For members of the East Coast Paranormal Society, "Paranormal Activity" is more than just the latest blockbuster hit. It's a belief that had led to a hobby - a hobby that has them creeping around the dark with infrared cameras, digital voice recorders and flashlights to try and explain the unexplainable.
Just in time for the Halloween season, the local volunteer group was called to investigate the possibility of paranormal activity in the Pintagro Building on Second Street. On Oct. 10, members of the ECPS used cameras, devices to sense electromagnetic fields, digital voice recorders and more to see if they could find signs of unusual activity.
Based in Chautauqua County, the East Coast Paranormal Society was founded in October 2007 by Bill Hulett, Jenn Giaimo and Mike Pollaro. Their mission is simple: to scientifically study hauntings and alleged paranormal activity. On this autumn evening, the trio - along with other members of the group - began to set up their equipment for a chance of finding traces of unusual activity inside the building.
"The infrared cameras that we set up go to a live monitor," explained Hulett. "They are kept in certain areas that are considered hot spots. Then teams go in with digital voice recorders, cameras and thermometers that are used to sense electromagnetic fields."
In teams of two, the ECPS spent the evening at the building, taking pictures, watching the cameras and just trying to gain any evidence that could prove - or disprove - paranormal activity. After the individual teams had a chance to scope the place out for themselves, they compared notes and findings.
"We couldn't determine it as being 'haunted,'" said Hulett. "But we did find some paranormal activity."
While many people use the terms 'haunted' and 'paranormal activity' interchangeably, haunted is literally defined as being inhabited by ghosts. Paranormal activity, however, is the claim of an event or perception occurring without scientific explanation. While the ECPS could not confirm that there were ghosts in the building, they observed activity that could be considered out of the ordinary.
For example, the crew asked questions into seemingly thin air and heard responses only when replaying the moments in the voice recorders. Hulett said when one team member asked, "would you like to follow us," the response came back as "yeah."
"We also have some pictures that can't be explained," Hulett continued. One picture shows what appears to be a man in front of a wall, although Hulett said when the picture was taken there was no one in the room. Other pictures show the likings of a woman's silhouette in a window and an abnormally bright light in a room where Hulett said "reflective surfaces were nonexistent."
After the team leaves the building, the investigation is only just beginning. Voices heard on the recorders, awkward movements picked up on the cameras and unusual pictures all desire answers. Many of the pictures are posted on their MySpace page for others to comment and offer their opinions.
"We allow others to view and comment on the pictures we have taken," said Hulett. "Just because we can't explain them doesn't mean someone else can't."
In some instances, potentially including this search of the Pintagro Building, another investigation inside the establishment may be necessary. During these searches, the team will look for consistencies from their previous search to try and answer their questions.
JUST THE FACTS
Although the organization is merely a hobby by its members, the ECPS takes every necessary step to determine whether or not a place they visit can be considered haunted. For the team, the term "haunted" is not something that is just tossed around, and the team comes up with rational answers only using facts they observe on their visits.
"We try to debunk what we come up with to make sure it is what it is," said Hulett. "In a way, we are trying to disprove what people are saying." By using this approach, their results are much more elaborate. Also, depending on cameras, recorders and other instruments are much more reliable than the team's individual experiences.
"We don't use personal experiences in our investigations because they can very often be explained," continued Hulett. "For example, if someone says they get a chill in a room, it might just be a draft or something like that."
However, team members have used their own personal knowledge in the past to help explain some of the "hauntings" that people claim are taking place in their home or building. Hulett, for example, has a background in carpentry, electric and plumbing, which has explained some cases in the past. In one investigation, steps on a stairwell ended up being a loose board laying on a water pipe that would vibrate when a neighbor's toilet was flushed.
GHOST HUNTERS BY CHOICE
The ECPS searches about two properties a month, and currently has about a half-dozen requests that are waiting to be fulfilled. Because it is a hobby and a not-for-profit group of volunteers, the ECPS meets when their schedules allow. With no formal training, the idea to create the group simply stemmed from the co-founders' passion and interest in the subject.
"We have read a lot of books and done a lot of research," said Pollaro.
"Some of the facts we learned from watching 'Ghost Hunters,'" said Ms. Giaimo, referring the popular SyFy channel television program. "We really like their style and how they go about doing their thing."
In past experiences, ECPS members have claimed to have had pennies and tape thrown at them from out of nowhere, scratched in the back from someone that wasn't in the room and taken pictures of people that only show up on the camera. Although walking into a building because people have considered it haunted might bother some people, members of the ECPS look forward to the hunt.
"We are the ones that want to go into it," said Ms. Giaimo. "It's more of an intriguing experience."
As a not-for-profit team of volunteers, the East Coast Paranormal Society is always looking for donations and sponsors to fuel its desire to investigate paranormal activity in the area. To view some of the pictures taken on recent trips or to contact members, visit the ECPS's MySpace page at www.myspace.com/ghostsrus1973.
During the latest search, a television crew followed the team to create a short documentary on the group. The ECPS hopes to have the videos on their Web site - www.eastcoastparanormalociety.com- which the group expects to have back up and running in the near future.