When Melanie Baez visits Gainesville’s Alta Vista Cemetery, she feels herself drawn toward the older graves that rarely get visited.
Her dog Ricky favors one spot in particular — the grave of Henry, who died at 5 months old.
“My black Schnauzer, when he gets out of my truck, he always wants to come here on this grave site,” Baez said while looking at the tombstone. “He came out one day and acted like somebody was petting him. He doesn’t like to be touched by anybody.”
Baez, who lives in Flowery Branch, has believed in ghosts since she was 15.
She started the Paranormal Society of Northeast Georgia eight months ago in hopes of gathering like-minded people to share in her passion for the paranormal.
“My dream is to get my story out there and let people know that there’s a different world out there,” Baez said. “We can’t see it, but they’re here.”
Throughout October, Baez has investigated Alta Vista Cemetery, which has been in operation for 140 years and includes graves and memorials for many notable people, including veterans of the Revolutionary and Civil wars such as Lt. Gen. James Longstreet, as well as former governors, mayors, sheriffs and police chiefs.
Baez comes equipped with her handy camera and in some cases an electronic voice phenomenon to gather what she believes to be evidence of paranormal activity. This device, also called an EVP, is commonly used by paranormal investigators.
Baez prefers her camera and during an investigation may take up to 1,200 photos.
Baez likes to point and shoot in places where she said she senses out-of-the-norm energy, then sifts through her photos when she gets home.
Although she doesn’t always strike gold, she said her efforts at Alta Vista Cemetery proved a success.
Baez said she found evidence of a 5-month-old named Henry and two different couples.
She spotted the two couples in separate photos she took around the cemetery.
The one that struck her the most was the image of what looks like a bride and groom sitting near the cluster of willow trees.
“A lot of people are saying it’s James Longstreet and his wife,” Baez said. “It looks like they’re sitting on a horse, but it also looks like they’re sitting on a bench.”
The photo shows the blurry outline of what appears to be a man in a suit sitting to the right of a lady in a long white dress.
Her photo of the other couple isn’t as sharp. It shows the faint outline of two figures.
Although she hasn’t made a connection to any particular couple with the photograph, she plans to continue her research.
As for Henry, Baez doesn’t have any photos of him, and said she just feels his cold presence.
Although his grave shows he died as an infant, Baez believes his spirit is about 3 years old.
She describes him as “friendly and a little lost.”
“I think he’s stuck in between worlds,” Baez said. “I think there’s something here that he’s missing out on. He died young and maybe he wants to try to see people.”
Baez likes to post her findings on her paranormal society’s Facebook page. With every photo, she said there’s at least one who claims she has used Photoshop.
Baez assures them she has no idea how to use the program.
“The skeptics are what keep me motivated to do what I do,” she said. “I like trying to prove skeptics wrong. Until they experience something first-hand, then it’ll make them a believer.”
For those who want to conduct a paranormal investigation on their own in a cemetery, Baez recommends doing it with a clear mind and showing respect for those who have died.
At Alta Vista Cemetery, she typically announces aloud who she is and the purpose of her visit.
“Talk to them like there’s somebody in front of you,” Baez said. “I don’t believe in yelling at them. To me that draws the bad entities.”
Since starting the paranormal society, Baez mostly goes out on ghost hunts with her mother. Others will join occasionally.
She welcomes anyone who has an interest in the paranormal to message her on the Paranormal Society of North Georgia’s Facebook page.
Once the group gains more members, she plans to host ghost walks at the Alta Vista Cemetery to raise money for the graves’ upkeep.
“I just want people that are trusting and open to this kind of stuff,” Baez said. “This cemetery is very special to me.”