Feb. 17, 2008
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine:
Paranormal researchers seek truth behind 'Emma the Ghost'
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Students, faculty members and others who claim to have seen or heard "Emma the Ghost" at Slippery Rock University will finally have an answer when someone asks them: "Who you gonna call?"
Baelfire Paranormal Investigation will spend the night Feb. 28 inside Miller Auditorium searching for the ghost of Emma, who is said to haunt the halls of the theatre and the University's North Hall residential building. The spirit is thought to embody Emma Guffey Miller, a prominent political figure, SRU trustee and University supporter who died in 1970.
"Hopefully, we'll see Emma. That's what we're looking for," said John Lewis, owner of the Titusville-based Baelfire group. "We want to communicate with her and find out why she's still there. Does she need helping moving on? Does she want to move on?"
A team of six investigators will use an electromagnetic field meter, infrared cameras and analog voice recorders in an attempt to "prove" the existence of Emma, he said. While many will dismiss the believability of ghosts regardless of the researchers' findings, Lewis said Baelfire will give SRU a certificate saying the theatre is haunted if they contact Emma.
"Infrared cameras can see far more than the human eye," he said. "We're hoping to catch an apparition, physical form or a primordial mist."
"Emma the Ghost" is one of those folklore stories that many colleges perpetuate, like the mystique of secret societies. Over the years, SRU students have reported seeing a woman's figure out of the corner of their eye, or hearing pounding noises from a cove, but finding nothing when they check on the disturbance. Other stories tell of lights flickering during rehearsals.
They speculate that Emma, described as friendly, haunts Miller because the building was named after her, and she loved theatre.
"Almost everyone is open to the possibility that Emma exists," Kelly McBane, a theater major from McKees Rocks, said. Many students who spend time in Miller have stories of feeling a presence, seeing a shape or hearing footsteps.
"You'll be standing on the stage and see something in the right corner, house left," she said. "Emma's a good thing for us."
The Baelfire team will use a computer to analyze light, movement and things that go bump in the night, Lewis said. They will rely on digital and 35mm cameras to document what they see.
They will certainly keep an eye on "Emma's Closet," a back room inside Miller Auditorium that the theatre department uses to house clothes Miller donated before her death. Current theatre students use the wardrobe for costumes.
From 3-4 a.m., the researchers will attempt a question and answer with Emma, Lewis said. In other investigations, Lewis said, "Spirits have shown their presence by ripping wind chimes off walls and throwing them to the floor, at times responding to commands."
"We've had some cases where you can play back a recording. Take out the background noise and you can actually hear a voice talking," Lewis said.
Baelfire, which is committed to the cause of proving that ghosts exist, has completed more than 40 investigations of alleged ghost sightings. Lewis said they find ghosts 20 percent of the time, he said.
"I personally have believed in them all my life," he said. "It excites me more than scares me."
While remaining neutral on the validity of supposed sightings, Rebecca Morrice, SRU assistant professor of theatre, recalled a spooky incident inside the theatre.
"I was in the main office area, alone in the building. I saw someone come up the stairs and I turned to talk to them and there was absolutely no one there, and no place that they could have gone," she said.
Ghost stories and superstitions are common in theaters, she added. For example, SRU theatre students have a tradition of placing a baby doll on the stage to prevent Emma from ruining a show. Some say the doll has deteriorated, with only the head remaining.
"When you're in a theatre building by yourself, it's really a pretty creepy thing," Morrice said. "It feels empty. Peoples' imaginations being what they are, you can hear things. But many people here will say there was definitely a time when you think you're alone, but you hear talking. You hear a conversation. It's not even random sounds. When you go to talk to them, there's no one there."
Students also report costumes mysteriously appearing in Emma's Closet.
"We'll be looking for a costume for a week before a show, and at the last check we'll find a costume at the bottom of the clothes which you would have seen a 100 times," said McBane. "There are a lot of little things like that."
David Skeele, SRU professor of theatre, said some students have been frightened by unexplained noises. "I walked in the Green Room to find students freaked out because of crashing going on inside a faculty member's locked office," he said.
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