Supernaturally Southern: Kentucky Ghost Hunter Calls Lakewood Home
In the tradition of American ghost hunting an apparent tie exists between the civil war and the nation’s most notorious hauntings. Southern places and southern-born writers seem to dominate the scene. Adam Keith comes from this rich history with his birthplace, Louisville, Kentucky situated squarely within its geographic and cultural boundaries. A hobby ghost hunter himself, Keith moved to Lakewood late last year, doing his part to build the pantheon of unique, venerable personalities that give the 'Wood' its distinctive character.
Keith is an introverted man with a gentle, soft-spoken sensibility. His care-free gate and penchant for filtered cigars are characteristically southern. As an ambassador of his birthplace, Keith embodies that famously southern hospitality. It’s not surprising that, given his introversion, he has yet to explore Lakewood beyond the Madison and Detroit Avenue business districts. However, as an observant southern man, he’s keenly aware of the personality distinctions between the two districts. According to Keith, “People are friendlier on Detroit, they say ‘hi’ and smile… not so much on Madison.” Though however friendly Lakewoodites on the Detroit ley line may strike him, in this regard the northern cities do not come close to those of the south, that place that beckons his heart’s return.
But his heart’s desire has drawn him to Lakewood, his sweetheart’s home town. It was love at first site, so to speak. Keith and his girlfriend met online. It happened not through a dating website or craigslist ad, but through a chat room where the two shared common interests. After several years of communication he decided to relocate and shack up in Lakewood’s Madison Village neighborhood near Bela Dubby.
Growing up in Kentucky within the cultural milieu of the modern south has been formative to Keith’s perspective on life, people and the realm of the supernatural. In his earlier years he considered himself a non-believer in the supernatural. As the years passed, Keith became acquainted with the science of ghost hunting through the oral traditions of storytelling and eventually, its popularization through mass media.
When asked what pivotal event captured his interest in the supernatural Keith provided a personal anecdote. “I was pretty much traumatized by my grandmother when I was a kid with horror movies. It started with [Stephen King’s] “It,” she told me it was [about] Bozo the clown to get me to watch it and after that, as I grew older… I started getting into more horror movies,” said Keith with a sarcastic smile. He enjoyed receiving his grandmother’s trickery as much as she enjoyed delivering it. Over time this fascination with the supernatural through mass media would mature into a passion for ghost hunting that, as you will see, engendered communal relationships and technical know-how.
Keith’s initiation into lived supernatural experience took place several years after the passing of his grandfather. Returning home from the late shift during his early twenties he noticed light in his basement. Peering down the stairwell he saw his grandfather, rocking in his favorite chair. “After that something triggered in my head… I know [the ghosts] are there and I want to prove it,” said Keith of the life-changing event.
In the following years Keith began researching the science of ghost hunting. This led him to the Louisville Ghost Hunters (LGH), a local ghost hunting group. Keith’s involvement with the LGH helped to shape his organizational chops while initiating him into the spirit of teamwork needed to complete a successful investigation. With LGH he also learned of the complex array of equipment needed for the work.
Nearly a decade ago Keith spent time in Illinois, where he finished high school before returning to his beloved Louisville. He would later return to Illinois and, with the knowledge and experience gained from the LGH, assist his brother in establishing of a paranormal group there which is active to this day.
Today, a horror movie is hard-pressed to scare Keith. Through the bonds of kinship he has been desensitized by a bad Bozo and the sight a deceased grandfather’s apparition. Several years of ghost hunting experience have added layers of strength to his mantel of skepticism. Donning that mantel, Hollywood’s most tech-savvy, “realistic” imaginations of the supernatural strike him as humorous, at best.
A life of horror films, role playing games, ghost hunting clubs, and personal experience converged and rocked Keith’s psyche into entertaining a new perspective on the paranormal, that of the skeptical believer. As a liberator of more backward, outdated understandings of the ghostly world it’s no surprise that Keith was born under the sign of Aquarius. His personality bears deeply this typological tendency toward rational, objective thought.
For Keith, ghost hunting is a scientific endeavor that has less to do with the self-scaring made so popular with the Blair Witch Project and subsequent reality television programs. Authentic ghost hunting involves time and patience, cold objectivity and scientific exactitude. According to Keith, “Only one out of one hundred cases will actually be real haunts.”
Most alleged haunts end up being projections or imaginations of the self proclaimed victim, no more than symptoms of their own psychosomatic condition powered by imagination. Oftentimes the shadows causing spine tingling terror are nothing more than the dancing of reflected head lamps, the demented sounds of voices merely machines or appliances in need of a tune-up. It is the job of the ghost hunter to disprove, to identify all mundane causes, to separate the psyche of the victim from the natural and supernatural histories and realities of the place.
The research begins with an interview of the witness followed by an historical audit wherein the earliest records of the location are unearthed. Keith looks for documentation of deaths, burial grounds, or tragedies. After preliminary investigations, the site is fitted with EMP (electro-magnetic pulse), video and voice recorders. Because in most cases spooks are active at night, the equipment is set to record for an entire evening. Reviewing this data is painstaking. For the dedicated ghost hunter, the details must be scoured with a fine tooth comb. When the hunter is lucky enough to review that rare one in one-hundred of cases which involves a real haunt, the data can be mind blowing and exhilarating. During his work with the LGH, he captured Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) (also known as ‘spirit talk’) at the Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville. According to Keith, Waverly Hills is an abandoned Tuberculosis hospital and one of the most haunted locations in the world.
While Keith has yet to dig in to the local paranormal scene with actual hunts he has founded the first Paranormal research group on Cleveland’s west side. Dubbed Burning River Paranormal, the group is now organizing online and can be found at www.myspace.com/burningriverparanomal. Because skeptical ghost hunting is a tech and manpower dependent operation of a scientific order, the groups is not yet capitalized or large enough to begin hunting locally. However, Keith looks forward exploring the rich history of Lakewood and the region.Whether romantic love is sufficient to persuade him into greater exploration of and commitment to the community remains to be seen. It is clear that Keith brings to Lakewood’s Madison Village a unique personal history and kindly personality that will only add to the accruing positive developments in that neighborhood and the community beyond.