In a tumultuous year which saw many of us taking up new hobbies and interests like sourdough making, gardening and knitting: here's another, rather unlikely, one to emerge - ghost hunting.
While it's hard to know for sure if the increase in ghost hunting as a hobby is attributable to COVID-19, local paranormal researchers have reported a spike in interest as public attitudes shift.
After relocating to Orange recently, Jesica Trognot of Ghost Hunters Down Under put out feelers to see if there was any interest to form a local group. Within hours of posting to a community Facebook group, she had received "about 200" messages from people.
"It has been a bit over whelming," she told the Central Western Daily. "I was not expecting so much interest up here, in all honesty. I am pretty shocked."
This was compared to 2014 when Ms Trognot first started Ghost Hunters Down Under and struggled to get 15 people to join.
Fellow paranormal researcher Phil Henderson has been investigating strange and inexplicable phenomenon in the region with his group XRealm for over a decade.
In his spare time from his job as a support services worker in the health industry, Mr Henderson visits locations where locals have reported things they couldn't explain; sometimes attending homes and businesses whose owners had reached out for help.
One Orange couple "had been living in their home for 13 years and for 13 years they haven't felt like it's their home".
"I can't give answers to every question but this can really affect people and if I can sort of change that... [and give people a bit of] peace in their home, that's my angle of why I do it," he said.
"It can affect them emotionally, mentally and physically... and can really cause chaos [in their lives]."
Since the pandemic peaked in early 2020, Mr Henderson had noticed a spike in the number of people sharing photos because they thought "they had a spirit in their home" - something which he attributed to the fact people were stuck at home, hearing sounds they wouldn't normally hear and thinking about things they didn't normally think much about.
Ultimately though, the researcher attributed the rise in paranormal interest was due to the fact it gave people a sense of spiritual meaning.
"In a capitalist society where we're told that our life is about work, work, work, and gain, gain, gain, the sad thing is that a lot of people don't feel like their life has substance and meaning... And along the way we see people die around us, you sort of ask, well is there more to life?" he said.
"The way society is we're told that if it's not there in front of you, don't believe [in] it. We're very scientifically-driven.
"[People want to feel that they're more than] just a body or a carbon-based system that eats, breeds, sh--s, works. That you have a cause."
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