Ghosts of Ohio

Ghosts of Ohio Newsletter - October 2008

Volume 6/Issue 1

Happy Halloween!

It may not seem like it, but you are currently reading a bit of history. The text on your computer screen right now marks the 6-year anniversary of The Ghosts of Ohio newsletter. When that first issue went out, it was sent to a whopping 25 people, only 10 of whom were not members of The Ghosts of Ohio organization. Flash forward to this issue and you are one of 1989 people reading this. How cool is that? You are part of an ever-growing legion of fans who have a love for all things strange and spooky in Ohio.

Looking back, I was blown away to see that while there were only about a dozen or so paranormal groups in Ohio when the first newsletter came out, there are now well over 120. So I understand that when it comes to getting your ghostly fix, you have a lot of options. And yet you have chosen The Ghosts of Ohio newsletter. That’s something I don’t take for granted. So please, if there are every any changes to the newsletter you’d like to see or even if you just have a comment, I’m all ears.

As I was spending so much time looking back on how this field has grown, I decided to have some of my Ghosts of Ohio associates focus on articles related to either something new or something old in the field. Sam has given us a review of one of the staples in the realm of paranormal conventions, Univ-Con, while Brian gives us his review of one of the latest ghost how-to books to hit bookshelves. And of course, no issue of The Ghosts of Ohio Newsletter would be complete without Wendy giving us a review of the latest location for our Spend the Night with The Ghosts of Ohio program.

So, all in all, you have a lot of reading to do. Grab yourself a big ol’ handful of Halloween candy and get started. Mind the circus peanuts, though.


James A. Willis

The Ghosts of Ohio has planned one last killer presentation for Halloween. It’s so cool that it had to wait until after Halloween AND had to be moved to a special location. This special Meet The Ghosts of Ohio presentation is being held on Monday, November 3rd, 2008, at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Marysville, beginning at 6:00 PM.

This special presentation will feature some of the strange audio, video, and photographs The Ghosts of Ohio organization has captured over the years. We’ll even be bringing along some of our equipment for you to try out after the presentation, including our LabPro system, our customized infrared extenders, and even one of the infamous K-II meters. Who knows? We might even bring along our homemade Frank’s Box if you want to see if you can get in touch with the other side.

Admission is free, but seats are going fast. For more information, contact the MarysvillePublic Library or visit

Just a reminder; please do not send any email responses to the newsletter. It is nothing more than an automated system that will banish your email to the depths of the Web until we manage to stumble across it.

Once a year, paranormal investigators from all over the country converge in State College, PA to network with others in the field, discuss pertinent and controversial topics, and learn from some of the most recognized names in paranormal research. Sponsored by the Penn State Paranormal Research Society, this was the 7th year for the Univ-Con paranormal conference, which took place September 11th through 14th. As in previous years, the celebrity lineup was both informative and entertaining, including such names as parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach, demonologist Lorraine Warren, Brian Harnois of Ghost Hunters, Chris Moon (with his controversial "Frank's Box"), the cast of Paranormal State, and many more.

I was joined by fellow Ghosts of Ohio member Wendy Cywinski, and while we found many of the workshops and forums fascinating (particularly the always-controversial "Frank's Box"), I think we agree that the most important lessons learned had to do with skepticism and science. It's an unfortunate fact that the majority of paranormal groups that exist are not skeptical enough in their investigations, and they are not even close to being scientific enough.

First, many people wrongly confuse the word "skeptic" with "cynic." The truth is that cynics are people who will never be convinced of something. No matter what evidence may exist to disprove their opinions, they will always hold steadfast to their beliefs. A skeptic, on the other hand, is someone who is open to changing their opinions, providing that there is sufficient evidence to convince them to change. Skepticism in the paranormal field is extremely important and valuable because it helps us to systematically eliminate natural causes of phenomena in order to leave us with those rare pieces of evidence that we can't explain.

