“Paranormal State”: They’re heeeeere! (in New Jersey, I mean)

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Ryan Buell will never forget the paranormal investigation that freaked him out the most.

Paranormal Research Society founder Ryan Buell and tech expert Sergey Poberezhny spoke last night at Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ./Event photos by Ava Gacser

The star of A&E’s “Paranormal State” and the founder/director of Penn State University’s Paranormal Research Society said the case that most got to him involved a renovated townhouse in Pennsylvania. The home was once the site of drug-dealing, prostitution and other assorted unsavory activities, possibly including sacrifices. The current owner had purchased it for a song via foreclosure, and her adult son and his fiancée were living there.

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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.

“Paranormal Activity” has the power of suggestion on its side

After attending the midnight screening of “Paranormal Activity” last night, I came home and went to sleep with the lights on.

It’s not so much that I was freaked out by the film’s images as I was taken by its simple suggestion: That all sorts of frightening things can happen to us while we’re at our most vulnerable, asleep and completely unaware.

That’s not to say “Paranormal Activity” isn’t scary. It most certainly is. Unsettling, too. I have never found the mundane, everyday sight of a bedroom and hallway/staircase to be as utterly ominous as I did last night. I think the film’s stars, Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat, did a great job – though I don’t understand why their characters bothered with that psychic. They should’ve just called Chip Coffey.

I’d heard the ending (which is definitely creepy) was revised from its original form. This article from MTV explains why director Oren Peli changed the ending and why. It contains MAJOR SPOILERS, so do not read it if you haven’t already seen the film.

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