This DIY Spirit-Hunting Adventure Lets You Decide: Real or Not?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because seeing is believing … right?
By Lauren Cocking
“Who believes in ghosts?” asks our Tour Insólito guide, Antonio Zamudio. It’s dusk in an eerily secluded courtyard in the heart of La Roma, Mexico City, and a smattering of hands go up as nervous glances and suppressed smiles ripple through the circle. “Well, then, I’m sorry to say that ghosts aren’t real!” And just like that, the scene is set for our evening of rational-minded, investigative spirit-seeking in an abandoned hospital. There was nothing to be afraid of … right?
Organized by the Agencia Mexicana de Investigación Paranormal (Mexican Paranormal Investigation Agency), Tour Insólito — insólito means, aptly, both unusual and unbelievable — cuts through the bullshit of typical ghost tours. This is no haunted house jump-scare nightmare with costumed actors waiting in the wings. Instead, under the guidance of Zamudio and team, participants are encouraged to dabble DIY-style in the paranormal, ultimately drawing their own conclusions on the great beyond, the más allá.
Each tour experience begins with a spot of chanting in Spanish and Latin to open the umbral (threshold) and invite the spirits, plus a brief insight into the location at hand. Next you’re broken into smaller groups and given a crash course in how to use each spirit-invoking method — from Ouija boards to Victorian pendulums to automatic writing experiments (where two people interlock hands over a blank sheet of paper, loosely hold a pen and wait for a response).
Tour Insólito doesn’t look for ghosts, but we did get a glimpse of some spooky spirit channeling.
One thing that’s not allowed: trying to commune with your dead grandma or recently deceased goldfish. Instead, you’re encouraged to connect with the spirits that Zamudio and team believe to reside in each location. For us, that meant reaching out to nurses and former patients of the now-dilapidated former sanatorium. Participation throughout is optional, but encouraged. Also encouraged: a smartphone or camera to record any supernatural happenings.
“Nothing is predetermined,” Zamudio is careful to confirm during our pre-tour interview. “The experiments are planned, but we don’t know how people will react.” Psychologist by trade and paranormal sleuth by passion — “we’re investigators, not tour guides,” he reminds me — Zamudio has been investigating the supernatural since founding the Agencia Mexicana de Investigación Paranormal in 1994 (there are now more than 300 members). In 2011, he began offering tours of everything from haunted hotels in Mexico City’s historic center to abandoned hospitals in La Roma, scoping out each location in advance for evidence of paranormal potential. They’ve “done more tours in Roma because people like it,” Zamudio says — not just the experience itself but that you “leave and clear your mind outside” (the film-famous La Roma is a bustling city center neighborhood) — and each time it’s been a different vibe, for believers and non.
So what exactly is the appeal of a paranormal tour for self-declared skeptics? “I think we all look for ways to escape the mundane daily life, and what better way is there than a little fear-inducing ghost hunt at a seriously haunted location?!” says Wesley McDermott of Haunted Rooms America. Tour Insólito doesn’t look for ghosts, but we did get a glimpse of some spooky spirit channeling. Our special guest, Fernando Flores, a professional hypnotherapist, psychotherapist and self-proclaimed medium, gave us a dash of what I assume was hypnosis. He then had one participant giggling like a child — like every horror movie come to life — while the other channeled the sobs of a young nurse.
Regardless, heavy doses of suggestion seem key to much of Tour Insólito’s paranormal proofs. Ouija boards and automatic writing experiments are notoriously easy to subconsciously corrupt, while tour team members seemed eager to pace around the Victorian pendulum when they entered the room.
Skepticism certainly rippled through the group during the wind-down dinner (included in the cost of the tour), as Flores entertained us with some Uri Geller-inspired fork bending. But whether you leave a convert or not — Insólito does mean “unbelievable,” after all — diving into the weird and wonderful world of the paranormal by way of Ouija boards and beyond can be fun. As Zamudio says, “Here, we like it when people leave with more questions than answers.”
Tour Insólito runs roughly once a month in different parts of Mexico City — upcoming dates are available on its website and Facebook page. The tour is conducted entirely in Spanish and is open to those aged between 13 and 61 (as per their website). Bring your own candle and a fully charged smartphone.
- Lauren Cocking, OZY AuthorContact Lauren Cocking