DULUTH—Two Duluth-area conservation officers chased down two suspected poachers Saturday night, Oct. 21, in what became a haunting tale of paranormal behavior.
Conservation officers Andy Schmidt and Kipp Duncan, who patrol the Duluth area for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, were staking out a cemetery near where there had been recent complaints of people "shining" deer.
Using a flashlight or spotlight to locate deer at night is illegal if you have a gun or bow in your vehicle. Shining lights to look for animals is allowed for the first two hours after sunset nightly, but only if there is no gun or bow in the vehicle.
The officers' stakeout—in a small, dark cemetery in an undisclosed location—was closer to midnight than sunset.
"We were in the truck waiting for something to happen when this car pulled into the cemetery," Schmidt said Monday, Oct. 23. "We could see they were using some sort of light. But it wasn't really a beam of light. ... It was flashing on and off like a strobe."
Schmidt and Duncan debated whether the suspects were breaking any law but eventually decided the action constituted shining—or at least was unusual enough to find out what was going on.
"So we pulled out to talk to them and they took off. ... We had to chase after them and hit them with the (flashing) lights out on the road," Schmidt said.
The suspects eventually stopped and the officers approached their car. It turned out to be two women from Calumet, Minn., on the Iron Range, who appeared to be in their late 30s or early 40s, Schmidt said. They didn't have any gun or bow in the car.
"When we asked them what they were doing with the lights they wouldn't tell us. They said we'd make fun of them," Schmidt said.
Eventually the women fessed up: They had been looking for ghosts in the graveyard.
"She explained they were using their phone camera flash to spot ghosts. They said that you can't see ghosts with a normal light, that you have to use a flash," Schmidt said. "I didn't realize ghosts only show up with flash."
Duncan then noticed an unusual blinking light on one of the women's smartphones. It was an app, they explained, called Ghost Radar.
"They said it would allow you to see where the ghosts were that you couldn't see," Schmidt said.
Ghost Radar's website advertises the app as "the original application designed to detect paranormal activity."
In the end, the women were allowed to go on their way. No ticket was issued.
"We told them to have fun," Duncan said. "And then we laughed. ... We see all of it out there. But this is the first time we've stopped ghostbusters, or whatever you call them."
Schmidt and Duncan declined to say exactly where the cemetery was, noting that they still haven't caught the suspected illegal deer shiners and that they would be back out looking, waiting. Maybe hiding behind a headstone.