As paranormal investigator John Lewis stood behind an auditorium stage on the Slippery Rock University campus three weeks ago, he recalls, he felt someone hit the back of his knee.
He and three people there with him reportedly heard a little girl's laughter, then footsteps, as if someone was running away. But there was no little girl.
Mwaaahahahaha! (That's a fright-filled, maniacal laugh.)
It's official, folks. Miller Auditorium is haunted. But the good news is, they're friendly ghosts.
"Almost everyone on our team had personal experience," Lewis, owner of Titusville, Pa.-based Baelfire Paranormal Investigation, said Thursday at a news conference in the theater lobby. "I pretty much feel this place is haunted."
On Feb. 28, he and his 11-member crew spent the night in the auditorium looking for evidence of paranormal activity. Free of charge, they set up infrared video cameras and had digital and 35mm still cameras and digital, analog and micro-cassette audio recorders.
Eleven hours of audio and video and 758 photographs later, they believe to be true what professors and students at the college in Slippery Rock, Pa., have suspected for years.
In addition to personal experiences, investigators captured inexplicable digital images of a thick, neon green mist in that same backstage area -- the scene shop -- and heard voices.
"I wish I could say we caught an apparition," said Lewis, who hasn't yet analyzed the video recorded that night. But they can't.
Just four distinct voices -- two males, a little girl and an older woman.
"We heard what we feel is an adult female voice saying, 'Enough!' " he said, playing the audio file of a woman's voice clearly saying the word. "We do believe that could be Emma Guffey Miller."
Many believe Miller, a university trustee who died in 1970, has haunted the auditorium named after her for years. Investigators plan to forward the voice audio file to Miller's granddaughter for possible identification.
"If she can recognize the voice, that would give us some hard scientific evidence that it's her," Lewis said.
They haven't identified the little girl, but think one of the men could be a former student who died tragically.
"We expected to come in here and maybe get lucky and find Emma," Lewis said. "To come up with four entities, that was a lot, more than we expected."
For years, students and staff have claimed to experience odd goings on in the theater, including vanishing ghostly figures, disappearing and reappearing costumes and falling objects, especially in "Emma's Closet," a cramped back room holding clothes Miller donated to the school.
"It's fantastic," said Slippery Rock theater professor David Skeele, who says that in the past he has heard footsteps on the stage behind him only to turn around and find no one there. "I didn't expect them to get so much."
(L.A. Johnson can be reached at ljohnson(at)post-gazette.com.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)
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