Michael Cardinuto is a supervisor at Wendy’s and team leader at The Sports Authority. But late at night, he is “Colonel Cardinuto,” co-founder and leader of the Long Island Paranormal Investigators, or LIPI. His 12 member crew investigates private homes and urban legends, and unlike the Ghostbusters, they do it all for free.
Cardinuto is possessed by a passion for science and a healthy amount of skepticism. “This isn’t an exact science,” he said. “That’s why our group doesn’t charge, because we can’t guarantee it. It’s not like ‘Ghostbusters,’ where you can set a trap and take it away.”
Cardinuto has lived in Ronkonkoma his whole life. As a boy scout, he loved to play hockey and go camping. Early on, Cardinuto struggled with a reading comprehension issue — except when he read stories about ghosts and UFOs.
“When I read them I’d understand them,” he said. He also liked to learn about the local urban legends, such as the “police officer” on Mount Misery Road who would pull over cars — and then turn around to reveal that the back of his head was blown out.
In 2003, Cardinuto dared two of his friends to go into an old psychiatric center. They returned with tales of a paranormal experience. Intrigued, Cardinuto went on the Internet and learned about equipment that could be used to investigate paranormal activity.
Cardinuto’s friend, “Lieutenant Colonel” Rob Levine, was taking a parapsychology course in college. Together, they founded the non-profit Long Island Paranormal Investigators.
According to Cardinuto, there are four different types of hauntings that paranormal investigators encounter. “Residual hauntings” are like a tape playing over and over. The spirit doesn’t know you’re there, Cardinuto said. However, in an “intelligent haunting,” the ghost or spirit can respond to you. A “shadow people haunting” involves black, opaque figures that move very quickly. They avoid light, cameras and the gaze of people. Though shadow people appear human-like, “they’re not of this world.” Cardinuto said, “They were never living as a human.” Finally, there is the “demonic haunting.” These are the most serious, the most involved and the most rare, according to Cardinuto.
“If it’s a demonic haunting you have to get a priest to come in to do an exorcism on the house,” Cardinuto said. “They’re a lot more dangerous cases.”
The LIPI team collects evidence with handheld video cameras, digital and film cameras, tape recorders, EMF meters, Geiger counters and thermometers. They investigate urban legends, as well as private homes and businesses.
“We log down all of our readings and data and publish a report for every urban legend,” Cardinuto said. The team will ask questions of the haunting and see if its instruments pick up any activity. Sometimes, the hauntings can directly communicate with the team by blinking the lights on an instrument — once for yes, twice for no. One member of the team is a psychic, but Cardinuto requires data from his equipment for the final analysis.
For home investigations, clients contact LIPI via its website. After an interview, the team sets up a DVR system in the house as well as other stationary equipment to gather data. The team analyzes the video footage and goes over the data with the client.
“We always offer a follow up investigation,” Cardinuto said. Regular hauntings, and especially intelligent hauntings, can get violent. “If you’re a violent person when you’re living, there’s a good chance when you pass away you’re still going to be violent,”
Cardinuto said. “You can be in a spirit form and you can torment that family by throwing things at them and scratching people and things like that.”
While investigating, the LIPI team reported having been touched, scratched, and in one case, a member had a tape recorder knocked out of his hand.
LIPI does not have the capability to get rid of hauntings, but Cardinuto has attended “house cleansings,” which involve opening all the doorways in the home and burning sage, frankincense and myrrh in every room to smoke out the negative energy. Salt is then sprinkled in all the windows and doorways to keep the energy out. For some intelligent hauntings, a psychic can talk with the haunting and convince it to move “to the other side.” However, since residual hauntings are burned into that specific location, “You can knock down a building, build a new one, and it’s still going to be there,” Cardinuto said.
Currently, LIPI has 12 members and recently held an interview session to take on four more. “Everyone has their own thing they do, everyone plays an important role,” Cardinuto said. In new recruits, Cardinuto looks for people who are driven to enter the field and volunteer time away from their personal lives. To raise money, every member contributes $10 per month. To raise additional funds, LIPI holds presentations (for which they charge a fee), sells merchandise on its website and accepts donations.
Cardinuto has personally spent more than $25,000 to support LIPI. “This is like a college course that doesn’t end,” he said. “You’re paying to be here and getting an education out of it.”
Cardinuto understands that some people think he’s crazy. “There are a lot of people who go skiing and snowboarding, who jump out of airplanes. I think that’s dumb,” he said. “I’m glad that there are skeptics…. If you can prove to a skeptic that the paranormal exists, based on the evidence, and they agree with you, then you know you’ve got them. In this field you need skeptics.”