3AM, BansheeOct 18
[In September 2008, Jeff Stolarcyk participated in a professional paranormal investigation. He survived, and this is his unvarnished account of the incident. A version of this essay appears in Grok #3 – Nameless Horror.]
It’s three AM in the Banshee’s basement, and the temperature is dropping rapidly. It’s gone from 65 degrees down to 52 over a period of thirty minutes. I’m standing facing the center of the room, one hand on my voice recorder, the other holding my Flip camera up to record. To my right, Joe asks, “Are you a male entity?” No answer. There is nobody in the center of the room, just more recorders, more cameras and a lone K2 meter in the center of the floor. The LEDs on the K2 meter dance between one lit and none lit. The K2 measures electromagnetism, and electromagnetism is linked to ghosts.
“Make the device go off twice for yes,” he instructs we-don’t-know-who, motioning to the meter placed on the floor two meters away from any of the four of us. Within thirty seconds, one beep sounds in the silence, followed after a pause by another. Two lights.
“Are there other entities in this room with you?” we had already asked it. Beep Beep. Two lights.
“Is there an evil entity in this room?” Beep Beep Beep Beep Beep Beep; no delay at all. All the lights are bright and steady.
The ghost, as a literary construct, is great even if ghost movies aren’t ever as great as they could be in the post-Poltergeist age. As a long-time, dyed-in-the-wool horror buff, I’ve got an unnatural fascination with ghosts, even though I’m not always of the opinion that they exist. My horror fandom led me to a similar eerie fixation on real-life ghost hunters, the ones found on Sci Fi and Discovery and the History Channel, and especially the ones that guest on that venerable fringe-culture radio staple Coast To Coast AM.
So it’s not exactly surprising that, in search of nameless horror, I went looking for ghosts with a local group of paranormal investigators.
In late September, Joe – the leader of a local group of professional ghost hunters – called me and invited me along with them to investigate The Banshee, a local pub in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Employees had contacted Joe’s group about a pair of full-body apparitions and other paranormal events, including one report of a physical attack in the basement of the bar. The staff have their own rumors about turn-of-the-century mass graves in the basement of the building, and several patrons corroborate the activity the staff has experienced.
I flip my cell phone closed and tell a coworker, “The Banshee is haunted.” He nods slowly, the nod that people nod when they’re accommodating idiocy. “Yeah,” he tells me. “I know.” It’s amazing how many people will casually admit to believing in ghosts. People believe all sorts of things that they think of as normal, especially the things that aren’t that normal at all.
Myself, I’ve had my moments. I’ve spent the night in a room where a woman died and felt watched all night. I’ve gotten chills in 80 degree heat while walking past a Louisiana graveyard. They’re not enough to dispel my natural skepticism, but they are good anecdotes when the topic arises and, like I’ve said, I’m fascinated by the phenomenon.
And yet the Banshee is haunted and I’m the last person to know about it. Despite having been a patron for years. During my graduate fellowship days, I’d schedule tutoring sessions there in order to keep my daily diet of draft cider and potato soup free from interruption. I still had dinner or drinks at the pub at least once a month. I’d been a patron since the bar opened its doors and never once had I been spooked, scared or startled. When I heard that we were going to investigate the building on my ghost hunting ride-along, my curiosity was piqued. Upon hearing the news, several friends and acquaintances freely admitted that they’d heard odd noises in the Banshee or seen anachronistic figures out of their peripheral vision, drawing back the curtain on a side of the sprawling Irish pub that I’d never seen before. My bar, where I once got wild applause for heckling a folk singer who refused to sing old revoultionary songs, was holding out on me. I was about to receive an education, though, and I’d be in the company of experts.
Nothing at all could go wrong.