Police mistook ghost hunter's device for a bomb — and destroyed it with a water cannon

Jen Parker and her team at Windsor's Listowel Paranormal Society were investigating a ghost, but when they forgot one of their tools the bomb squad was called in.
Jen Parker was investigating a possible ghost at the Mackenzie House in Windsor, but when she left her EMF sensor behind the bomb squad was called in. (Submitted by Jen Parker, Melissa Nakhavoly/CBC)
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Jen Parker wasn't expecting to make national news for investigating a ghost, but that's what happens when the bomb squad is called in.  

Parker, along with her team, were hunting for a ghost at a local historic site in Windsor Ont., —  Mackenzie Hall. When they left the site, they forgot an electronic magnetic field sensor (EMF). 

The Windsor Bomb Squad were called in to investigate, and then destroy, the suspicious device.

Parker is the assistant founder the Listowell Paranormal Society. She spoke with As It Happens host Carol Off about the mix-up, and what the device is actually meant for. 

Here is part of their conversation. 

Jen, what exactly was this device that was mistaken for being a bomb?

It's called an EMF sensor —  so electronic magnetic field sensor. It's a little black box with a blue LED light and a red wire and it fits in the palm of your hand. So it's very small.

In our field it detects energy. So that energy could be of an entity and they [the bomb squad] took it to the extreme thinking that it was a, you know, a bomb.

We just thought ... we'd go in, do our investigation, come out and we're good. But here we are all over the news.- Jen Parker, ghost hunter

OK, but what kind of entities does it sense?

Ghosts. So spirits of dead people. 

How did they destroy your device?

With a water cannon. I'm not sure what it is but the major crimes unit, they send a robot in and then they destroy whatever the suspicious package is.

An Electromagnetic Field Sensor caused a bomb scare at Mackenzie Hall. (Melissa Nakhavoly/CBC)

What were you investigating?

Our team went out to do an investigation … because Mackenzie Hall is rumoured to be haunted as it was an old court house and executions has taken place there in the 1800s all the way up until 1943, I believe it was.

We just thought ... we'd go in, do our investigation, come out and we're good. But here we are all over the news.

Now, did you personally have any sense of something there?

We have another device that we use, it's called a REM Pod. It's another EMF detector except it's more advanced.

There's sound —  so if there's an energy source that comes near the machine there's this big antenna on it and it'll light up and it'll also make a beeping and a squealing noise.

We asked if there's … anything there with us and it started lighting up and it started screaming. And I was the only one that was able to ask questions. As soon as my other team members were asking questions it was quiet.

What did you think when that happened?

I was just in shock … I'm like, "Oh, something's here with us." The team members that were with me, they were pretty shocked and surprised about it too — that something was communicating with me.

And do you know what it was trying to communicate with you?

No ... I don't know.

Well come on, I think you do. What was your exchange with … this spirit?

As soon as it started squealing, after I asked, "Is somebody here with us right now?" it started squealing and I … swore. It's on video. It's not something for you guys to hear. It was a bad word.

Were you scared?

Yes. I always am because I don't know what's going to happen, what we're going to get, if there is anything. You know, it's more like an adrenaline rush.

When you say you're always scared, have you encountered ghosts before?

I lived in a haunted house for almost a year. We had another paranormal team come out and investigate and they had put it on paper stating that they felt the place was haunted. There were three entities in that house. One was more like a protector, and the other two were more demon-like. Poltergeist.  

The Listowel Paranormal Society says these two photos were taken seconds apart in a hallway at MacKenzie Hall. They claim the light at the top of the left photo could be the ghost of 'George,' the first man to be executed at Mackenzie Hall in 1962. (Submitted by Jen Parker)

Well that's pretty scary. Had you believed in ghosts before you lived in the haunted house?

No. that's what made me pursue my position with Listowel Paranormal Society. That's the reason why I became an investigator, because I want to know what else exists. If there is anything else.

Which led you to be in Mackenzie Hall to then became known to police as someone who may have left an explosive device behind.

It spiraled. I did not intentionally do that.

And so do you think you'll get permission to  go back into Mackenzie Hall ever again?

Yup. We've been invited back, not sure when but possibly in the next few months. We'll go back and conduct another investigation and we will be bringing an equipment checklist. And we will not be leaving anything behind.

Well except maybe the spirits. You should leave them there.

Right, they can stay there.

Written by Sarah Jackson. Produced by Julian Uzielli. This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. 

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