Only in Jersey: 3/1/12

It’s the first of March – Bunny Bunny to you! It’s time for another edition of Only in Jersey!

If it’s filming in Jersey, takes place in Jersey, or is about celebs from Jersey, you will find it here.

"Property Virgins": Taking a bite out of Central New Jersey./Photo credit HGTV

Recent episodes of HGTV’s “Property Virgins” with new host Egypt Sherrod were filmed all over Central New Jersey last summer. This week’s episode, titled “Love at First Site,” features a newlywed couple from Staten Island who look at homes in Red Bank, Hazlet, Old Bridge, and Matawan. That episode repeats at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 19. A second Jersey-centric episode, “Character Building,” centers on a single mom looking for a home in Dunellen. That episode repeats at 6 p.m. Monday, March 19. While I miss “Property Virgins'” original host, Sandra Rinomato, I appreciate the new season’s tri-state house searches and think Egypt does a good job hosting the show. (Unlike the mess HGTV made of my other favorite series, “Real Estate Intervention.”)

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9/11: Wake me up when September ends

I’ve never looked forward to September. I love the summer, so it’s always meant the end of warm – OK, frequently hot – days. And for 17 years it also meant the beginning of another long school year, and that was never a good thing.

But in 2001, September took on a whole new meaning.

Words fail me.

To say September 11, 2001, was a defining moment in my life is an understatement. It brought horror, disbelief, and an unrelenting sadness home on a magnitude of nothing else I had experienced until then. (Since, I’ve endured the death of my father, the loss of a longtime job, the death of my eldest cat, and my mother’s cancer diagnosis – grief-filled to the last.)

Its scope was ceaseless, too. If you lived anywhere in the Tri-State area, the signs of 9/11 were unavoidable no matter where you went. It was nigh impossible for me, because at the time I was working for a daily newspaper in Central New Jersey.

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“Paranormal State” turns to these New Jersey PROs

By Ava Gacser

(Editor’s Note: Hours before this episode of “Paranormal State” aired, I was informed that the footage featuring NJ-PRO did not make the final cut.)

In a world where reality television is the norm, and for many, Andy Warhol’s prediction of everyone getting their 15 minutes of fame is often attainable, it’s unusual – and pretty darn sweet – when fame literally falls into your lap.

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Yet that’s exactly what happened to Greg Papalcure, who – along with his fellow New Jersey Paranormal Research Organization (NJ-PRO) co-founders, husband and wife Andy and Christine Rivera – will be featured in the Tuesday, Feb. 2 episode of “Paranormal State” (10 p.m., A&E), entitled “Lost Souls.”

And it’s all thanks to a seemingly innocent conversation Greg had with a Pennsylvania woman named Kathy.

“‘Oh, my house is haunted,'” Greg, 23, recalls the woman telling him back in 2008. “Do you want to come in?”

Greg Papalcure

Andy Rivera

Christine Rivera

Did he ever. With his NJ-PRO colleagues in tow, Greg – who serves as a lead investigator and tech specialist for the Central Jersey-based group – took Kathy up on her invitation. And then they came back, again and again.

“Every time we were there we uncovered something,” Greg recalls.

“Everything was escalating,” explains lead investigator and case manager Christine, 34. Unexplained events (which allegedly began during home renovations several years earlier) were disrupting Kathy’s daily life and negatively affecting her relationships with friends and family, as well as impacting her son, Michael.

“She was being locked up in her own home because nobody wanted to come visit her,” Christine says.

Things took an even more serious turn when unexplained phenomena began happening while Kathy’s infant grandchild was visiting.

“The baby was interrupted sleeping,” lead investigator and audio specialist Andy, 27, says. “(Something) was taking the covers off of the child.”

It was then that the team decided to contact Paranormal Research Society (PRS) at Pennsylvania State University. Founded by then-student Ryan Buell in 2001, PRS and its investigations have been the subject of the hit A&E program “Paranormal State” since 2007.

The evidence NJ-PRO had amassed in a year of documenting Kathy’s case – which includes electronic voice phenomena (EVPs) and the physical manipulation of objects – was enough not only to intrigue PRS but convince Ryan to check it out for himself. A week after sending off an email, Greg received a response: PRS was interested.

The investigation of Kathy’s home took place in September 2009 and includes impressions by Michelle Belanger, one of PRS’ go-to psychic mediums. Filming lasted three days, and Christine, Andy and Greg were present on one day. Christine and Greg were interviewed on camera by Ryan and his tech specialist, Sergey Poberezhny, but the team was not invited to join PRS’ investigation of the property.

“We were getting updates from PRS throughout” the day, however, Christine explains.

PRS has often expressed a willingness to work with other paranormal research groups. In an A&E online video, Ryan explains, “The great thing about having a paranormal team that’s already worked on a case is that you suddenly have a lot of information.”

NJ-PRO’s members say they appreciated PRS’ involvement in the case. They also enjoyed watching how the seasoned team works, which Andy says is similar to how his group functions – with one main difference.

“They tend to go with psychics, and we try to stay away from that,” he says.

Greg agrees.

“We deal with more of the scientific side of the investigation,” he adds.

However, the trio doesn’t rule out working with psychics in the future. And they definitely admired how PRS relates to the people it is trying to help.

“We really like the way that they are more client-based,” Greg says.

Being so close in age – the PRS members are in their teens and 20s – certainly helped the groups get along, too.

“Everybody was really nice,” says Andy.

“They were very approachable – individually and as a group,” agrees Christine.

The two teams got along so well, in fact, that PRS last fall invited Greg, Andy and Christine to attend an advance screening of the film “Paranormal Activity” on the university’s State College, Pa., campus.

The positive experience with PRS has whetted NJ-PRO’s appetite for a show of their own.

“We are working with a producer in developing episodes we hope to market to TV channels,” Christine says. “It’s a new field that’s been opened up to us.”

And while the status of PRS’ investigation into Kathy’s home remains uncertain (the conclusion of Tuesday’s episode will hopefully shed light on that), NJ-PRO says its case remains open.

Contact NJ-PRO

In the meantime, the non-profit group is actively seeking clients. If you are experiencing unexplained phenomena and live in the tri-state area (or beyond), you may contact NJ-PRO by visiting its website, Facebook and Twitter pages, or by calling (908) 4-HAUNT-0.

Author’s note: Special thanks to my friend/former newspaper colleague Pulp Tone for promoting this story. If you don’t follow him – via his website, Twitter or Facebook pages  – you certainly should.

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