Investigators have heard loud screams, gotten scratched and felt their clothes being tugged.
They had their hand held by an unseen child.
They heard sounds of war, such as gunfire, marching feet and the smell of gun powder.
These are just a few first-hand paranormal experiences of Riverside Iowa Paranormal members.
The group of paranormal investigators, mediums, psychics and healers aren’t actors pretending to experience hauntings. They are real people wanting to help families in need and teach people about their work.
Michelle Reuss is the co-founder of a Riverside Iowa Paranormal, or RIP.
The group investigates people’s claims of haunted houses or objects. Reuss said there are skeptics to what they do. Many times, people they help were skeptics until they experienced paranormal events.
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Reuss grew up in Europe.
As a child, her imaginary friends were scary.
“It was like a walking nightmare,” Reuss said.
What she was seeing wasn’t just a silhouette of white, or a loving grandma and grandpa. It was a gunshot wound to the head or a murder victim.
“I see them at the time of their death,” Reuss said.
The people and events she sees are realistic, as if she’s watching it live. As a child, it was something she had to learn to differentiate.
If she saw a man trying to get her in his car, it wasn’t real, she was seeing what had happened to a different child.
At the time, she didn’t have anyone to talk with about what was happening to her, it was taboo.
After blocking her ability for years, it started to get stronger.
Reuss is a psychic medium and trance-medium.
She realized her abilities allow her to see the truth beyond the truth.
“There’s a written truth, but here’s what is really happening,” Reuss said.
The has many titles. Para-counselor, ordained minister and demonologist with multiple degrees including a doctorate of metaphysics, a doctorate of divinity and a degree in spiritual warfare and paranormal ministry.
But she said, there is no formal paranormal job description, and every day she works to learn more.
Because her father was in the military, her family moved to the United States and she spent most of her time in Texas. Eventually she moved to the area for a job.
As time went on, Reuss noticed more and more families were having problems but didn’t have anyone to call.
Reuss said if it wasn’t for ghost hunters, paranormal wouldn’t be as big as it is.
This is not new. Many people were doing the work before it was popularized by television shows, she said.
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“We were doing it to help a lot of those people,” Reuss said.
For a while, Reuss would work with other teams, but many were only around for a year or had too much drama.
In 2012, Reuss, Co-Founder Kelly Tandy and a group of investigators had a vision and a mission, so they decided to build from there. They didn’t have a name at the time, they were just doing the work.
“As we started getting more and more calls from different states, that’s when we started forming it as an actual nonprofit,” Reuss said.
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Not just anyone can join the group.
There is an interview process, just like a regular job.
Reuss said they wanted people without egos, and not people looking for five minutes of fame.
“People who would be able to sit down with a family and have empathy and sympathy,” Reuss said.
One of the most important parts of the job is not judging.
If a person wants to be sent a genie bottle or has a ghost girlfriend, the teams don’t laugh.
Derek and Kandi Slater live in Davenport and have been a part of the group since 2018.
He is a psychic medium and his ability was always there, whether he wanted it or not. It started to show around 10 or 11, shortly after his grandfather died.
Unlike Reuss, he sees them as they were in life or their better self.
A time that stands out to him is helping his mother-in-law identify her father in a picture.
There was a photograph from the 1900s that her father was in, but she didn’t know which person he was.
Derek Slater was able to reach out to the father and have him identify himself.
Kandi Slater was a skeptic before marrying Derek. He finally convinced her to visit a haunted location and the experiences she had completely changed her mind.
“I was hooked,” she said.
There are 10 members of the Iowa chapter.
Since its creation, RIP has grown outside of Iowa. There are chapters in Minnesota, Kansas City, Texas, California and soon Arizona.
Jamie Dunn and Melissa Johosky are best friends and part of the Kansas City Chapter.
They both shared a paranormal experience that will always stand out to them.
As they were doing an investigation at the McInteer Villa in Atchison, Kan., the group decided to do an experiment in the basement.
Dunn and Johosky were placed in chairs back to back, not touching, blindfolded and listening to white noise.
The experiment forced them to use other senses and were instructed to say anything they felt or saw.
Sitting there, Dunn started having labored breathing.
“I remember feeling like I was being held underwater,” she said.
She couldn’t move or say anything.
She passed out.
On the other side, Johosky started seeing a creek.
At first, she didn’t say anything, and thought she was imagining it.
Slowly she started to see bigger bodies of water — a pond and then a lake.
Finally she told the other team members.
After the experiment ended the pair shared their experiences.
“She was experiencing the feeling of being drowned, and I was seeing these bodies of water,” Johosky said.
They finally realized both had experiences of almost drowning as children.
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One side of the work is helping people in need.
Unlike the TV shows, the group doesn’t just go into homes, say there are ghosts and leave. They have a rigorous intake process and work to help those in need.
Trying to rule out any other possibilities, the group asks serious — and sometimes personal — questions.
“What are you experiencing?”
“What religion are you?”
“Is there fighting in the home?”
“What types of medication do you take?”
“Do you do illegal drugs?”
All of these questioned are aimed at determining what the family is experiencing and how the group will help.
Johosky asks these questions and sends them to the team. Based off the information they decided who needs to go on the investigation.
One investigation started because a child was having night terrors and seeing an old man killing his sister.
The family had other paranormal investigators say they were possessed, causing fear and anger.
After the interview process, the team historian does background research on the home and land. By looking into the past of the house and land, the investigators can have background information before walking into the home.
“As we started getting into (the investigation), the energy of the house shifted,” Reuss said.
The parents started to argue more, feeding off the negative energy.
The anger was like “building an atomic bomb in the home,” Reuss said.
Unlike the television shows or movies, helping families does not have results overnight.
“They see somebody able to close something like a portal up in 30 minutes, and they think that’s how it should be,” Reuss said.
Cleansings, blessings and even exorcisms are possibilities to help.
If the house needs to be blessed, the group will work with the family to find out their religion or faith base.
“We always go by the faith base,” Reuss said.
But not everything is paranormal. Sometimes a water heater can sound scary, Reuss said, and real hauntings are not only from midnight to 3 a.m.
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The group conducts investigations at no charge. They make money hosting events.
The group does events such as visiting haunted locations, teaching people how to use equipment and how to be respectful of the other side.
Kandi Slater is the event organizer, marketing director and personal relations.
She tracks down the haunted locations and “hidden gems.”
The events allow people to visit haunted locations and assist in investigations. Other events are aimed at teaching people how to be respectful and how to use equipment.
While the work can be fun and sometimes scary, Reuss said it makes them more empathetic and understanding to people’s problems.
Reuss said the experiences have taught everyone in the group to take nothing for granted.