Category: Fort Greene

Haunted Brooklyn Escape Room Proves Inescapable For Spirits

Locked in windowless rooms, searching for; and finding the unseen is a daily occurrence for both Bellevue patients, and the committable Detectives of the Brooklyn Paranormal Society.

Acting on a tip that a room within Brooklyn Escape Rooms held spiritual energy, we met to investigate.

All This Horror Business

Since its conception in 2010, Escape Rooms have risen from a dozen venues in 2014 to over 2,800 (as of writing). There are currently eight Escape Games in operation within Brooklyn with most clustered around the Williamsburg area and an outlier in Midwood.

Tethered to an $8 billion dollar Halloween industry with heavy hitters known for “Scary-Good Strategy” such as Spirit Halloween, Escape Games often utilize temporary leases and subleases, with some even popping-up inside of breweries.

Escape Games appeals to those seeking a rush, looking to test their problem-solving skills, or seeking social activity for a special occasion. Birthday parties, work events and dates are common at these amusements.

Each with a unique theme, escape rooms lock hopeful contestants in rooms with challenging puzzles and riddles. Solving a series of puzzles usually unlocks the door, however running out of time is the most popular method of exit.

Motifs and themes vary by location, and seasonal pop-up businesses spring up; bearing themes like Ghost Room during autumn and Christmas Escape over winter. Popular mainstays are the Rube Goldberg Room, the Panic Room, and the Arcade Room.

Completion rates vary by design of the room. Beginner level rooms are sometimes fool-proof; designed to accommodate new players with simple challenges, whereas the most difficult rooms are said to have completion rates of under 2%.

Tickets usually command between $20 to $45 per person, with metropolitan cities experiences commanding significantly more. Some rooms self-report ticket sales to be  over 140,000 per year which means an attraction can generate over a million dollars in revenue per year.

The Detectives present spanned a wide gamut of psychic ability and investigative skill levels. We were joined by a BKPS first-timer; he stated upon arrival that he was eager to experience our unique view on the paranormal. One member travelled from Boston, MA for the occasion.

Our most seasoned spiritualist Kor was present to provide mediumship for our investigation. Psychic-medium Kor has attended numerous paranormal investigations hosted by Brooklyn Paranormal Society and has a spotless record of meaningful spiritual communications, otherwise known as hits.

These hits are messages conveyed from the spirit-world, which must also align with abnormalities in our logging devices which monitor EMF activity, temperature, and other environmental factors.

Most were Brooklyn locals while  some travelled for the occasion. “Anticipation!” for the investigation was noted as being the cause for a trip from Boston, MA to Brooklyn.  It’s not every day the team gets to investigate a truly haunted location so close to founding HQ at 5th Ave and St Marks Pl.

Also present were Brooklyn Escape Rooms manager Ray, joined by Dungeon Master John. Ray was our complainant, a possible sensitive that has been affected by paranormal activity in multiple locations; though she stated they were clustered to a specific area.

Though the seemingly-sensitive Ray suggested that the spiritual energy could reside in a specific area, the astute detectives of BKPS knew the sordid history of the land we were standing upon.

The target of our investigation Brooklyn Escape Rooms hosts three rooms; each uniquely themed and intricately designed. Their motifs are medieval and post-apocalyptic. There’s also the haunted; a fourth experience currently under construction.

Unseasoned hunches would propose that the most likely room to host spiritual energy would be The Haunted. However, BKPS Detectives are regularly trained to avoid cognitive biases, such as confirmation bias, primacy effect and most importantly courtesy bias.

Bearing in mind that the institution was only a few years old, by all accounts, there were no signs of symptoms of a haunting before the rooms were built. And while it’s possible that owner Regina knew of a room hosting spiritual energy, she indicated to us that she had no psychic or sensitive abilities.

Sensitives possess an increased susceptibility to energy and stimulation from their environments. With training, sensitives can grow their talent into ability. It’s estimated that 20% of the world’s population is sensitive, or in some way psychic.

There’s thought to be hundreds of types of psychic abilities, though not all are generally accepted.

Of the possible hundreds; thirty-odd are unique and distinct. The most notable of notable psychic abilities vary from Apportation — the ability to teleport yourself or an object; to Thoughtography which is the ability to imprint images from one’s mind onto physical surfaces via psychic means.

Over the years we’ve utilized conscious abilities to contact spirits during ghost hunts such as Conjuring and Scrying, and we’ve witnessed our Detectives feverishly scribble clues from the other-side using Automatic Writing.

