Who you gonna call: Mattapoisett’s friendly neighborhood ghost hunter
MATTAPOISETT — For most of us, the idea of seeing a ghost is a terrifying and objectionable proposition — one that even the most logically-minded skeptics would rather not have to rationalize — but for Stephanie Burke, meeting a ghost is as natural as striking up a conversation with a stranger at the grocery store.
In fact, Burke says she has been seeing ghosts for as long as she can remember, even before she really knew what they were.
“I didn’t realize I was speaking to those that had passed on until I was six years old and I lost my grandmother,” she said, explaining that she would often have conversations with spectral figures that inhabited the former underground railroad house she grew up in, without realizing what they were. “Then when I lost her physically and I could still see her — and she kind of looked like everyone else that I had been communicating with — it was like a really strange wakeup call.”
Most parents would probably have been scared stiff if they caught their child talking to invisible spirits around the house, but Burke’s family was not like most others.
Burke had a slightly different upbringing from most children. From the time she was just three years old, for example, she would go out exploring, looking for ghosts with her father and his trusty infrared camera — meant to be able to capture images of spirits.
Burke said that in her spare time, she likes to study genealogy, spending hours tracing her family roots back through generations with the help of Ancestry.com. Through her research, Burke has been able to trace “the gift” back six generations. Two of her relatives, she said, were even accused of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials.
And Burke’s long family history of communication with the dead may not be over. Her own daughter, it so happens, was born on Halloween and is already interested in ghost hunting.
“She’ll hear me talk about ghosts or going somewhere and she’ll say, ‘Oh, I want to go ghost hunting,’” said Burke. “She has no idea what it is but the love of it is already there, just like it was with me. It’s almost like it was in our blood.”
Burke graduated from high school in 2006 and quickly became involved in more structured ghost hunting after meeting and befriending the hosts of one of her favorite radio shows, WBSM’s Spooky Southcoast.
Within just a few years, Burke was helping Spooky Southcoast’s Tim Weisberg host ghost hunting events at historical sights all around the area.
“People would buy tickets to come out and explore these historical places and the idea was always to raise money for them,” she said, explaining that her love of ghosts has always been closely connected to a love of history. “Those two things, hand-in-hand, really keep that industry going. We’ve raised so much money for so many years for all these different places.”
By 2012, Burke had quit her day job and was working full-time as a medium and reiki practitioner, all while making regular guest appearances on Spooky Southcoast where she would become a full-time co-host the following year.
Burke described reiki as a hands-on healing technique meant to give the recipient the energy they need to heal themselves.
“It was something I was introduced to from a very young age,” she said, explaining that her mother was a nurse who practiced reiki. “When you have a physical problem, you can go see a doctor. But you don’t really have anyone to go to when you have a spiritual problem. So [reiki] kind of ties all that together. And it’s not meant to take away from any medical practice, it’s meant to complement it.”
Even with all her spiritual and spooky endeavors, it was not until about 2016 that Burke’s ghost hunting really took off.
Her big break in the field of paranormal investigation came when a popular cable TV show called Kindred Spirits came to the area and asked her to help them identify the ghosts inhabiting a local building.
Burke ended up appearing in three episodes of the show across seasons one and two. In the show, Burke was tasked with doing spiritual evaluations of the locations in question to help the show hosts figure out what ghosts were there and who they were.
“I had no idea where I was going, no information ahead of time,” she said. “I would just kind of get dropped off at the location and go in and tell them what I saw and what I knew about the location using psychic medium abilities. And they would corroborate that with whatever historical documents or information about the house that they had.”
Once the shows aired, Burke said she started to get work as a ghost hunter and medium nationwide, traveling far beyond New England to help people communicate with those on the other side.
“That’s when it really started to become a full-time job,” she said.
On one occasion, Burke said she held a seance in Hawaii where the spirits she spoke to could only communicate in the native language. So, she had to repeat their words phonetically for the audience to translate.
“I’m kind of like a weird liaison between the living and dead,” she said, “almost like a translator.”
No matter where she goes though, one of Burke’s goals is to help people feel more comfortable around ghosts and how they communicate with the living.
“A lot of people think they’re crazy when they experience this stuff. So I like to help people and guide them through that process of kind of figuring out themselves and getting their bearings when it comes to what type of abilities they may have and how to live with it,” she said. “My goal is to help as many people [as I can], living or dead.”