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Ghost researchers checked out Finleys
Dana Mierkey checks pans that reportedly flew off their hooks on their own. - photo by Bulletin file photo

Editor’s note: This story first ran on Feb. 9, 2010 in the Manteca Bulletin


They’re called the Ghost Research Investigators of the Paranormal or GRIP.

Based in Lathrop, members include those with advanced powers of emotional, mental, spiritual and overall energetic sensitivity.

Dana Mierkey, for one, possesses enough of those traits to be called an empath. She’s joined on the ghost-hunting team by the likes of Eileen VerHulst, Tabatha Vega, and her 16-year-old daughter, Tyrah.

A few years ago, Mierkey and her daughter stopped off at Finley’s Gentry Bar and Grill at 10477 S. Airport Way, Manteca, for dinner. She recalled a strong presence of paranormal activity in the old building that was once part of French Camp.

“I wanted to say something back then (to owner Deborah Finley) but there was a roomful of customers,” Mierkey said. “I wanted to be low-key about it.”

Last week, she decided to finally pay the owner a visit.

For 16 years, Finley has been the owner of the establishment formerly known as Tally’s and Miller’s Post. During that time, she had a feeling she wasn’t necessarily alone.

Call it a force, energy, entity or even ghost. Deborah Finley had her share of out-of-the-ordinary experiences as did some of her present and former employees.

She noted that a few of her workers upped and quit during the years shortly after encountering the unexplained.

Finley and her husband, Mark, gave the GRIP team the OK Saturday to conduct a preliminary walk-through investigation of the area.

“Sometimes it’s not the building but the property (that’s haunted),” Mierkey said.

Shortly after business hours, she, VerHulst, Chris Dulay, Tabatha Vega, who is the founder of GRIP, and her daughter, Tyrah, conducted the preliminary investigation. They were quickly drawn to the energy coming from the kitchen and the house located directly behind the business.

Each had previous encounters with the paranormal.

In order to do the work, the GRIP team brought out the equipment, including digital audio recorders, a thermal imaging video camera with monitor, digital camera, temperature gauges and the Ovilus.

The Ovilus is a small, hand-held device used specifically for paranormal communications. It has the capability to measure changes in the environmental energy fields, modulating these changes into audible speech by using a synthesizer chip.

“The Ovilus can phonetically sound out 412 words,” Mierkey said.

Cameras with night vision were set up in both places, with Tabatha Vega reportedly getting a paranormal response shortly after 10 p.m. She sat at the bar with Finley and other guests, speaking to the entity in a direct yet seemingly harsh tone.

It was enough to cause a reaction, Finley said.

From the kitchen, they heard one of the hanging pots in the pantry come crashing down. Vega, who appeared both startled and excited, was quick to share the information with other members of the team investigating activity in the house.

About an hour later, Mierkey and VerHulst had good news of their own – a photograph of the paranormal.

But, after further review, Mierkey dismissed the image initially thought to be an old man wearing Amish-type hat as that of a distorted photo of VerHulst caused by the Canon camera with night vision.

Regardless of the hits and misses, Tabatha Vega noted the activity that took place inside Finley’s Bar and Grill was enough to warrant a follow-up and more thorough investigation consisting of 20 members making up several teams.

For Finley, her mind was somewhat put to ease that the presence – paranormal or not – inside her business wasn’t a figment of her imagination.

“I feel validated,” she said.

The GRIP team has plans of sharing this experience and possibly the follow-up with groups such as Para-Seekers of Modesto, Ceres Paranormal Believers, Western Region Paranormal Research, and San Joaquin Valley Paranormal Research, to name a few.