October is a prime time for ghost stories, but for some recent visitors to the area, the paranormal is serious business.
Earlier this month, a group of paranormal investigators, including a Bradford County native, gave audiences in Waverly a behind-the-scenes peek at their spooky adventures.
Audiences packed the Waverly Storefront Theater to hear Jason Gowin, originally of Troy, an investigator who appeared on the A&E show “Extreme Paranormal,” tell of his hunts in the area and beyond.
Gowin brought with him Brian Cano and Chris Mancuso, fellow investigators and founding members of the group “Scared! Paranormal.” Cano also appears on television, in the SyFy channel’s “Haunted Collector,” as a tech specialist responsible for the implementation of ghost-hunting gadgets.
Cano and Mancuso began their adventures in the early 2000s, producing a series of cable-access documentaries called “Scared in Staten Island” that examined paranormal urban legends in the area. Both took interest in the paranormal from a young age, but stumbled into the profession while pursuing filmmaking.
The series was more of an urban exploration series at the time because neither Cano nor Mancuso had really known how to conduct an actual investigation and didn’t have any of the equipment used to do so. “We liked it and kept doing it,” Cano said.
When the men began their series, the paranormal fascination hadn’t taken off with the general public the way it has today, paving the way for Cano, Mancuso, Gowin and others to appear on television.
“The paranormal was just a Halloween thing,” Cano said. “Now, it doesn’t go to bed on Nov. 1.”
One or two in the crowd that heard the men speak admitted to being skeptical of paranormal phenomena, a position Cano sympathized with.
There are three roles in each successful ghost hunt, Cano explained — a psychic, a scientist and a skeptic. Cano was a skeptic when the men began their adventures, but is now a scientist, utilizing meters and gadgets to collect, measure and analyze data.
Scientific gadgets measure electromagnetic fields and record sounds to prove the existence of the paranormal. The evidence gathered by the scientist is essential to providing a factual backbone to paranormal investigations, Cano said.
“You can only come away with facts,” he said. “Everything else is colored with perspective.”
Having the three types of people around provides a more rounded assessment of what’s occurring at the place of the hunt, Cano said.
The two have continued their adventures and conducted hunts at several haunted locations, including the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, which now serves as a prison museum and, coincidentally in the fall, a haunted house.
The penitentiary is widely believed to be haunted, and officers and inmates have reported mysterious visions and eerie occurrences in the prison as early as the 1940s. Many paranormal investigators visit the site, which was abandoned in 1971, each year.
While on an investigation inside the building, Cano said he felt pain and had the feeling of someone grabbing him, although nobody was around. He exited the facility to try to catch his breath.
“I went outside, and a minute later, I felt better,” he said. However, when Cano went back inside, he began to feel pain again, but continued to work through the rest of the investigation.
Last year, Cano attended another event and a psychic said something about having been touched by a ghost. Cano then realized his experience at the penitentiary was one of paranormal communication.
“You’ve heard of people getting poked, scratched, touched,” he said, adding that he believes the ghost was “trying to communicate through my body.”
Mancuso, himself a skeptic, sought a similar experience to cement his belief in the paranormal. “Be careful what you wish for,” he cautioned.
Both Cano and Mancuso received further confirmation of the existence of paranormal activity during an investigation at the Grand Midway Hotel in Windber, Pa., near Johnstown. The historic hotel, which the men said housed immigrant miners who came to work in the area, was purchased in 2001 and renovated into an artist collective.
The 2009 investigation involved Cano, Mancuso and their lead psychic, Lisa Ann. There, the three collected a strong stable of evidence and came away convinced of the existence of the paranormal.
One artist who’d stayed at the collective in a third-floor room painted demons and other figures there, often suspending himself from chains, Cano said. The existence of a demonic spirit in that room soon became folklore among guests.
On the second day of the team’s stay at the hotel, Lisa Ann kept avoiding the room, which became known to those who stayed at the Midway as the “demon room,” Cano said. The two finally asked her to enter.
Cano’s electromagnetic field monitor was registering a reading in the room, despite the hotel’s lack of electricity. The men left and re-entered, thinking the reading had come from elsewhere, but were astonished to find it coming from the room.
Lisa Ann wrung her hands and looked at the two, Mancuso recalled. She then said, “The spirit would like to know if he has permission to tell his story.”
It was the first time she had asked the men before sharing a message from a spirit, they said. “That was a red flag to me,” Cano said.
From that point, several members of the crew had overlapping experiences, all of them eerie. Mancuso said he felt chills up his spine several times in a five-minute span, and Cano heard noises and felt a creepy chill behind him.
Later, upon reviewing audio tapes of the moment, the men said they heard a distorted, demonic message. “I was getting pretty damn scared,” Mancuso said.
The crew then began to leave, but not before taking some unconventional precautions. To ensure the spirit didn’t attach itself, Mancuso, no longer the skeptic he thought he was, imagined himself surrounded in white light as he backed away.
Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: email@example.com.