James Myers is a sergeant with the Bridgeport Police Department with a strong interest in both photography and the paranormal. (See his Flickr portfolio.) As a result, it was only a matter of time before he met up with Lorraine Warren and began to investigate paranormal cases using his police background.
Myers subsequently founded 826 Paranormal, a unique paranormal investigative unit comprised of current and retired law enforcement officers who “use our law enforcement training and experience to investigate and resolve [paranormal] issues on a daily basis.”
Recently, Jim was kind enough to take time to chat with Damned Connecticut.
Damned Connecticut: So how did you go from investigating crime to investigating the paranormal?
James Myers: Actually, it has been a long-time thing with me as far as the photography end of it. I started back in high school, probably around 1986. I started getting into the photography of urban decay and abandoned buildings, and I kept doing throughout college. I went to Chamberlain School of Design in Boston and then I went to Paier College of Art, so I was always into the art part of it.
When I got onto the police force, I got to see a lot of the historical sites that a lot of people wouldn’t normally get to see being a regular civilian. But since I have to search a lot of these buildings to make sure there aren’t any squatters or vandals or anything, along with the art part of it — I was always into the historical part — I started taking more and more pictures.
People started making comments about my photos that were posted on Flickr, and when I started checking out what they were saying, they were saying, “Hey, you got some weird images on your pictures.” And I said, “Well, it’s probably dust or whatever.” And then they said, “Well, you probably want to look into it a little bit more.” They then started describing the difference between the dust and the orbs, the difference between light reflections and how things reflect off of different surfaces. Then they asked what camera settings I used, so I told them that I do a lot of the stuff without having any flash on at because it gives better resolution. And they were like, “Well even more so, you should check into it.”
So then I was on a prisoner watch with my partner up at St. Vincent’s Hospital and I saw this older lady get wheeled by me and I said, “Gosh, she looks really familiar,” and my partner said, “Ahhh, whatever.” I said, “I know this lady from somewhere.” Then I heard someone say, “Lorraine Warren.” So I said, “Oh my god, my grandparents have been talking about her for years. I gotta meet her!” So I went to the security guard and asked him, “Hey, do you know if that was Lorraine Warren?” And he said, “Oh yeah. When Ed was here with his illness, we became really close. Do you want to meet her?” And I was like, “Yeah, sure!”
It just so happened there was nobody with her at the time so we went in. When I walked in, it was weird because she looked at me — and on my uniform, all it says is “J. Myers,” it doesn’t say Jimmy — and she was like, “Hey Jimmy, how are you?” I looked at the security guard thinking maybe his name was Jimmy — well his name isn’t Jimmy, it’s John. So that kind of freaked me out. We got into talking about the whole Flickr thing and she looked at a bunch of my pictures, then the next thing you know, we were meeting for lunch and discussing all the paranormal stuff. She got me more and more into it and started training me in what to look for.
The thing Lorraine liked about my observations is that I looked at it from the standpoint of a cop. The standpoint of a cop is that I’m used to seeing things that are strange. The ordinary person going into a dark scary building . . . to me, that’s an everyday thing as a cop. She liked that I was very skeptical and that I was able to pick apart various aspects of it all, and that I had a background in photography. She knew the methodology that I used in police work, and applied that to the paranormal. She then started taking me on cases, and then, started sending me on cases on my own. That’s pretty much how it all began.
Damned Connecticut: How long have you been a police officer?
James Myers: I am going on my thirteenth year.
Damned Connecticut: How has your police training affected your research into the paranormal?
James Myers: It works pretty much parallel to the paranormal. You have to take everything for what it is at face value. You have to think about the negative first, and then if you eliminate everything else and you come up with something at the end, then you look into that even further. As for as police work goes, you have to build your case up to a certain amount of probable cause. Well, that’s the same thing with the paranormal. You have to work you way up to a point where you say, “Well, maybe it is something.” Before that, you have to look at “Well, this is what it could be. It might not be anything paranormal, it might actually be something natural and explainable.” It’s all in the method of training and experience to do the job.
A lot of it doesn’t come from the books, and a lot of it doesn’t come from the training at the academy, it comes from street time and learning how to read people, how to actually interview people. There are a lot of people out there just looking for attention, and we get a lot of cases like that in police work. There’s a lot of people in the paranormal who do the same thing.
Damned Connecticut: So there’s a lot of crossover skills — interviewing, investigating . . .
