'People who don't believe in ghosts are scared'
For the past four years, two Berliners have been combing castles and cellars touched by the paranormal. The Local joined the city’s ghost hunters on a night time expedition.
“I don't believe someone when they say they don't believe in ghosts, I think they're just scared,” ghost hunter Minckee Gerhold told The Local. Gerhold, along with partner Alex Schollain, are the otherworldly experts Berlin calls on when something spooky is afoot.
And they are in high demand having worked on 40 cases in castles, sprawling city apartments, old hospitals as well as farms, since full-time chef Schollain began advertising ghost hunting services.
“After my grandfather died, he appeared in front of me and told me that I had to do what I truly wanted to do,” he said. It is 36-year-old Schollain who sits and listens to hours of recordings from investigations, picking out messages from the other side that, Gerhold explains, are hard for the human ear to pick up at the time.
Scoping out the cellar
Friday night in the Neukölln district of the city, and the pair are heading for the cellar of an old block of flats. The landlord and the owner of the building had put in a call to the ghost hunters. It had taken years for either to mention to the other that they felt uneasy down in the cellar of the building. It is, they both believe, haunted.
But they made the call and last Friday Schollain – who handles the tech side of the operation – gathered up his infra-red video camera, electrostatic meter and “ghost radio” and headed off with Gerhold. It was their second time scoping out the cellar, the first visit left the ghost hunters convinced that all was not right down there.
“Last time we were here we picked up a lot of readings,” said Gerhold. “I saw a boy with a shaved head, and we recorded voices,” she added. There were lights on in the flats above, but none of the building's residents had been made privy to the investigation.
The landlord, a burly middle-aged man, said: “I feel like something is watching me when I'm down there.” He brought this up with the owner of the house. She grew up in one of the flats, and inherited the building after her father died. A well-to-do Berlin family, she asked not to be named.
“As a child I would always see other children down in the cellar who asked me to play. But I know now there were no other children,” she said, adding that she remembers her father digging up the courtyard to find vestiges of SS army uniforms, and crosses. “Maybe it was a grave,” she said. Before her father bought the house, it had been owned for a long time by a Jewish family.
'Show us a sign'
Heading down into the cellar, the landlord locks the door behind the group and Gerhold hangs up a tiny metal bell over one of the doorways. “You can communicate with us, if you like, by ringing the bell,” she tells any lost souls that might be lurking in the rubble. Disappointingly, not a single tingle rung out from the bell that night.
Then came two hours of shuffling between rooms in the cellar and an electromagnetic meter was set up in each one. With a string of lights ranging from green to red, the device is designed to pick up electricity around the ghost hunters. Everyone in the room introduced themselves before Gerhold proceeded to invite any ghosts around to use “my energy, the energy of the equipment, to show us a sign you're here.”
Sat in the pitch black, pitch black only pierced by the single green light on which all eyes were trained. While it did not reach red, it did flash orange when Gerhold asked “were you murdered here?”
Gerhold had explained beforehand that after the first investigation in the cellar, she had a vision in which a woman and two children appeared in front of her. “All I could hear were the words execution and burning,” she said.
The gadget, which looks like an outdated television remote, continued to flash orange. “Are you Jewish?” she asks. “We can help you.” Alex then brings out something they call the “ghost radio”, which picks up on frequencies the human ear can't hear. That, and whatever radio station the neighbours are tuned in to.
A muffled “ja” or “nein” stuttered through the speakers on occasion. The most pronounced reply being what heard like a “ja” when Gerhold asked the room if we were disturbing them by bringing a journalist in. The landlord went to turn on the lights, only to find the fuse had tripped, before everyone hastily piled out of the cellar, grabbing the un-rung bell on the way out.
But for Gerhold, the night was not a disappointment. Being a ghost hunter – which neither her nor Schollain are paid to do – is about helping people find peace of mind. “I have a gift in that I can feel other levels of existence. Some people don't have this,” she explained.
'People need odd behaviour explaining'
The 30-year-old is a trained Reiki practitioner and firm believer in the otherworldly. “There are a lot of levels between being alive and dead,” she said. Since she was a child, she said she had always felt like she had a connection to paranormal activity.
Part of their task is helping potential lost souls over to the other side. “Some people get lost, they don't know how to leave this plane and others stick around to watch over people. Everyone's just doing their own thing really,” she said, smiling.
While another, arguably more understandable part is helping comforting those who call on the Ghost Hunters. “People often need odd behaviour explaining, they need to know why they don't feel right in their house,” she said. There was one case in an upmarket flat on the capital's Unter den Linden that seemed a hotbed of spooky activity.
The pair went in and took readings, addressing ghosts they were sure were there. “After we visited, I got a call to say that they could sleep again and were happy,” Gerhold said. For her this is the rewarding part of the job.
The team will return to the cellar over the next few weeks to attempt to communicate with the spirits. The landlord and the owner said they will be heading down to the city archives to try and dig up any clues about the house's history.