Paranormal researchers to tour historical house

Elizabeth Hinojos

“I’m trying to keep myself from sounding completely insane,” said Robyn Ramsey, a paranormal researcher. “But it’s difficult to do.”

Ramsey is part of the team of paranormal researchers that will lead the Haunted History Mystery at Austin’s oldest home, the French Legation Museum. On Halloween night, Ramsey and her colleagues, Darla Andrews and Melissa Burk, will guide museum-goers in groups of 10 and demonstrate ways to detect paranormal presences with investigative tools.

The 170-year-old home will undergo preservation work starting in early November. The construction provides impeccable timing for paranormal investigation since all museum collections have been moved away from the site. The house is now completely empty — with the exception of eerie chandeliers and light fixtures — for the first time in almost 60 years.

Director of the French Legation, Lise Ragbir, said the basis for the belief of “paranormal activity” in the house is likely because of the Robertson family, who owned the home for more than 100 years. Joseph and Lydia Lee Robertson raised their 11 children there. Ragbir said Mrs. Robertson was the first to be born in the house in 1850 and the last to die there in 1940. Other residents also lived on Robertson Hill during the family’s time at the home.

Ramsey was a child when the paranormal sparked her curiosity. Ramsey and Andrews, whom she has known since third grade, recorded “EVP sessions,” also known as electronic voice phenomena, on a cassette recorder.

“We knew we were getting sounds we didn’t make,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey explained that it was the death of an immediate family member that was the main reason she decided to delve into the field. Acquaintances would tell Ramsey that spirits are stuck on earth when they are “violently killed.”

“That’s when I decided to research myself instead of obsessing and being scared over the situation,” Ramsey said.

But it was her paranormal experience during her first visit at the French Legation which led her to inquire about the site further.

Ramsey said the home is a site which holds a strong place memory. This is a theory that a deceased person’s emotional scenarios from their past life can be replayed and that living onlookers can eventually catch a glimpse of the spirit re-living the scenario, unaware of viewers.

“Some people say they have heard noises or felt a presence,” said Ragbir. “Though I haven’t had any paranormal experiences myself.”

When asked whether she believes in paranormal activity, Ragbir declined to comment.

At a venue filled with possibilities for the paranormal, Ramsey said there could be a variety of presences. There is potential for a residual haunting, which happens in a place memory situation. There is also potential for a poltergeist, which is a noisy source that could be a ghost. There could be sources of high energy that can move items around, or transparent cardboard-like cutouts of people may also arise. Demons, animal spirits and other sources are also a possibility.

“It’s natural to get scared, but there’s this zone you get into,” Ramsey said. “If you put so much time and effort into an experience that may last a few seconds, you don’t want to lose it, so if I feel there’s real activity going on, I get into work mode ready to catch it.”