Paranormal investigations can be dangerous, typically involving several hours of boredom punctuated by a few fleeting seconds of terror.
For eight years, the team of Tree Exorcists Inc. has been waiting through those agonizing hours. Patiently.
“We know they’re there,” says lead investigator Gunther Larson. “Because we’ve heard the stories.”
In recent years, Tree Exorcists has saved an increasing number of businesses and families plagued by an unusual type of phantom that some in the field have yet to accept: common paper haunted by dead trees.
“There’s a lot more haunted paper out there than you might think,” explains Larson, who founded the organization with his wife, Bonnie, in 2009. “It’s everywhere. We in the industry believe that 40 percent of all desk drawers and filing cabinets in this country—and likely around the world—contain some degree of compromised paper.”
In fact, they have so many customers that last year they hired another investigator, Chet Manchery. Intern Karen McReddy rounds out the crew and drives the van.
The team offers proof in the form of suspicious paper their customers have captured on audio and video, as well as in personal testimony. Once, an IT professional in a major corporate office told them he set a piece of paper on his desk, and then felt the hair on the back of his neck rise when he returned in the afternoon to find it in a slightly different position. Another time, they interviewed a housewife in suburban Indianapolis on video who became frustrated trying to turn the pages of her book, but the pages separated only after licking her fingertips twice. “It was like it was fighting against me,” she says, her voice quavering.
While skeptics may scoff, there’s no question Tree Exorcists Inc. provides real relief to victims whose common paper products are clearly possessed by dark powers of the forest.
“I had nowhere else to go,” says tax accountant Ernest Thompson, who two months ago encountered a piece of white 8½ by 11-inch paper that he could not explain. “There may have been wind involved, I’m not certain. But it flew off my table and onto the floor, just like a ghost would.”
“Trees may be a renewable resource, but their souls are not,” explains McReddy, who’s writing her doctoral thesis on tree-spirits that speak through paper. “When a tree is cut down, it suffers a violent death at the hands of intense gnashing and sawing, the pain of which those of us who are not trees can scarcely imagine. They are angry in death, and the force of their anger lives on in the paper.”
Manchery, an experienced investigator who spent years fighting demon-possessed pencils, is a former fix-it man with an eye for the supernatural. He’s in charge of the team’s special gear, including paper-motion detectors, night-vision goggles and a specially modified scanner that he says reveals a glowing green aura around suspect sheets of paper.
It all began as a personal quest for founder Larson, who was nearly killed by haunted paper several years ago. While working at an office supply store, twelve crates of printer paper fell off a forklift without explanation, nearly crushing him.
“I was determined to learn the reason why the trees wanted to take me,” he says. But instead of turning his anger into bitterness and a quest for revenge, he decided to help people.
The team’s most recent investigation is documented on their Facebook page, where they’ve posted a video of a piece of legal-sized paper they say is haunted by as many as ten different tree ghosts. Shot in green, pixelated night-vision over a period of seven hours, the paper, lying still on a desktop, seems to emanate with a strange energy.
“With our extremely sensitive microphone, we can hear a distinct rustling,” Larson says, attributing the sound to the cries of a thousand tortured trees in a nearby paper factory.
With late nights and payment only if they deliver results, Larson says that exorcising paper is far from glamorous.
“Most of the time it’s a false alarm,” he says. “Every time someone gets a paper cut or a newspaper blows around in front of an open window, they call me.” It can get tiring, he says, explaining to frightened people that their paper is fine. But, he cautions, “every once in a while it’s the real deal—the paper is evil.”
And in those cases, Larson says, the only recourse is to crumple it up and throw it away.