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LITTLE ROCK — Few would think that a tranquil place like Mayflower could be the scene of multiple investigations of paranormal activity, but recent activities prove otherwise.

There have been two investigations of reportedly haunted homes in the area within the past three months.

The Satterfield Farm, which covers several hundred acres on the outskirts of the town, is one of these places. The land holds many points of historical(and supernatural) interest, including a cemetery dating to the 1830s, Native American mounds, and several residences.

Landowner Harold Satterfield has had his own unique encounter on the property in the 15 years he has owned it. "I was driving in broad daylight, and noticed what looked like a round white cloud coming up out of the ground," he said. "I thought it was odd, but drove through it anyway,when my Jeep engine cut out!" Although Satterfield successfully restarted his car, he said he could find no logical explanation of what had caused the vehicle's malfunction.

Such mystical occurrences connect with the history of a place where Civil War memorabilia has been found, a 177-year-old cemetery is located, and the echoes of the infamous Trail of Tears, said Satterfield's daughter, Valerie Satterfield. Valerie is also regional director of the Central Arkansas Society for Paranormal Research, or CASPR.

Founded by Hot Springs resident Karen Shillings, CASPR is one of several paranormal investigation groups in the state. Interest in ghost hunting has increased so much in the almost eight years since CASPR started that the nonprofit association now has chapters in western, northwest, and in the northcentral regions of the state.

One of the remnants of the long-standing history of the settlement of the area is Flagpond Cemetery. Now an abandoned site, it dates to the 1830s. An article in the Feb. 21, 2005, edition of the Log Cabin Democrat documents Faulkner County historians and others descending on the cemetery to document more than 270 burials, said Leslie "Skip" Abernathy. Abernathy, with the Arkansas Archaelogical Survey, said prominent early families buried there include the Mosleys, the Hughes, the Stiles, and others.

A long-ago river dock called Benedict's Landing also helped to funnel different peoples through the area, including Native Americans. "There is a very detailed 1833 map of Arkansas that shows the names of the various landings, shoals, bends, etc., in the Arkansas River," Abernathy said. "These locations correlate well with accounts by those leading parties on the Trail of Tears," he said.

Another area of unexplained phenomenon on the Satterfield farm is what is referred to as Springer House. Once located inside the Mayflower city limits, the dwelling was moved onto a previous home site on the property. The house, which is vacant, is undergoing renovations. However, Satterfield said, this location is also where a CASPR team has made several trips turning up information indicating that the house may not be empty after all.

A house fire there in January1998 alerted officials, who found Rebecca Burks inside the home, already dead.

Satterfield claims Rebecca's spirit remains on the site. She and fellow CASPR members Debbie Saylor of Mayflower and Cathy May of Wye began conducting paranormal investigations at the spot in March of this year, not long after reports of strange happenings, and returned two more times, including this month.

The North Central Arkansas CASPR group uses multiple devices to hone in on lost spirits, including an an electromagnetic field detector to detect the energy fields of ghosts, a key tool when taking baseline readings of a site, Satterfield said. A baseline reading is a preliminary evaluation of a location, where investigators identify any existing or manmade electromagnetic fields such as those created by power lines or electrical appliances.

Digital video "night shot" cameras are also utilized to document any activity during investigations, which can take all night long, members of the CASPR team said. Such cameras are also usually left in a stationary position to record the activity in a specific location. A tape recorder with an external microphone is used to capture electronic voice phenomena.

"We're not here to make the supernatural presence leave or to upset them. We are just there to verify their existence. If they want to communicate with us, they do," Satterfield said.

Thermal scanners can detect rapid temperature changes. CASPR and other groups investigating paranormal phenomenon report that a change of 10 degrees or more from the temperature of the surrounding area can indicate an ethereal presence.

"When we walk into places that are known to be haunted, there is often what we call the creep factor, where the hair raises on the back of your neck or you feel it in another way," Satterfield said.

The group's March visit to the Springer House was not noteworthy, Satterfield said, yet a second visit this summer produced still photos with "a lot more orbs, and an EVP that the group claims Burk's spirit (or someone) quite distinctly said the word 'Go!' "

The night of this writer's experience on the site, although witnessing firsthand that the front door had been closed tightly before returning later, we found that it had been flung wide open upon the group's return. Orbs appeared in some of the digital camera photos that were taken in rapid-fire fashion, and another EVP with what sounded like "Go!" was recorded before the end of our time there.

Members say that there is no apparent logical pattern behind ghostly activities, even in the same location. "We might go where they've reported paranormal activity for a month, and when we investigate, we might find nothing," Satterfield said.

Another group, Arkansas Paranormal and Anomalous Studies Team, headed by former CASPR member Larry Flaxman, also investigated a residence in the Mayflower area in July of this year.

Why so much interest in the supernatural, and ghosts in particular?

"It used to be taboo, or at least the media portrayed it as such," Satterfield said, "Someeven made it out to be devil worshipping, but I feel that I am more spiritual than ever," she said. However, CASPR has occasionally had brushes with undesirable elements that they felt like were out of their league. "If we get into a demonic situation of any kind, we contact local clergy, as we don't do anything with that kind of problem," Satterfield said.

All three women regularly attend church. "We get blessed on a regular basis by our priest," Satterfield said. And to ensure additional spiritual protection during their undertakings, they asked that a special prayer be written for them, which is said before starting any haunted investigation.

While setting up for an investigation in the Springer House, Satterfield and fellow CASPR members talked about some of their past experiences, both at the home, and in other locations where they had looked into claims of paranormal activities.

Valerie Satterfield's interest in the paranormal started during her childhood years in a home in downtown Conway, where she said she encountered a "full-bodied apparition."

"I heard footsteps, and looked up to see this old man looking at me from outside my window," she said.

Saylor's interest in the mystic began during her early years in Phoenix, Ariz. "My family moved into a house where you could feel ice cold in certain areas and witness light fixtures falling down from the ceiling,"she said. "We saw dark shadows going down the hallway, drawers fly open and tea glasses take to the air. Things got so bad that at one point, our whole family gathered to talk about our experiences, " she said. In the final analysis, the family had to leave the home, but Saylor continued to maintain interest in unexplained happenings.

Cathy May has worked on approximately 15-20 investigations in less than a year, leading to her self-appointed nameplate at work, "Ghostmistress May." Although she has been astounded by some of her findings, including a feeling of being physically touched, such occurrences have only served to create "an even greater desire to know more about ghostly phenomenon," she said.

The women said it is also crucial to be a strong team. "We trust each other implicitly," Satterfield said.

River Valley Ozark, Pages 149, 160 on 10/21/2007

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