Clintonians Ross and Nick Azud, 13, are the founders of Massachusetts Association of Paranormal Studies (MAPS). On Sunday, armed with an infrared-sensitive camcorder, flashlights and a device that picks up electromagnetic fields, the father-and-son team conducted a paranormal investigation on the old railroad tunnel after Ross heard that two men, on their way to work constructing the dam, had been struck and killed by a train.

Inside the abandoned train tunnel off Route 70, the only source of light comes from the beams of two flashlights slicing through the blanketing darkness. Somewhere out in the darkness a trickle of water from the bedrock ceiling patters on a crushed beer can, and all along the sides of the tunnel nocturnal critters flee the invasive light. With the sudden drop in temperature inside the tunnel, an eerie mist hangs just above the floor of the massive cavern and the rumble of thunder ricochets off the walls.

It’s the perfect place for a ghost, or at least Ross Azud and his son Nick hope it is.

Clintonians Ross and Nick Azud, 13, are the founders of Massachusetts Association of Paranormal Studies (MAPS). On Sunday, armed with an infrared-sensitive camcorder, flashlights and a device that picks up electromagnetic fields, the father-and-son team conducted a paranormal investigation on the tunnel after Ross heard that two men, on their way to work constructing the dam, had been struck and killed by a train.

The investigation of the tunnel was the second in the last two weeks conducted by the Azuds. During a preliminary search of the area, Ross said he picked up a couple of EVPs, or electronic voice phenomena, which are recordings of a ghost’s voice.

“The voice was pretty irate and was telling us to get out,” Ross said. “Normally, you can’t hear the voices when you are at the scene, so what we’ll do is go back to the office, listen to the tape, put it through the computer, which allows us to take out a lot of the static and background noise and then the voices, if there are any, become pretty clear.”

On Sunday, just as the device that detects electromagnetic fields started to pick up some readings, the battery, which was fully charged when they went into the tunnel, suddenly died.

“Most likely it was a ghost form that was looking to suck in energy so that it could show itself,” Nick added. “When they are trying to manifest themselves, they need as much energy as they can get.”

Initial reports from Sunday’s excursion didn’t look too promising, but on Monday Ross said the duo found an orb of light, which is usually a sign of paranormal activity, on the footage taken inside the tunnel, and two EVPs were picked up on the tape.

I see dead people

Three years ago, Ross would have scoffed at anyone who tried to convince him there was such a thing as ghosts, but then a friend of the family gave the Azuds a porcelain bell that belonged to his wife.

One day, while Nick was at school, Ross and his wife returned home to find the bell, which they kept on top of their TV, had moved about eight inches and was turned backwards. Chalking it up to a trick of his memory, Ross moved the bell back to its original position. The next day, when the house was supposedly empty, the bell was moved again.

To try and get to the bottom of it, Ross set up a video camera in the living room.

“I was leaving through the back door when I heard the bell fall to the floor,” Azud recalls. “We caught it all on tape. The ironic thing is there was a reflection of the entire room in the TV screen just by chance, and you can see the room is empty and you can see me leaving out the door, so that was pretty strange. I’d put something in a certain place and then it would be moved, so I started filming other rooms in the house. Come to find out, I was hooked, and that’s when we started going out on investigations.”

“Actually, it started before that,” Nick said. “We got this train set for Christmas and we set it up and one day we came downstairs and the engine of the train was standing straight up in the air. We put it back down and then the next day it was sitting back up straight again. That happens just about every Christmas now.”

More gravy than grave

Ross and Nick have been to a number of homes in and around Clinton on investigations, and a majority of the time, both agree, there is a simple solution to what someone thinks is a spook or specter.

Ross estimates that about 80 percent of the time, what someone believes is a ghost can easily be explained.

On one case, Ross and Nick responded to a call from a woman who reported her doorbell was ringing around 2 a.m. every morning. The woman had an old-fashioned doorbell, operated by a pulled knob, eliminating the chance that it was a simple electrical malfunction.

“We set up a camera on the doorbell, and sure enough, at 3 a.m., this little mouse comes crawling down the string and the bell started ringing,” Ross said. “We put out a mouse trap for her and that took care of the problem. A lot of the time we just go and debunk stuff, but about 20 percent of the time there is stuff that happens that we just can’t explain.”

In their three years as paranormal investigators, Ross and Nick said they have encountered what they call shadow people, or ghosts that haven’t been able to manifest itself into a full apparition, “residual ghosts,” which are spirits that do the same thing every day at the exact same time as long as conditions allow, and “intelligent ghosts,” which actually move physical objects. They also claim they have been pushed and shoved by ghosts, as well as had rocks thrown at them by angry spirits

“I’ll be honest with you, it’s not that we get scared, but we get startled,” Ross said. “We’ve definitely seen some stuff that have been a little scary.”

Who ya gonna call?

Ross and Nick agree that if you think there’s a ghost in your house, the first thing you should do is start keeping a log of all activity. Jot down the times, what happened and any banging or knocking noises and when they occur, Nick said.

The first thing Ross and Nick do when responding to a call is sit down and interview the home or business owner. Then they work down the list to try and rule out the obvious explanations. Eventually, the paranormal investigators will conduct a thorough investigation of the property.

This is no scam on gullible rubes, Ross said. MAPS doesn’t charge a fee for any of these services.

They also work with a woman who will go to homes that have a spirit and perform a “cleansing.” But that is rare, according to Nick.

“Most people, when they find out what it is, they are pretty cool with it,” Nick said. “It’s almost like it’s like having extra company or some family member that they haven’t met yet and want to keep them around.”

Both Ross and Nick have also developed a thick skin when it comes to their hobby. Both realize there will always be skeptics that are going to call them conmen and question their work. They’ve gotten used to hearing the snickers when they tell people what they do and people coming up to them making ghost noises.

“If people want to be less skeptical, I can show them a tape that will make them a believer,” Ross said. “I was skeptical too, but I always tell people to keep an open mind, because one of these days they are going to be surprised. This is what we believe, this is what we do, and I have some pretty good evidence to back up our side of it.”

Add your comments at the Times & Courier blog. Patrick Brodrick can be reached at 978-365-8044 or pbrodric-at-cnc.com.