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Ghost 'hunting' is a passion for these Pittsburgh groups

| Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Members of Steel Town Paranormal (from left) Mike Pagonis, JoAnnette Cynkar, Chris Skoloski, Chris Durish, Melanie Durish, Nina Petrosky, and Dave Petrosky pause for a photo in the basement of the Harmony Museum Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014.
Philip G. Pavely | Trib Total Media
Members of Steel Town Paranormal (from left) Mike Pagonis, JoAnnette Cynkar, Chris Skoloski, Chris Durish, Melanie Durish, Nina Petrosky, and Dave Petrosky pause for a photo in the basement of the Harmony Museum Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014.

The Halloween season is the time of year when people become more interested in the “haunted” side of life.

Some people tour haunted houses, some attend Halloween parties dressed in ghoulish attire, and others visit places with haunted reputations in hopes of catching a glimpse of a real ghost.

But for a few paranormal organizations in and around the Pittsburgh area, working in haunted environments is a year-round gig — it's their passion and their choice for life fulfillment.

Pittsburgh Paranormal Society

Shawn Kelly founded the Pittsburgh Paranormal Society, based in Dormont, in 2006 and brought 13 members onboard as fellow investigators. Kelly's group focuses on assisting those living in homes with suspected paranormal activity.

“We teach our clients why spirits are there and why they are around and how to live and deal with them,” Kelly says. “Spirits aren't bad. Some of them have a story to tell — some of them want to tell it and may raise a commotion to get attention.”

When the paranonormal society receives a telephone call from a person in distress, they normally start by visiting the home and the residents living there. They interview them and do a walk-through before working to clean out the negative energy.

Judy and Dan McCreary witnessed Pittsburgh Paranormal Society in action when the group came to their New Alexandria home. The McCrearys reside in the Olde Congruity Tavern (circa 1820).

Kelly and his members determined that the McCrearys share their home with a spirit named Maggie (Buchanan) Stewart who lived there in the 19th century.

“Shawn was able to communicate with (Maggie) through the use of their sophisticated, state-of-the art equipment,” Judy McCreary says. “With the assistance of the entire PPS team and their specialized cameras, we were able to witness a most fascinating image of dear Maggie. She remained visible to us for a few minutes and then faded out of our sight, although remaining here at the Olde Congruity Tavern, where she will always have a home.”

The Pittsburgh Paranormal Society is dedicated and takes every case seriously. “We want to help people and help the spirits understand what is going on,” Kelly says. “We give people peace of mind.”

Kelly says as far back as the 1980s, “I began seeing things, hearing things, feeling things that I couldn't explain. In all my 32 years of experience, I never doubted that spirits (existed). They do exist.”

The Pittsburgh Paranormal Society does not charge for its nonprofit services, but donations are accepted.

Details: pittsburghparanormalsociety.com

Steel Town Paranormal

Chris and Melanie Durish are founders of Steel Town Paranormal in Butler.

Melanie Durish says she and her family lived in a haunted home in Saxonburg.

“My passion for the paranormal comes from growing up in a house with things I could not see or understand but that were definitely there,” she says.

Melanie shared her childhood paranormal experiences with her boyfriend, Chris Durish, when they began dating, and he took an immediate interest. The two began traveling to haunted historical sites together and chose to stay at “haunted” locations instead of taking trips elsewhere. The couple were married in June 1996.

Steel Town Paranormal was formed by the Durishes in 2009, with Chris serving as lead investigator. The organization has 15 core members and is not seeking new members.

The group tends to concentrate on investigating historical locations, museums, prisons, battlefields or haunted businesses. They don't normally investigate private residences, but will do so on a selective basis. The group usually investigates one to two locations a month because it takes weeks to analyze all the data from one five- to six-hour investigation. They also do speaking engagements at paranormal and nonparanormal events to educate the public and promote awareness.

Chris Durish's passion is fueled by the unknown. “We are looking for answers. We all want to know what happens when we pass from this earth.

“We can't remove spirits. Our basic goal is to identify what is there — if it's good or bad.”

Steel Town Paranormal is cautious in labeling anything as definite proof of the paranormal no matter how compelling. As stated on its website, the group operates under the principal that true evidence of the paranormal is extremely rare.

The team uses EMF/K2 meters, digital voice recorders, digital cameras and thermal-imaging cameras. Steel Town Paranormal gained national attention when they were featured on Biography channel's “My Ghost Story” and Travel Channel's “Paranormal Challenge.”

The investigative team has reported physical contact with spirits, but nothing harmful. While investigating the Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland, Melanie Durish says she felt a jab behind her ear while in the “bloody lane” area. Upon inspection, there was a small red mark that resembled the end of a bayonet.

While investigating a home in Mercer County, eight pieces of equipment malfunctioned in a five-hour time period and a battery pack leaked battery acid while unconnected to any electrical source.

Steel Town Paranormal is a nonprofit organization and does not charge for its services.

Details: steeltownparanormal.com

Enlightened Paranormal Investigative Consultants

Angela Mangione of Greensburg has been the active co-founder of Enlightened Paranormal Investigative Consultants since 2010. The founder, Manda Pendleton, passed away unexpectedly in 2011, and Mangione is carrying on Pendleton's passion for the paranormal. The group has seven team members.

Mangione says she is an intuitive empath, sensitive to outer energies most don't see. The group's approach to the paranormal is based on a belief that not all spirits are lost. If spirits are visiting or haunting, there is a reason, and they don't necessarily need cleared out. Clients may just need direction on how to acknowledge a spirit's presence and how to live with it.

“We can't rid ghosts or spirits,” Mangione says. “Most are around for a reason, but we give them permission to leave if they choose to.”

Mangione and her team love to travel with other teams on joint investigations. “We love to see what other people are thinking and how other teams do things.” Mangione says.

Enlightened Paranormal tends to look at things more metaphysically than other paranormal groups do.

“Other groups are very controlled — they get results, but they are all business. But, sometimes, you have to bring the seriousness down,” Mangione says. “We are professional, but we do laugh and have fun at times while investigating. It's important to bring the energy level down so the spirits can come through.”

Details: E.P.I.C. on Facebook

Rochelle Haitz is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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