The History of SGHA
The History the Southwest Ghost Hunter’s Association
by Rebecca Mann
In the 1980s, a decade that became the foundation of the “Me Generation”, cynicism was king. Although not likely to the scale of larger metropolitan areas, the cattle-town of Hereford, Texas in 1982 was not immune to its power. It is not often that the world-view of a young man of eighteen leans more toward that of disbelief than promise, but as has become apparent in the decades since, Cody Polston is a man of vision. Not embittered toward his fellow man as most of the country’s youth was at the time, the fresh-faced Polston reserved his disdain for those who targeted the hopes and naiveté of others in such a time of uncertainty and turmoil, specifically those who promoted themselves as “psychics”. While many before and since have spoken out against such questionable abilities and practices, it is the manner in which the teenaged Texan set about his rebuttals that made him stand out amidst the crowd. He educated himself in the proverbial tricks-of-the-trade for the average psychic and set out to disprove the existence of any claimed paranormal abilities. These early days set the trend for Polston’s approach to research as he maintains the practice of informing himself of all aspects of a topic as well as displaying findings, regardless of who they might favor, in a public manner for all to review. The young man learned and practiced the art of cold reading, then gave a public demonstration to the tri-state area to disprove the blind belief in any charlatans. Thus, his interest in the field of paranormal activities began surprisingly as a mission to debunk them.
Through public awareness and word of mouth, Polston found several people with an interest in paranormal activities and in 1984, a group known as the Ghost Hunters of Southwest Texas (G.H.O.S.T)requested that he join its ranks as its resident skeptic. These young men took on many area legends and investigated them. The group disbanded over a differing in ideology when Polston successfully debunked the story of the supposed “ghost tracks of San Antonio.” Polston and another former G.H.O.S.T. team member, Ash Thompson, continued on conducting small investigations on their own – a path that led the duo to the famed town of Tombstone, Arizona and a saloon known as Big Nose Kate’s.
One expects to find a spirit of one sort or another, whether liquid or spectral in nature, upon entering a drinking establishment. The stories of reported activities in the bar named for Doc Holliday’s girlfriend had the pair intrigued enough to make the trek across two states to further investigate and find what they each believed would be mundane and explainable reasons for the paranormal occurrences. What they found instead was two rather notable first-hand experiences of their own. This was a turning point for Polston, known as his “definitive moment” in paranormal investigation. It was within the walls of Big Nose Kate’s Saloon after witnessing and being unable to reproduce movements of inanimate objects and an invisible force that caused a glass beer mug to propel itself against the wall and shatter in broad daylight that he ceased to be a cynic and became a self-proclaimed skeptical believer.
In 1985, Cody Polston became the founder and president of a paranormal research and investigational team known as the Southwest Ghost Hunters Association (SGHA). Its mission statement, in keeping with the man himself, is to investigate all possible explanations of areas that are associated with reported paranormal activities. This is achieved by utilizing the scientific method of research and being open-minded to the results that may result, regardless of one’s personal belief structure. A key founding member of the SGHA was a nuclear physicist, Carlton Spencer, with whom Polston became acquainted during his military career. Collaboration and continued association with the respected physicist expanded further upon Polston’s previous education and experience in natural training programs associated with the functions of explosive ordnance disposal and work with nuclear weaponry that he was responsible for during his career in the United States Air Force. Theories of electromagnetism, frequencies and the like were brought to the foreground and realized for their importance in the forming and reforming of the organization’s basic operating hypotheses. The first ten years of the SGHA’s existence laid a solid foundation for how it continues to function and grow to date.
Toward the end of the 1990s, the SGHA had begun to receive local attention for its pursuits and different approach and mindset. Local media took an increasing interest in the group and its founder, including a six-part series on local public access television, in which the investigational practices of the group were highlighted. Raised public awareness of the organization resulted in another key member being welcomed into the SGHA fold – Bob Carter.
As an astrophysics major, Carter brought additional scientific knowledge to the mix as well as a fresh perspective. The working relationship between Carter and Polston proved to be a successful and beneficial one as the group continued to flourish and advance in new directions. Carter has served the SGHA as its Vice President for many years and as a co-Director with Polston since the group incorporated in early 2007.
