Ghost stories: Paranormal group raises awareness for theater; investigators explore other area locations

From the 1984 “Ghostbusters” comedy – Don’t cross those streams, guys! – to the currently popular TV shows such as the SyFy channel’s “Ghost Hunters,” the paranormal world has entertained and fascinated believers and non-believers for years.

Central Pennsylvania is no different, and what investigators who explore local haunts say they have encountered is startling.

On a March evening, the Central Pennsylvania Paranormal Researchers group set up equipment, including recorders, for investigating paranormal activity inside the nearly 100-year-old Rowland Theatre in Philipsburg.

Recorders pick up electronic voice phenomena, said the group’s co-founder, Pam Mathews of Osceola Mills. In the ghosting world, EVPs are believed to be voices from the other side.

The group recorded four such incidents that night, she said. The clearest revealed a voice saying, “What does this do?”

Despite having two recorders set up on either side of the theater, the voice was only recorded on one device, which is odd because of the sensitivity of the equipment, she said. A camcorder set up on the same side of the theater as the recorder did not record the voice either, and the device was cleared of any other recordings prior to it recording the EVP, she said.

No matter if it was or was not a question from the spirit world, if it was directed at the group itself, the answer would be: They help.

The nonprofit organization, formed in 2008, has taken part in numerous benefits and donated their time anonymously to help out in the community, Mathews said.

In recent months, they turned their sights on bringing awareness to The Rowland, which is trying to raise money to switch from film to digital formatting.

“The reason why is because by the end of 2013, the film companies will no longer be producing film,” said Kevin Conklin, theater volunteer/manager. “Their format will now be digital, and they’ll be shipped on hard drives instead of actual 35-millimeter film.”

The cost of converting is $75,000, he said.

Besides a letter campaign, the theater is also distributing flyers on its website to take to the local Pizza Hut from Aug. 26 to 29. The restaurant will donate 10 percent of a sale to the theater with the presentation of a flyer.

The theater is in the process of applying for a grant, but if awarded, it would only cover 50 percent of the conversion cost, said Conklin, who has never personally experienced any unusual happenings at the theater.

“But when you’re in there late at night by yourself, it feels like you’re not alone, for what it’s worth,” he said.

Conklin said the investigation was interesting and the group went through the entire building.

He said the investigators asked the spirits questions such as “Do you live here?”

The Rowland Theatre is not the only area location to have paranormal investigators on the premises tracking ghostly activity.

The Central Pennsylvania Paranormal Researchers have scientifically researched and investigated throughout Pennsylvania and in New York, Mathews said.

The group’s most memorable investigation took place in the Keystone State, but not locally.

“We have 12 members in our group and five of us are seasoned veterans, as we call them, because they’ve been with us from the start,” she said. “We went to a private residence in Reading, Pennsylvania. And it was the first case that I had to say there is activity, there is something here that is paranormal.”

Among the happenings during the approximately eight hours spent there, they collected about two hours worth of electronic voice phenomena during their investigation, she said. A typical haul nets much less, she said.

They “hit, as we call it, the grail, the holy grail, there was so much going on,” she said. “Our equipment was tampered with while we were there. Things were being shut off that you actually have to manually shut off, you have to physically touch it to shut it off, and it would shut off. For us, the Reading case was our big one.”

Sandy Kalaora of Richmond, Va., a Hollidaysburg native, is a paranormal investigator and ghost hunter/rescuer. She is the founder of NightQuest Paranormal.

The group has investigated a couple of spots in Hollidaysburg, she said in an email. They also investigated a property near Tyrone where people had recorded an angry male voice telling them to get out and leave and threatened to kill them.

During an investigation on the property, a male team member claimed to feel heavy breath on his ear and a male voice told him to get out and leave.

“He was so uncomfortable and upset, he wanted to leave,” she said. “I told him we needed to stay a little longer, but if he wanted to, he and another team member could go sit in the car if it would make him feel any better. It did. We continued our investigation for another 45 minutes, then we called it a night. It was a strange night. All of us felt on edge being outdoors in the ‘boonies,’ and with no light. It was a night to remember and now we can look back and have a good laugh!”

The investigation at the Rowland did not disappoint, either.

Not only did the Central Pennsylvania Paranormal Researchers group find out that the tunnels running underneath the theater rumored to have a connection to the Underground Railroad are actually just air shafts for an old cooling system, but several investigators were said to have witnessed a dark mass making its way across the stage, that was at first considered shadows. The mass sightings coincided with the recorded electronic voice phenomena.

“During the investigation, several of our investigators kept seeing shadows. And being a scientific group, we try to disprove what we’re seeing,” she said.

They closed off any light from the outside, eliminating a way for a shadow to occur, she said.

Co-founder Bruce Mathews, Pam’s husband, also saw a hand reaching up from the theater’s pit area just before the clearest EVP was recorded, Pam Mathews said. One of the investigators was sitting on the floor nearby where the hand appeared, she said.

“And they’re kind of used to that type of experiences because they’ve been through this before,” she said. “For us to actually see something like that, I am a skeptic, I am a natural skeptic. It’s not that I don’t believe in the paranormal, but I’ve been through this enough that I understand what causes different things. I pretty much knew we would probably be catching something just from the experiences that we were having.”

Donations for the Rowland Theatre can be sent to: Rowland Theatre, Inc., 127 North Front St., Philipsburg, PA, 16866. The Rowland is a nonprofit corporation and donations are tax deductible.

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Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.