Dr. Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine presented a fabulous lecture about being more skeptical. It was called "Why People Believe Weird Things," and he primarily focused on being skeptical of human perception. He demonstrated this in a couple of different ways. First, he played a series of brief audio clips that he had looped to sound continuous. He then asked audience members what they heard in each one. Since the repetition of the clips made the syllables blend together, everyone had a different answer. This exercise demonstrated the problem that investigators have with EVPs. In a room full of people who heard the exact same piece of audio, every single person had a different perception of it.

Another fascinating exercise that Dr. Shermer presented involved a video. He told the audience that there would be two sets of people passing basketballs. One set would be dressed in black, while the other would be in white. He then told the audience that he wanted them to count how many times the white players passed the ball between them. This was quite a challenge because the players passed the ball rather quickly, so it was all I could do to keep count! When the video was finished, Dr. Shermer asked the audience if anyone had seen anything unusual. Only a few people raised their hands. I wasn't one of them. I was shocked to find out that while I was focusing on the white players, trying to keep count, I had completely missed a guy in a gorilla suit who casually walked right through the players! This was a fantastic example of how much investigators can miss if they are only focused on one thing. In fact, both of Dr. Shermer's exercises proved how fallible human perceptions can be. As paranormal investigators, it's important for us to be skeptical of perceptions. How many EVPs have been interpreted incorrectly? How much evidence have we missed because we were simply too focused on something else?

Besides Dr. Shermer, neurologist Joyce Furfaro was another welcomed speaker at this year's conference. She presented a workshop titled "The Scientific Research Method," during which she explained that paranormal investigators are not doing enough to be scientific. For those who don't know what it is, the scientific research method is a series of steps that scientists use to prove and disprove theories. These steps include forming a theory, doing experiments to collect data, analyzing and interpreting the data, and sharing the results with others in the field so that they can test your findings. With regard to paranormal research, Dr. Furfaro pointed out many flaws. First, it seems that many investigators tend to twist the facts to suit their theories, when it should be the facts telling the investigator what's going on. For example, investigators shouldn't immediately assume that a scratching sound has to do with the client's dead dog. There are a lot of additional explanations, and they shouldn't be ignored simply because they don't fit the theory.

The second point Dr. Furfaro made was the fact that most paranormal investigators are not doing enough to control the environments they're investigating. Dr. Shermer also made the same observation, and he even stated that "the tighter the controls, the less paranormal activity" that is observed. It's extremely important for investigators to have control over the places they're investigating by closing all those drafty windows, knowing where fellow investigators are at all times, knowing the abilities and limitations of all equipment, and by taking good notes. It is also important to learn more about how the human brain works. As Dr. Shermer made clear, perceptions can be a problem. Interestingly, parapsychologist Loyd Auerbach also touched on this subject by revealing that low frequency sounds can make a person's eyeballs vibrate, causing him to think he's seeing something move out of the corner of his eye. Investigators must be knowledgeable about these things in order to do their jobs well. According to Dr. Furfaro, being more scientific is the only way for paranormal investigators to start being taken seriously by the scientific community as a whole.

Attending a conference like Univ-Con gives investigators a rare opportunity to learn about advances in the field from fellow investigators as well as people like Dr. Shermer and Dr. Furfaro, who are respected names in science. Wendy and I never leave a conference without learning something valuable to take back to our group. For those of you who are interested in the paranormal and haven't experienced a conference like this before, I encourage you to give it a try. You'll meet a lot of interesting people, learn some valuable information, and most importantly, have fun. The next Univ-Con is scheduled for October 7th to 11th, 2009, so start making plans now! For more information, visit Univ-Con's web site:

So what is this Spend the Night program everybody is talking about? Well, it is a unique opportunity for some of our lucky fans to take part in an overnight investigation with us! As part of the Spend the Night with The Ghosts of Ohio program, we will be renting out some of the most haunted buildings in Ohio for an entire night. Unlike traditional "ghost hunts," where you are often forced to share the location with total strangers, every building we rent out will be totally ours.

