I met Frank Polievka and Jonathan Ness from AdventureMyths a few years ago when they guested on a Haunted North Carolina investigation at the USS North Carolina in Wilmington. I had no idea who they where. These guys showed up with tons of cameras and equipment — I honestly thought they were with the press! Fortunately, I had the honor of working with them that evening and found their style, dedication, and demeneanor to be impressive.
Frank, Jonathan, and other members of AdventureMyths (Mike Gray, Dusty Cassidy, and Victoria Rickett) do what most paranormal investigators dream of doing: they legend trip and some of the coolest places in America — and abroad — in the pursuit of history, haunts, and folklore. They reveal details about their newest production featuring Historic Jordan Springs in Virginia.
The founders took time to share insights about their unique group.
Deonna Kelli Sayed: You are actual investigators and have been in the field for a while. Tell readers how you become involved with paranormal investigation.
Jonathan Ness: I have always had an interest in the paranormal and had long had a desire to get involved in the investigation side of it. I was a "contestant" in a pilot episode that was being filmed with a paranormal investigation group in the Washington D.C. area some years ago. While the pilot was never picked up, the group noticed my skills and dedication to paranormal investigations. The decision was made to bring me in to the group as a member shortly thereafter. I learned the basics of conducting an investigation while in the police academy and that made it easy for me to learn investigation as a new member to that group.
Frank Polievka: I have always been fascinated with hearing stories of people who allegedly have come into contact, witnessed or experienced some level of paranormal activity. I was working a part-time security detail back in 2003 at Historic Sotterley Mansion in St. Mary's County, M.D. I snapped a photo of what appeared to be an apparition coming down the stairs inside the mansion while on a patrol outside of the house looking in. This photo of the unknown lead me to pursue others that had the same thrill of researching the paranormal.
In 2004 I joined DCMAG, The DC Metropolitan Area Ghost watchers. I worked alongside Al Tyas and traveled to Ireland in 2005 and 2006 with the group to investigate and work with Barry Fitzgerald from Ghost Hunters International.
DCMAG primarily investigated private residences and a few historic locations. While on the second trip to Ireland I got to know Jonathan Ness who at the time was relatively new to the group and we realized we had a lot of the same interests. On our last night in Ireland, Jonathan and I were sitting in front of a fireplace in a 15th century castle with a bottle of rum reflecting over where we had been and what we had done. I shared my thoughts on what I wanted to do and places and things I wanted to explore. To be able to share experiences like the one we just had and preserve myths and legends from all over. The rest is history.
DKS: So AdventureMyths was conceived in Ireland! What is the philosophy behind the group?
JN: We both felt that we had lost our excitement for investigating private residences and we were not truly helping anyone with them. Frank explained how he wanted to be able to have adventures, along with investigations, and share them with the world by creating videos. Frank began to share his idea of creating a group that would explore the myths and legends the world had to offer and document them on film. I was totally hooked on the idea as Frank shared his thoughts about forming a new group under this concept. We both agreed that only PUBLIC locations should be investigated by the new group.
During the remainder of the trip we continued to talk about this new group. On the flight back to Maryland, Frank came up with the name AdventureMyths. After returning home, Frank spent the next few weeks setting the building blocks for AdventureMyths. AdventureMyths officially began in January of 2007 and we have been growing ever since.
FP: Let me elaborate a bit on what Jonathan shared. Every day, somewhere in the world someone visiting a historical property walks through a cold spot, sees what they think is a strange shadow or hears what sounds like a voice off in the distance. Our job is to validate these accounts that so many people from all walks of life experience and preserve them for future generations to experience. In every investigation there is an adventure and in every adventure is a legend waiting to be born, combine them and you have AdventureMyths.
DKS: You told me once that Ghost Adventurers resonates well with what you do. Explain.
JN: I do feel that we have the most in common with them due to the heavy use of video on an investigation. Like them, we tend to have more than one hand held camera recording at all times during an investigation in addition to any static cameras we have recording. Also, they tend to stay away from investigating private residences, much like we decide not to investigate them at all.
DKS: It is interesting that AdventureMyths combines an Indiana Jones-type investigation with media technology and historic preservation. Talk about how AdventureMyths "does history good."
JN: Our objective started as preserving local myths and legends on film, but more often is to preserve haunted history on film. There are so many compelling stories out there that are handed down in local communities around the world but never have the chance to be shared with the rest of the world. We want to share those local legends with the rest of the world to help preserve them.
FP: We offer a unique opportunity to historic locations that are in need of preservation by creating documentaries of personal accounts, paranormal activity and our investigations on film. Once the documentary is completed, we give partial rights back to the owner, board members, trustees, whomever the opportunity to duplicate the DVD for sale at their establishment with all proceeds from their sales going back to the facility. Our objective is to continue to focus on the historic properties in need of preservation. Create a product to give back to the locations allowing us to investigate and support the haunted historic community for years to come.
DKS: What type of unique role do you feel AdventureMyths plays in the community?
