WALLA WALLA -- Hunting for haunts isn't confined to Halloween for Nick Page and company.
While Saturday night will be a one-and-done for most in regard to spooks, Page and his fellow members of Eastern Washington Paranormal don't tie their search for otherworldly phenomena to the calendar.
Started in April, the seven-member volunteer group seeks to investigate ghostly activity in a professional, neutral manner. Armed with cameras, recorders and other gear, they hope to capture solid evidence of apparitions or, conversely, provide "a good, logical scientific explanation" for things that go bump in the night.
A Dayton native, Page said that on a personal level he's always been interested in stories of the paranormal, "but didn't put a lot of stock in them."
That changed about two years ago when he and his girlfriend, Nicole Larson, moved into a house in Dayton "where there was lots of strange goings-on."
These included instances of heavy footsteps heard upstairs when nobody was there and at least two instances of a "presence" in the bedroom of "something pushing me into the bed. It was intense."
"That was what got me got me really interested in investigating the paranormal," Page said. After researching for groups in Washington state, he and Nicole joined a group in Yakima, Past is Present, where thanks to his experience as an audio engineer, Page became the group's technical manager.
"We went on three investigations over there, but once we went on our first, we knew this was something we wanted to do," he said.
But when the commute got to be too much, they decided to start a local group and Eastern Washington Paranormal was born.
While the popular image of paranormal investigators is often as all-too-serious believers or comic figures, the goal of Eastern Washington Paranormal "is to hold professionalism and respect (for clients) above all else," Page said.
"What we're really trying to do is approach this as scientifically as possible and as cautiously open-minded as possible," he said. "We don't want to dismiss anything until we can disprove it."
The two investigations they've done so far have been at the Dayton Train Depot and at the town's Weinhard Hotel. While an all-night watch at the train depot turned up nothing, the Weinhard was a different matter.
"We had the entire hotel to ourselves, yet we heard footsteps on the second floor and no one was there," Page said. The four-member team also caught on camera "three different unexplainable 'lights' or 'orbs'" one which moved across a wall, then behind a plant and picture frame.
But that evidence by itself wasn't the sort of thing that would put the final nail in the coffin of a skeptic.
"It was intriguing, but it's not definitive," Page said.
Andy Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8318.