From the time she was a young girl, Atena Komar felt connected to a world of which other people seemed unaware.
“I’ve always had a mystical part of my life,” Komar says. “My godfather told me that when I was a kid, I used to talk about his woman in all white talking to me. As an adult, I didn’t remember that — he told me about it later. He was a religious man, and he could tell that whatever it was, it wasn’t something evil. He thought it was the Virgin Mary, because he was religious and that is how he chose to interpret it.”
Instead, Komar chooses to interpret the lady in white as one of several spirit guides, with whom she interacts on a regular basis. When she heard tales of her childhood observations, she wasn’t surprised.
“People cut themselves off from a multi-dimensional world.” — LPI Psychic and co-founder Atena Komar
“One of my spirit guides is a lady in all white,” Komar says. “I work with her frequently. I’ve had her for my whole life, but it’s only been the past few years that I really noticed her.”
Komar has been a working psychic in Miami for eight years. She began becoming away of her gifts after several classes in the paranormal.
“My boyfriend took me to a pizza place that he really wanted me to try out,” she says. “Afterward he asked me how I liked it. I told him it was good but that the lady sitting in the corner of the place really creeped me out. He told me that there was no lady in the corner.”
The way Komar sees it, she is hardly alone when it comes to possessing extrasensory or psychic perceptions.
“I believe everyone on earth has some level of psychic ability — but most people close it off because [it doesn't fit into their perception of reality],” she says. “People cut themselves off from a multi-dimensional world.”
Komar has a multi-dimensional world in the material plane herself. She is an artist and jewelry maker when not doing one day a week psychic readings for Miami shoppers.
However, Komar is also part of a special team of psychic and scientific explorers and is one of the founders of that team. Along with her cohorts, she helps make up the roster of the League of Paranormal Investigators (LPI).
But, hold the capes and cowls, please.
To date, LPI has investigated a whopping total of 66 sites. Some of those have been famously “haunted” places. Most often, however, they have investigated homes of private citizens who have reported paranormal activity.
According to LPI President and Research Director Ed de Jong, the organization was founded by a group of friends who had previously been involved with similar groups around Florida.
“We do it for fun and because it’s interesting,” de Jong says. He says that one of the early inspirations was he and friends being intrigued by ghost tours.
LPI was officially founded in February 2008 by de Jong, Komar and two other friends. Today he says the group includes 24 ad hoc member who volunteer for the group’s work — and that in addition to Miami, they have functioning groups in the Netherlands and in Louisiana.
“We’re getting calls from people who want to volunteer all of the time,” de Jong says. “We turn away a lot of people. Our investigators have to be very secure and we have to really trust them.”
De Jong clearly asserts that his not a psychic or medium, although his girlfriend and fellow volunteer is. Instead, he is the science end of the team. With a background in science, de Jong has a career in high-tech computer security. His interest is the scientific, data collection end of the group’s investigations and he has spent a good deal of his own money on equipment as well as written specific programs for LPI’s use.
Despite being the face of the science side of LPI, de Jong says that critics aren’t hard to find — even right around him.
“That would be everyone in my family,” he says. “They are religious and they think this all has to do with the devil. We run into people all the time who think we’re crazy and who don’t believe in what we do. We respect their opinions.”
Komar says that she doesn’t feel it is the group’s role to change minds.
“Our job is not to convince people,” Komar says.
De Jong says that it is difficult for many people to divorce rational exploration of the paranormal from religion and dogma.
“The religious aspect comes in when it comes to naming things,” he says. “For example, a Catholic might refer to a negative energy as a ‘demon.’ In our practice we respect people’s rights to believe as they choose. We will use their terminology to explain what we can.”
Of course, de Jong says, they have never run into a “demon” as a group to date.
In the past, investigation of the paranormal was considered at best, a pseudo-science; one in which there was no set of absolute rules, control groups or even adequate technology to even begin to grasp the field’s fundamentals. It was also usually considered taboo to the religious and, frankly, hokey to most other people.
Today, Komar says, it is considered an “emerging science.” She rightly points to the preponderance of loosely scientific based television programs featuring ghost hunters and their use of scientific equipment in their work.
“There’s no doubt that people are more open-minded today than in the past,” Komar says. “We just want to learn and to understand. Until people have their own experience, they won’t understand. Even sometimes when people are presented with hard proof — they won’t believe it. We just want to show evidence and to try and find answers.”
