Clarion, Pennsylvania is known for its autumn leaves, hiking trails and river. And its ghosts, of course.
“We’re Clarion University. We’ve got more ghosts than Penn State,” said Todd Pfannestiel, dean of the College of Arts, Education, and Sciences at Clarion University. He has been ghost hunting on Clarion’s campus and in the surrounding area for years along with his student investigators.
“This is not fake. We do not make things up,” Pfannestiel said at the 13th annual CU Ghost Experience Oct. 31 in Hart Chapel. He showed past findings as well as new evidence, and told the legends of Clarion’s ghosts.
Hart Chapel reopened as an auditorium in the 1930s and was a popular spot for traveling performers. William, an actor, came to town to perform his “one man show.” About 15 minutes into the performance, the audience booed him off stage, and he fled the auditorium.
“His acting career just died in Clarion, Pennsylvania,” Pfannestiel said.
William broke into Hart Chapel later that night and attempted to hang himself from the light fixture in the middle of the ceiling. But he made the rope too long and decapitated himself. His head landed on the stage, and there is a blood spot there to this day. No matter how many times the floor has been cleaned and polished, the stain doesn’t go away, Pfannestiel said.
Pfannestiel uses several techniques in an attempt to capture spirit activity. One way is catching voice prints, or disembodied voices, on a voice recorder. Investigators don’t hear these voices in person. They show up on the tape when it is played back. Pfannesiel and his team have caught several of these voices in Hart Chapel.
Another way is with a flashlight. As a spirit comes near to the flashlight, it collects energy, and the flashlight turns off. During the presentation, Pfannestiel set a flashlight on a chair in the middle of the stage to see if William would communicate. He asked a series of mostly yes or no questions. The flashlight seemed to turn on and off in response to most of the questions.
“I don’t know if I believe it, but for whatever reason, William responds,” Pfannestiel said.
Sophomore Luke Nickerson said he definitely believes William was present and responding to the questions.
“I just felt it. I knew,” Nickerson said.
A third way to detect spirits is with an Electromagnetic Field detector that beeps when energy fluctuates.
“It might be a spirit gathering energy trying to appear,” Pfannestiel said.
Pfannestiel brought one out during the presentation. After some time, the EMF detector began beeping near the chair that had the flashlight on it.
Pfannestiel previously brought ghosthunters from Ohio and Northwestern and Central Pennsylvania to the university. Hart Chapel is one of the places they investigated.
“They tell me it’s the most haunted building they’ve ever been in,” Pfannestiel said.
Hart Chapel isn’t the only building where strange things happen. Pfannestiel and his team have also investigated Becht, Wilkinson, and Givan Halls.
Alex Elias, president of History Club, used to live in Givan Hall. “I’d hear a sound, like someone picked up their desk and slammed it on the ground,” Elias said.
But when she went upstairs to investigate, she said she discovered that the girls in the room above her had left for the weekend. Elias said she would continue to hear noises.
Now that they have all the appropriate equipment, Pfannestiel and his students do all the investigating.
“Why let them have all the fun?” Pfannestiel said, adding that he wants he and his students to have the fun of investigating.
Pfannestiel and his team do these investigations only when they have permission to be in these buildings.
“We have to be safe, not only for you, but for the safety of these wonderful buildings,” Pfannestiel said.
“You should never ghost hunt by yourself,” Pfannestiel said. “You should have someone else there so you can both be scared.”
Not only is it less frightening with a buddy, but Pfannestiel also said if something spooky happens, it’s more believable if multiple people see it.
Pfannestiel encouraged students to join his paranormal investigation team. Those interested can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.