James Myers: Oh, absolutely. I almost say it’s like an interrogation when I interview people [regarding the paranormal] because I’m pretty thorough and I take it from the point of view of a cop. I don’t consider myself a paranormal investigator. I consider myself a police officer who investigates the paranormal. It’s definitely a crossover between the two.
Damned Connecticut: I’ve seen your story in the Connecticut Post and you have your website — you’ve been very public about what you do. What’s your reaction from your fellow officers?
James Myers: Well, at first they thought I was crazy. [He laughs.] Well, in public they thought I was. But it was funny, as soon as everything started hitting the public eye and there was more and more media attention, it was strange how I was getting phone calls from these same cops behind the scenes and they were saying, “Hey listen, when I was a kid I had this situation . . .” or “I live in this house and there’s a possibility that there’s something going on there, could you take a look or tell me what you think of the whole situation.”
The reaction then turned over to where I had a lot of cops who wanted to get involved in it and that’s how the East Coast Paranormal Police started. We now have 36 members who are all in emergency services — most of them are police officers, fire fighters, EMTs . . . we have a variety. We have canine search and rescue. We have a good variety of people.
Damned Connecticut: Let’s talk a little bit about 826 Paranormal. What’s the 826?
James Myers: That’s my badge number.
Damned Connecticut: How long ago did you start the group?
James Myers: The group started in 2007-08. Like I said, the cops became very interested, and then you had a lot of them who were interested in just the camera when there was interested in possibly doing a TV show about it. Then I had to start to weeding through [applicants]. Some guys were really serious about it while other guys where in it for the thrill-seeking. I wasn’t really interested in having the thrill-seekers out there. I just wanted people who were interested in what I was interested in as far as the historical interest, the photography end of it and trying to get to the bottom of different cases with evidential value and not saying, “Oh, everything is haunted,” because not everything is haunted.
Damned Connecticut: Funny you should say that — the longer we’ve been doing Damned Connecticut and the more people we talk to, when you first start going through places, everyone swears that every place is haunted, but when you start looking at cases closer and closer, much of it seem rather thin.
James Myers: Oh yeah. I always fall back upon and remember that it was on the “The Ghost Hunters” where a guy had everything rigged up to all these mechanical devices. Of course, there are restaurants out there who would love for us to come in and say, “Hey listen, you guys are haunted,” because the next thing you know, you have lines out the door because people want to be part of the whole paranormal experience, especially with it being so popular right now.
Damned Connecticut: Again, it’s funny you should say that. I recently was talking with an archaeologist, and he was saying how a lot of the historical societies and people who run historical graveyards, after years of trying to keep the paranormal community out, are now begging people to come in and investigate because they want someone to say, “Oh, this place has paranormal activity” and people will come and check them out.
James Myers: Yeah, a lot of places — the cemeteries, too. It draws attention to the cemetery — Union Cemetery up in Easton, I know they don’t appreciate it much in terms of having the trespassers at night. But as far as putting them on the map, that cemetery is infamous, worldwide. It also draws attention to the historical values of each of the cemeteries. We had one historical cemetery right across from Remington Arms, St. Augustine’s Cemetery, and it wasn’t being taken care of, there was graffiti all over the place and it was an eyesore. Then after a little bit of attention got drawn to it — someone did a paper or wrote a book about the historical value of St. Augustine Cemetery, and now the cemetery looks really really good.
Sometimes it brings positive attention to different sites, and then sometimes you have the negatives. If you have a site that’s been on TV, then all of a sudden you can get break-ins, the trespassers and then, the thrill-seekers. If you don’t know the lay of the land and you don’t really know what you’re doing in terms of searching a building, there’s a lot of these places that you can really get hurt in. Remington for one — you can really get hurt in there.
Damned Connecticut: We went by Remington Arms about a year ago — we didn’t go in, just took some pictures from outside the fence, and I was like, “You couldn’t pay me to go inside that place!” Not because I’m afraid of anything supernatural, but because that place looks like it’s ready to come down on your head!
James Myers: Yeah. Structurally, most of that area is pretty sound except where there’s been fire and whatever. However, there’s a lot of stuff that’s laying around, there are things hanging off the walls and it’s just not safe for a person who isn’t trained to go into a building and clear a building or isn’t with someone who has been in the building before. Of course, we’re trained to search out the buildings, and that comes big into play with our investigative tools. We have one guy who is part of the S.W.A.T. team — we use him to clear the buildings in the beginning. We go with him, of course, because before the S.W.A.T. team, we were the S.W.A.T. team and we would clear out the buildings. We have our techniques for doing things, and most of it falls on training and experience doing things and not through book knowledge.
