The Kansas City barbershop’s new owner hasn’t noticed it, but Marie Jackson spots it right away: a rusty old horseshoe hanging above the entrance.
“A previous owner probably put that up for protection,” she tells him. “In many cultures the horseshoe is a charm placed above a door to ward off dark spirits.”
It isn’t doing its job very well. So Jackson has come to do hers.
Jackson hunts ghosts, one of the few Black people in the nation to do so. Since she started in 2018, she has built up such a reputation that she is working on an upcoming Travel Channel series about the paranormal. Her self-published memoir about her life with ghosts comes out next month.
At the barbershop on Independence Avenue, once the sun goes down, the strange noises pop up — the sound of a door opening and closing, even though it’s locked. Something inside the walls. The owner has video of a strange face floating in one of his mirrors.
Jackson sets up her cameras and detectors to begin documenting. After only a few minutes, the battery in her camcorder becomes critically low.
Moments later, this skeptical reporter’s cellphone battery charge suddenly drops. The Star’s photographer notices his camera flashing a low-battery warning.
“This is normal,” Jackson says calmly, slightly amused at everyone’s startled expressions. “Spiritual entities can drain power from electronics and interfere with signals, which makes it difficult sometimes. So we better hurry.”
For most people, the rational next step would be the exit. But for Jackson, a 37-year-old mother of three, this is just another night at the office.
She says her experiences with the paranormal date back to when she was 3, in her childhood home in South Kansas City.
“I remember on the first day there,” she says. “I was rolling a metal truck from the driveway into the garage. … I got this eerie feeling. I looked up to the right, and there is this dark shadow figure floating in the corner.”
Unbeknownst to her parents, they were moving into what the National Association of Realtors calls a “stigmatized property,” Jackson says, one that has been “psychologically impacted by an event” such as a murder or suicide on the premises. It’s something Realtors in Missouri aren’t required to reveal.
The ghostly occurrences became more frequent, she says, ranging from “scratching and growling” to full-blown paranormal happenings.
“I was helping my mother put stuff in the kitchen cabinets,” she says. “My baby brother began to cry, so we ran into the other room. We heard a loud sound like a train run through the house. I thought someone ran into the house with a car. When we went back into the kitchen, everything that was just placed in cabinets was thrown to the floor.”
Her strict father, a military veteran, taught the children to keep quiet about it.
“My dad was in full denial,” says Jackson. “Whenever any of the kids tried to speak with him about anything relating to the daily weird things, it was dismissed. Or blamed the children for mishaps in the home caused by unexplained circumstances.”
Jackson, the middle born of nine children, always felt the bizarre instances focused more on her.
“I was thrown in the air and tossed around the room,” she says. “My mom thought it was something wrong with me. My mom took me to a pastor, and she was told that this was our own fault due to our family’s lack of faith in God.”
It’s a common feeling in the Black community, she says, leaving her to suffer in silence for years.
It was not until her father died that she decided to pursue paranormal investigating. In 2016 she began to meet local enthusiasts, learn the trade, acquire the needed equipment and resources.
“I meet a lot of people in the field from outside my community, but they had the same experiences,” she says. “When you find other people who have had these shared experiences, you feel good, like I am not the only one. I am not alone. I am not crazy.”
In 2018 Jackson launched Pink Street Paranormal. After seven investigations throughout the Kansas City area, Jackson began to appear on various podcasts and local media outlets.
Early this year, she says, a Los Angeles production company contacted her for a series to develop for cable television.
“The show will be a presentation of new investigations where I do walk-throughs of the areas, details on the local history, talking to the people who experienced it and reenactments of their experiences,” says Jackson. She could be the first Black female ghost hunter at the helm of her own paranormal television show.
Jackson also wrote her first book, “10 Feet Under,” a self-published project chronicling her childhood experiences in haunted locations. It’s set to be released Nov. 21.
Her business emphasizes not only normalizing spiritual occurrences in the African American community, but also shining a light on some of Kansas City’s morbid history.
“People fear what they don’t understand. So getting people to look at things they may be afraid to visit with an open mind in the Black community has been tough,” says Jackson, who confesses she has received her fair number of detractors from Black devout Christians.
“I have been criticized, judged, shunned, called demonic,” she says. “Because we were taught as a people to reject anything that strays from the normal Christian aspects of spiritualism. And because we don’t have exposure in the Black community talking about this and giving exposure to the issue, nobody is going to open up and talk about it because they don’t want to be looked at like they are crazy. Most people are skeptics, until they have something they experience they can’t deny.”
One such person is the Independence Avenue barbershop owner. He asked to remain anonymous due to his religion’s prohibition on the belief of worldly spirits. And he doesn’t want his business labeled “the haunted barbershop.”
He said he personally did not believe in the paranormal, ghosts or anything unnatural. But then …
“We started hearing weird noises as soon as we got here in April. Then we start seeing stuff on the camera reflected in the mirrors at night,” says the owner, who says he no longer stays at the location overnight. He found Jackson on Facebook and sent her photos and videos.
“I definitely hope it’s not no ghost, but when you see stuff like this, what else can it be?” he says, showing a security camera image of a pale face reflected in a mirror.
Jackson says the barbershop may sit on or around the site of a Union military outpost from the Civil War. After Confederate troops razed the city of Lawrence in 1863, the Union issued General Order 11, forcing many Confederate sympathizers in Jackson, Cass and Bates counties into exile.
Jackson is still in the early stages of this investigation, however.
Her first step is to verify that there is in fact spiritual activity at the location. She sets up three motion-detecting infrared/night vision cameras, two camcorders and a K2 electromagnetic meter, which can all be remotely viewed by her team throughout the night.
After the cameras are set, she walks the rooms with a radiation meter to check for any abnormal levels. One trick she figured out: She places several cat toys — light-up balls — on the floor that will blink if triggered by any movement, thus alerting the motion cameras.
“I am not a ghost buster,” Jackson jokes. “I can’t get rid of the spirit for you. Nothing really can. I can only determine if there is a spiritual presence and what might have caused it.
“There are not rituals, or sage that can take care of a ghost problem. The best we can do is try to understand it.”