Brent Soileau (left) with the other team members of Ghosts of Louisiana Paranormal Society (GOLAPS) which he founded in 2010.
On the Hunt for Louisiana’s Ghosts: Brent Soileau and his team believe there are plenty to be found.
Aside from the matching t-shirts sporting a cryptic logo, Brent Soileau and Linda Pigrenet looked like the handful of other customers stopping by for an afternoon pick-me-up at the coffee shop where we met.
But there is something that sets Soileau and Pigrenet apart from the rest of the crowd. They are part of a team represented by that logo that includes a parish planner, a police officer, and five others with perfectly normal day jobs. And very unusual evenings. These teammates dedicate many of their after work, after dark hours to ghost hunting.
Soileau, who talks about his twenty-five years of experience with benign hauntings, malevolent hauntings, poltergeists and demonic entities, founded Ghosts of Louisiana Paranormal Society (GOLAPS) in 2010. The team’s confidential, investigative services are offered free of charge to home and business owners disturbed by strange activity on their property.
“It’s been a passion of mine since I was four years old,” Soileau said with obvious excitement in his voice. “The more freaked out people are, the more I want to see it. I’ve never come across anything that has scared me.”
His encounters began in 1978, when Soileau’s family moved into a house that was said to be haunted.
“We didn’t pay it much mind, until we started seeing shadows run down the hall and were hearing voices on our intercom system. My brother and I started setting up a Sony tape recorder and leaving the house. When we came home, we’d listen to the tape and hear whispers,” Soileau said.
As the group’s leader, Soileau’s strengths lie in his experience, background in psychology and extensive research. He is also the go-to guy for “clearings,” the process of helping spirits move on or compelling them to leave.
“I’ve studied various religions over the years. I found comparisons in how they deal with spirits and realized I was on the right track,” Soileau said. “I use different elements depending on the household, but the ritual often includes robes, holy water, a number of blessed items, protective circles and smudging of ashes.”
Pigrenet brings a different element to the team. In addition to being an amateur engineer of ghost hunting equipment, she is labeled as one of the groups’ “sensitives.”
“When I was about ten, I started having dreams about the future. I don’t get them often, but I’ve always had paranormal experiences,” Pigrenet said, seeming shy to speak about her talent.
Soileau chimed in to explain, “There’s an abandoned insane asylum—a very old place. Linda feels different every time we go there. She gets drained, emotionally attacked. One time she got physically sick. Something sucked the energy right out of her, but when she gets out of the building, she is fine.”
Armed with an arsenal of recording devices, specialized microphones and electromagnetic tools, as well as an open mind toward the spiritual realm, the group is on a mission to document paranormal activity across southeast Louisiana.
“There is a lot of experimentation. We are loaded down with technical equipment to gather evidence, but we use the spiritual side to help guide us. The fact is you are dealing with something that at its core is a spiritual matter,” Soileau said.
The group’s website shows as much of their evidence as possible without revealing the identity of their clients. Photos depict unexplained orbs of light and what they call ectoplasmic mist—similar in appearance to a cloud of smoke. In one chilling cemetery shot, the mist appears to be an outline of a woman on the ground, holding her arm up to ward off an attacker whose face is nearly as visible as his real-life mug shot.
While critics disregard the orbs as dust and the mist as smoke, Soileau refutes them by approaching every haunting as a skeptic himself, such as shutting off all sources of airflow in a house and ruling out squatters in abandoned buildings.
The audio files are unnerving as well. Although many are difficult to understand, there are a few where metallic-sounding voices whisper clearly spoken messages to the ghost hunters.
Part of the group’s mission is to reassure those who have an unexplained encounter.
“People are usually worried that if they talk about a haunting, others will think they are crazy. I’m here to assure them they are not,” Soileau said.
“This happens more often than people realize. I encourage our clients to call anytime day or night because we want to help them.”
GOLAPS will be featured on the TV show “My Ghost Story” this fall.
Details. Details. Details.
Anyone wanting to share a ghostly tale can contact GOLAPS through their website ghostsoflouisiana.com, or email Soileau directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kristy Christiansen is a public affairs specialist and freelance writer based in New Orleans. She writes a travel blog, featured on the Country Roads website, about her family’s adventures across Louisiana.