Damned Connecticut: Remington Arms seems like a place where you should have all your tetanus shots before you go there.
James Myers: [He laughs.] If you saw the “Ghost Adventures” episode, someone — I think it was Nick — got a nail through his shoe, and that was in the light out in the open. Ever since the fires, it’s not the safest place to be in. There are a lot of areas where, if you’re walking around at night, there are these open manholes where you can fall like eight feet and never be found again! It’s just not a safe place for a person to go unless they’re with a person who knows the lay of the land or if they’re trained in searching out buildings.
Damned Connecticut: How many investigations do your team do? Do you do one a month, a couple a year? Do you have a schedule?
James Myers: Me, I go on sporadic investigations. It’s kind of like if I have time and I’m not working or it’s slow at work and I can take some time off, I’ll go to like five or six places in a matter of a week. I’ll do my end of the investigation, and if I see anything that needs to be checked into further, then I’ll send my team in there. Usually, I’ll go in and do the photography stuff first, and if I don’t see anything that really needs to be checked out, or if I do find things that I need answers about, I’ll consult with Lorraine. Her and Tony [Spera] have been a big help with the whole team. If I have any questions on any of the cases, they help out. So it’s been good, really good.
Damned Connecticut: When you go on an investigation, how many members go with you as a team? It sounds like you go in different groups.
James Myers: It all depends. Like I said, I’ll do the photography end of it and if I find a spot that’s very interesting and think it deserves more attention, then I’ll e-mail all the guys from the team — we have different schedules at the police department — and it’s a matter of getting who we can on certain days or at certain times. With our tech guy, any time I call for him, he’s right on it and he’s very good. He can wire up a place in like 40 minutes. It can be a really big place, doesn’t matter. He’s really good.
Damned Connecticut: Talking about tech stuff — what type of camera do you use?
James Myers: I use a Nikon D60. I carry around . . . I don’t even know what I’m carrying right now, let me check what camera I have in my pocket. I always have a camera with me. Always. Okay, this one is a Sony Cyber-shot, and it’s 12.1 megapixel. It’s small, you keep it right in your pocket, and if you see something you want to investigate further, it’s there. Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of occult stuff, so it’s good to have it, just for evidential value.
Certain times of the days you see certain things with your eyes, but as far as photography goes, you can only capture that moment if you have the camera with you. That’s why I carry it with me everywhere.
Damned Connecticut: One you thing you talked about earlier I wanted to go back to — dust verse orbs. I mean, what is the difference between the two?
James Myers: When you’re actually shooting . . . . I’ll give you an example, like in the Poli Palace [in Bridgeport]. It’s my baby. [He laughs.] It’s been closed since 1971. It’s connected to the Savoy Hotel and the Majestic Theater. The Poli Palace is 3,624 seats while the other one is like 2,600 seats, and the hotel has like 150 rooms. Now when you go in there and you have a flashlight, and you put the flashlight straight up, you can see the dust. It’s like snow.
When you capture stuff on the camera, if it’s a piece to the side and it’s separated from everything else, and it has a certain shape and a certain color to it, you can eliminate it, like maybe it was a bug or something, which there’s not many bugs in there. The dust is more of a granular particle while the orb is more shaped and has a little bit of a distinct color to it. Not all orbs have the colors, but there are some that are just the white. You can pretty much distinguish between the two by just the shape of it and what’s around it. If it’s pretty much separated from everything else, you can tell.
Damned Connecticut: Are there any particular cases that stick out? You’ve talked about the hotel you were at.
James Myers: Yeah, we’ve had a couple different experiences at the hotel. The hotel was supposedly a hot spot for a mobster back during the Prohibition Era. It was Dutch Schultz who was hiding from the Feds over at the Stratfield Hotel, which is right across the street from the theaters. He was running the alcohol illegally from a house on Harriet Street. He was running it back and forth to the hotel and to the theaters. Some people say that he’s supposedly behind some of the voices we get, but I keep telling everybody that the voices we’re getting are female voices.
We also had a historian tell us that the theaters, before they were built, was a business there, and before that was built, when they were excavating the land, they found Indian remains and artifacts there, so he thinks with the Golden Hill Paugussetts, who have their main tribal area about two blocks up the street, it’s a good possibility that it was a burial ground. Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer for that. I mean, with the layout of the land and all the excavation that has been done over there, it’s hard to know for sure.
