Joe Weigant explains how he can tune into the paranormal
MaCabe Brown, Courier & Press
The dead woman: part 1
When Joe Weigant gets to the house, the dead woman is already pacing across the back deck.
“She’s frantic,” Joe says. “Very frantic.”
He sensed her as soon as he walked in. And if he opens himself up – tunes himself into one of the millions of channels humming through the universe – he can almost see her.
He’s not alone. His wife Katha, who has accompanied him on more than 100 paranormal investigations in the Evansville area over the last nine years, can sense her too. As can homeowner Shaunda Lynch. She feels the woman’s presence when she sits at the kitchen table of her North Side home.
It’s not like the woman manifests herself in full “Ghostbusters” glory. It’s more complicated than that. They just feel her energy. And when they close their eyes, they can see snippets of her.
Late 30s or early 40s. Dark hair. A long dress with poofy sleeves.
According to a New York physic Shaunda contacted, the woman’s husband was a prominent Evansville lawyer. He killed her decades ago and got away with it. Now she roams invisibly through this affluent neighborhood, searching for anyone sensitive enough to hear her story.
That’s how she found Shaunda. Like Joe and Katha and probably countless others across the world, Shaunda attracts this kind of thing, like an open can of Coke near a wasp nest.
Once, on vacation, she came back to her hotel room to find all the drawers flung open. Sometimes bouncy balls roll across her wooden floors independently. In extreme circumstances, even her husband Chad Schmidt, who’s a bit of a skeptic, has heard a disembodied footstep or two.
“I’m sympathetic, but (the woman) causes me a lot of anxiety,” says Shaunda, a prominent Evansville lawyer herself. “All I do is help people, so she thinks I can help her. But I can’t. I can’t change anything.”
That’s why she called Joe. He came to the home two years ago, but more problems have been occurring lately – such as the presence of this dead woman. So he’s going to “bring down the light” and convince the poor woman to move on to the next plane of existence.
“She just came in,” he says.
He senses her as a white ball of energy. She floats through the sliding glass door and settles in the middle of the kitchen.
Standing across the room, I can’t see a floating spirit. But the room does feel … different. Maybe that’s the power of suggestion. Maybe it’s not.
I’m more focused on the gas stove burners that have pulled a few paranormal tricks of their own – they ignite by themselves.
“I’m just going to be sitting here really quiet for awhile,” Joe says. “It’s going to be boring. But I’ll be doing all kinds of stuff you can’t see.”
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As a kid, Joe Weigant thought everybody was like him.
He assumed everyone in Evansville lived in a haunted house, where objects darted across the kitchen table by themselves. Where unseen forces randomly changed channels on the television.
“We’d sit down for 20 minutes and have a fight over what we were gonna watch that night,” he said. “And finally we yelled at the ghost and said, ‘hey knock it off! We wanna watch HBO!’”
He could see and feel things other kids couldn’t, such as shadow people dashing across his lawn.
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A lot of children are like that, Joe said. Especially when they’re toddlers. He gets calls from parents who say their children point and laugh at empty spaces or talk to people who aren’t there.
“I’ve had people tell me all the time, ‘she keeps saying Nana, Nana, but Nana died three years before she was born.’ And I say ‘yeah, and you think (Nana’s) not here?’
“Kids will see spirits all the time, and they don’t think anything of it,” he said. “It’s just part of being in this world. We teach them to stop doing that.”
As he got older, Joe shied away from it himself. After all, you have to “get pragmatic to pay the bills,” he said.
But when he got interested in Reiki a few years ago – a technique in which practitioners channel energy through their patients to promote healing – he realized he could crack open his mind and tap into things others couldn’t.
He wanted to use that power as much as possible, so he created Tri-State Holistic Wellness on Washington Avenue, where he helps patients deal with a variety of maladies. Sometimes cancer sufferers come through to supplement the care they receive from their doctors. Other patients just want ways to alleviate the stress feasting on their guts.
He also reads Tarot cards and instructs Tai Chi. And of course there’s the ghost business – Evansville Paranormal Investigations & Consulting, or EPIC. “Business” may be the wrong word, though. He does the work for free.
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All these sensitivities helped him bond with his wife Katha, who shares some of Joe’s talents.
“We’ve been together for 30 years,” she said. “This is something that I knew was in my family. And he knew when he was little. But it didn’t get defined until he started to go through it.”
It’s like a radio, Joe said. Countless frequencies float through space. We can only hear one station at a time, but that doesn’t mean others aren’t out there. And there are a few people in this world, Joe included, who know how to turn the dial.
“I probably wake up two or three nights a week to go take a leak and there’s someone standing in my kitchen,” he said. “I’m like ‘hey, how are you doing? Shut off the light when you leave, dude.’”
Ghosts are everywhere.
They watch you as you eat a Big Mac at McDonald’s; they trudge beside you in the park. Some living people even have spirits following them everywhere they go, Joe said.
I once asked him if I had someone hanging out with me.
“You know a bib overall guy with a straw hat?” he said. “Might be chewing on a piece of leaf?”
