Patti Starr is talking about her lifetime of encounters with the spirit world. She takes out her ghost hunting equipment and lays it on the table.
There's the cell sensor, the electromagnetic field radiation tester, the EM vortex, the EM pump.
"This is a grid pen," she says.
She turns it on, and one corner of her classroom is flooded with hundreds of tiny green lights.
"Ahhh ... there's something going on," Starr says, looking at the pattern. "Do you see it moving? Oh my God, look, look! Did you see that! That's spirit, honey!"
The reporter starts feverishly snapping pictures, trying to capture the swirls that are breaking up the grid.
"Oh I hope you get it! Oh my God. See how it's interrupting all the lights, see how the lights are flickering? That's spirit, honey! That is spirit. Oh my God. I've never had it do this before!"
She knows she needs to record the phenomenon she's observing.
"Sweet spirit, I've got to go get my cellphone. This is too incredible. Woo hoo!" She leaves the room, but outside, she exclaims, "Oh my God, it is awesome!"
Don't tell the preacher
A certified expert on ghost hunting, Starr is no stranger to the spotlight. She is a magnet not only for spirits but for reporters searching for a Halloween story. She's been featured on local TV news segments and has gone to Hollywood to appear on the series My Ghost Story.
Her Ghost Chasers International and Ghost Hunter Shop are on Porter Place, in a building she shares with husband Chuck's art and framing business.
Starr said she'll never be able to prove to others the existence of ghosts.
"I think that's beyond any of us," she said.
But in a lifetime of contact with the spirit world, she said, she has gotten convincing and rare evidence that has caused her to believe in "the possibility of life after death, and ghosts and spirits."
When did her contacts start?
"I was very, very little," she said.
"My background is strict southern Baptist in South Carolina. When I would tell my parents what I could see or hear, my mother very nervously would say, 'Oh no, honey, that's just your imagination.' ... And she would always say, 'For God's sake, don't tell the preacher!' That would worry me. Am I doing something that bad?"
In every house she lived in, she would see spirits.
"So I realized early on that I wasn't living in haunted places, but that I was the haunted one."
Was she never scared?
"Sometimes I'll be startled," she said. "I always refer to them as my sweet spirits. Other people are frightened, but it's just because they don't know."
It helps that she never associates with anything dark or demonic.
"I'm not saying it doesn't exist," she said, "but every day I set myself up in the light and I go forward, so that makes my vibrations very high and lower vibrations cannot enter."
'I'm a believer'
As Starr tries to document the spirit captured by her grid pen, a customer comes in.
"Do you want to see it?" Starr asks the customer. "You can see it if it doesn't scare you."
"No, I'm a believer," says Angela Roark, a fan of Starr's and a friend on Facebook.
"Now I need to video this," Starr says. "I'm going to hit the recorder and I hope it will happen. Let's hope and pray. The spirit is ... see it bouncing? There it is."
"It may be my Uncle Ronnie," Roark says of the spirit. Her uncle recently died, and he is on her mind.
"Something said to me, 'You need to get up and go to Patti's store right now,'" Roark says.
She and Starr watch the video on the cellphone. The screen is too small to do justice to what they'd just witnessed.
"I know it's my uncle, just as I know I'm a bleached blonde," Roark says.
An out-of-skull experience
Years ago, when Chuck Starr told his father that he was dating a woman who was a ghost hunter, and that he too was getting interested in ghost hunting, his father said, "You're out of your skull."
But Chuck knew his own skull, and he knew an enchanting woman when he saw one.
Before Chuck met Patti, his life could not have been less paranormal.
He opened Collector's Gallery in the late 1960s and over the years guided it through changes in the market. He and his first wife raised a family; his two sons now work with him.
But by the late 1990s, his wife of 45 years had died, and he was feeling unmoored. So when a business call came from a woman who was managing a local Cracker Barrel shop, he was, you could say, in a receptive state.
He went to the restaurant to discuss the job, and for Chuck, it was love at first sighting of Patti.
On their very first date, Patti told Chuck about her ghostly connections.
"Right up front that would always be the first thing I would say ... and that would often be the last date," Patti says.
But Chuck was not deterred.
"You've got my attention," he said.
The first time Chuck brought Patti to Porter Place, she sensed something right away.
"You know you've got a ghost in here," she told him.
"Oh, get on with you," he said.
Chuck and Patti married in 2000, and he found room in his building for her to turn her passion into a business.
"She'd been treating her efforts as a hobby," Chuck said. "I told her she was spending too much money and not taking advantage of tax benefits."
Now, 835 Porter Place houses her shop, her classes, and her Mystical Paranormal Fair, held once a month. And it's headquarters for her other activities, including cemetery tours and speaking engagements. The sign outside the building lists nine separate enterprises in all, both his and hers. Together they run the popular ScareFest, held in September at Rupp Arena.
Chuck, who spent much of his life not believing in ghosts, now has had numerous sightings. He describes seeing his late mother in the middle of one night. And he's very familiar with Henry, the ghost Patti detected on her first visit to Porter Place.
"A while back," Patti said, "I went into my shop and saw Henry, just standing there. And I asked him, within my mind, 'I can't figure out why you don't move on.' We've done crossovers. We've called on Archangel Michael, Archangel Azrael to help him, but he never leaves.
"So I asked him why. With a big smile he said, 'Because of what you do. It allows me to bring in these souls who can't find their way. And you help them cross over.' And it made me cry. It was so beautiful."
"You're a good ghost hunter," Roark tells Starr as they finish watching the video on Starr's cellphone. "I want to be a ghost hunter so bad. I know it's my uncle. I swear I brought him with me."
"You may have, honey. Let's see if we can tell," Starr says. "Let's ask some yes-or-no questions and see if he'll answer."
She holds her ghost meter in the air and addresses the spirit: "Uncle Ronnie, we'd like to know if you are in this room. I know there are other spirits in this room. Sometimes they come through for us and sometimes they don't. If you're here, stop the meter from going off," says Starr.
"I've got your car and it's running great," Roark says.
"And she loves the car," Starr tells the spirit. "Do one for yes, two for no.
"Is the spirit that's here Uncle Ronnie?" Starr asks. No, says the meter.
"Are you here on behalf of Uncle Ronnie?" No.
"Are you Henry (the building's resident ghost)?" No.
"Are you here for me?" asks Starr. No again.
This is perplexing.
"Are you a spirit looking to be crossed over?" Another no. Will there ever be a yes?
"Did you come with the reporter?" Yes!
"Oh, it's gone," Starr says. The reporter, caught up in the excitement, is left to wonder: Who could it have been?
Patti Starr's Ghost Hunter Shop
Where: 835 Porter Place
Hours: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and by appointment.
Learn more: (859) 576-5517.
Also at the same location: Collector's Gallery hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Call (859) 233-1121
Vicky Broadus: (859) 231-3516.