Townsville does not have the air of a place frequented by the supernatural. I think this is largely due to the weather – it’s sunny 300 days of the year, and almost always uncomfortably hot – and the dated aesthetics of the town, which are for the most part stuck somewhere between the late 80s and the early 2000s.
Or at least that’s how it felt when I was growing up. Sure, there were places that were rumoured to be haunted, but the energy of the town as a whole was decidedly un-spooky. It almost seemed too daggy to be properly haunted.
There is allegedly a ghost in our family home, affectionately named after the previous elderly occupants. The ghost made itself known to us through a series of bumps, shadows and suspicious footsteps, all of which could also be attributed to the movements of our morbidly obese cat.
I’ve never fully believed in the House Ghost, but I’ve never not believed in it either. I hadn’t actually given it much thought in recent years, until my sisters told me last week that they had called Paranormal Investigators Townsville (P.I.T) to investigate.
I had heard of Paranormal Investigators Townsville before, largely through semi-serious articles in the Townsville Bulletin about the Old Railway Station (haunted) and the West End Cemetery (obviously haunted).
Images of P.I.T are plentiful. Many show them on the job, dressed in a uniform of weather appropriate polo shirts and shorts, looking much more like a bowling team than paranormal investigators. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting them to look like, but I certainly hadn’t imagined them to be so normal. Thoroughly obsessed, I found their number in a local directory and, much to my delight, they agreed to an interview.
Paranormal Investigators Townsville was founded in 2012 by Karina and Rob Looby. They’ve investigated no small number of public buildings and private residences, and stress that buildings needn’t be old to be haunted. Spirits, according to Karina Looby, are attached to land. “The paranormal world doesn’t work in a way that it has to be old. A lot of the activity is attached to the land — you can have a brand-new house built and there can be activity in it.”
When I ask if Townsville is an especially haunted location, Karina is definitive. “Definitely. A lot of places – due to the history.” P.I.T have made similar claims before – in a 2019 Bulletin article, Karina pointed to the history of Townsville, in particular its military history, as a cause of paranormal hotspots. “From history we know the soldiers got off the trains at the old railway station and went over to The Great Northern Hotel. The history between the two places is phenomenal, so obviously there’s a lot of history there.” Hotels and bars seem to be common places of paranormal activity — Karina and her team have investigated almost every hotel in Townsville.
Despite the number of investigations undertaken by P.I.T, Karina struggles to point to a single spot of concentrated activity. “It’s really hard to pinpoint one — it’s really really hard to pinpoint which one would be the more active, because they’ve all had their own experiences at every one of them.”
Karina graciously declines to answer my questions about the ghost in my own house, saying she is unable to comment until investigations are concluded. “We don’t like to say a place is haunted until we actually go and investigate and find evidence to the fact.” She gently admonishes me for calling the ghost by its nickname, explaining that spirits don’t like to be misidentified. “Don’t call him by name — because it might not be who you think it is.”
This pragmatism is a common theme in the work of P.I.T. Karina approaches her investigations with an open mind, but also a critical one — eliminating all earthly explanations for potential paranormal activity before labelling it as such. Ultimately, they leave conclusions to be drawn by the occupants of the properties they investigate. “We can present the evidence to them — but it’s up to them to decide if it is or it isn’t.”
P.I.T are thorough in their process of investigation. First, they talk to the person requesting their services. Then, if they wish to proceed with an investigation, they enter the property with infra-red night cameras, and take digital photos. They also make use of EVPS — Electronic Voice Phenomena — to pick up “disembodied voices.” Depending on the circumstances, they occasionally make use of a spirit box, which is a device that is used to communicate with potential spirits. “We never ask a yes or no question. We always say ‘how many’ — to try and get a definitive answer.” After leaving the property, they later go through collected video footage, which can take hours.
Later, after investigations are concluded, they can return to conduct a cleansing of the property, but Karina is firm that they won’t force spirits to leave. “We can get rid of negative energy, but we don’t tell the spirit to go. That’s not our job. We can cleanse the air of negative energy, but who’s saying that spirit is negative? It might just be there.”
Perhaps the most incredible thing about P.I.T is that they don’t charge a fee for such services. I think that, were money involved, I would be more sceptical– but Karina and Rob Looby conduct their work as a deeply unconventional kind of community service. Karina identifies this as the best part of her job. “Letting people know that they’re not going crazy, and listening to them. That’s the best thing about it.”