No, I said.
“It may be someone from a couple generations ago,” he said. “It might be a great, great grandfather.”
Shadow people are common, too – those little buggers who wash across the wall at night or linger, just for a moment, in your bedroom doorway.
The horrifying 2015 documentary “The Nightmare” collected stories of shadow people terrorizing folks who suffered from sleep paralysis. But according to Joe, they’re nothing to be afraid of.
They’re just spirits who lack the energy to manifest to their full form. This is where the radio analogy comes in handy again. Shadow people are like those times when the dial sticks between stations, and you pick up nothing but weak signals and static.
“I get calls all the time. ‘Oh my God, I saw a shadow in the hallway,’” Joe said. “Yeah, it’s probably a dead person. It’s Uncle Ned. Leave him alone.”
Spirits linger on Earth for several reasons, he said. They become attached to their house and refuse to leave it. Maybe they’re scared of hell or they died in a car wreck and were yanked out of their body so suddenly they don’t even realize they’re dead.
Love is a big culprit as well. A husband or wife will die and refuse to leave their longtime spouse alone. Problem is, those living spouses will die years later and walk into the light, leaving the disembodied love of their life stranded on Earth.
That’s where Joe comes in. He helps them move along. Businesses or homeowners report their problems and he does his best to solve them.
The issues don’t always stem from wayward spirits knocking paintings off the walls. Sometimes a building is just infested with negative energy that needs to be cleaned out.
And the process doesn’t unfold like it does on TV. A jacked bro doesn’t threaten to fist-fight a ghost, and the very utterance of a spectral voice doesn’t send Joe sprinting through the home in a mad, night-visioned panic.
“I think if you ask a ghost to say something to you, and it does, you shouldn’t act like London Bridge fell on you,” he said.
All that drama is juiced up for television. Joe’s process wouldn’t work as well on TV – even though he did recently appear on an episode of “Paranormal 911.”
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He just gets quiet. Focuses. Tries to tap into the energy swirling around him.
“That’s just some of the crazy, whacked-out things that I do,” he said. “And I do it because it helps people.”
Clients remain anonymous unless they submit reviews on EPIC’s Facebook page or, in the case of Shaunda and Chad, invite newspaper crews into their home.
Not every job is a slam dunk, of course. Once, some people in Dale called EPIC with a pressing problem: a witch had cursed them. But when Joe saw 38 empty beer cans strewn around their yard, he realized their problems may not be supernatural.
Of course there are the skeptics who giggle and dismiss the whole operation as a fantasy. But here’s the thing: the world is a weird, weird place. The New York Times just basically proved aliens exist.
In a 2005 Gallup poll, about 37 percent of Americans said they believe in ghosts. By the time a Huffington Post / YouGov survey rolled around in 2013, that number had climbed to 45 percent. You can’t swing a short stick through most families without thwacking someone who has seen a spirit stomp through their home.
Joe believes in what he’s doing, and his clients do, too.
“I don’t do it because it makes me a great name or something. Because I’m just some dude in this town that does this weird stuff,” he said. “I do this weird stuff because when I’m done doing it, people feel better about who they are.
“If I can empower people and bring them peace, I’m going to keep doing it.”
The dead woman: part 2
“I feel resistance,” someone says.
“Oh yeah!” Joe says. “I’ve been arguing with her this whole time.”
“Why doesn’t she want to go?”
“She’s afraid she’s going to see her husband when she goes there.”
Joe gets quiet for several seconds. Eventually he sighs, brushes his forearms and looks relieved.
“OK,” he says. “That was the end of it.”
He explains that the woman was distraught, terrified she would meet her husband again and relive the trauma and pain she suffered on Earth. It took him a long time to convince her that her husband is long gone – transformed into a wholly different person.
“Once a person goes into that light and crosses that veil, there’s a point at which you lose the personality you embodied here in this realm,” he says. “The spirit then begins to take on a different flavor or a different texture. Because it’s lost all the frailties of our human existence. She doesn’t know all that from this side.”
He finally convinced her to move on.
But his job isn’t done. For the next two hours, he and Katha scour the house. It’s riddled with stressful, dark energy – but there are positive vibes as well. Shaunda’s father died in 2015, and she’s felt his warm presence ever sense.
The positive energy can stay. The rest has to go.
So Joe and Katha “smudge” the house. They light black tea candles and a giant wad of sage that looks like a joint rolled for Paul Bunyan. They walk through each room, moving clockwise to break up negative energy.
They do so deliberately. Joe compares it to running a push broom across a basketball court. You want to keep everything in front of you, or else it doesn’t get clean.
The smoke does, however, set off the fire alarm. “Evacuate!” a computerized voice screams. “Evacuate!”
Finally, they move into the backyard and release the energy into the Sunday evening air.
Katha gestures toward the back fence. She feels the presence of something. Joe nods.
“You’ve got two guardians out there in your yard,” he says to Shaunda and Chad. “They’re OK. They’re here for you.”
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Contact columnist Jon Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org
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