John Carroll University’s campus is about to get spooky. A paranormal research organization was recently approved by junior Steve Henderson, vice president of student organizations and Lisa Ramsey, director of student activities, as a student organization, and they have started meeting and discussing which haunted locations they are going to start investigating in December.
“A lot of the reactions I get are: ‘That is really neat’ or ‘Are you serious?’” said junior Gene Claridge, president of the Paranormal Research Club. “Our mission statement is to understand the ghost phenomena using an academic frame of mind. One of the examples I give everyone that asks about our group is that everyone has that ghost story that they want to share. I want to go out there and explain the phenomena first hand and see the truth behind it or what is going on.”
As a sociology and criminology major with a minor in history, Claridge’s interest in the supernatural started from his love of the Civil War and the ghost stories that went along with it. As he grew older and started learning more about the history of locations and paranormal activity, he began his own investigations, eventually leading to an investigation of the battlefield in Gettysburg.
“Gettysburg is considered one of the most haunted places in America. I have been there a few times, and me and my buddy Ray [Camma] – he is the co-founder of the group and financial officer – went on to the battlefield and did our own investigation,” Claridge said. “It was such an adrenaline rush being out there at night and it was kind of spooky, especially after hearing about all of the ghost stories and tales of paranormal activity. We took some pictures, and we got some, and it was pretty interesting.”
Claridge and Camma, who is also a junior, decided to bring paranormal research back to JCU after their trip to Gettysburg as part of a history course. Because JCU is a Jesuit Catholic institution, Claridge and Camma thought that the paranormal research could tie into some Catholic ideas in regards to the existence of a soul.
“If anything, this ghost phenomena validates the existence of a soul. There are two sides, people who are interested in the research and people who are curious about if there is such thing as a soul, and ghosts kind of suggest that we do have one,” Claridge said.
The organization plans to go to haunted areas around Ohio such as the Agora Theatre in downtown Cleveland and the Mansfield Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio.
Before the trips, the members of the club research the location and work to find any stories about paranormal activity, as well as see what other research groups have found at the locations.
“By knowing the history, you have more of a chance to make contact,” Claridge said. “If you find out the name of a person who died in an accident or hung himself, maybe we could make contact with them that way.”
Paranormal research entails going to these haunted locations and trying to debunk any stories of supernatural occurrences. For instance, if people say that they feel a draft in a certain area, the researchers will go to that area and see if the circulation in the house or building is causing the draft.
Paranormal activity comes in when something happens that cannot be explained, such as a door slamming with nobody nearby to close it and with no draft to slam it shut.
“This is where you have to have an open mind. If someone says that they hear footsteps, we will go in and see if we can debunk it by using testing,” said Claridge.
The organization will use a variety of equipment to research paranormal activity, including the aid of various audio and visual recording devices. They plan to use night vision cameras so that everything can be recorded in dark places.
Students will also use sound recorders to capture any noises that may happen during an investigation such as clapping, screaming or voices.
“There is something known as EVP or Electronic Voice Phenomena. If I recorded a conversation using an audio device and asked the question ‘How many people are here with us right now?’ and hear nothing, but when I play it back in the recording I hear, ‘So many’ or something of that nature. How do you explain that if I am the only one in the room?” said Claridge.
The organization was recently given $1,200 from the Student Organization Budgeting Board for start-up equipment to begin different events and projects, according to Henderson. “I think this group will add more diversity to our roster of student organizations,” said Henderson. “It will obviously add a legitimate outlet to students who are interested in exploring paranormal activities.”
The organization currently has 17 members and meets every Monday at 8 p.m. in the Administration building in room 29. Each member has an active role in the club in some capacity and the meetings consist of conversations about certain paranormal events that have happened and how they could be disproved.
“What I try to do is incorporate members of the group as much as possible. So group membership and feeling like you are a part of it with an active role – that is what I want to do,” said Claridge.
Claridge explained that the club currently has three officers of research as well as a social media officer and a person in-charge of the organization’s website.
The group is planning on publishing their results on a blog after every investigation. The blog will be a mixture of the organization’s findings with photos and recording that people can analyze for themselves as well as photos of the actual research taking place.
When asked about the role of the exorcist in the organization, Claridge explained that there is a little bit of misconception surrounding the concept of exorcism.
“Every diocese has an exorcist appointed by the bishop as needed or requested. But there has not been a need for one, so there is not one right now,” Claridge said. “I have contacted one who worked the offices and is a pastor now, and I called him and asked him a bunch of questions about possessions and the demonic stuff, and he gave me some further names.”
Claridge said that from his research about exorcisms and the demonic side of paranormal activity, he has decided that the organization is going to try to avoid any contact with demonic spirits. However, they plan to continue learning more as members become interested.
Students think that the new organization is a great addition to JCU.
“I think it’s awesome that students here have the opportunity to follow their passions, no matter if that’s looking for ghosts, doing service, etc. If we don’t already have a club, you have the opportunity to start one,” said junior John Oddo. “Hopefully, the ghost of St. Ignatius won’t come alive in his statue.”
“I believe that the Paranormal Research Club is a great addition to our campus organizations here at John Carroll,” said sophomore Tim Schifferle. “There are sure to be people here who are interested in paranormal activity and I feel that this new organization gives them a group of students to meet with and discuss their thoughts and feelings on the subject.”
Some students expressed that it is important for the club to remain rooted in academic pursuits in order to be taken seriously.
“I’m concerned that people may think the club is fostering a belief in the supernatural, which I don’t necessarily think is the cause,” said senior Chelsea Neubecker. “I could see people being confused about the need for this club, but I support it. I think it’s valuable to look at situations and events from various perspectives. If the paranormal research club is rooted in scholarship, that is great.”
The organization is planning on starting with investigations in local areas, but they have considered doing some investigations in students’ homes.
“We know of a bunch of people who live in houses and one of the things we heard this summer was a bunch of the guys on the football team that bought a house and had weird stuff going on,” said Claridge. “What we are thinking about is, if people want, we can perform an investigation in their home. We want to run that by other people in the group before we start, though.”
The organization will do their first investigation in December at the Agora Theatre and will continue from there.
“Everyone has their own ghost stories, whether it be themselves, a friend or a relative. It really is going out there and finding out that seeing really is believing,” said Claridge.