Damned Connecticut: Other than Remington Arms, are there other places in Bridgeport that you would consider to be active spots?
James Myers: I didn’t even answer your question on the last one. In the theaters, when we were up, I think on the second floor in the hotel, they had picked up on a little girl’s voice. They were using a regular digital recorder. They called me up and said, “Hey listen, we think we’ve got something up here.” We were playing it back and [they] were asking if there was anyone up there — “This is a recorder, just say hello.” As soon as they said, “Hello,” you heard a little girl in a very soft voice say, “Hello.” It was like “Hello!” So they shared that with me and I was impressed with that. We also had the people from Ghost Chat New England, they had an enhancement on the audio — it’s like a Miracle Ear — and they picked up on a female voice in there also.
We’ve had experiences where we’ve had people say that they felt like something was touching them up there. We have numerous photos of some really, really strange things. We had one photo of what I would say looked like it was a developing entity. If the person had taken more photographs, they might’ve gotten something very good.
Damned Connecticut: Do you ever notice anything while you’re shooting? I know a lot of times people say they didn’t notice anything until after the picture is taken. Have you ever seen anything before the image is taken?
James Myers: You know, I’ve seen stuff out of the corner of my eye. I’ve seen some strange stuff as far as shadows that are unexplainable, and then you go back to re-enact what you just did to make sure it wasn’t something you did to cause the shadow to happen. Yeah, there’s been quite a few shadow figures over at Poli and over at Remington. I’ve seen quite a few shadow figures but a lot of the stuff is out of the corner of my eye, so I question myself on that.
A lot of these buildings, too, you have to remember they’ve been closed for so long that you have a lot of vagrants who hang out in these buildings. So when we’re searching out the buildings, we’re thinking first police work. We’re thinking, “Hey, we have to clear this building and make it safe. If something so happens to fall into play in the opposite way in regard to the paranormal, well, then you know, it’s good.” A lot of the guys don’t like that. [He laughs.]
Damned Connecticut: You mean your fellow police officers would rather have the straight police work rather than the paranormal stuff.
James Myers: Yeah. A lot of times I’ll go in, especially when we’re working, and we’re searching the building out, and if something happens where they happen to see something out of the corner of their eye or they feel something . . . I had one guy walk right out of the Poli and say, “I’m NOT going back in there.” I think a lot of it is also that if they’ve heard stories in the past about the location, it might freak them out a little bit more. That’s why I try not to tell anybody anything beforehand if they don’t know about the building.
Damned Connecticut: Do you find yourself becoming the kind of de facto paranormal expert on the force?
James Myers: Well, a lot of people come to me, they e-mail me with different situations and different incidents, so yeah, it falls upon me. But there’s another police officer who used to work with Lorraine back when Ed was still alive — he had some really good experiences with the Warrens. So if I have questions, a lot of times I’ll go to him, too. It’s a lot of networking. You use your resources in a positive way. Just like in police work — you have to use everything you can possibly use to get to the bottom of the case.
Damned Connecticut: You mentioned this earlier, and I just wanted to come back to it quick — you mentioned the increased occult incidents in Bridgeport, some issues related to Santeria.
James Myers: We’ve had numerous incidents within the last year and a half where we’ve had several animal parts have been found. There’s quite a few of the Santeria shops within the city. What I say to everybody is that the way you have to see it is if it is a religion, there’s a freedom of religion amendment in the Constitution, so you can’t automatically say that they’re doing something illegal unless they’re actually doing something that has a criminal aspect that falls within the general statutes for the state of Connecticut.
Damned Connecticut: But you’ve noticed an increase?
James Myers: Yes. It’s something that the department doesn’t like to focus on too much, but when the cases come in, they let me know about them and I try to look into them a little bit further outside of work unless it’s something dealing with the criminal aspect, and then I try to look as far as if there was any criminal violations of the law. Case by case, individually.
Some of the stuff, you can tell — I was just on a field trip with my kid over to the Milford Historical Society and then they took us over to the Milford cemetery where all the old historical war markers are. There was “666” all over the place — on the gravestones, on the trees . . .
I was taking pictures of all that stuff and they were laughing at me. I said, “This might not be anything at all, but it may be somebody who thinks that they are practicing in the occult or has watched too much TV or thinks it’s cool.” Back in my day, it was that you played the record backward and somebody was saying something to do with the devil. You know.
So there has been an increase with the occult, but it’s nothing that would be alarming to the general public. I think the people who are doing it are aimed toward certain subjects and that’s it.
