Janet Johnston called PEARL, or the Paranormal Exploration and Research League, to do some real life ghost busting at the Millersport General Store and Upper Deck, which she owns. “There are things that go bump in the night here,” she said, lots of things.
For the five years she’s owned the store, which was built in 1900, she’s heard all sorts of inexplicable sounds throughout the building when there’s clearly no one else there. Johnston said sometimes when she’s upstairs in the Upper Deck closing down at the end of the day she’ll hear rustling downstairs in the locked general store through audio monitors. “There’s nobody down there, the place is locked up tight,” she said.
The sounds are so loud that they once sent employee Darlene Knox screaming from the building. She’d locked all the doors after the last customers left for the day and returned upstairs to close down the Upper Deck. The downstairs audio monitor came to life. “Someone’s downstairs messing with the candles,” she thought. “I went downstairs and nobody was here.” Knox texted Johnston that she was out of there and fled.
Johnston said the ghostfriendly building has plenty of history. Many years ago, the basement was a pool hall, the general store was Weldon’s Ice Cream, and the upstairs belonged to the Masons. She was listening to the radio the Friday after beggar’s night when people from PEARL were recounting their ghost stories. “I thought, ‘those are lame stories. We have tons more stuff than that,’” she said, and called the station. The PEARL people wanted to talk to her off the air.
“Janet contacted us by calling ‘Woody and the Wake Up Call’ on WCOL,” said PEARL founder Joseph Yarchak. He wanted to investigate immediately. The Millersport General Store is one the oldest buildings PEARL has explored in a while and piqued Yarchak’s lifelong fascination with the paranormal.
“Getting started goes way back to my childhood,” said Yarchak. “I saw a full body apparition when I was fiveor so and I can still picture him clearly to this day.” Later, he grew up in a haunted house. “We experienced a wide range of phenomenon,” he said, including voices, shadow movement, scraping sounds in a hallway, growls, apparitions, and uneasy feelings.
Instead of frightening Yarchak, these experiences fueled his curiosity. After watching an episode of the SyFy Channel’s Ghost Hunters-a show about a team of paranormal investigators-he knew what he had to do. “I didn’t know before the show that paranormal investigators existed,” said Yarchak. “I was involved with a group for about a year or so, and then I decided I wanted my own control of a group.” PEARL was formed in 2008. He recruited a team and began gathering recording equipment. “As my team grew I branched out and became an affiliated paranormal team of TOP-Org.net,” said Yarchak. “It’s a larger, older, and more experienced team serving all of Ohio. One thing I would like to convey is that you are not alone; we are here to help.”
There are several ways to record paranormal activity, said Yarchak. “We use the scientific method to disprove a haunting by collecting data from our equipment,” he said. PEARL uses digi- tal recorders, a wireless microphone system, camcorders with night vision, electromagnetic field detectors, infrared thermometers that read ambient air temperature, and photographs. “Personal experiences during the investigation can be verified by the equipment,” said Yarchak. He also looks for real world explanations to disprove paranormal events, some of which he can’t disprove.
Not just any spooky structure is considered haunted. Yarchak defines “haunted” as a structure possessing paranormal activity that many people encounter on a regular basis and can be captured electronically. “I have a scale of how I determine if a place is haunted,” he said. If he investigates and has no personal experiences and records no activity, the structure isn’t haunted. If there are no personal experiences but some activity is recorded electronically, there’s some paranormal activity although it’s still not “haunted.” When there are multiple personal experiences during the investigation and several incidents are recorded, then it’s haunted.
“Millersport was actually pretty typical of what we encounter,” said Yarchak. “During the investigation there were no personal experiences, but upon reviewing the evidence we found a couple things of interest.” PEARL’s equipment caught voices, which are available on PEARL’s website, www.paranormalexploration. org. Click on the “Evidence” button and listen to “That’s a lie,” and “Get out of the chair.”
Johnston said the “Get out of the chair” recording makes sense because the Masons, who inhabited the top floor “are very particular about their chairs.” She said PEARL is still reviewing video footage recorded when the organization investigated her empty store, appropriately, several nights following Beggar’s Night.
Paranormal investigation is a labor of love for Yarchak and his crew, who perform the investigations for free (although the non-profit group accepts donations, he said). “I believe there are paranormal presences out there and I have seen some with my own eyes, so I would have to say I’m a believer,” said Yarchak.
Johnston said the poltergeists never posed a threat to her and she just accepted them as early tenants of the building. “It was kind of funny,” she said. “But now that it’s on tape, it’s scary.”