The first case that I filmed with PRS for season 1 of Paranormal State was the “Dark man”. Before that, the only investigations that I did with the group were in haunted buildings on the Penn State Campus-Old Botany and Schwab Auditorium. As a Junior in college, I left my evening Philosophy of Film class and arrived late to location with a group of other investigators. The case took place in Blairsville, PA. Upon arrival, I immediately started helping to set up our surveillance cameras.
The client Helen found out about PRS when she attended Univ-Con, a yearly conference that PRS started at Penn State. She lived in a farmhouse that also served as a halfway house for foster kids. Many refused to stay in the house by themselves due to activity such as shadows, an old Victrola playing by itself, doors slamming, etc. Her youngest son Chris had passed away 6 months earlier on Mother’s Day and she was convinced that something evil was present and was preventing him from moving on.
Chris started having dreams of a “darkman” when he was 5. His brother claimed that Chris had seen a dark figure in his room and it had tormented him. This was also around the same time a patient of Helen’s, a schizophrenic man, committed suicide by drowning himself in the pond in their backyard. He always carried a little lockbox with him at all times. What was in it? She had no idea, but it must have been at the bottom of the pond. I remember the producers suggested sending a diver down to retrieve it, but Helen decided against it. Through research, Eilfie was able to confirm that the suicide of the man did happen when Chris was 5. Helen and her other son had also had dreams of Chris having dark eyes and had seen the dark man themselves. Whatever had been terrorizing Chris was now victimizing them.
My first Dead Time took place in Chris’s room. It was depressing to see all of his stuff and know that he died in there only 6 months earlier. DT consisted of Josh, Ryan, and myself upstairs, while the rest of the team were outside by the pond. Besides a few cameramen and a producer, the rest of production was outside observing from a van. DT was uneventful until we started to power down, then a motion detector from the hallway all of a sudden went off! I saw it out of the corner of my eye. Before this happened, Ryan had asked for a response from the spirit, then after nothing happened we decided to stop our recorders and that’s when the detector went off. We tested it and it was working perfectly. You had to be right near it for it to go off. Did something in the hallway trigger the motion detector?!
A lot of viewers may not realize this but we stayed the night in the client’s house during investigations. It was the best way to live as the clients and get a feel for what was going on. Sometimes we all had to share one shower, or we didn’t shower. I know I’m guilty of not even brushing my hair most of the time during my college days. ha! I didn’t think that many people would see me on TV. What’s really funny is that I don’t even remember bringing an overnight bag. I was just doing my thing! Eilfie and I slept in Helen’s room where the Victrola had played by itself before. As I fell asleep I stared at it, imagining it going off and scaring the hell out of me. This was the first haunted location that I have ever slept at. Pictures of Chris hung on the wall staring at me and I thought to myself what am I doing here?! I had done investigations for fun, but now I was involved in helping someone who was trying to cope with strange activity in her home and the death of her son.
Dead Time #2
I don’t recall this part making it into the final cut, but during our 2nd DT we had a group of investigators in the basement. One of the early PRS investigators was a religious studies student named Ryan. He knew Latin and asked “Es vos mortuus?”, which translates to “Are you dead?” Afterward, the team hears a sound as if there was a small explosion in the basement. Later we come to find that a mag lite flashlight literally exploded! No explanation for that and the timing was impeccable. I wish I had a photo of it to share but I didn’t take one.
This case was truly one of the most important in changing the direction of Paranormal State. During the final sit down with Helen she said “You’re helping people in a lot of different ways that maybe you don’t even realize.” The original concept of Paranormal State was to document college students partying, dating each other, and hunting ghosts. It became much more than that. I’m very glad that we could help Helen find some peace and give her ways to cope with her loss.
The rest of my weekends in college and for the next couple of years were dedicated to immersing myself in some of the most haunted homes in America. Along with an amazing team of investigators and friends-we lent an ear to distraught families who were terrified to be in their own homes. We taught them how to deal with the activity while also bringing along help from Priests, Scientists, Researchers, and more. Sadly, Helen passed away in 2009. I’m glad we could have changed her world as much as she changed the direction of our show.