Now comes the best part—we want you to come along with us! We'll bring all the equipment, so all you need to bring is your courage.

How do you get in on all this spooky fun? It's simple, really. All you need to do is sign up for The Ghosts of Ohio newsletter—which is free!

For each investigation, we'll be picking several names from our list of newsletter subscribers and giving them the first shot at spending the night with us. All they need to do is pay the same registration fee that the members of The Ghosts of Ohio have to pay in order to rent out the building (dollar amount subject to change based on individual venue).  

In addition, we'll be drawing at least one lucky Grand Prize winner who will get to come along for FREE!

That's all there is to it! Of course, we might want to take a few pictures of you on the investigation and post them on our site so you'll be the envy of all your friends. But hey, that's a small price to pay for the chance to spend the night with The Ghosts!

If for some reason you don't have your own subscription, what are you waiting for?

We are taking a break to get ready for the holidays. But don't worry, we've already started making plans for 2009 and are currently in the process of scheduling locations including a theater, a manufacturing plant, a B&B, and maybe, just maybe, an infamous tuberculosis hospital named Waverly. 

On October 11th, the Dennison Depot Railroad Museum was the final Spend a Night with The Ghosts of Ohio event for 2008. If you have never been to the Museum, it consists of the Depot itself, along with a string of train cars that have been wonderfully renovated back to the 1940s, representing the time when Dennison, or Dreamville as it was then called, was a stop-off point for our troops that were headed overseas during World War II. Here the troops were treated to a sandwich, cookie, piece of fruit and coffee by the Canteen, which provided 24-hour service to them. There is amazing detail in the work put into renovating these cars…right down to hanging nurses’ stockings in the hospital car, and trays of food in the passenger car.

We split into teams that were a mix of Ghosts of Ohio members, guests and contest winners. By the time our winners joined us (and with the help of two early guests), we had already set up all of our equipment in the location hotspots. After a brief tour of the areas, and some pizza and cookies, we set off into our assigned spots where we gave a mini training session to our guests on how to use the handheld equipment.

Once the investigation got underway, we found several spots that gave a high EMF reading, with no identifiable reason. In the baggage area, one particular spot saw the EMF meters climbing, holding steady, then declining back to a flat 00.0. Going up into the train cars, a spot by the old manual cash register also gave a high EMF reading. The first high EMF reading of the night was discovered by a contest winner in the Sports Room. One of the team members was Eric from the Ghosts of Ohio, and he immediately did a thorough inspection of the area. The culprit was found…a television monitor on the opposite side of the wall. Darn. But it definitely had everyone’s heart pumping!

Everyone had a turn at each of the four stations, and the investigation wrapped up at around 1 a.m. The evidence is still in the process of being reviewed, but I can tell you one thing—that darn K-II meter is going to be the bane of our investigative lives. We asked, cajoled, pleaded and threatened, trying to get any resident ghost to make those lights flash, but no one wanted to play. Siiiiiggggghhh…well, there’s always the next investigation!

Visit the museum online at

“I wanted to let you know that we really enjoyed the investigation on Saturday at the Dennison Train Museum. Everything was done very professionally, The Ghosts of Ohio is a really great group with great people. I would love to join you guys again any time you would have us. Thanks again, I'm so glad I went!”
—Laura Beres

Picture Yourself Ghost Hunting: Step-by-step Instruction for Exploring Haunts and Finding Spirits. Christopher Balzano. Course Technology. 2009.

There are many, many how-to manuals out there for would-be ghost hunters, and I have reviewed some of them for this newsletter, but none of them comes close to the comprehensiveness and balance of Christopher Balzano’s Picture Yourself Ghost Hunting. In almost three hundred accessibly written and lavishly illustrated pages, Balzano offers those step-by-step instructions and more. The author has produced not only an excellent guide for the beginner, but he has also written a very useful encapsulation of the state of the art for even the most experienced investigators.
Certainly, Balzano does an excellent job of covering everything that we have come to expect from a how-to guide. His chapters on the history of paranormal investigation, the current thinking on the nature of ghosts, the equipment we use, the places we visit, and our methodology once we are in the field are cogent and complete without ever being boring (he has a wonderful knack for the well-placed story). The author’s information is extremely up-to-date, though there is basically no way for a print resource to present the cutting edge in terms of investigative technology—the bar simply moves too quickly. It may be that, in one or two years, Picture Yourself Ghost Hunting will lack a discussion of the newest toys, but it does a very good job of introducing and covering the equipment that will probably be a part of the investigator’s tool kit for years to come.

