Paranormal Research Society investigates ghosts on and off campus
Every fall, Penn State hosts pumpkin contests, hay rides, treats, and more common fall and Halloween festivities. Most people just celebrate the season and move on to Thanksgiving when the calendar turns.
For some, however, Halloween ghosts and spirits are year round fascinations that need to be taken. deadly seriously.
Penn State’s Paranormal Research Society, or PRS, was founded in 2001 by Ryan Daniel Buell, who has since made a career in investigating the unknown. Buell’s experiences with the paranormal began while growing up in South Carolina in the 1980s. When the internet became popular, Buell connected with people who not only believed him, but had their own stories to share. .
“I was browsing websites that read [electronic voice phenomenons] and paranormal investigators, ”he said. “It wasn’t passive interest. I knew I had to do this with my whole being ”.
The PRS had humble beginnings. Buell and his friends had no equipment to work with and lacked a supervisor. Their first investigations therefore focused on campus buildings such as Auditorium Schwab and Old Botany. The group began to receive reports from faculty of ghosts on campus, including an incident in which an employee called the police when she believed a ghost was knocking on the walls.
After the group gained some reputation, they were contacted by the Catholic Church, who asked for help in performing an exorcism in Pittsburgh. The client, Bob Cranmer, believed his house was possessed by a demon who had plagued his family for decades. Cranmer’s account of the haunting has since been disputed by his neighbors, who allege he misinterpreted certain facts about the house’s history. Buell and his team investigated the house with Father James LeBar, the chief exorcist of the Archdiocese of New York. Buell maintains that his encounter with the demon, which he nicknamed “The Bloodmouth”, was his most compelling paranormal experience.
“After the priest has performed the exorcism, this substance [pictured below] started to come out of the walls, ”he said. “We had it tested, and he said it was blood. There was also black haze in the room that made everything static. There is something infamous about this world that is attacking itself. to the weak and injured, and to experience it in your early twenties was shocking.
After the exorcism, the group received requests from producers at MTV and A&E to star in their own TV show. Buell chose to sign with A&E and hosted a show called “Paranormal State” for six seasons between 2007 and 2011. Buell feared undermining the serious nature of the club, but felt the publicity was too valuable to air.
“It was never my goal to be a ‘paranormal person on TV’,” he said. “I started to think, however, and realized that it would increase the club’s profile. Not only that, but it would fund our investigations.”
The current president of the group, Katherine Myers, took office last year. Myers, a senior specializing in plant science, became interested in the paranormal from an early age and was immediately drawn to the group. Her first trip with the club was to Hill View Manor in New Castle, where she met some of her closest friends.
“I was a little worried at first, being in the car with people I didn’t know,” she said. “But, it was probably the most fun I have ever had. There was no heat and it was the middle of the night. But by the time we left, we were already friends ”.
Vice President Lawrence DiPaolo noted that most of the PRS members are freshmen or sophomores and believes the club is one of the largest on campus.
“It’s a good first club for a lot of people,” he said. “You can get involved very easily and you don’t have to run for a board position to get your name out there.”
The bulk of club meetings are devoted to featured presentations where members share their research on different supernatural topics. Club dues are used to fund field trips and other events during the semester. Although payment is optional, most club members choose to contribute anyway.
The group was forced to put their plans on hold last year and, as a result, did not make a proper research trip. Now back in full swing, members were able to make their annual trip to Gettysburg last week for their first survey of the semester. Myers believes she saw a full body apparition roaming the battlefield, but it was hard to make out in the dark. She plans to write a book with photos and accounts of members’ sightings later this semester.
The current PRS uses a large collection of equipment to document the paranormal. Its main device is a liquor box, which scans radio frequencies as they pass through a haunted place. It sometimes picks up snippets of what sound like words, which investigators interpret as a spirit’s attempt to communicate with them. The group also has an electronic voice phenomena recorder (EVP), an electromagnetic frequency reader (EMF) and a dowsing rod to identify water sources. The club’s collection is transmitted annually and members can view the devices free of charge.
Paranormal devices have been widely criticized as pseudoscience by debunkers and skeptics. Myers said the club was aware of the stigma surrounding paranormal experiences and research.
“When you talk about ghosts in college, people look at you like you’re crazy,” she said. “We’re not like a Scooby-Doo gang trying to solve mysteries. It’s nice to have a place where you can discuss paranormal things that interest you.
Most PRS surveys take place in public spaces like Gettysburg or at private paid attractions. Members obtain pre-authorization via consent forms for the remainder of their trips. Myers said the group hoped to visit the Eastern State Penitentiary, a reportedly haunted prison in Philadelphia, for Halloween.
The Paranormal Research Society meets at 9 p.m. every Tuesday at 201 Thomas. Those interested in joining the club can visit his website for more information.