Saturday, 8 October 2011

MAN OPENS NEW PARANORMAL RESEARCH CENTER

Rick Fisher doesn't expect other people to believe in ghosts.

UFOs.

Bigfoot.

But he does, or at least he would like to be convinced. And he's spent a lifetime — ever since he saw what he suspects was his great-grandfather's ghost about 50 years ago — trying to find evidence that proves the paranormal is simply science that hasn't yet been proven.

Now, the local ghost hunter is going to share the evidence he's collected, the notes he's taken, research by other believers and a selection of pop-culture kitsch at the National Museum of Mysteries & Research Center.

The basement-level museum at Third and Locust streets, Columbia, opens Oct. 15 and is dominated by the cute and hokey:

E.T., the candy-loving alien.

The Ghostbusters, who battled a giant marshmallow in Manhattan.

Harry, a gentle sasquatch taken in by the Henderson family.

Casper, a ghost.

Wait, you might well ask — aren't those the fictional creations of movies and comic books?

Yup. And they're also part of the paranormal phenomenon that has captured popular imagination for decades, Fisher said.

"I've collected all this stuff. To some people, it's junk," he said. "I've had this stuff for years. I thought, 'Wouldn't it be neat if other people could see this?'"

But, while the museum's cramped space is dominated by kitsch — from Ghostbusters cereal and Slimer toothpaste to Casper bubble bath, an ET Pez dispenser and an Alien Autopsy operation game — there are artifacts and evidence, too.

There are, for instance, replica casts of massive footprints found in the woods.

There are news clippings from the Flatwoods Monster incident of 1952, "space grass" from a 1973 UFO encounter in Westmoreland County and metal fragments found at fabled Area 51.

There's a collection of automatic writers, commonly known as Ouija boards, dating back to 1892.

And Fisher, who has personally investigated more than 1,000 reports of hauntings, also is showing off some of his equipment, from early reel-to-reel tapes and Instamatic cameras to modern digital recorders and imagers, as well as gauges that measure temperature ("we always look for cold spots") and electromagnetic fields.

Eventually, he hopes to include a display of ghost photography and an interactive collection of spirit voice recordings.

"Some of the voices we've captured have responded to questions we asked," he said. "To me, that's proof."

Still, he conceded, it's up to individuals to decide if they believe the evidence presented is "proof" of paranormal activity.

Many "ghost photos," for instance, show bright orbs in the air. Fisher has collected many such examples.

"I'm not going to tell you these are ghosts. But they are anomalies," he said.

"It all depends what you believe. To demonologists, they're demons. To religious people, they're angels. To ghost hunters, they're ghosts. To skeptics, they're dust.

"Bottom line is, we don't know what they are."

But it's important to preserve the evidence, he said, invoking the memory of John Keel, a well-known UFOlogist and author of "The Mothman Prophecies," who died in 2009 and whose life's work of research was promptly discarded by relatives.

"What if we find out someday that UFOs are real?" Fisher asked. "It's worth preserving history's mysteries."

The museum tour will be self-guided, he said, although he'll be on hand to answer questions. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for children and seniors.

Money raised through the museum will be used to continue paranormal investigations and expand the exhibits, Fisher said.

"I'm not going to make a penny off it. I just want to share it," he said.

"It's a hobby," he added. "Nobody gets paid to do this. If someone is charging, they need to get out of the business."

Far more valuable than the displays, Fisher believes, is the collection of books, clippings and notes on various paranormal subjects.

"You can sit here all day and read all you want," he said. "It's included in the admission."

The library includes books from Fisher's private collection, books by his peers in the field and 40 boxes of books donated by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, a popular author in the field.

He'd like to add a coffee shop, and he hopes to host a variety of guest lecturers from the paranormal field and classes on investigation techniques.

"This is an educational center," he said. "People have spent their lives researching these things. No one else is saving this stuff, but to me, it's worth saving."

Fisher is working to obtain nonprofit status for the museum. For more information on the museum and Fisher's research, visit him online at paranormalpa.net.

"I was determined to prove ghosts were real. I still haven't been able to do that ... and, to be honest, I'm still a little skeptical myself," Fisher said.

"For skeptics, this museum isn't going to prove anything. You're never going to believe — unless you've had an experience."
Source: Lancaster Online
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