Ghost hunters sought to explore Old Stone House
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When Dena Richardson was growing up near the Old Stone House, her father would tell her ghost stories concerning the historic structure.
Ms. Richardson, a senior history and anthropology major at Slippery Rock University who works at the house now, said her father apparently was not pulling her leg.
"We have audio recordings from the middle room on the second floor," said Tom Harter, founder and lead investigator for the Center for Paranormal Study and Investigation in Boyers. "You can make out what they say."
The center has done several paranormal studies in the old tavern on Route 8 in Slippery Rock, and is conducting ghost hunting sessions for the public on the first Friday of every month through October. The next session is tomorrow.
The Old Stone House was built in 1822 by John Brown and was a tavern and stagecoach stop until the 1870s, when the railroad came through. It was then leased as a farm and residence for more than 40 years, said Jen Melnick, a graduate assistant at Slippery Rock who works at the house. The building is now owned by the university and run by the history department. It is open for public tours on Saturdays.
"When you are sitting here in the dark and the quiet, you can hear footsteps upstairs," Ms. Melnick said, adding that the specter of a woman in Victorian dress has been seen in a second-floor room that displays items from the 1800s.
Fourteen people signed up for the June 3 session and were split into two groups. Several participants were given an electromagnetic field detector, a device with light that was supposed to flicker or change from green to red if a magnetic force was detected nearby.
The center staff was armed with video cameras, digital still cameras and voice recorders.
"Some of the best equipment to capture something is your typical 35 mm camera or typical digital camera or simple tape recorder," said investigator Maureen "Mo" Davis, of Butler. "If you think you have activity in your house, set up a tape recorder and go out."
The group led by Ms. Davis and Bryan Barnes, case manager and lead paranormal investigator, started in the basement. After the tape recorder was set up and the cameras began to roll, the two started to try and draw out any spirits still inhabiting the house by talking to them.
"I'm Mo. Is there anybody here who wants to talk to us?" asked Ms. Davis.
"We're here to visit with you tonight," added Mr. Barnes. "Don't be afraid. Come out and join us."
Ms. Davis shined a special flashlight with a laser grid around the room. The grid would pick up a shadow if something invisible passed through it.
Nothing blatant was picked up. At one point, the temperature in a section of the basement dropped from 71.3 degrees to 70.9 degrees. Participant Jacob Ford, who said he works with paranormal investigations in South Carolina, said the light on his meter flickered a few times.
"Who is taunting me?" he asked. "Can you make my light flicker again?"
While waiting for a sign from the resident ectoplasm, investigators and participants told their own ghost stories.
Ms. Davis said she and her sister saw a shadow of a person walking in the hallway of the house where she grew up. Mr. Barnes talked about the significant amount of paranormal activity he had logged in an old asylum in New Castle, while Mr. Ford talked of spending the night investigating the hauntings at Alcatraz, the former prison outside San Francisco.
"There was weird activity in the house I used to live in," said participant Tina Lumley of Clintonville, Venango County. "I had a blanket pulled off me at one point. It creeped me out." She said she also heard heavy breathing in her bedroom.
The two groups covered four areas of the house and grounds: the basement, tavern room on the first floor, a bedroom and the display room on the second floor and also an area outside on the edge of the woods.
Like the television show "Ghost Adventures," most of the activity concerned the investigators and participants trying to draw out response. Mr. Barnes and Ms. Davis tried to coax ghostly activity by asking questions. Mr. Ford took a more blunt approach, taunting them by calling them "cowards" and "wusses" for not coming out.
Mr. Barnes said the crew had approximately five hours of audio, four hours and 50 minutes of video and 196 photos -- all of which showed nothing unusual. All were reviewed in the week after the event.
Still, they are not discouraged, he said.
"This was the first time CPSI has ever done something like this, and we all had a great time," he said. "We can't wait till next month."
The ghost hunting sessions will be held from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5, Sept. 2 and Oct. 7. Cost is $10 per person. Reservations are required, and groups are limited to 15. The Old Stone House is at the junction of Routes 8, 173 and 528 in Butler County. To register, call 724-738-4964 or email email@example.com.
First Published June 30, 2011 5:48 am