork,” Warfield said. “But sometimes you really do have cases where it’s a down-to-earth family and they just need a little help.”