Making the 'Paranormal' Normal
Updated: Apr 18, 2020
How two female "Ghost Hunters" from Metro-Detroit found friendship, and themselves seeking things that go 'bump' in the night.
Co-Founders Jessica Krutell (pictured left) and author Hillary Stone (pictured right)
I don't believe in Demons...
“I don't believe in Demons" I said. "WHAT?” Jessica responded, shooting me a confused look. "Well, what DO you believe in?"
She asked, delivering her question with a slight scoff. I don't remember the exact word salad I chose in the moment, but my summarized answer was "I don't know, but I don't believe in demons". I was so sure of myself at the time, so certain in all of my uncertainty. I'm singing a slightly different tune these days, but let's start at the beginning ...
Meeting of the Minds
Jessica and I met before meeting, if you will. We crossed paths many times without interacting before sweet serendipity would have us both seated in my basement, hashing out our master paranormal plan. My first memory of Jessica isn't actually of her, rather her graduation cap. Jessica and I attended and graduated from the same art school: Detroit's College for Creative Studies (CCS if you're local). She and her friends had been the only few to bedazzle their graduation caps, much to their confusion. After all, we had attended an art school, she argues to this day. Jessica stuck out of the crowd in a beautiful way, and I heard a little voice inside say "remember her, she's going to be important."
A 'perfect medium'
“I heard a little voice inside say "remember her, she's going to be important.”
It would take a few years of my life going every which way, until a fateful night in the fall of 2017. Sitting at my "séance table" with incense burning, tarot cards pulled -- we set out on the wildest, spookiest, most mystical journey we could imagine at the time. We decided we were going to try to do three things: 1. Cultivate space for women to explore and experiment together within the paranormal investigation community. 2. Use our collective experience to help anyone who expressed an interest or need for our assistance or guidance free of charge. And 3. perhaps the most lofty goal we set, make paranormal experiences a "normal" thing to talk about. Together that evening, we ended up founding
Mystic Mitten Paranormal Group.
She ain't afraid of no ghost...
Over two years and thirty some investigations later, I still maintain that truly terrifying encounters with spiritual energy are rare. However, Jessica and I have done experiments that some investigators wouldn't touch with a 'ten foot pole'. We've used Victorian hair jewelry to attempt to contact spirits beyond, slipped around in the muddy forest after midnight, poked around in places we shouldn't have in our early days ... We've done a lot because we LOVE what we do. We've been hungry for new experiences, trying everything we could think of. We also wanted to gather every bit of "evidence" to prove to others that what was happening to us was actually happening. I found the pressure to "prove it" frustrating. As a woman, I'd already experienced bias against me. Anxiety about being "believed" is something I've discovered to be a common experience among women. As a domestic violence survivor I know too well that in a time of crisis, the fact gathering and burden of proof on the victim is a traumatizing experience itself. I wondered if we took an empathetic approach, similar to the way I had been guided by peer counselors to address trauma, and apply it to paranormal investigation. The results Jessica and I experienced with our clients and cases were astounding. "Why isn't everyone doing this??" we thought.
Answers for those who seek ...
“Why isn't everyone doing this??"we thought.
Occasionally I'll think about how dangerous the work we do actually is. This is for a lot of reasons, none of which involve being killed or maimed by a demon or ghost. There are physical risks, which is why we take so much care in understanding our surroundings. As women, we take our personal safety and security very seriously. It's important for us to understand what we're getting into and why before we get in too deep. When we're looking into something outside, especially at night in Michigan, it's important to be aware of wildlife. Michigan is native to bears, wild cats, and all kinds of other creatures, so it's best to be alert and not take any unnecessary risks. No ghost photos, encounters, or videos are worth jeopardizing anyone's personal safety. Ever. However, what we have found in "ghost hunting" is the opportunity to connect and share experiences with other women and positive people. Sharing a weird experience in the woods with a group of ladies who all bonded during the hike, even if we couldn't "prove it" became everything for us. We felt free, connected, and supported by each other -- and we wanted to keep doing this as much as possible.