In 2002, Polston determined that there needed to be a clearer delineation within the SGHA for its skeptics and researchers. Thus, SHIELD and SAGE were born. SHIELD originally functioned as a line of defense for investigators in the course of private home investigations, a practice the SGHA no longer routinely practices for safety and ethical reasons. This department now works in tandem with the regular investigators to lend a critical eye to gathered information to thoroughly examine it prior to release of investigational reports and future return investigations. SAGE is the arm of the SGHA that serves to further its scientific research, both in emerging theories and technologies, as well as overseeing the use of basic scientific standards. SGHA also expanded it's membership into several states. Active Charters are currently located in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona.
A sampling of research projects conducted in the past or under current consideration by the SGHA and SAGE are as follows: the effects of A/C EMF and the possible role in paranormal activities; geomagnetic fluctuations at active locations; electrical sensitivity and possible relationship to the perception of paranormal experiences; electrostatic field effects at purported haunted locations; the effect of ionic charges on the environment and paranormal activities; digital spectral analysis of photographic evidence and anomalies; collection and analysis of electronic voice phenomenon; XUV photographic and video evidence capture; unmanned mechanical fleet for continuous and unbiased data collection and the creation of a mobile investigation command center. In addition to the current membership rolls, which includes professionals in medicine, technology, computer science, education and environmental science to name but a few, the SGHA also maintains close working relationships with scientists, researchers and educators in the fields of microbiology, optics, physics and psychology. Polston has also recruited and maintained members with previous education or currently pursuing education in areas of interest such as IT, medicine, and theology. This lends increased knowledge to the group in the increasingly important analysis and collection of audio data.
The Southwest Ghost Hunters Association places high priority upon giving back to the community and frequently create many opportunities in which to do so. Local groups that have benefited financially from SGHA fundraising creations and efforts include Civitan International, United Blood Services, the University of New Mexico’s Agora Crisis Center, local schoolchildren via the City of Albuquerque/Open Space Alliance’s ‘Get on the Bus’ program, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, local animal shelters and more. Cody's background in drama and decades of experience as the SGHA’s main media contact and presenter has also proven beneficial to the group.
In 2008, Cody's younger brother, Chance, SGHA's Texas State Coordinator, became Vice President.
SGHA has come a long way since the dusty summers of amateur ghost hunting in Texas. Cody has become one of the most respected people in the field of paranormal investigation, even earning the nickname of ‘Hitman’ from fellow ghost hunters whose evidence and investigations he has successfully debunked. He has authored a book entitled “Haunted New Mexico – The Ghosts of Albuquerque”, co-authored “The Complete Ghost Hunter, Basic Methods to Advanced Techniques” with Bob Carter. His latest book is entitled "Hunting the Ghost Hunters, an introspective guide to ghost research" and he has other written projects in the works. He and Carter have authored and co-authored many articles which have been published on the main SGHA website, which receives an average of 1,000,000 hits per month. He has also been quoted in several publications of other respected paranormal authors.
Also in 2005, Polston and Carter created Ecto Radio, a weekly live show and podcast, which informs and entertains its listeners on paranormal topics. With thousands of weekly subscribers, via i-Tunes and Ecto Radio's podcast page, it is one of the premier paranormal internet radio shows on the web today.
The Southwest Ghost Hunters Association has been sought out and chosen by reputation over many other paranormal groups to be included in media projects and appearances, such as independent DVD productions and guest appearances on an international television series. Its professionalism and that of its leadership gains many investigational opportunities and locations not made available to any other organization. Polston and Carter have also been invited to speak for groups such as New Mexicans for Science and Reason, various local colleges and universities as well as numerous media entities. Despite all of the changes and growth Polston and his organization have encountered, his vision and logical approach to the field remain as clear and forward-thinking as ever. Under his direction, the Southwest Ghost Hunters Association is sure to remain trendsetters and trailblazers in the realm of paranormal research.
