|Rich Eider (left) and Adam Bestram, both members of Monroe County Paranormal Investigations, take photographs with an infrared camera in Ellison Park in Penfield, N.Y. as they conduct an investigation, hoping to experience paranormal phenomena as they stated they had in the past.
It was unmistakable. Listening back to the recording several hours later, the words were clear as day. Standing in Penfield, N.Y.’s Ellison Park deep into the night, the PX machine, commonly used to attempt communication with spirits, could be heard spitting out fragments that told stories of officers in a fort which stood on those grounds centuries ago or a death on a nearby highway.
Steven Markowitz, Peter LoVerso and Matt Burkhartt were standing among the team at Monroe County Paranormal Investigations (MCPI) when the PX said the word “Matt.” Not more than a few seconds later, it said “Matt driver.” It had never mentioned that name before and would not again. But it was enough. Burkhartt had driven the three of us to the park that very night. Not more than two minutes later, Rob Pistilli, founder of MCPI, gets a phone call that the art director from City Newspaper had just driven up to the park entrance. His name is Matt DeTurck too. If there truly was a spirit in our presence, it knew who we were.
Those events took place on Saturday, October 20 in the late hours of the night, as the team at Reporter joined MCPI on a practice investigation. The goal for Pistilli, as well as Adam Bestram, the technological manager, and Rich Eider, the head of research and development, was to attempt to recreate the results they achieved when they investigated the park two years ago. Paranormal hunting equipment and flashlights in hand, the six of us headed across the swampy landscape in search of evidence for what lies beyond death.
The Ghosts of Our Past
Pistilli began investigating the paranormal in 2002, after a serious illness left him clinically dead for 20 minutes. “When it happened, I didn’t have the white light, there was no tunnel, there was no near death experience and honestly I got pissed off,” says Pistilli. After the incident he began researching into why some people have near death experiences while other do not, and that lead him to discovering groups that explore the paranormal.
From there he worked with one group for two years yet, unhappy with their management, left and founded MCPI in 2004. In the ten years Pistilli has been in the business, he has been on more than 350 investigations.
There are currently 11 members of MCPI. In addition to the three that were at the park that night, there are two case managers who select cases and do preliminary interviews with clients, one lead investigator, and five regular investigators. The group volunteers their services, working mostly in private residences.
“MCPI is around in business for one reason and one reason only: To help people,” says Pistilli. It is this goal that has kept the group from going commercial; they want to keep their work about giving people security and closure as opposed to trying to be the next television group. As of now they have been approached by the television shows “Paranormal Witness,” “Paranormal Collector” and “My Ghost Story” to be consultants, but have turned them down, stating that if their paths cross and they can still help people, they would do it.
In a typical investigation, after a case manager has determined what types of experiences are haunting the client, they determine how many people and what technologies are necessary. After some research, the team stays for an entire night and performs their investigation, seeking out the paranormal and trying to determine the root cause of the disturbances. Once the investigation is complete, the team pours through all their data and Pistilli personally contacts the client for a follow up meeting, explaining what they found and what their opinions are.
In order to help people, Pistilli has studied Christianity, Wicca, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Native American faiths and even pseudosciences such as crystal powers. Pistilli, who has been involved in sage cleansings, demonic cases and exorcisms, and performs their rituals himself, believes that “It helps me to have a firm belief and an understanding of faith ... I trust my faith. If you don’t understand it, how can you trust it?”
To date, MCPI has investigated all around the country. From an 18 person investigation of the U.S.S. Sullivans destroyer and the U.S.S. Little Rock cruiser in Buffalo, N.Y. to the Geva and Auditorium Theatres here in Rochester, the team has traveled far in the name of the paranormal. Yet while it may seem glamorous, their job is psychologically difficult and sometimes dangerous.
On one investigation, Pistilli was allegedly choked to the ground by an unseen spirit and had to be carried out of the house. The next morning, he had finger marks along his neck and a black eye. Eider one night had the feeling that a knife was being driven into his back. The two have woken up with scratch marks along their bodies.
Two months ago, the team investigated a case that left them sleepless for a week. In that house, a seven year old boy watched his mother repeatedly stabbed in the chest and face, dying a short while afterwards from the injuries, then witnessed the killer stab himself, although he lived and was convicted for murder.
“That particular night, I was completely taken over by a murderer,” says Pistilli. According to Stacie Barry, a case manager, there are allegedly photographs of Pistilli’s face and eye color changed, and he acted with incredible hatred and yet an unmatchable “ h i g h o n l i f e ” feeling. He explains it as winning the lottery, having sex with a celebrity and scoring the winning point in the championship all at once, and at the same time knowing he was going to kill someone, knife in hand. Anticipation and thrill collided in a single terrifying moment of full-on possession.
After that incident, with its lack of closure, the team tracked down the grave of the mother. They said prayers and left crystals for her, hoping to help her pass on and allowing them to sleep again at night.
