8 February 2023

Odd jobs: horror movies are real life for Canberra's paranormal investigators

| James Coleman
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Canberra Paranormal Investigators offer free services to Canberrans experiencing “supernatural” activity. Photo: Brian Koellish.

“I felt something clasp me around the ankles, lift me up above the bed and spin me around, and there was this really hot feeling, as if something wanted to grab my soul.”

No, you haven’t just read the script to a movie in The Conjuring universe. You’re in the Canberra bedroom of Joe Catanzariti in the dead of night, during what he claims was a “demon attack”.

“It’s a sense of fear I never want to experience again.”

The 61-year-old former aircraft pilot trainer claims there are enough instances like this every year in Canberra to warrant our city’s own investigative team. And so, with the help of social psychologist Angela (last name omitted), Joe followed in the footsteps of Hollywood’s Ed and Lorraine Warren to found Canberra Paranormal Investigators in 2019.

“We investigate paranormal activity in homes, businesses or properties located in the Canberra region and nearby surrounding districts,” he says.

“We don’t do ghost hunts for fun. We offer our services for free to help people and families experiencing any real supernatural activity, concerning haunting or diabolic influences affecting their lives.”

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Joe says it all started for him as a child in his family’s “haunted home” in Hawker, Belconnen, marked by “the usual signs of infestation – inexplicable footsteps, lights flickering, objects moving on their own”.

As a devout Catholic with views shared by many other Christian denominations, he doesn’t believe in ghosts as ‘restless souls’ or ‘returning spirits of relatives’ but rather as manifestations of demons, or fallen angels. And over the next few decades, he says he has witnessed disturbing effects in the lives of those who dabbled in seances, ouija boards, taro cards, astrology, fortune-telling and the occult, and felt driven to help.

“There are a lot of people who don’t realise that what they delve into has repercussions,” he says.

“Demons promise power and knowledge, but they’re out to destroy life.”

Here in Canberra, there are the usual suspects of Blundell’s Cottage, National Film and Sound Archive, Australian War Memorial and Old Parliament House, but Joe says he and Angela can be called out on an investigation as often as three times a week to anything from a suburban house to a government unit.

“We seem to get a few on the southside, but maybe that’s because of the demographics and the sorts of things they’re getting into.”

Joe Catanzariti, lead demonologist at Canberra Paranormal Investigators. Photo: Joe Catanzariti, Facebook.

Regardless of where it is, though, Canberrans aren’t reaching out willy-nilly.

“They’ve got to the stage where it’s becoming physical,” Joe says.

They claim what might have started as loud, unexplained bangs or strange noises such as footsteps, music, distinct voices, crying babies or name calling, objects moving, strange feelings of fear or being watched, or unexplainable smells has become physical touching, hair pulling, beds vibrating and dark entities appearing.

“We had a case where the bathroom door would slam and lock when the family member was in the shower, and a dark entity would come to the side of their bed at night and shake it,” Joe says.

He claims these entities often take the form of dead family members to “try to gain trust”.

“Another common physical form is what’s called the ‘Hat Man’, which wears a hat and dark coat and stands about seven feet tall. There is also the ‘Hooded Man’, which is similar. They’re all darker than night, so if you open your eyes in a dark room, you can still see the shape.”

And yes, Joe says the so-called ‘witching hour’ between two and four in the morning is more than a filmmaker’s embellishment.

“The time is an inversion of 3 pm, when Jesus Christ died on the cross.”

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He says for the individual or family, it all builds up to intense, sleep-depriving levels of fear – so a typical investigation starts with a sit-down chat about when it all began.

“This will give me an idea of where it’s come from, and how it’s been invited,” Joe says.

“Demons are attracted to evil, so sometimes when there has been a serious crime at some point in the history of the home, the entity is attached to the physical place. In other cases, it’s attached to a family member. Sometimes it can be as simple as picking up a cursed object from a secondhand store.”

Some of the callouts amount to nothing more than hallucinations brought on by drug or medication use, but Joe claims about 80 per cent can be traced to a spirit. He says many of these can be picked up with the help of modern technology, including cameras that detect any change to electromagnetic fields (EMF).

“We’ve had it where someone mentioned a spirit writing on the fogged-up screen of the shower and when we went there, lo and behold, the camera picked up an arm extending and touching the mirror,” he says.

“The homeowners might raise concerns about a particular room or report seeing entities coming out of a certain wardrobe and we’ll go in there with the EMF camera and the reading will go through the roof.”

Temperature and air pressure readers can also give a tip-off, “because if there’s a presence in the room, it will often be noticeably colder”.

But Joe emphasises that none of this is done for the adrenaline rush or YouTube hits – each investigation ends with an effort to “create peace”. Typically, this takes the form of a prayer and sprinkling of holy water, both of which “the demons hate”. If an object is involved, it’s burned and the ashes either scattered on a river or buried in a hidden location.

“Years later, the same people will thank us for coming and say how much it really helped.”

As for sceptics, Joe’s message is simple:

“If you ever experience it, you’ll believe it.”

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Demons, ghosts – you must be kidding.

Can’t believe this nonsense. How about Joe takes a photo of the next demon he comes across & posts it on riotact.

Its really quiet sad reading that people actually believe this rubbish about demons & ghosts.
I was with both my parents when they died & when you go into that coffin – thats it, its all over so enjoy the life you have.

James, I’m sorry, but you have no proof. None of what you cite is evidence, and without that you are the usual conspiracy theorist who imposes your pet theories on reality; but good luck!

James Coleman10:48 pm 13 Feb 23

Hence use of the word “claim” in relation to Joe’s quotes.

Do they arrive in the Ectomobile, and I hope mayor Barr doesn’t shutdown their Ecto-Containment System.

Is this a joke ? Nothing supernatural of any sort has ever been demonstrated ever. I’ve been to dozens of allegedly haunted places and they were all duds.

A more meaningful move would have been to publish article this on April 1st.

We need Joe to exorcise the Local Council Chambers. By driving out some of the elected demons there we might get some decent council policy.

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