UB PARA club uses experiences with supernatural to fuel investigations
Alicia Knauf has always felt surrounded by the supernatural - even before she was born.
When Knauf's mother was pregnant, she visited a psychic, who told her the child she was carrying was a "gift from the angels." Knauf's mother always told her there was a bright white light coming from her room at night, which symbolized the "Lady in White" visiting.
When Knauf, a sophomore biomedical sciences major, saw the advertisement for UB Paranormal Activity Research Association (PARA) at a club fair her freshman year, she took it as a sign and eagerly joined the group.
UB PARA is a club geared toward the education and investigation of paranormal and supernatural activities. The club meets every Thursday at 8 p.m. in 250 SU.
The club is composed of eight members who have different views on the paranormal. Jennifer Empey, a sophomore chemistry major and vice president of the club, is more skeptical than other club members.
"I'm mainly interested in finding reasons to 'debunk' many claims of hauntings or supernatural occurrences wherever we go," Empey said in an email.
Empey has never had any personal experience with the supernatural, but she finds the ideas of ghosts and the paranormal to be fascinating and enjoys discussing the topics. The mystery surrounding hauntings keeps her coming to the club week after week.
Growing up, Knauf said her parents made her pick their lottery tickets because she often chose winning numbers.
Knauf said when she was younger, she had conversations with a house in her neighborhood. The house was the site of where a young boy named Danny had died some years before, she said. She said she would often speak with the boy's ghost whenever she walked by and sometimes he would even ask to play with her.
More recently, during her commute to UB, Knauf was in a car accident and though her car was totaled, she managed to walk away unharmed. She believes this luck was the product of some supernatural force.
"I believe in believing," Knauf said. "Science itself is a philosophy defined as we know it. So to say that there isn't supernatural forces will, in my opinion, be ignorant. I believe in [the supernatural] wholeheartedly, but I want to prove it scientifically."
UB PARA aims to collect scientific proof to either prove or disprove supernatural events. The club goes on investigations on campus to try and find evidence of supernatural occurrences.
Carlos Cevallos, a sophomore biomedical sciences major, said the club works to educate members on the proper ways to conduct an investigation.
"The first few weeks [of PARA] we mainly learn the proper procedures for when we go out on investigations," Cevallos said.
For these investigations, the club usually goes to locations around South Campus but also explores Clemens and O'Brian Halls. Once there, the members use a Maglite flashlight, which has a twistable light bulb that can be twisted almost completely off, to try and communicate with any potentially present supernatural force.
"The theory is that ghosts affect the electromagnetic field, so if they were to interact with it, they would complete the circuit and turn on the light," Cevallos said.
During his freshman year, junior computer science major Stephen Keller experienced such an occurrence. Keller and the club members had set up a Maglite outside of Harriman Hall when the light started responding to the questions that they asked, he said.
"We always try to follow a method of not going in thinking we're going to find anything," Keller said. "We try to find reasonable proof to debunk any strange occurrences that we find. But when we can't find a reasonable explanation, then possibly [the occurrence] is something that we haven't explained yet."
When Keller and company encountered the force, the members asked a series of 'yes' or 'no' questions, inquiring whether the spirit in question was a student and whether it was happy. If the light turned on, it signified a 'yes,' but if it remained off, the answer was a 'no.' By the end of the questioning, Keller said the group learned that the spirit was a former nursing student.
When on South Campus, the members usually ask questions geared toward the medical sciences and architecture, Empey said, because these are the topics students study on South Campus.
During the spring semester of last year, the club went into the basement of Harriman Hall and entered a corridor now used for storage, turned off all the lights and set up their Maglite.
The members of the club were asking questions but the Maglite still had not turned on. Suddenly, a member of the club felt a push.
"Her trajectory didn't match a fall," Knauf said. "It looked like she was pushed. But we can't say that a spirit pushed her; it's too easy."
For the members of UB PARA, finding evidence that something is out of the ordinary or unexplainable is just the first part of their investigation. Empey said trying to debunk any strange occurrences makes their work scientific.