Help for those in need
Without getting too into my personal backstory at this time, in the spirit of transparency and positivism I'd like to share that in addition to being a domestic violence survivor, I have also struggled with suicidal depression over the years. When Jessica and I founded Mystic Mitten, we wanted our shared experiences and ability to connect with others to help inspire people to share their own stories. We had hoped that our tenants of "answers for those who seek, help for those in need, and light for those lost in darkness" would help others feel less alone, and that we can understand how they feel. I had no idea how much these ideas and my friendship with Jessica would be there for me when I was trapped by my own emotional and metaphorical demons; a battle that would completely blindside me for the second time in my life earlier this year.
It it so important to have a network of people that we trust and rely on to believe us when it's important. If not for my husband Austin and my best friend Jessica, I would have prematurely become a ghost earlier this year. The details aren't important at this time, but I hope to share all of this information, in my own time over the next year. A little after Halloween last year I began sinking into a very deep depression and losing interest in all of the things I used to enjoy keeping my mind busy with. I became burnt out by our videos, didn't want to talk to anyone online, and wanted to quit while we were ahead ... again. Instead of reaching out for help, something that was admittedly a little new for me, I slipped into a crisis and couldn't find my way out. I felt like I was drowning in every sense, and the spiritual experiences I had always enjoyed or felt "in control" of, were suddenly haunting and horrifying me. I assumed the worst, that there was something wrong with me. I began experiencing panic attacks, and what I would later learn to be symptoms of PTSD without warning. I felt completely unable to function and thought that I'd be better off dead. This was my trauma waging an internal war against me, and I was feeling challenged to overcome it all on my own.
The people in my life were, by no fault of their own, unable to understand and help me through my panic attacks at first. I hardly understood what was happening to me, so the people that love me were at a complete disadvantage. Jessica became the light I needed. She sat with me when I needed a fellow woman, even though she didn't know what to do and helped me find the strength to keep going and keep getting better. I became very upset thinking about the others out there like me who might have slipped through the cracks or had their spirits squelched looking for help. Trauma is such a complicated demon to battle. My heart goes out to many of the investigators who also struggle with post-traumatic stress. Because I never served in the military, I worried no one would take my experiences seriously. Never feel like you're alone in our community. So many of us get into the paranormal field after traumatic experiences, loss, and other heavy emotional challenges. If we can be kind to each other and provide support in times of darkness, I think we've done a great job. What I found on the other side of my darkest, most terrifying moments on this earth was friendship, hope, and most importantly love. And so much of that came from my friends in the paranormal community.
Light for those lost in darkness...
I've seen a lot of dark things in my life. I've experienced a lot of darkness too. Having been somewhat obsessed with this darkness from an early age, I naturally gravitated towards darker mythology and stories. I wanted to understand "demonic possessions", because so many of the documented cases involved what I observed and believe to be actively traumatized people. Good and evil, to me are much better words for describing actions and choices. It's difficult to walk away from any serious research into these type of things, as a woman, without a bad taste in your mouth. It's impossible to look at a lot of paranormal cases and not see the obvious biases against women. I heard someone make a joke recently, and say we're in the"blood letting and leeches" stage of mental health care in this country. Without getting too political, and based solely on my own experiences, i'd have to say they're right. There's a lot of experimentation. "It's a process", is something i've heard repeated a lot. There's so much that modern medicine has yet to understand about mental health, our emotions, human development, and so many other areas of study. The paranormal field is no exception. Knowing this, can we take a look at our investigation practices and notice anywhere we might be making mistakes? Are we approaching people too harshly about their experiences, perhaps missing out on the opportunity to partake in the beauty of human connection? Are we too afraid of looking foolish? Are we afraid to admit that a lot of the things people say they experience could be true? What if we approached every case, every client, and every location with genuine empathy and openness? I think we'd see the progress "in the field" we investigators are always talking about, truly.
To brighter days
Jessica and I are so blessed to be able to explore our love of the paranormal and meet like minded friends along the way. Every relationship we build is cherished. Whenever we leave a home, family, or place better off than when we arrived -- we've been successful. Paranormal experiences are valid and very real. I hope that over the coming years we'll be able to share some great stories, helpful info, and entertaining social posts. If you ever find yourself in over your head, or even just curious... know that you can count on Mystic Mitten Paranormal Group to help to the best of our earthly (and unearthly) ability. I'm happy and grateful to be alive on this earth still. I'm happy to be here, sharing it with all of you.
I believe in brighter days after the darkest, that's for sure.