Where the book truly shines are those moments when Balzano reminds the reader of the current pivotal moments in paranormal investigation. Early in the book, one subheading reads, “And then came the show,” referring to the Sci-Fi Channel series Ghost Hunters. It is not too much to say that Balzano’s particular approach to ghost hunting is to identify the arrival of T.A.P.S. into our living rooms as the watershed moment for paranormal investigation. This timeliness may ultimately lead to the book becoming dated faster than other similar books, but its arrival on the current scene is important enough to justify its possible brief life (and anyway, publishers love second editions). While the premiere of Ghost Hunters is almost certainly a watershed event for the popularity of paranormal investigation (there are without question more ghost hunters now than there were ten years ago), I am less sure about whether it was also a watershed moment for the advancement of the field (that is, more of us are doing it, but are we doing it better?). Regardless of these questions, Balzano does an excellent and much-needed job of incorporating the various “reality” ghost hunting shows, the Internet, and the “paranormal media” into his discussion of the state of the field. He could have made mention of the growing importance of conventions and conferences like Univ-Con to the paranormal community, but the full chapters he presents on these “imagined communities” of ghost hunters are indispensable as they are.

Complete, outright praise of Picture Yourself Ghost Hunting is prevented by only one small detail. Balzano is, I think, inconsistent in the way he presents what is known and what is unknown in the field of paranormal investigation. When it suits his purposes, for example, demons exist and pose a serious threat to the ghost hunter and his or her client. However, in other sections of the book, the author is careful to point out that there is virtually nothing that anyone “knows” about the subject of ghosts and spirits and demons. For the novice investigator, I think it is very important to realize that one cannot have it both ways. Normally, I am critical of the authors who take a single position to the exclusion of even mentioning other perspectives. In my mind, Balzano’s mistake is far more forgivable and perhaps will go unnoticed by most readers. I am especially apt to let this inconsistency go, given the extraordinarily deft way in which he handles the vast majority of his subject.

One unique thing that the author includes in his book is a DVD of three field investigations: two private residences and one outdoor location. At 90 minutes, the DVD promised to be worthwhile and full of useful examples of how to conduct investigations. I confess to being somewhat disappointed in the DVD, primarily because it has little to offer anyone who has watched even a moderate amount of any of the paranormal reality shows on television. If you watch Ghost Hunters or Paranormal State, there isn’t much here that you haven’t already seen on a weekly basis. For anyone out there thinking of making their own how-to DVD, don’t miss the opportunity to show viewers at home how to do the less glamorous stuff like library research, initial client interviews, or even how to pack all of your equipment as efficiently as possible. Those are the things very few people tell you how to do.

For the person who is interested in paranormal investigation but has never seen one of the reality shows (are there such people?), this book is worth its weight in gold. For the more seasoned investigator, Picture Yourself Ghost Hunting is still a valuable touchstone for the state of the field. Whatever minor faults I may find with the book, it is certainly a welcome addition to any investigator’s library.

Skulls Rating: Four and one-half skulls


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The Ghosts of Ohio has begun scheduling investigations for 2009. If you or someone you know is experiencing something unexplained in a home or place of business, contact us at or visit our website to fill out an investigation request. All investigations are offered free of charge, and confidentiality and discretion are assured.

Not sure if you want or need an investigation? The Ghosts of Ohio now offers consultations. Let us sit down with you to discuss your current situation and what help we may be able to offer. For more information, please visit


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