When we joined up with MCPI, we were investigating Ellison Park, which is about 20 minutes away from RIT. According to Pistilli, the park was founded in the 1600s and served as trading ground between the early settlers and the Native Americans. Somewhere in the park there was once a fort and a graveyard, but the tombstones have been moved and the location of the graves are now unknown.
For the team, was a perfect place to document the existence of ghosts.
|Rob Pistilli, founder of Monroe County Paranormal Investigations, listens to the PX device while conducting an investigation at Ellison Park in Penfield, N.Y., hoping to experience paranormal phenomena as he stated they had in the past.
We arrived at Ellison Park at about 7:20 p.m. Pistilli, Eider and Bestram were already there waiting for us, getting their equipment ready. As they prepared, the group explained their equipment, priming us for what we might expect to see that night.
Some of the equipment was fairly sophisticated and expensive, such as an infrared camera and voice recorder, as well as specialized devices such as the PX and an MEL Meter. A PX Device is a handheld which has a built-in dictionary of over 2,000 recorded words, and which will detect fluctuations in localized electromagnetic fields (EMF), translating them into phonetic words or sentences which it will play on a speaker.
According to the group, spirits give off electromagnetic fields, and use energy to interact with diodes in the PX. The PX also generates a lot of gibberish, leaving the group to determine the meaningful terms and divine the clues into a constructive story. This is used to listen to any nearby spirits which wish to communicate with the investigators. The MEL Meter is a combination of an ambient thermometer and an EMF detector, allowing the user to purportedly detect the presence and pinpoint the location of a spirit. Pistilli explained that everything they use and do is based on theory.
Pistilli described the group’s previous experience in the park, where they were contacted via the PX. It directed them to walk forward by issuing a series of numbers, corresponding roughly to how far they walked. The PX then said the word “hunt,” as a pair of rabbits ran across the trail in front of them. They wanted to bring us to the same spot, and attempt
to make contact with the spirit again, so that they could determine for certain if they had made meaningful contact during their last visit. Says Pistilli, “Scientifically, if it doesn’t happen again, then it’s just coincidence.”
We set off into the park, which was unlit; the group was kind enough to loan us flashlights. We walked about a quarter mile to the edge of a large swampy area, where they said they had seen something on the previous excursion. Unfortunately, the PX gave not a peep, and the swamp was too wet for us to venture further into. Eider spotted a light occasionally flashing through some trees; after a few minutes of closer observation, though, this turned out to be headlights flashing from a far-off road.
We then abandoned the swampy area, and continued down a trail towards where they had the best results on their previous excursion. As we walked there, there were a number of possibly supernatural events. Pistilli thought he saw a shadowy figure standing in a field; but as he ran towards it, it was revealed to be a tree. In addition, several people reported transiently smelling burning wood, and at one point two people said they heard drumbeats issuing from a nearby hilltop; however, none of these phenomena were experienced by everyone in the group.
Reaching the bridge where the PX began speaking on the last excursion, Pistilli mentioned that he heard church bells; several others agreed that they had heard them too. There is no church near Ellison Park and it was 8:25 p.m.: an unusual time for church bells to ring.
As we crossed the bridge, the PX began to speak, issuing several unconnected words, and then as it continued it began a pattern of output. Several words were repeated, including “fort,” “highway,” “mercury” and “infantry.” MCPI immediately began stitching the fragments of words together into something of a coherent story.
Standing in a field, the PX repeating patterns of words, it was easy to see shadows moving in the trees. Pistilli reported seeing a figure at the base of the woods and ran directly towards. No one else in the group saw the apparition, but Pistilli swears he saw a full shadowy figure. Several members of the group also reported hearing footsteps, yet we could not find a source with our flashlights, which were fairly low powered. “We are
not alone, I know that,” remarked Pistilli. Eventually, as more words were spoken, they decided that two separate stories were being told through the PX, likely by two different spirits. One tale spoke of an infantry officer, while the other spoke of a car crash between a Saturn and a Mercury car on a nearby highway, possibly involving a teacher or a police officer. Several verbal appeals to the spirits for clarifications on several points went largely unanswered.
The one time the spirit responded was when Bestram and the three of us were alone standing next to the creek, the PX constantly repeating words. In playful anger, Bestram yelled at the spirit that it was talking a lot of gibberish and to talk slower. A few seconds passed, and the stream of words did in fact slow down. The
same thing happened again about ten minutes later.
The MEL Meter was then used to attempt to find the spirit. The thermometer
showed that as we crossed the bridge over the river, the temperature dropped about four degrees Fahrenheit, in a large mass of cold air. Several other lights were also reported by some group members on a nearby hill, which was far away from any roads or trails.
It was around then that the PX, very clearly, said “Matt driver,” and we caught it on the voice recorder.
At this point, we were informed by a park ranger that the park would be closing shortly, and that we had to leave. MCPI switched off their equipment, and we all drove off, to think and talk about the events that had transpired that night.