Paranormal Research Society seeks to uncover the truth about the supernatural

By Jaclyn Bryson

Mary Lyon Hall (Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)
Mary Lyon Hall (Cade Belisle/Daily Collegian)

Sarah Lundberg was in her grandparents’ home in Maynard, Massachusetts, when she saw a dark figure roaming the hallway.

At about 12 years old, she didn’t think much of it at first. She assumed it was her grandfather walking into his room as usual. But the figure looked different, like a black, shadowy mass – the outline of a tall man right before her eyes.

Then, she watched it turn and pass through the attic doorway.

“(The door) didn’t open or anything,” she said. “(The entity) just disappeared.”

And while Lundberg said most people would have probably been frightened at first, her paranormal experience didn’t completely scare her away. Instead, it motivated her to seek out the truth.

“I was actually pretty intrigued,” she said. “I did have an adrenaline rush, but I was more curious and wanted to figure it out.”

Now, Lundberg is the president of the Paranormal Research Society, a University of Massachusetts Registered Student Organization. With the help of Chelsie Ray, the current vice president of PRS, and O’Malley Bach, the treasurer, they set out to create a group on campus designed for people interested in investigating, exploring and documenting local paranormal activity.

“I think that a lot of this stuff – the paranormal, supernatural – is essentially unknowable. You can’t really prove or disprove it one way or another,” Bach said. “But I think that you can look for it. You can try and know for sure. And that’s what we are doing.”

According to Ray, the group has been at UMass since October of last year. Currently, there are about 12 active members, but the RSO is hopeful that these numbers will grow, and that everyone involved will use their time at PRS as a learning experience.

“I would hope that (members) come out with knowledge of just things they may be interested in or just experiences of their own that they can share with people,” Lundberg said.

But for now, the main focus of the RSO is just getting its feet off the ground. At meetings, Lundberg said the goal is to educate members on the paranormal world, such as discussing the different types of hauntings they may encounter, and to make sure they are prepared when the time comes for PRS to start doing investigations of its own.

“It’s mainly like a debriefing meeting. Then, once we get access to case studies, we will start going more in depth into how people should act in situations,” she said.

But according to Ray, before PRS can go out and explore, they need money. They currently have a GoFundMe account to raise funds for specialized equipment and are looking to branch out through social media in order to secure donations. According to Lundberg, PRS is looking to raise funds for equipment such as thermal imaging instruments and EMF readers.

“You can only do so much with iPhone cameras and baking thermometers,” Bach said.

After gathering the funds and equipment they need and getting all necessary approvals, the RSO plans to start its exploration of the paranormal both on campus and in the surrounding area.

According to Ray, in the 1970s a student on the fourth floor of Mary Lyon Hall hung herself – but the body was not found for days, allowing for the rotting scent to spread throughout the dorm. To this day, some people have reported strange smells and uncomfortable feelings when in the hall at night. It’s a story that has piqued the interest of PRS.

It also plans to investigate the death of a student who fell from a tree in the Orchard Hill Residential Area. According to Bach, you can still see his shadow to this day, replaying the last few moments of his life.

Off campus, PRS is also interested in exploring the Clapp Memorial Library in Belchertown and the former Danvers State Hospital, two supposedly haunted sites teeming with supernatural activity.

“This area has a lot a lot of history, and a lot of deaths. Especially tragic deaths on campus,” Ray said. “That’s a good enough place to start.”

But despite its interest in the paranormal, PRS believes everyone has a right to their own opinion, even the skeptics. The goal of PRS is simply to explore all possible explanations for the supernatural.

“People absolutely hold their own opinions and faiths,” Ray said. “In my life, I’ve experienced a lot of tragedy and death to not put faith in something. If there’s something out there, I would like to know.”

“Whatever happens, we are aiming for authenticity. We don’t have a TV show we are running, we don’t want to mislead anybody,” Bach said. “We are just looking for the truth, not to ghost bust.”

Jaclyn Bryson can be reached at [email protected]