In the fall of 2011, Mark Williams, feeling inspired by supernatural TV shows, posed to a friend: “How cool would it be to see Native Americans on that screen?”
So Williams founded the Native American Paranormal Project (N.A.P.P), a group he describes as part-time explorers or “enthusiasts”—not like the professional paranormal investigators portrayed on such hit shows as “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Adventures.”
But N.A.P.P. is distinct in that all the members are Native American and that the group specializes in investigating Native American landmarks rumored to be haunted.
Since the group formed two years ago, it has grown to nine team members who seek out paranormal phenomena in Indian country. The group films its investigations and turns the footage into documentaries shown to audiences during film screenings.
“It’s kind of like a hobby. It’s a scary hobby at times but it’s a good hobby,” said Steve Jacob, an N.A.P.P. member a staff member with Chickasaw Nation Arts and Humanities.
Jacob’s wife, D.D. Jacob, a Chickasaw, is also an N.A.P.P. member. She decided to tag along during the group’s investigation of the Concho Indian Boarding School. Dubbed the group’s “resident skeptic,” Mrs. Jacob said she only went that first time to help her husband with the drive back from Concho. However, based on what she has witnessed during the N.A.P.P.’s past investigations, Mrs. Jacob admitted she has become more open to the possibility the group has witnessed paranormal phenomena. She is now a permanent member of the group.
So far, the group has investigated various Native American sites in Oklahoma including the Concho Indian Boarding School in Concho, the Wheelock Academy in Millerton and Fort Washita near Durant.
Group members scout out possible sites to explore via the Internet and from word-of-mouth. Then, they approach and get permission from the appropriate tribal officials to explore the selected location.
Once at the site, members are assigned an area to record. The group doesn’t use any specialized recording equipment. All of their equipment is consumer-grade audio and video electronics.
Mr. Jacob said the group approached each site respectfully and was careful not to disturb the surroundings or any ghostly inhabitants.
At first, Williams was concerned there may be fellow Native Americans, particularly tribal elders, who might object to investigating tribal landmarks. However, the feedback the group has received after film screenings has been mostly positive.
“What’s funny is that some of our biggest supporters are the elders,” Williams said.
Williams believes the investigative approach has been the key to success.
Whenever we do these investigations, you have to debunk it first,” he said. “You have to try to find a reason to say that it could have been something else. You don’t want to be one of those groups that thinks everything is an electronic voice phenomenon or a ghost. You kind of lose credibility that way. You always try to find a reason first. Then when you get to the point where nothing could explain what it could have been, you pretty much have to say ‘We might have captured something.’”
And the group agrees it has definitely captured something during the course of the investigations. Mr. Williams and the Jacobs said the Wheelock Academy, a former girls boarding school, “put them on the map” as paranormal researchers. N.A.P.P. team members recorded multiple instances of ghostly voices and other unidentifiable sounds. Near the end of the investigation, the female members of the team reported footsteps and girls’ voices.
In August, the team investigated Fort Washita, built in 1842 and operated through 1865. The fort was originally constructed to protect the Chickasaw and Choctaw people from outside invaders.
According to the TravelOK website, Fort Washita is rumored to be haunted by a ghost called Aunt Jane, a woman who was murdered because she wouldn’t reveal the location of her buried money. Aunt Jane’s money was never found, and she was buried on the fort grounds. Since then, Jane’s ghost has reportedly been seen near the fort’s ruins wearing a white gown.
The N.A.P.P. will reveal the findings of the Fort Washita investigation in a feature-length documentary currently being edited. The group plans to present the film at a showing for the Choctaw Nation sometime soon.
Contributed by Joshua Rogers, Chickasaw Nation Public Affairs