While these techniques are complementary to an investigation where the purpose is to gather information and data, not all psychic abilities yield themselves to an adventurous detective agency.

If we had mastery over abilities like Second Sight or Pre-cognition which provide the psychic with definite knowledge; our cases would be closed before we received tips!

During our initial research phase, I dug through internet and newspaper archives to build a primer on the history of the land, and the various businesses the property has hosted over the years.

Long before the mysterious cloud sightings at Beyond Vape and spontaneous eruptions at Barclays Center was the presence of the Lenape tribe…


On Natives, and Spirits

Leaders of the Nanticoke Lenni Lenape Tribal Reorganization in the 1970s

Origin stories of the Lenape tribe, the natives of the land were investigated upon to peg their dawn at over 10,000 years ago. While their influence isn’t felt in the communities now upon their land, their customs and beliefs fit in perfectly with many of us today.

The Lenape believe that spirits surround us. Some are positive while others are negative. Their belief system, known as Animism, explains that everything has a spirit, from rocks to trees.

The negative spirits (Menetuwak) are believed to cause sickness and death, while the positive spirits can be plied with offerings like fruit or small gifts, with the intention of  hopes coming to fruition through the offerings.

The first recorded contact with Europeans came in 1524. Upon entering Lower New York Bay; a narrow strait between Brooklyn and New Jersey — explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano was greeted by local Lenape tribesmen in canoes.

Though their official website touts them to be peace-loving, history, and our psychic-medium Kor report differently.  It should come as no surprise that the Lenape were adept warriors, their arsenals and abilities were honed over hundreds of battles.

The might of the Lenape were called upon numerous times in history, most notably during the Revolutionary War, which saw the Lenape fight on both sides. A cursory search of the history of the tribe shows that they used weapons including war clubs, tomahawks, battle hammers, bows and arrows, knives, spears and axes,

While the 1600s were terrible for the Lenape because of misfortune, inter-tribal, and European violence affecting them; a few years throughout the decade stand out as notable.

For example, most know that modern-day Manhattan is truly priceless; but in 1638 the land was priced at a paltry 60 guilders — about $24. This jaw-dropping amount pales in comparison to the current estimated value of the land, which is quoted to be as high as 1.74 trillion dollars.

Possibly the most disadvantageous political election of all time also signified the downfall of the Lenape. This occurred in 1936 with the arrival of governor Willem Kieft. Kieft would prove to be a scourge upon the Lenape.

He  launched a campaign of torture and terror which reached a notable climax in 1641 when a bounty was placed on Raritan scalps. This incentivized the Dutch settlers to murder local Native Indians. Two-year long Kieft’s War (1643-1645) erupted as a result, with Settlers and Natives both engaging in back-and-forth violence.

The Pavonia Massacre (Feb. 25, 1643) saw Dutch soldiers torture and murder Lenape peoples, with the natives’ response coming later on October 1st, 1643. On that day, a force of united Native Indian tribes attacked and razed the homesteads at Pavonia.

In 1647, Peter Stuyvesant succeeded Kieft and is said to have arrived with intentions of quelling the situation. However, history and our prior paranormal investigation of St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery revealed the spirit of Peter Stuyvesant to be rude, mean and benevolent.

Stuyvesant was recorded as being intolerant of others’ religious beliefs, and it’s said the institution of slavery would flourish in New Amsterdam under his governorship. With regards to Peter’s chances of getting into heaven: break a leg.

The Lenape fought for the British throughout the French and Indian Wars (1688-1763). Exotic disease and constant warfare took an undeniable toll on the numbers of Lenape. By 1845, less than 2,000 Lenape were in existence.

Today, the Lenape population has surpassed 16,000 and they are spread far and wide across North America.

Earliest records of the property begin on  August 31st, 1872 – when the house was listed for sale in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. In 1875, advertisements in the local paper referred to the property as Raymond & Co’s, or SK Raymond & Co’s Stables.

The passage of time, perhaps through the death of the owner brought a change of business from stables to furniture around 1934. At the  time, LI Freight Warehouse operated a business that sold unclaimed rail cargo at the property.

Morris Alzado

A surge in rail travel heralded the streamline era and forgetful passengers, employee errors and/or disregard meant passengers often lost luggage. Unclaimed luggage would then be acquired and sold by local businesses, a reflection present in the model of modern reality shows like Storage Wars.

The first recorded crime on the property was recorded in the local police blotter on August 26th, 1938 when four men were charged with stealing 18 radios and 100 radio tubes from the property at 594 Pacific Street.

