Ever wonder what goes bump in the dark of the night? Blue Mountain Paranormal Society founder Bob Schaeffer not only wonders about that but with the help of his group of 20 area ghost hunters, they investigate strange cases of the paranormal in an effort to gain knowledge and help families and on Friday evening Schaeffer educated and entertained over fifty people about ghost hunting at the Summit Hill Heritage Center's fall lecture series.
"I believe in a scientific based method of investigating paranormal phenomena and we use all types of equipment in our research from digital thermometers to gauss meters and K2 meters as well as digital cameras and recorders," Schaeffer said when he explained the tools of the ghost hunter.
He also discussed experimental tools that are used during investigations in an attempt to not only test them but provide extra validation to the other tools. Such devices include dowsing rods, a free standing pendulum, a PX machine, white noise generators and a Frank's box.
"The theory is a Frank's box is a radio receiver that constantly scans the available bands of radio frequencies in the hopes that a spiritual entity can manipulate that energy and speak through it," Schaeffer said. He told the audience that while he has used them in the past as have other investigators, he would not use that alone to justify a possible presence. "It's good for supporting other evidence, but on its own there are still too many possibilities. We also record the box to make sure that when we think we hear something we have proof that we can return to and listen again."
Schaeffer said that one case in which the box was used was a private family home and a voice was heard on the receiver that did not sound like the scanning frequencies. "It said a name and we checked with the owner. Initially she said she did not recognize the name, but as we were getting ready to leave, she called me to the side and showed me a photograph of her grandmother. Her name was the one we heard on the box. Not only that, she was expecting a child and there had been some intense conversations about what to name the baby, and the name we heard was one of those names."
The PX machine is a small box that converts electromagnetic frequencies into words and again Schaeffer admitted that it was experimental but it had produced some strange results. In one case, a senior investigator had twisted his knee, and while he was wince the machine responded with the words "Rest", "Twist", "Leg". In another case, he was on stage with a retired soldier and the machine started cycling through the words "Soldier", "Plane", "War".
"We believe in thoroughly investigating our cases and all the evidence is checked and rechecked before we present it to anyone and if there is the slightest doubt, it is set to the side," he told the audience. "My team gets annoyed at this at times, but it makes sure that what we do present a client is positive proof that they are having something occurring."
Schaeffer said that a typical investigation lasts around ninety days but if there are children involved the case is expedited. Unlike other groups, Schaeffer said BMPS does its best to not only gather evidence but also to help the people involved deal with the situations. Schaeffer is a counselor so this also gives him experience in dealing with the emotions that tend to be involved in these cases.
In addition to the scientific approach, Schaeffer said he also has a psychic medium who works with the group. "I have to admit that I'm skeptical of psychics and when I met Michelle [Gallagher], I wasn't sure what to think but over the past few years, she convinced me that she is able to see and hear things most people cannot."
Schaeffer said he initially tested her when he met her by inviting her along on an investigation. "I did not tell her where we were going so she could not learn anything in advance. We ended up at Broney's Hotel and I took her inside. She immediately began telling me anecdotes and observations about the building and its history that I only learned by interviewing people who were there when it was opened as well as some obscure history I learned after hours of research in the library."
Time and again, Schaeffer said she has repeated this success in other cases and if a client wants to take steps to cleanse or clear the house of unwanted entities, she is always ready to help.
The typical case begins with a client requesting assistance from the group. Schaeffer refers the inquiry to case manager Allison Garl who arranges for a pre-investigative visit and collects information about the case in advance. Garl also follows the case along from the beginning to the conclusion which is aimed to be in about three months.
Garl and one or two of the lead investigators then arrange a site visit to discuss the case with the client and obtain a history as well as a description of the phenomena experienced and its circumstances. Next, if they believe there is something unusual taking place an investigation will be scheduled. The actual investigation is performed by a team that consists of two to ten investigators depending on the location and the nature of the case. The larger the location, the larger the team Schaeffer said adding that it is a careful balance to avoid having too many people in a space which could compromise evidence.
The difference between BMPS and other organizations is they will return one or more times to a site to obtain supporting evidence and to corroborate earlier investigations in an effort to make sure their conclusions have strong support.
"The evidence is checked at least three times by people starting with the investigator themselves. Next, they send possible anomalies to our evidence department which is headed by Dave Wargo with John Bernhard and myself," said Schaeffer. After the evidence is reviewed and vetted to make sure it is solid, then Schaeffer or Wargo reviews the final report with the lead investigator and explains the reasons certain items were included or excluded before it is shared with the client.
He added that there is plenty of evidence that is good, but questions about it will keep it out of the report. "We only include the strongest corroborated items we find," he said.
This information is shared with the client and then they decide the next steps. "Some people are content to just know they are not crazy. Others want us to remove an entity and clear the home." At that point, Schaeffer turns to Gallagher and some other more experienced members to help the energies in the house move on from the home either willingly or forcefully if necessary.
Schaeffer also shared some of this evidence in the form of photographs and audio recordings. With regard to the pictures, he admitted he is not a believer in the so-called orb photos. "Most of these can be explained away as dust, pollen or bugs." Even so, Schaeffer had photos of other phenomena that were quite inexplicable on examination.
The two hour lecture wound down with several questions from the audience and they seemed quite interested in the material. Schaeffer invited them on a ghost investigation at Broney's Hotel in Mahoning Township which is run weekends throughout October and a portion of the proceeds this year will be donated to flood victims in the Wyoming and Susquehanna Valleys as well as local charities. For more information, Schaeffer said people should check out http://www.bluemountainparanormal.com.
The Summit Hill Heritage Center's fall series runs through the end of October. The next lecture scheduled for Friday, September 30th at 7PM will be given by hypnotherapist Diane Pryor on "Past LIfe Regression Through Hypnosis." The lectures are free but donations to help defray operating costs are always welcomed.