By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor
JOPLIN, Mo. —
2013 is shaping up to be a good year for Lisa Livingston-Martin. A few months removed from the publishing of her second book, she'll finish another book about the area's history -- this one focusing on some of the dirty deeds done around Route 66.
And later this year, she'll get to see herself and Paranormal Science Labs -- the ghost-hunting group she co-leads -- on cable TV.
Livingston-Martin flew to Los Angeles last month to film video for a segment on "My Ghost Story: Caught on Camera" for the Bio Channel. A crew for the show also met up with group members at the Kendrick House, in Carthage, for more filming.
Not bad for a group that started out searching for real-world explanations for paranormal phenomena. And there could be even more TV appearances, on more than one network.
"There are a couple of other networks we're in the talking stages with," Livingston-Martin said. "We are also going to expand our public tours and investigations to help historic sites out."
The group has actively worked at the Kendrick House, a Civil War-era building that survived the violence of the scorched-earth battles that depopulated Jasper County to a few hundred.
Members of the group have done several ghost hunts at the mansion and recorded several unexplained phenomena, including disembodied voices, shadowy figures, strange balls of light and off-scale readings of normal environmental qualities.
Many of those were documented in her first book, "Civil War Ghosts of Southwest Missouri." Some of those stories will be featured in the upcoming episode of "My Ghost Story."
Livingston-Martin said she was contacted via email by a producer for the show. After talking about possible locations based on the group's body of work, they decided on the mansion. Three weeks later, she was in Los Angeles, being interviewed for the show.
A film crew and five members of the group, including Kelly Harris, Bill Martin, Mistie Cole and Eric Crinnian, also filmed sequences at the mansion.
"I was impressed," she said of the filming. "It was very organized, efficient and supportive of a non-actress like me."
Livingston-Martin said the show stays along the same lines as the group, when considering paranormal phenomena. While she has no control over the editing process, she said they stuck to evidence and documented things, instead of going solely with stories and testimonies.
It's an approach that the group stands by. Ignoring "orbs" and other suspicious forms of ghostly proof, members try to explain things before resorting to supernatural answers.
"I feel like we're going in the right direction," she said. "We just present ourselves, our stories and say, 'Here is what we captured as a result.' We've had personal experiences, but we don't go heavy into those."
The group has done several investigations at the mansion and even led ghost hunts with members of the public. They have experienced everything from strange lights to mysterious thumps.
But even then, Livingston-Martin won't say the Kendrick House is the home of ghosts. In past interviews, she said that she believes something is going on, but doesn't know exactly what it is.
Diving into history
Explanations involve diving into history -- something that Livingston-Martin enjoys doing, she said. When the group started doing investigations of paranormal phenomena in historic areas, they quickly learned the importance of gathering past reading material.
"I've always been a history buff," she said. "Now I find it very interesting to dive into the history for context, to figure out why something happens."
One such example she writes about in "Haunted Joplin." During an investigation at the Joplin Public Library, the site of the former Connor Hotel, her group and members of the library reported quite a bit of activity.
Research revealed that at least 10 people are known to have killed themselves at the hotel, which may explain the level of paranormal activity, she said.
"One of the best electronic voice phenomena we've ever recorded came from there," she said. "One of our investigators asked if Mr. Connor was with us tonight. In response, it sounds like a man with an Irish brogue, who has had one too many, says, 'Ah, he and I have been known to,' and trails off."
History also helps debunk legends of hauntings. The ghost of notorious serial killer Billy Cook, for instance: He is credited with being the source of hauntings at Peace Church Cemetery.
But group members found that not much happens in the area where he is buried. Instead, an area with unmarked graves appears to be more active.
Other haunts in Joplin and Carthage could be explored in future episodes of "My Ghost Story," Livingston-Martin said.
In the end, the paranormal investigations help do more than just add data to the questions about supernatural phenomena, she said. They also help preserve historic locations.
Such haunted sites attract tourists who thrill at the hunt. The money raised accommodating tourists helps preserve such places.
"It's good to help preservation efforts and raise public awareness," Livingston-Martin said. "A lot of people don't realize how endangered some of these sites are. Most don't receive any public funding, and without community support, they would die out."