The In-Betweens by Mira Ptacin

Mira Ptacin reads from her memoir The In-Betweens: The Spiritualists, Mediums, and Legends of Camp Etna, published in October by Liveright.

Chapter 3: Ghost Hunting 101

Cautiously, Barbara led us up the darkened stairwell. Of course the stairs creaked. Of course we tiptoed. Blindly, we rubbed the walls beside us with our hands, feeling our way up the stairs with our fingers until we reached the second floor. Barbara swung left and guided us into what was the auditorium, but with the lights out, it was a vast and airy obscurity, as if we’d entered a black hole.

The group dispersed into the darkened room immediately, but Barbara and Steve hung back. They leaned on a big wooden table, and while our eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, the three of us listened as everyone else cased the joint like exterminators—they were there for the thrill of the chase, to play with their equipment and to catch the ghosts in the act. They were there to hunt. And while they bungled around the dark room, poking and prodding with their gear and gadgets, eager to catch some ghouls, all Barbara had to do was look at listen. She didn’t need the heat cam or laser grids or infrared motion sensor.

Tonight, she was chaperoning a group whose money, which they’d handed her at the beginning of the night, she would immediately donate to Parsonsfield Seminary’s restoration fund, but she didn’t do this kind of thing generally for the cash. Beyond that, ultimately it seemed the sincerest motive Barbara and Steve had in mind when mingling with the departed was more along the lines of an act of community service to the deceased: they were there to release trapped souls.

“Do not go in the attic alone, please,” Barbara called out into the darkness.

“Sorry about that!” a voice apologized.

“There is an older gentleman up there and he will attach to you,” Barbara explained. “He is disruptive, and he has pushed many people.” Then she turned to me and said, “The younger spirits usually don’t come out when he’s out and about.”

About ten, twelve minutes passed. Then fifteen. By now, my eyes had adjusted to the darkness a bit. I stood up and walked toward the center of the room, toward the sounds of shuffling feet and little clicks of plastic shutters. Suddenly, there was a loud noise. A voice.

“Business. Solo. Human.”

The voice was piercing, monotone and sharp, and came from the head of the room—the auditorium stage, maybe?-and it clearly did not belong to a human.

“What the heck was that?” I barked, and reflexively gripped an arm next to me, which happened to be Steve’s.

“Business. Solo. Human,” said the voice again. It sounded terrifying and disgusting, like a demonic robot.

“That’s the Ovilus,” said Steve. “It just picked up on something.” The Ovilus, I’d learn just moments too late to prevent a near stroke, was a piece of paranormal investigation equipment. Pocket-sized and powered by batteries, the gizmo was said to “convert environmental readings into words.” A voice box for ghosts.


Excerpted from The In-Betweens: The Spiritualists, Mediums, and Legends of Camp Etna by Mira Ptacin. Copyright © 2019 by Mira Ptacin. Reprinted by arrangement with Liveright. All rights reserved.