Damned Connecticut: You’ve mentioned the hotel and Remington Arms, what other places have you been to?
James Myers: Yeah, you have Remington Arms. You have Mt. Grove Cemetery, which has a lot of different incidents, especially involving the police where there’s been a lot of different paranormal incidents. The University of Bridgeport has a couple of different places.
There are a lot of places in Bridgeport that are urban legends and people feed off the stories that were originally told about different areas, and they put their own two cents into it — they try to make it scarier than it actually is. When I tell the stories, I tell them as I know them. I’m not embellishing anything or adding anything to make someone more scared about a different location. If I thought it was interesting enough to tell the story, then it has to have some value to it.
Location-wise, we have Mt. Grove Cemetery, Lakeview Cemetery . . . you have the GE Building on Boston Avenue, which they don’t even let the police in that building. Where else? You have the Lindley Street house, which we haven’t had any calls over there, but that’s infamous from the 1970s case with the poltergeist and the Goodin girl.
Damned Connecticut: That was an early Ed and Lorraine case.
James Myers: Yeah. That might be one of the things we’re looking at. We’re working with a production company right now and we might be returning back to that actual house. We’re just doing all the logistics right now as far as that goes.
The Burroughs Library downtown — they supposedly have a ghost or a spirit in there of a former worker. Her name is Lola! I was actually talking to the librarians just yesterday and they were telling me different stories about it. I told them how a couple of times my team members have been in there on building searches when the alarm has gone off and they’ve had interesting things happen to them and they’ve never been able to figure out why or where the things were coming from. This happened to be one of the S.W.A.T. guys, so he’s used to searching buildings.
You have the old rail track over on Fairfield Avenue and Railroad Avenue where the Federal train wreck was back in the early 1900s. Supposedly people see black shadow figures walking on the tracks. I’ve never seen it — I’ve worked over there numerous overnight details and I’ve never seen anything over there but I still mention it because it’s in a lot of books.
Over on Union Avenue where the rail station is, we had a former police officer who used to do her paperwork over there, she used to talk about this guy who used to have a lantern and used to walk the tracks at two o’clock in the morning who she thought was a worker for the rail line. She stopped seeing him for a while so she asked one of the conductors over there, “Where did that guy go? I used to wave to him and everything, is he okay?” And they were like, “What are you talking about? There’s no guy who walks around with a lantern.” She was very sensitive too, so she’s actually had different experiences over at Mt. Grove Cemetery and over at the University of Bridgeport.
Damned Connecticut: Anything from where L’Ambiance was?
James Myers: Yes! I’m glad you brought that one up. On Washington Avenue — of course, that’s a high-crime area — but the thing over there with L’Ambiance, we actually had a woman who pulled me aside and she told me about this person who keeps breaking into her house, but said that whenever she went to look for the person, the person is never there when the cops come. She had no idea about anything having to do with L’Ambiance, so I told her “Yeah, this is the site where L’Ambiance collapsed and there was lots of tragic death here.” She was really surprised about that.
The security guard has also told us different stories where he’s seen shadow figures walking down the hallway. There have been quite a few different incidents over in The Hollow. The old age home that’s on Coleman Street — it’s right down the street from L’Ambiance — they’ve had numerous incidents where they’ve had alarms go off and they find like, a wheelchair out in the middle of the hallway. Different incidents where the cops were taken off guard so much that they go in contact with me and were like, “You might want to check into this further.” I’ve gone out there and searched the buildings out. Of course, you’ve got your vandals who break in all the time, so you’ve got to take it with a grain of salt.
Damned Connecticut: You’ve mentioned a few goosebump-raising type stories — what’s your take on all of it when it’s actually happening? Do you freak out a little or would you rather face something like that than someone with a gun?
James Myers: In police work and in the paranormal stuff, like I said, it runs parallel. In both situations, while it’s happening, you don’t have time to be scared.
Afterward, you’ll think about it and you’ll be like, “Oh my god, I can’t believe I just did that,” or “I can’t believe that just happened.” You have to think that your training and experience comes into play [at the moment]. You’re trained to go into situations that normal ordinary people wouldn’t go into. Normal people run away from the gunshots, we have to run toward them. It’s all in the mindset, and that’s where I think the police work really helps me out. It benefits me going into the really scary buildings and everything because that stuff doesn’t really bother me. Afterward you may think about it and be like, “Ahh, that was a little bit hairy.”
But while it’s actually happening, you just take it for face value and you don’t think too much about it.