De Jong says that the work that LPI has done and the work the members have done individually, demonstrates one certain thing.
“We know [paranormal entities] exist,” he says. “We respect the opinions of other people. But we have also had a number of cynics who changed their minds when they have been presented with real evidence.”
LPI asserts that each of its members brings certain talents to the mix, blending scientific with psychic.
“We have data loggers, we look at the data and interpret it,” de Jong says. “It’s all a pseudo scientific setting and it is hard to get beyond that because it doesn’t work on command and it’s not something that can be reproduced.”
Psychics involved with LPI provide the context, Komar explains. While scientific data — derived from sources such as infrared cameras, digital recorders, cameras, electronic meters and even dowsing rods — is useful and necessary; the sensitives attached to each investigative team can help translate that data into understanding to clients.
To their credit, LPI has in place very detailed guidelines and structure for their work.
Once the League has been contacted by a client, a Case Manager or Team Lead, acting as the liaison between client and team members, begins preparing for the investigation. The client will be asked to fill out a questionnaire which asks for details about the location and its paranormal activity
Another member of the team, the Research Manager, then performs a very detailed background check on the location; this information will be stored in a special case file. In addition to background details, the case file contains an historic timeline, all relevant information about the location, and any pertinent information about current and/or past residents. This research, which begins with an internet search, often leads the Research Manager to visit public libraries, cemeteries, and courts in order to find even more information.
As the background case file is being compiled, the Team Leader assembles a team of paranormal investigators. This investigative team is based on experience, training, availability, size of the location, and special requests from the client. The duration of the initial investigation ranges from one to six hours depending on the size and first hand experiences from the psychics on the team. The goal is to investigate the property thoroughly; this often requires a follow up investigation.
Only the Team Leader and Research Manager are informed about the possible activity and the background of the location. All other investigators are not informed about the investigation site until an hour before the investigation begins. This will prevent any contamination before the investigation starts.
LPI asserts that its team of psychics is extremely useful with pointing out the hotspots of psychic activity and with relaying psychic impressions. When it comes to analyzing the evidence, the scientifically collected data will determine if a location is haunted or if it houses a certain amount of paranormal activity.
LPI’s scientific method consists of collecting data, such as temperature and EMF readings with handheld devices, during an investigation. Digital cameras, voice recorders and infra-red cameras are also used to collect physical evidence. A special designed software program called Ghost Lab is used to collect as much data possible during the investigation. This program collects temperature, magnetic field, humidity, vibration, and motion. During collection of information, the program will also analyze the incoming data for rapid sensor changes and motion detection. All facts will be stored in a database so that a meta-analysis research project can be conducted at a later date.
Immediately after the investigation and while still on site, all investigators turn in collected evidence and fill out an initial investigation report. Within 48 hours after the investigation, a detailed report containing personal experiences and findings is submitted to the Team Leader by each team member. A final report will be completed and presented to the client.
The combination of information gathered by psychics, investigators, skeptic investigators, and scientifically collected data will determine if a location is haunted or not.
To date, LPI has investigated a whopping total of 66 sites. Some of those have been famously “haunted” places such as Pinewood Cemetery, Deering Estate, Wagner Homestead and Fort Dallas in downtown Miami.
Most often, however, they have investigated homes of private citizens who have reported paranormal activity.
“There are many different reasons why people contact us,” de Jong says. “Sometimes they just want an answer or an explanation. Other times they just want to know they aren’t going crazy. Sometimes other family members are calling them crazy. We try to provide explanations.”
Most often, by the time a private resident has gotten to the point where he or she is calling in professionals, there is a presence to be found in the house.
“For them calling us in is a very emotional experience so when they get to that point, there is something going on,” de Jong says. “In only a small percentage of cases do we then find nothing — maybe five percent.”
LPI’s private clients are notably — and perhaps understandably — not eager to speak out publicly about their experiences. However, anonymous case file information, complete with multimedia presentations are posted on the League’s website.
Most often, according to both LPI members and data from their case files, energies or spirits inhabiting homes are relatively harmless. Apparently the majority of the “hauntings” that they have investigated derive from spirits attached to the current residents of homes — deceased relatives, friends and ancestors.