JN: I believe that we have the ability to help preserve history not only on film but also help locations stay in operation. So often, a group will go to a historic location to see what evidence they can collect then head off into the sunset to the next location. Our process is to go to a location, explain the history, spend time interviewing those with stories to share and conduct our own objective investigation… all on film. We then create a documentary of that location for distribution on YouTube or as a DVD. Rights are given to the location to use the YouTube video as they see fit to help promote their location to draw in more visitors. For locations that we create DVD documentaries of, rights are given to that location to reproduce and sell the DVD documentary to help raise funds for the location. Since we do not charge any fees to a location and we teach them how to reproduce the DVD with label and case, in house, they can make over $10 for each DVD they sell. Given the state of the economy where more locations are losing funding every day, this is a valuable tool for historic locations to stay in operation.
DKS: I think one unexpected aspect of today's paranormal investigative scene is how much media technology one embraces, either through evidence review or in PR for a group. How did you learn about filming and editing? Was there a steep learning curve?
FP: Back in 2005 I worked on a project with Puritano Media Group for a ghost pilot called The Haunteds. It was during that project I worked with Dave Constine who was the chief videographer and producer for the project. I learned from looking over Dave's shoulder while Dave filmed and edited to create and produce the pilot. I began to pursue my own education on filming and editing with different software and cameras I learned on Windows that was the first platform until I graduated to Pinnacle Studio and now currently work with Avid. I have worked on Final Cut Pro on the Mac and find the Avid software platform a lot more user-friendly and just as dynamic as Final Cut. Over the years I have become my own teacher and my own student learning from my own mistakes and constantly reading, learning and absorbing from all facets of the film world constantly trying to pursue and isolate my own creativity to be unique and different than any other source available.
DKS: I know that you also conduct experimental research. Share some of your projects.
JN: One thing we try to do is take the human interference factor out of EVP sessions. We have worked with recording EVP questions then playing them back at the investigation location as a second recorder is recording. We wanted to work with this to try and take out the risk of people inadvertently moving or having sensitive recorders pick up sounds like stomachs "growling" to later be interpreted as something paranormal. This process has grown to where we now use what we call the "ghost communicator." This is a two-way device that allows us to be at a neutral location and ask EVP questions while monitoring for any sound or responses at the target investigation location. With this device, we are also able to monitor the temperature of the investigation location as well as set the unit to alert us by vibrating if sound is detected in the investigation location. The unit that is left in the investigation location has a blue light on it that can be controlled from the neutral location as a possible attraction device for any spirits in the investigation location. Of course, at least one camera is left to record the target investigation location as well.
FP: One of my favorite experiments is what I call "Going Dark" – you've experienced this with us, Deonna, at the USS Carolina.
DKS: I write about that in my book, Paranormal Obsession.
FP: "Going Dark" is basically when you turn off all of your recording devices and have nothing running at all. When its pitch dark and you're in what YOU believe is a haunted environment your perception of what's around you intensifies considerable. We like to bring in a third party to the experiment that is not part of our group and that individual becomes our human recorder. Recently on an investigation at Historic Jordan Springs, Jonathan and I experienced an intense energy experience in the billiards room by "Going Dark." The uniqueness of this experiment is we could actually feel the energy in the room and experience it move when we got close to it. We both experienced goose bumps in 85 degree heat? It was a powerful feeling that stayed with us for several minutes as we pursued it from one room to the adjoining room. It was as if the spirit or energy mass could not leave the room. Sometimes I think investigators depend on electronic equipment a little too much and not enough time on their own abilities to sense what's all around them.
DKS: You anticipated my next question: Historic Jordan Springs. Explain why this particular project is significant.
JN: Not only have we collected some fantastic evidence there, as has Shenandoah Shadows, but I truly believe Historic Jordan Springs (HJS) in Virginia is the next paranormal "hot spot destination." Just as people will travel to investigate Waverly or Eastern State Penitentiary, I feel HJS will one day soon be one of these "must investigate" locations. I have no doubt that the popular paranormal televisions shows will want to work with HJS in the near future.
FP: The Haunts of Historic Jordan Springs was a very exciting project to work on. We basically sat down with the client back in October of 2010 and explained what we believed we could do for them. They are not in need of preservation as the facility is maintained by events and space rented by public and private entities, however because of the paranormal activity captured there the owners wanted to create a marketing video to help promote the paranormal side of the location.
We basically explained what we had in mind an in early July of this year the project was completed. I think by far this project was some of the best filming Jonathan has done and the best editing I have done so far. As of early August of 2011 a network has viewed the documentary and was inspired to create an episode about Historic Jordan Springs. This episode has been filmed and is currently in production for a fall of 2011 release.
DKS: What are future plans for AdventureMyths?
JN: To keep doing this hobby that we love to do! I want to see the group continue to work with fantastic historic locations and try to help them as much as we possibly can. Currently, we are very busy getting ready to travel from the Washington D.C. area to Lexington, Kentucky to take part in ScareFest, September 23-25. We will have a booth there, give a presentation on "Preserving Haunted History on Film" and possibly have our latest documentary screened. I am confident that opportunities for 2012 will come along as a result of ScareFest.
DKS: Does AdventureMyths have a dream location?
JN: For me, any place with a historic building and an intriguing legend of being haunted! Being located in another country is a bonus.
FP: The White House…still working on making this a reality!