Group of enthusiasts attempting to find ghosts

Michael Techenbrock crept slowly through the damp, dark counterfire gallery under the defensive wall at Fort Macon.

Techenbrock and three other members of The Unexplained Searcher Team were on the hunt for ghosts and other apparitions that they believe surely must reside in the creepy, cavernous interior spaces of the 181-year-old structure. After all, in the Civil War seven Confederate soldiers were killed there during an intense bombardment by Union gunboats on April 25, 1862. And during Reconstruction, the masonry casemates were used to house federal prisoners for 11 years.

“Fort Macon has been the second biggest hit we’ve had,” Techenbrock said. “We come here and go down into the tunnels. We’ve had cameras move by themselves out of focus. We’ve had spirits appear in windows that we cannot re-enact. Some of them felt like they were being touched. With the history and everything here, we decided to give it a shot, and so far it’s been turning out pretty good here at Fort Macon.”

Techenbrock and his wife Vickie, both residents of Havelock, started the group, which they call TUST for short, earlier this year.

“A few months ago, we were watching all the shows on TV, all the ‘Ghost Hunters,’ the ‘Ghost Adventures’ shows, and I told my wife that maybe we could do something like that,” Techenbrock said. “I’m interested in it. We moved her brother and his wife down here and started building a team, started Facebook pages and started putting our name out there, and it’s been picking up from there.”

The team has done “investigations” at the moss-draped Cedar Grove Cemetery in New Bern and at a local bed and breakfast.

“It fascinates me,” he said. “It’s something that has been around me all of my life, in every house that I go to. It feels like a protector spirit. Nothing that is harmful. I just wanted my own answers.”

He said everyone on the team has seen or felt something. He said team members have captured images on their cell phones that they believe show ghosts or apparitions. They use, cell phones, high-definition cameras and electric field readers as they investigate.

Erin Rae Daniels, one of the team’s members, said she has special powers that enable her to connect with the spirit world.

“Since I was little, I’ve always seen like a spiritual form around me,” she said. “I used to wake up screaming that there were people standing around my bed. As I grew and got more into it, I’ve learned that I’m what you call a feeler. I can feel and sense spirits. In some cases, I might see them, depending on how much strength they have.”

Daniels said she tries to feel if the spirits are good or evil.

“I try to communicate,” Daniels said. “I try to help if they need to be freed or helping cross over, just answering questions. Sometimes they just want to be noticed or a story told.”

She said she is also good at taking pictures of the ghosts because she knows where to point to find them.

“I know where to take the pictures at and nine times out of 10, I do get a pretty good photograph of them,” Daniels said. “They’re like a person, kind of silky and you can see through them of course, but it’s a figment of an actual person.”

She said she had experienced the feeling of being touched while at Fort Macon.

“It does not freak me out,” she said. “I have always been interested in the paranormal, and the unseen and the unexplained.”

Her husband, Keith Daniels, is a member of the team who also doesn’t scare easily.

“It takes a lot to scare me, so I get put in the worst situation,” he said. “Places they refuse to go, they send me because I’m not scared.”

His bravery is not limitless though.

“I looked in this grave and I seen this white face stare right back at me,” he said. “The first time I really got scared, I took off running.”

He said “there’s no doubt at all” about the existence of ghosts.

“I would say just come and do one investigation with us and it will change your mind,” he said. His mission is “to prove to all the skeptics that there is something beyond this physical reality, that there is a spiritual kind of thing after death. That’s my goal.”

Vickie Techenbrock, wife of Michael Techenbrock, admits she had her doubts, but no longer.

“Every time we go out, most of the time we find something,” she said. “At first I was a skeptic.”

A sure skeptic is Paul R. Branch Jr., a park ranger and historian at Fort Macon State Park.

“I have never seen any ghost or apparition,” said Branch, who has worked at the fort for 35 years. “Anytime anybody comes up with anything about ghosts for Halloween, or talks to somebody and they thought they saw a ghost, we are buried with people coming over there with little foil hats asking ‘Where them ghosts at?’ That’s all they want to know, ghosts, ghosts, ghosts.”

He said there is an explanation for sounds that some say they hear.

“You’re in there and you can hear sounds and think ‘Oh my, what is that?’” he said. “Most of that is coming over from the Coast Guard base and it kind of echoes off the walls and it sounds like more than it really is.

“It’s a place where your mind can run wild, and that’s a fact and there has been violent death associated with Fort Macon. There’s never been anything Friday the 13th, or anything coming at you with a machete or a bayonet, or any kind of thing like that. Not to say there’s not, but who knows about things like that? It can be a creepy place if you let you mind wander.”

Though Halloween is approaching and ghost stories abount, Michael Techenbrock insists his group of enthusiasts isn’t a once-a-year novelty.

“Spirit things are well known for Halloween but spirit things happen every month, every day. We’re not a Halloween attraction,” he said. “We’re not just for Halloween. Any month or anytime that someone is going through something, they can call us. If you have a loved one that has passed away and you need the answers, we can help.”

He said the group is not established enough to charge. To reach them, go to their TUST Facebook page or call Techenbrock at 444-2262.