“Usually if an energy is attached to a person its because that person has somehow invited it,” Komar says. “It’s not as easy as a cleansing or something. People have to change their life. Or else in some cases, it’s just grandma and there is nothing to worry about.”
Komar’s own sensitivity is “clair-sentient” than clairvoyant, she explains. Information and perceptions present themselves to her as fully-formed memories — but not her own.
“Some people are clairvoyant — they see things,” she says. “For me, that happens only very occasionally. Frankly I’d rather nor see things, because that would creep me out.”
Instead, Komar says, she becomes aware of what an entity is trying to communicate.
“One client had a friend who passed away right after they had an argument,” Komar recalls. “Even though the spirit had started jumping on the client’s bed, the two would just not notice each other. From the minute I walked in the door, the spirit grabbed my hand as if leading me to safety. It had an intense, deep need to get a message [to the client]. It was all about getting some closure.”
“This one time recently at a client’s home, these spirits didn’t want to scare anyone,” Komar says. “They were acting like teenagers just messing around. They left as soon as I got there. It was like, ‘oops, we got caught,’ and it was over.”
Although she has experienced negative energies a number of times, Komar says she has only once entered a home where she could feel the clear presence of true evil.
“I’d experienced angry and upset spirits before — but not pure evil until then,” she says. Komar does not know how that situation was resolved as it took place with a group she was involved with prior to the founding of LPI.
As a rule, de Jong says, LPI provides data to support an explanation to private resident clients; and then it is up to the resident to decide what to do about it. More often than not, just the confirmation of the presence of a paranormal energy is all a client desires.
When a client wants more — basically some sort of psychic or religious service to exorcise a spirit, LPI will help the client connect with other professionals, but they will not get involved with dismissing spirits as a group.
“We know some people outside the organization,” de Jong says. “We don’t do that.”
De Jong says that some services to cleanse a home of paranormal entities cost money; some do not. LPI does not get involved in charging for services at all and thus completely avoids those entanglements.
Independent professionals with no relationship with LPI believe the group’s entirely volunteer efforts, lack of commercial activity and scientific approach to their work lends them credibility in a field not necessarily rich with it.
Practicing psychologist Dr. Jenna Bradford says that if a client came to her discussing perceived paranormal activity at home, her first reaction would be the obvious.
“My initial thinking would be that whatever a person thought she was experiencing was an extension of her own emotional and cognitive state,” Bradford says. “If she then told me that she had brought in paranormal investigators and was paying them or was going to be charged with anything, I would be concerned.”
“I’m in no way a believer in paranormal activity just because it is something that can not be quantified or explored in a hard-science way,” she says.
“However people believe as they want to believe and if they aren’t being exploited somehow, there is nothing wrong with that. I also think scientists, including professionals in psychology and psychiatry, make the mistake frequently of believing that, as a species, we have it all figured out. All you have to do is have been in love to know that science can’t calculate and explain everything.”
Bradford says that she has had clients who discussed the presence of spirits — even of demons. But through therapy, those people have been helped: helped to the point where the alleged presence “suddenly disappeared.”
“There are also a number of medical and mental conditions that very much present the exact same symptoms and behavior associated with things like possession and hauntings — from legitimate psychosis to Munchausen by proxy for example,” Bradford says. “We’re taught that the origin of belief in things like demonic possession are really the result of lack of understanding of the full range of psychological and psychiatric conditions.”
Still, Bradford says that she would never discuss with a client in a therapeutic session that client’s visiting a psychic, fortune teller or other type of spiritualist.
“Unless there is some type of dysfunction or exploitation associated with the habit, there is no valid reason to do that,” she says. “Any doctor or scientist who claims to know the answer to everything is being dishonest.”
LPI members don’t claim to have answers either. Instead its the trying to understand that propels them.
“In human history, it takes years and years to learn new things,” Komar says. “People didn’t believe in electromagnetic energy for the longest time. Now we have magnets on our refrigerators. We would like to help find ways to merge this emerging science with existing science.”
Of course, for LPI members, their work also has lighter elements.
“Hey, we take road trips with friends,” de Jong says. “It’s fun.”
In the meantime, the League of Paranormal Investigators are on the job in South Florida. And they ain’t afraid of no ghost.
For contact information and details on LPI, visit www.leagueofparanormalinvestigators.com.