Guests who have stayed in room 309 of a hotel that was once a medieval convent in Umbria, Italy will tell you the place is haunted. They report all sorts of scary things – unexplained illnesses, sudden panic attacks, the sound of scratching and banging on walls. The owners turned to ghost hunters for help and allowed photographer Mirko Viglino to join them in their search for the paranormal.
It was the first of 15 ghost hunts recounted by Viglino for his series EMC, named after the electromagnetic fields that believers claim offer evidence of the undead. The adventure took Viglino from spooky villas to abandoned factories to moldy crypts that would terrify most people. It’s a rare glimpse into a world inhabited by people who truly believe this stuff exists, even though most people don’t. “I like to explore through photography all the inexplicable things that interest me, and even more the things that scare me,” says Viglino. “Holding a camera pushes me to understand what I’m looking at.”
Inspiration for the project came in February 2012, when Viglino was watching a TV show about ghost hunting. Skeptical but intrigued, he wanted to know how such a thing worked. A quick Google search identified a plethora of ghost hunters in Italy. One of them is called Hunterbrothers. He called them and they invited him to join them at the hotel. “It was like, ‘Cool man, we’re going for a ride this weekend, do you want to join us?'” Viglino said. “I was in it.”
The hunt offered a glimpse into how people like the Hunterbrothers use their equipment to find “anomalities in the electromagnetic spectrum.” Given the size of the hotel, the nonprofit Paranormal Phenomena Research Group enlisted the help of the Hunterbrothers and the Paranormal Activity Research Investigation. Each group is made up of ordinary people – businessmen, policemen, etc. – who wonder what lies behind. “The question that drives ghost hunting is, ‘Is there something after death? Can we prove it?'” says Viglino.
Their investigation began around 10 p.m., as ghost hunts usually do. Researchers interviewed hoteliers – who did not want their establishment identified for fear of scaring people away – and employees to determine exactly where the alien activity was taking place. They also consulted building plans to see if there were any hidden rooms or other unusual features. With that done, they installed video cameras with a laser grid to record any movement and electronic voice phenomena recorders so they could hear spirit voices and other paranormal sounds.