Sample of SGHA Scientific Advisors:
F.A.Q. on SGHA History
by Cody Polston
Occasionally, I am asked questions about SGHA's past so I have devoted this small section to discuss the questions not addressed in Rebecca's article.
Q: Why do we consider ourselves to be trendsetters and trailblazers in the realm of paranormal research?
A: This is a great question...and here are a few answers...
Extended Spectrum Photography. We were the first ghost research group to do it (and have been since 2002). The basic premise of "ghost photography" is that hopefully one could capture something interesting in the "invisible realms" of light (UV and IR) that cameras can see but the human eye cannot. The CCDs of digital cameras are able to "see" much deeper into these spectrums but are limited by optical components to keep their spectral specifications near visible light. We removed those components and we have been getting some very intriguing stuff. Can we say that these things are paranormal? Not yet, there isn't enough data to support that. However those images have guided development of many of our hypotheses over the years. We even wrote an article about it so other people can use the same technique. Even today we are pushing that technology even further by "hot-rodding" the CCD's to capture more details in each pixel of the image itself.
The use of image analysis software is another technique that we started using in 2005. Used to extract data from a photograph (particularly in the medical and astrophysics fields) we were the first to use this tool for paranormal research.
Look at our website and then search the net to find another site that has just as much information and data as sgha.net. Our articles have gone beyond your ghost hunting 101 stuff and include pertinent science and skeptical articles. I haven't found one, maybe you can.
We are also one of the very few groups that actually publishes the results of our research and truly uses the Scientific Method. See the Research page on our website for more details.
I could go on but I'll stop tooting our horn now...
Q: What is SAGE exactly?
A: SAGE is an acronym for Scientific Analysis of Ghostly Energetics. SAGE is a sub-group of SGHA whose membership is composed of scientists and researchers from various scientific fields. These people are not remotely interested in ghost hunting but have a belief that paranormal explanations for certain events could be plausible. They are interested in is the data that is brought back and they occasionally assist in it's analysis. They also assist in the development and testing of our hypotheses.
I learned about the dogma of the scientific community a very long time ago. When I first met Carl, a nuclear physicist, he was very adamant about remaining anonymous about anything even remotely related to ghost hunting and paranormal research. He had a very real fear that if his employers or co-workers found out that he was involved with anything "paranormal", he would ridiculed and possibly lose his security clearance (and thus his job). Because of this we created SAGE. In a nutshell, it is a place to go when we get something interesting and say "Hey, take a look at this and tell us what you think."
Q: What's up with all the nicknames?
A: The initial members of SGHA were all members of the Armed Forces. We started calling each other by our Radio handles. Often those names meant something, like a nick name, because it was a trait or based on something someone did. That tradition continued into the present day through the handles our members use in our forum.
Throughout SGHA's history, many individuals have contributed to cause in one form or another. Since this is an article on history, the Honor Roll recognizes individuals that are no longer with us.
The SGHA Honor Roll
Since this is an article on history, the Honor Roll recognizes people that have significantly contributed to SGHA but are no longer with us.
Ash Thompson: In many ways, Ash is just as much responsible for creating SGHA as Cody is. He introduced Cody to "ghost hunting" and served as SGHA's first Vice President. Ash died from lung cancer in 2005.
Ted McKilsey: Ted was SGHA's first Operations Officer. He died serving his country during Operation Desert Storm.
Frank Manis: Frank (Night Writer) was SGHA's first California State Coordinator. Frank died of a heart attack in 2004. Our California charter closed soon afterwards.
Jessica Irwin: Jessica (Tweak) became the Secretary of the New Mexico Charter and redefined how that position operates. She was the first SGHA Officer to suggest and implement fund raisers with charities, a tradition that we continue to this day. Jessica left SGHA in 2002 for personal reasons.
Ross Potter: Ross became the first SHEILD Director in SGHA and helped define the standards for that position within all Charter. Ross moved out of our operational area but continues to give his advice and input on data and issues.
David Jubb: David (Frost) served as Operations Officer for the New Mexico Charter and his charisma helped SGHA through it's "Ice Age". David left SGHA for personal reasons in 2008.
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