Receiving stolen goods with the intention of re-selling them is known as fencing, and this was a popular crime in that time. Although little is known about the dynamic duo — including their sentences; we do know that Morris Alzado was a fan of George Washington. 

The archives were scoured for any other mentions, but nothing further was found…


The Investigation

Before descending the basement stairs, Ray dutifully warned us not that what we were about to experience would not necessarily be spooky; but rather it would be stinky. The basement had in previous years, (and while under different ownership) experienced a mold problem.

Due to the warning, we didn’t get a chance to test Clairofactance before we embarked. As you may have predicted, clairofactance is the ability to access spiritual or mediumistic knowledge through smell.

We used GoPros to get footage of the event. GoPros are cameras that are usually used for perspective shots or close ups in the realm of adventure and exploration. It’s convenience, high quality footage and it’s rustic and genuine feel makes it perfect for shooting footage related to ghost hunting.

These miniature video-cameras are excellent for ghost hunting since action cameras, are centered around capturing footage while you’re on the move, or for things on the move.

For our first stop, we investigated a post-apocalyptic themed room, which homed a carnivorous plant. We speculated that a Pterodactyl would be able to eat the plant, but even then it’s chances would be slim.

Immediately upon entering the room, we could sense that there was self abuse, and the ruckus in the room and within the doll was self inflicted. Despite the bed being extremely strong, the doll put the evil spirit, inadvertently, in the bed.

We tried to understand what the doll represents and how she might have impacted the basement she resided in. After talking to the doll, we understood that she represents a girl while another one of the dolls represents a boy who played the violin.

We then sat on the bed surrounded by all the dolls to get a better understanding of their past and the impact they had on the basement they resided in. The trunk in the basement possessed a positive energy, which barred the evil spirits from entering inside it. #Add a quote here from the video.

We then surveyed the basement which showed an element of a welcoming availability. Women and children who lived here were protected from soldiers and the place was a refuge where people got food and rest. Eventually, a doctor was brought here to treat the warriors and even the enemies. The boy who lived here was going to be killed by Native Americans, while his parents were slaughtered.

Jebediah was felt in the room and we addressed his spirit, reassuring him of his invaluable contributions to make this a safe place, after which we exited the premises. The Detectives of the Brooklyn Paranormal Society said a parting prayer, then hit Shake Shack for a wrap-up.

A panoramic view of the BAM Harvey Theater as captured during our paranormal investigation. Photo by Anthony Long 2018.

Investigating BAM Harvey Theater

Contralto Marian Anderson in the role of Ulrica from a Metropolitan Opera production of Verdi's<em> Un ballo en maschera</em> in 1955. Anderson was the first African-American soloist to appear at the Met.
Contralto Marian Anderson in the role of Ulrica from a Metropolitan Opera production of Verdi’s Un ballo en maschera in 1955.

In our prior pop-up paranormal investigation outside the perimeter of BAM we sought the spirit of Marian Anderson. Instead, our psychic found a spectral construction worker who dismissed us from the property.

Put-off in more than a paranormal way – we considered calling it quits, but a few months later we received an invitation that would see us deep inside the worn doors of BAM Harvey Theater.

As a team of paranormal investigators, we’re aware that we must keep an open mind and a willingness to experiment. When intriguing new opportunities arise, we embrace them.

We were recently invited back to one of our favorite local locations, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, which you may recall from our Marian Anderson investigation earlier this year. This time, we investigated the BAM Harvey Theater, known colloquially as simply the “Harvey.”

 


Bam Harvey Theater. Photo Courtesy: BAM

For the uninitiated, the Harvey is a historic 1904 theater which once hosted avant-garde performances and classical music all the same, drawing a diverse audience made up of Brooklyn’s artistic community and intelligentsia.

The theater, at 651 Fulton St., was renovated (and renamed) in the 1980s, when renowned executive producer Harvey Lichtenstein hand-selected it as the venue for a nine-hour theater production. The original essence of the building remains, almost ruinous in its aesthetic; the crumbling brick and peeling paint stands at odds to the timeless theater-in-the-round seating area.

This juxtaposition of past and present made the Harvey the obvious venue for a recent modern re-telling of the Henry James classic horror novella, The Turn of the Screw.

In Victorian days, ghosts were all the rage.
In Victorian days, ghosts were all the rage.

The premise of the 1898 novel is a classic Victorian ghost story from the Arthur Conan Doyle era, playing on the public’s fears at the time relating to death, mortality, and the beyond. The heroine is a governess of a vast estate, convinced that the home is haunted.

