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Charleroi antique store's 'Ghost Story' featured on the Biography Channel tonight

| Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

When Rhonda Jaquay and husband, Tim, purchased a Charleroi antique shop five years ago, they got more than just a haven to display collectibles.

Whispers, footsteps, moving furniture and mist-like apparitions have transformed Tim's Secret Treasures on 220 McKean Ave. into a magnet for paranormal investigators and enthusiasts, as well as antique seekers.

The shop will be featured at 8 p.m. Friday on the Biography Channel as part of its “My Ghost Story: Caught on Camera” series for the second time this year.

“We really didn't delve into the building's history when we purchased it,” Jaquay said, while flipping through stacks of old historical documents she's gathered for research. “For me and Tim, it's different perspectives. For him it's (public relations) and good for business. For me, it's about acknowledging the (spirits).”

Jaquay noticed something eerily odd the day they purchased the building.

“The first night, we ended up going there to clean,” she said. “I was upstairs, Tim was downstairs, and I heard somebody whisper in my ear. I was so startled, I dropped the glass cleaner and got the hell out of there.”

A year later, after closing up for the day, Jaquay says she heard someone walking down the staircase and thought she locked someone in. She didn't.

“After that happened, I told Tim I wasn't working by myself anymore,” she said. “Workers would call saying they heard footsteps and furniture being moved upstairs.”

The antique shop, which combines two buildings that date as far back as the 19th century, boasts quite a history. The couple found evidence of the property once housing a funeral parlor, scrap yard and even a speakeasy during Prohibition. And the second floor, Jaquay notes, is a hot spot for unexplained activity.

“One day, two girls in their 20s came downstairs and told me I needed to go get the little girl running around upstairs because she's going to get hurt,” she said. “I took them upstairs and showed them there was nobody there. They were blown away. The one told the other, ‘Tell her you saw it, too.'”

Then, there was the day a stocky man took his 10-year-old daughter upstairs before quickly retreating.

“I asked them what was wrong and he said, ‘I heard a growl right next to me. When I stopped to listen, it happened again and this time it was louder.' He asked his daughter if she heard it too, and she said yes. And this was a bigger guy, the kind who wouldn't be scared. He held his arms out and the hair was standing on end.”

At that point, Jaquay decided to call in paranormal teams. That's when she formed an unintentional bond with “Clara”. This would be Clara Friedman, the niece of one of the original owner, who lived in the building without heat before passing away more than 20 years ago. Her body wasn't discovered until weeks afterward.

Jaquay said she believes Clara is responsible for hugging her and communicating with her during a paranormal investigation.

“When I got hugged that night, a woman (psychic) said to me that Clara didn't mean to scare me and wanted me to drink Chamomille tea with her in her room sometime,” Jaquay said. “When I went back into the room, I asked, ‘Did you pull me up here?' She said (on a digital recorder), ‘Yes.' I said, ‘What do you want with me?' and she said ‘Sugar bowl'. Right behind me on the dresser was a teapot and a sugar bowl.”

“To be left for a building for weeks and nobody to realize she was dead,” Jaquay said, before stopping mid-sentence. “The way I see it, she wasn't acknowledged in her life and I'm acknowledging her now.”

Steel Town Paranormal, a local group that conducts investigations and tries to document evidence of ghostly phenomenon, caught a moving mist on video last October.

The group will conduct a charity investigation from midnight to 4 a.m. Saturday with proceeds benefitting the Washington County Food Bank. The event is already full with 27 people signed up.

“People might think I have issues ... believe me, I don't,” Jaquay said. “As crazy as it might sound, there's a message behind what going on here.”

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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