The Valdosta Daily Times
If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who are you going to call? Well, you would probably call the police. But if it is something strange and it won’t look good, then you may want to call Philip Hitchner Jr. and the Cross the Line Paranormal investigators.
“If people feel like something is going on, we can either prove to them that there isn’t anything going on and relieve some fears or maybe their house really is haunted,” said Hitchner.
Hitchner’s interest in the mysteries of the afterlife began at his childhood home near Valdosta High School when he was 18. His grandfather was stricken with cancer and had moved into the house for care. It was after his passing that Hitchner came into close contact with the beyond.
“My grandfather died a little over 20 years ago. He died in my room on my bed. I was a teenager at the time, and I was kind of weirded out by it. But one day about two months after he passed, I walked into my room, and he was just sitting on my bed. He
didn’t look at me. He just sat there for a few moments then disappeared into thin air,” said Hitchner, “I haven’t seen him again since then.”
Hitchner never told his parents about the incident and refused to sleep in his bed anymore. That fear eventually gave way to curiosity, and as an adult he became very interested in learning more about paranormal phenomena. Despite his willingness to accept the unexplainable, Hitchner is still very skeptical.
“I would watch the supernatural shows on TV and always wondered if they were faking it,” said Hitchner.
That skepticism has led him to investigate incidents for himself. When Hitchner arrives at the scene of a potential haunting, he brings with him an array of tools to detect and measure paranormal activity.
“We’ll go in to a location and do EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) sessions with an audio recorder and a speaker for playback. We’ll ask questions like, ‘Do you know that you’re dead?’ and then listen for a response on the recording. We even asked one time, ‘What is your favorite ice cream?” said Hitchner. “When we played the audio back we heard ‘chocolate.’”
Hitchner also uses a digital thermometer to pinpoint areas of drastic temperature drops because he believes that could indicate the presence of a spirit.
He also uses an electromagnetic field meter.
“Your body has its own electromagnetic field. When you die, sometimes there is energy left over,” said Hitchner. “A lot of the time we will go into these places that do not have any electricity in the building, and the lights on the meter will go off after we ask a spirit to walk in front of it.”
The equipment is designed to capture evidence of other-worldly activity, but Hitchner believes not everything is proof.
“We had cameras in the attic at the old Vito’s restaurant on Ashley Street, and we kept seeing a head on the screen of the monitor. So, we got excited and ran up stairs,” said Hitchner, “when we got up there it was a cat. Not everything is haunted.”
One of the most common calls Hitchner gets is about photographs of what he calls “orbs.” People who suspect they are being haunted will show him a picture with a glowing orb floating next to a loved one, and he has a very simple explanation for it.
“It’s just the flash reflecting off the dust in the air,” said Hitchner, “Sometimes people want to believe they have something in their house, and they just don’t.”
Having a sense of humor about the afterlife may seem strange, but it may be a necessity when dealing with potentially terrifying situations.
“We went to a nearby jail where they have the noose from when they used to hang people. We were doing an EVP session, and I walked by where the noose dropped. Something grabbed my neck and growled. It was like a mix between a moan and a growl,” said Hitchner.
Most people would be scarred for life after an experience like that, but Hitchner still has the drive to keep investigating.
“It’s all about not knowing and trying to get answers of what it might actually be,” said Hitchner.
He describes himself as a born-again Christian and believes that when a person dies they either go to heaven or hell.
“But I also believe there are things that God hasn’t disclosed. There are things we don’t know and are not meant to know. I investigate, but I’ll never know why these things are happening,” said Hitchner. “The paranormal field will be in the same place 20 years from now as it is now.”
Cross the Line Paranormal is giving people the opportunity to investigate for themselves during a series of nighttime events at the old Smith Hospital building in Hahira Oct. 18, 19 and 25, 26. Participants will conduct EVP sessions and other investigations while they tour the hospital, including the facility’s padded room. Information can be found on the group’s Facebook page.
The cost for the event is $15 and an open mind.
“If you don’t believe, you don’t believe. But when something talks to you or something touches you, there is no disputing that,” said Hitchner.