Ghosts in Guthrie library?

Walter DeWall knows how to tell a ghost story. He sets up the scene perfectly, his words dripping in description, his voice growing louder and softer at just the right moments.

“It was the summer after my senior year,” DeWall says as he begins his tale, “and I was a complete skeptic.”

As the co-founder of the Paranormal Research Enthusiasts of PA, DeWall is no longer a skeptic. That summer, DeWall was living and working as a painter at a former teacher’s house. The teacher was convinced that the house was haunted by his recently passed grandmother because he had noticed that women’s hairpins kept mysteriously turning up around the house.

But the hairpins still weren’t enough to convince DeWall, until he woke up one night from a horrible dream. The next morning DeWall shared the dream with his teacher who immediately reached for his notebook, revealing that he had experienced the exact same dream and written it down weeks earlier.

That was enough to convince DeWall.Since that experience, he has dedicated his free time to researching and investigating all things paranormal.

“This is not a thrill-seeking thing,” DeWall says. “We are trying to do this objectively.”

In April, the hunt for the paranormal brought DeWall and the rest of the PREP team to the Guthrie Memorial Library in Hanover. Using its entire arsenal of detection gadgets and video cameras, PREP spent a night at the library, investigating claims of mysterious voices and shadows

throughout the building. After spending countless hours analyzing the data collected from that night, the PREP team returned to the library Tuesday evening to reveal its findings.

The scene looked as if it were ripped straight from the pages of a spy novel. Assembled on a table were dozens of high-tech devices, many flashing colors and emitting noises. A large television screen displayed footage from the PREP investigation and images of sound waves appeared on a projector. Jofa Kauffman, a

member of the PREP team and lead investigator on the case, shared the team’s findings as well as the role that each of the devices played in their discoveries.

Kauffman began by holding up a small rectangular gadget – a spirit box. A radio scanner that flips through radio channels at a rapid pace, a spirit box produces white noise that facilitates spirit communication, according to the PREP team. While walking through the library during the initial investigation in April, the team ran the scanner, recorded the noise and then analyzed it on the computer.

At the debriefing, the team shared one of its most notable spirit box findings, the word Fletcher emerging from the din of the white noise. Fletcher Hiigel is the name of the head librarian, and he accompanied the team on its investigation.

But as Kauffman herself pointed out, the sounds are often muffled and left up to the interpretation of the listener.

“We are not making any definite decisions about what we found,” Kauffman said. “That’s what I love about it, you can interpret it however you want.”

In an effort to support those interpretations, the PREP team often looks to back up its findings with data from more than one device. At the library investigation in April, the team brought a psychic along with them to conduct readings of the building. At one point, she mentioned that she was sensing the presence of a little girl named Anna. After looking back and listening through audio recordings from that night, the team heard the word Anna, close to the time when the psychic had first brought it up.

Other interesting findings, the PREP team said, include the sound of footsteps in parts of the building where no one was located and the sound of a voice telling the team to “get out.” While these might sound like clips from a cheesy horror movie, Kauffman explained that being told to leave is not always indicative of a negative or scary experience.

“Sometimes it can just mean a spirit is grumpy,” Kauffman said.

In detecting these spirits in the library, grumpy or otherwise, the PREP team also solicited the help of a laser grid. A laser pointer positioned on a small tripod, the device projects a grid of laser light dots onto a designated point. The team uses it to detect movement or shadows in a dark room.

In April, PREP members brought the laser grid into the basement of the library. They turned off all the lights, turned on the grid and positioned a night vision video camera next to it. Then everyone left the room, but not before leaving behind a message.

“Why don’t you come and dance in the lights while we are gone,” Kauffman said before shutting the door.

After the investigation was over, the team reviewed the footage and, Kauffman said, saw a shadow and a beam of light pass through the laser grid once everyone had left the room.

Once again, Kauffman was careful not to push her beliefs about the footage onto anyone else.

“I will let you interpret that however you want,” Kauffman said, but not without a twinkle in her eye and a subtle smile on her face.

The team, though, did not find every bump and noise in the dark to have paranormal roots. A heating duct was found to be behind strange noises coming from the children’s section and reports of mysterious light from the technology room were linked to streaks in a nearby window.

Despite this evidence, DeWall is careful to never rule paranormal activity out.

“It’s not that there is no way paranormal activity is happening there,” DeWall said, “but we just didn’t see it.”

As someone who got into this business to help people deal with paranormal experiences, DeWall shies away from ever rejecting someone else’s personal experiences or beliefs, even if they are different from his own.

“I have had the big realization that no matter what, you’re not going to make someone believe who hasn’t had an experience,” DeWall said.

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