Thursday night: Is the Carnegie Free Library of Connellsville haunted? Find out at Chatham University's Eddy Theater

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You shouldn't have any problem enjoying the film tonight at Eddy Theater on the Chatham University campus -- once you get into the spirit of things.

It's the free public screening of "Haunted States of America" by local filmmaker Chris Nicholson.

Mr. Nicholson, who graduated from Chatham's Master's of Fine Arts program in December, will be on hand to present his 30-minute film exploring stories of poltergeists hanging out in the Carnegie Free Library of Connellsville.

Joining him will be Shawn Kelly, founder of the Pittsburgh Paranormal Society, who worked with Mr. Nicholson on the project last summer.

You don't have to believe in ghosts to enjoy the film. But it helps to have an open mind.

"I was really skeptical," Mr. Nicholson said. "But during filming, some weird things happened. Kind of strange. For example, a friend helping me out once asked me, 'Why'd you shut the door?' And I said I didn't shut the door. We realized it closed on its own.

"Over the course of filming, we got a voice answering the investigator's questions. A thermal image showed up on the infrared camera. So we came away thinking, 'Wow, I guess there's something to it.' I can't doubt what I saw and heard on camera."

Mr. Kelly never had any doubts. He hasn't since 1983, when he ingested a bad mix of prescription drugs and alcohol.

"I died," he said. "Ten minutes later I came back, and all of sudden I started to see things that weren't there and hearing voices that weren't there. And it kind of freaked me out."

Eventually, his anxiety evolved into acceptance, thanks in part to his talks with others.

"A lot of people that I've met have experienced it," he said. "Others come to me wanting to experience it. I try to help them. I don't judge anybody. We have a saying at the Pittsburgh Paranormal Society: 'We will respect what you believe in. Please respect what we believe in.'"

Mr. Kelly founded the PPS after a moment's inspiration in March 2006 at Eat'n Park on West Liberty Avenue in Dormont, where he lives. He reached out to other believers via the Internet and over the years has had nearly 100 members of his group.

"Right now, it's closer to 20," he said. "There are four groups in the Pittsburgh area that started with me and they formed their own groups. I am kind of like on the spiritual side and they were more into the scientific side of things. So I said, 'Fine, go, form your own group.'

"The scientific side, they want proof on video, audio, anything that they can prove there's a ghost there. The spiritual side, like me, I believe in ghosts. I know ghosts exist. I don't need the scientific things. But being open-minded, I do welcome the scientific people in the same group. It gives it a nice mix. And a couple of skeptics is nice, too."

Mr. Kelly said his hunts for haunts have led him to cemeteries, old houses and the library in Connellsville, Fayette County. Most of the people he speaks with, he said, are curious rather than dismissive.

"At the beginning, people thought I was a nutball," he said. "But I've been around for a while and I'm very outspoken. I do speak a lot at universities and such, and people do give me respect."

"My interest was the legend," said Mr. Nicholson, who lives in Shaler and teaches at Robert Morris University. "When I was a kid, I saw horror movies, as well as those shows based on a true incident or true story. And there's always a ghost story or some house that's haunted in just about every community. My curiosity was how these legends get started and what is the basis for them."

He said the film is serious, though there is an element of fun.

"As a filmmaker, you worry about so many technical things, and the job is a lot of run-and-gun," he said. "With an ordinary movie, you have a script and you plan everything out. In this type of project, you don't know what's going to happen, what you're going to get. And that's kind of half the fun.

"I'm not making fun of anybody who believes in ghosts and I'm not enhancing anybody who believes in ghosts. I'm just putting this out there and saying, 'Here's what we found. Check it out and decide for yourself.'"

The screening at 7 p.m. in Chatham's Eddy Theater on Woodland Road in Squirrel Hill is free and open to the public. It will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Mr. Nicholson and Mr. Kelly.

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If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at dmajors@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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