Could there really be ghosts in Pennsylvania? You bet your Ouiji board there could. In fact, there is perhaps no state on the eastern seaboard as haunted as the Keystone State, local paranormal experts say.
"Ghost for ghost, Pennsylvania can hold its own with any state," said Patty Wilson, local author and paranormal investigator. "North Carolina has a ton, and there's always a lot of fun ghost stories from West Virginia, New York, Massachusetts and Maryland, but Pennsylvania is what I always come back to. It has such a rich history and so many great stories, you never have to leave home.''
Wilson, 43, of St. Clairsville has been enthralled with ghost exploration and sharing ghost stories since she was a small child, she said. She didn't have any extraordinary experiences with the supernatural while growing up, she simply comes from a family with a gift for spinning a good yarn.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Charley Helsel, with his dog, Sam, is shown in the Hollidaysburg apartment where he saw a male ghost in the doorway.
"My grandmother would tell the most amazing stories about growing up as a child and the paranormal events she experienced," she said. "After a while, I just accepted the paranormal as a part of my reality."
That acceptance eventually morphed into a prolific career as a paranormal investigator and author/co-author of seven ghost story collections including "Where Dead Men Walk (Volume 1)," "The Pennsylvania Ghost Guide (Volumes 1 and 2)," (all from Piney Creek Press) and ''Haunted Pennsylvania: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena of the Keystone State" (Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg). She also founded the Ghost Research Foundation, a Roaring Spring-based group which travels throughout the mid-Atlantic states to investigate ghost hauntings.
Wilson's latest outing is a compilation of ghostly anecdotes called "The Big Book of Pennsylvania Ghost Stories," (Stackpole Books), written in conjunction with Mark Nesbitt.
Interested? Read on
n "The Big Book of Pennsylvania Ghost Stories" by Patty A. Wilson and Mark Nesbitt is now available in bookstores, online or from Stackpole Books at 800-732-3669 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
n For more information on the Ghost Research Foundation, tips on ghost hunting, members experiences or information on becoming a member, visit www.ghostsrus.com.
n Patty Wilson and Scott Crownover can be contacted at pineycreekpress@ yahoo.com.
n To find out more about Mark Nesbitt or to arrange a ghost tour of Gettysburg, visit www.ghostsof
gettysburg.com or call 717-337-0445.
Nesbitt is a renowned ghost story author whose six-volume "Ghosts of Gettysburg" (Thomas Publications) series won him the 2004 National Paranormal Award for "Best True Hauntings Collection" and "Best 'Local Haunt' Guidebook."
"The Big Book," which retails at $24.95, is Wilson's second collaboration with Nesbitt. "Haunted Pennsylvania" was their first.
"We've been friends for a long time - probably 10 to 12 years," Wilson said of Nesbitt, 59, of Baltimore. "Right from the beginning we just clicked. He's one of my dearest friends."
Nesbitt described the book as a "pretty complete volume of virtually every ghost story I know of in Pennsylvania."
"Patty is the fount," he said. "She knows more ghost stories than anyone I've ever run into in the state of Pennsylvania."
But it's not just by sheer coincidence the Keystone State is so endowed with restless spirits.
"Ghosts are made of strong emotions," Wilson said. "And the people in Pennsylvania are and always have been very passionate people. They were passionate about their land, about their way of life, and even their work - their work ethic was and is amazing."
She said some "sensitive" people are able to detect an apparition, Wilson said.
"Not everybody sees ghosts," she said. "I think it's genetics. Those who are sensitive (or able to detect ghosts) usually can trace it back to family history. It's like having red hair or green eyes - it has very little to do with us."
"The Big Book" (357 pages) contains 125 eerie tales organized by region, she said. Several Altoona-area stories are included in the volume, such as "The Spirits of the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum," "Baker Mansion Haunts," "The White Lady of Woposnonock Station" and "The White Woman of Buckhorn Mountain."
More than just a labor of love, however, the book also is the product of exhaustive and painstaking research.
"Mark and I did our own research. Then, the publishing company had its copy editor re-research to make sure every "i" was dotted and every "t" was crossed," Wilson said. "And we were perfectly happy with that."
Scott Crownover, a paranormal investigator and author who co-founded the research foundation, called it "the definitive Pennsylvania ghost book."
"It's amazing," the 41-year-old said. "It truly covers the entire state."
Mirror Staff Writer Jimmy Mincin is at 946-7460.
A local man's tale
Charley Helsel, a member of the research foundation and a paranormal investigator in his own right, recalled his own ghostly encounters while living above a storefront in Hollidaysburg.
"At night, I would hear the sounds of someone walking up and down the steps and on the landing," Helsel, 57, said. "I heard clacking noises coming from the dining room, a welcome sign swinging back and forth."
But that was just the beginning.
One evening, he was playing fetch with his dog, Sam, when Helsel noticed a husky man in a plaid shirt out of the corner of his eye. The man was mimicking Helsel's arm motions. There were no mirrors in the room, so he knew it couldn't be a reflection of himself.
"I couldn't see his head, just his body and some facial features," he said.
He has since moved. Had the building not been sold, he'd still be living there, he said, adding he never minded the presence of what he believed was a ghost.
"I wasn't startled - it's almost natural for me because no matter where I'm at, I'm prone to sense things," he said.