A Bella Vista arts center brought together supernatural buffs and television personalities.
Mysterious matters have enthralled Melissa Pandola since childhood. A fanatic of that which seems to defy the rational realm, she continued her search for solutions Saturday at Fleisher Art Memorial, 719 Catharine St.
Sergey Poberezhny and Eilfie Music, members of the Paranormal Research Society, an 11-year-old group devoted to addressing alleged oddities, capped a two-day Philadelphia tour by lecturing at the Bella Vista location, revealing to 30 attendees numerous aspects of their trade.
“I am constantly looking for explanations,” Pandola, of Broad and Porter streets, said within the site’s Sanctuary, a component of the former Church of the Evangelists, which through a 1922 purchase by Samuel S. Fleisher became a part of his eponymous arts center.
The lightly lit spot created a fitting ambiance for the 90-minute presentation, which dovetailed with Friday night’s investigation of the Eastern State Penitentiary to offer a dual look at the city’s supernatural identity. The balance of darkness with luminosity served as a metaphor for what Poberezhny and his colleagues began as Penn State University students.
“Philadelphia has an interesting vibe,” Poberezhny said. “It has such amazingly old, preserved architecture that accompanies an impressive look to the future.”
He acknowledged naysayers’ gripes about his craft yet emphasized his clan’s studies delve into hot-button issues such as the afterlife, spirits and the suspension of disbelief.
“We touch on so many philosophical topics,” he said. “So many people want spiritual quests to yield answers.”
The A&E Network felt the same in 2007, as the entity tabbed the alliance to star in “Paranormal State,” a docudrama that paired the pupils’ scrutinizing skills with cases involving supposedly unexplainable phenomena. A ratings darling, the show debuted Dec. 10, ’07, and lasted five seasons, amassing legions of supporters, who, like Pandola, wonder what true terror and ultimate consolation any investigation can yield. Eager to give area hopefuls some guidance, tech specialist Poberezhny and occult authority Music chose Eastern State, a famed Fairmount facility that operated between 1829 and 1971 and became a National Historic Landmark in ’66. Scoping photographs of its architecture helped them to pick Fleisher for a look at their labors.
Pandola grabbed a front-row seat to hear her heroes. Donning a shirt bearing the society’s Sept. 16, 2001 formation date, the Lower Moyamensing resident beamed as Poberezhny began by analyzing how the show’s production schedule often had the gang tackling emotionally taxing themes such as demonic instances and less fear-inducing circumstances simultaneously.
“Moving from case to case, we just had to adjust our mindset and realize we were looking to help no matter what,” Music, the second most-tenured society participant behind founder Ryan Buell, said.
“We are always looking to empower our clients,” Poberezhny added.
In their first portion, the visitors addressed possession and a boy’s ghost, noting how the episodes’ attention to disturbed families upped their outreach’s heartrending elements. The talk segued into a look at those who contact the society with only publicity on their mind. Termed “hysterics” and “liars,” they brought on audience laughter, as Poberezhny and Music described their antics through clips and technological trickery.
“There is no quick fix to understanding the paranormal,” Poberezhny said in the candid setting, with three episodes highlighting imaginations rife with deceit. “It is not selective about where it wants to strike.”
Pennsylvania and New Jersey gave the show 20 cases, with the former responsible for 15, including ’09’s “Ghosts of Gettysburg,” which addressed a bed and breakfast whose renovations had its owners believing Civil War figures had returned to cause disturbances. The latter state yielded ’10’s “Devil in Jersey,” which used a thermal camera to try to track down the Jersey Devil.
A ’10 trek to Weymouth, Mass., spawned “They Only Come Out At Night,” a spooky installment on a family battling a pukwudgie, a Native American folklore figure with a reputation for kidnapping children and luring people to their deaths. The crowd grew especially enthused during the discussion of the mini menaces, who, according to legend, also can appear and disappear at will, create fire and transform into walking porcupines.
“Paranormal State” promised no confirmation of any entity or disturbance, seeking to alleviate fears yet calling on religious personnel when a situation called for divine intervention. The cast often battled personal anxieties, with Poberezhny and Music focusing on theirs in the historical locations segment.
“Ghosts of the Forgotten,” another ’10 episode, found Buell and Music investigating Painesville Township, Ohio’s Lake County History Center, formerly the Lake County Poor House, which housed societal outcasts and addressed Music’s handling of darkness. “Southern Discomfort at Sweetwater Mansion,” an ’11 analysis, sent the crew to Florence, Ala., where it scoured a plantation house teeming with stories, including a tale of a caretaker’s witnessing a casket laid out in a downstairs room with the corpse of a Confederate soldier inside. The abode tested Poberezhny’s threshold for darkness, too, and receptivity to contact with spirits.
Knowing the growing interest in his field, Poberzhny revealed he and his partners may try to create a paranormal hot line, as their show bowed one year ago yesterday. He and Music concluded their talk and opened the floor for questions, with discussions on editing, revisiting cases and dealing with skepticism.
Anne Palagruto and husband Tom only have three boys, ages 9 to 16, but at times they thought they had four. The spirit of a little boy was often seen running around their house on the 2500 block of Warnock Street, she said. Although her husband saw the apparition, too, the little boy would usually appear to her. The child was about 6 and dressed in early 1900s period clothing, wearing a little short pants suit lads wore back in the day, Palagruto said. "It seemed like he would come around a lot on holidays or for a kid's birthday," she said. A neighbor once told Palagruto the home her family has occupied since 1987 was built in the late 1800s. With older homes possessing more history than newer ones, it's quite possible the boy was a former inhabitant, but Palagruto said she isn't sure. The spectral child has not been seen in about six years, however. "He just sort of stopped coming around," she said. THE 42-YEAR-OLD Palagruto said she feels right at home with spirits. Not only has she been dealing with them personally, but professionally, too. Last Halloween, Palagruto founded the Philadelphia Institute for Paranormal Research (PIPR) after spending years as the co-director of...
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