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Ghost hunters: Very superstitious

Members from Scientific Paranormal explore Syracuse's spooky haunts for evidence from beyond the grave.

Halloween was three months ago, but ghosts whisper and hooded figures lurk in the shadows year-round for the Syracuse Scientific Paranormal team.

Camped out in a Watertown home, an hour north of Syracuse, the eerie house has the team on the lookout for the supernatural. Unlike the haunted houses so popular at Halloween, this haunted house is real, says the Scientific Paranormal team.  No actors in masks spring from hidden corners, no fog machines, and not even a tape of a wolf howling at the moon startles the team.  Instead, there is silence. 

Photo: Leah Rankin

See and hear the spine-tingling tales of six haunted spots in Syracuse, including Oakwood Cemetery.

It is the thrill of the unknown that makes ghost hunting for Syracuse University senior, Catherine Varonko, and her fellow paranormal investigators not only a hobby, but also an obsession.

Scientific Paranormal was founded in 2007 by Adam Cannon, a local resident, in Syracuse, NY.  According to their website, the organization is “dedicated to providing professional and scientific answers to unexplained phenomena.”  One of 10 staff members, Varonko is the Division Manager for the Scientific Paranormal team.

As a girl growing up in Massachusetts, Varonko begged for a book about witchcraft but her parents refused to buy her one.  So, she bought a book about ghosts. “It was the scariest thing I had ever read in my life,” Varonko said.

Instead of locking the book out of sight, she showed her parents the book and told them, “I need another one.”

By the time she was 16, Varonko’s fascination with the paranormal had led her to stake out cemeteries at night, hoping to catch a glimpse of otherworldly apparitions. Varonko then began studying the different kinds of energy environments (and how they could be detected) that foster supernatural activity.

“You learn so much about it that you’re not afraid of it,” Varonko said.  “You’re just excited to experience something so rare.”

According to Varonko and the Syracuse Scientific Paranormal team, there are two main types of hauntings:  residual hauntings and interactive hauntings. Residual hauntings are “like videotapes playing over and over,” she said.

The ghosts “residually” haunting a house don’t seem to notice the world around them and repeat their actions ad infinitum. 

Interactive hauntings, on the other hand, “will do anything to get your attention,” Varonko said. 

These are the manifestations that want people to know they exist and want to communicate.

But not all hauntings are benign, said Varonko.  Non-human entities, more commonly known as demons, can be malicious and extremely aggressive.  It’s not a good idea to interact or communicate with demons, she said.  They will manipulate a victim to get what they want.  These are the most rare type of hauntings but the most common complaint from people who think they have paranormal activity in their homes.     

The presence of a demon was the complaint from Watertown resident, Lisa Davis, who insisted that she had seen two apparitions in her home- one of an adult male and another of a little girl.  She complained of toys playing by themselves and objects moving when no one was in the house. 

The Scientific Paranormal team – Catherine Varonko, Todd Kely, and Justin Delia – arrived the night of Nov. 19.  They snaked wires throughout the house that connected to night-vision cameras and laser grids.  Central command was established in the garage where a computer screen displayed the views from every camera in the house.  When the team was ready they entered the house equipped with EMF (electromagnetic field) and EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) recorders. 

There were two sweeps of the house in which each team of investigators tried to provoke the ghosts into showing themselves, by calling out to them and asking questions to the air.  If there were apparitions, Varonko said, they would be able to focus their energy into these devices to make contact with the team.

Then, the team left the premises for 15 minutes of “dead time,” so that the house could “settle.”  One final sweep of the house ended the five-hour investigation.

It remains to be determined whether or not there is paranormal activity in this Watertown home, but in the meantime, Varonko has identified several sites on the SU campus that are thought to be haunted.  Check them out on the map below and soon you may be prepared for your own ghost hunt, if you dare.

(Scientific Paranormal is a member of The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) family

I lived on Brewster 10 in

I lived on Brewster 10 in 1986. There was definitely a ghost there. Many of us saw it. Guess its still hanging around. LET'S GO ORANGE!


In my hall (Brewster) several people were complaining about invisible things sitting on their chests at night. This happened to me twice as well, but I was also having demon issues at the time (non location related, they followed me) so I'm not sure whether it was simply due to that or not.

GO Catherine :)

Awsome :)... Love it :)

Very cool, Leah!

Very cool, Leah!

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