The 1961 film The Innocents revisited the concept for the post-war epoch, but Strange Window: The Turn of the Screw by The Builders Association is a devoutly modern retelling for a millennial audience, with its use of technological stagecraft to create the ghastly and macabre atmosphere that fans of the original novella will be familiar with.

In the original story, the governess was hired after one quick interview. Even as she senses spirits on the property, she vacillates between sharp certainty and disquieting doubt. At many points she feared she was going insane.

Jade Rain Vega, BKPS Psychic points toward the location spiritual energy is felt.
Jade Rain Vega, BKPS Psychic points toward the location spiritual energy is felt.

Jade, our psychic medium, is a female spiritualist who entered the scene with similar reservations about exploring the grounds. Recall that she sensed the spirit of a construction worker at the Brooklyn Academy of Music when we last visited.

During our investigation, Jade and a coven member identified two areas of importance. Jade identified a spirit to stage-right, while our guest psychic identified spiritual energy to the stage-left.

Before we could choose a path, we were informed that a crawl-space existed underneath us. The 4′ high space was described as creepy and claustrophobic. Naturally we decided to make a bee-line to see it.

 

Alex reads a prayer before Brooklyn Paranormal Society initiates contact with the spirits of BAM Harvey. Photo by Anthony Long 2018.
Alex recites psalm 91 before the paranormal investigation begins. Photo: Anthony Long 2018

Opening with Psalm 91, also known as an “anti-demonic” psalm – Alex our resident tarot expert led an engaging prayer and asked for protection from spirits for the group. We open each investigation with a prayer, or ritual such as the Lesser Banishing Ritual.

Psalm 91 is a poem, composed by either Moses or David, that imparts a confidence in the safety provided by God to the reader. Some consider Psalm 91 to be a Messianic prophecy, particularly upon reading its second half.

Upon investigation of stage-left we discovered the ghost light. A ghost light is an electric light, usually near the stage that’s left on when the theater is unoccupied. While the ghost light was a source of energy, we did not find any spiritual energy attached to it.

After checking out the ghost light, the coven made their way for an impromptu visit to the stage-left balcony. Here we encountered an energized exchange with a possible spirit who intelligently responded to our questions.

For our final investigative stop, we ascended toward a spiral staircase to the stage-right balcony. Jade led the team like a psychic bloodhound to the location where she felt the spiritual energy was most dense.

In our wrap-up, I imagine we looked a bit odd and out of place but the Archives Manager Louie Fleck was altogether too pleased to share a bit of fun facts about the theater with us.

Louie also provided us with a truly immersive “behind the curtain” experience. He gave a riveting presentation that covered everything from the history of the theater to some of the most famous shows that have taken place on its majestic stage.

We are grateful for the opportunity to investigate the Harvey, which was coordinated by Vilina Phan of BAM. Vilina was well educated and astute in pointing our similarities between the characters, and our BKPS Detectives.

We look back now on the investigation, with some time having passed with slight discomfort. Perhaps some similarities between ourselves and the characters is too difficult to ignore.

Will our debut in paranormal performance art haunt us forever?

Detectives of the Brooklyn Paranormal Society pose for a photograph after our investigation of BAM Harvey Theater. Photo by Anthony Long 2018.
Detectives of the Brooklyn Paranormal Society pose for a photograph after our investigation of BAM Harvey Theater. Photo by Anthony Long 2018.


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Paranormal Detectives' eye view of the BAM Harvey stage. - cAnthony Long 2018

Searching BAM for the spirit of Marian Anderson

Sponsored by 'Strange Window: The Turn of the Screw'
Sponsored by ‘Strange Window: The Turn of the Screw’

BKPS met to investigate whether BAM could home the spirit of Marian Anderson.

Marian Anderson Stands In Front the Lincoln Memorial.
Marian Anderson pictured in-front of the Lincoln Memorial.

Born to blue-collar Philadelphians, Marian Anderson expressed talent in singing from a young age.

She began studying music independently in her teens and early twenties, after being turned away from the Philadelphia Music Academy. At the time, the institution upheld a whites-only policy.

Far from being deterred by racial prejudice and economic disadvantage, Marian gained notoriety as an opera singer and went on to tour Europe extensively in the 1920s.

Unlike their American counterparts, European audiences were seemingly more accepting of a black contralto, and Marian was beloved by her fans.

Back on American soil, Marian faced severe opposition from the white elite. She performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1938, but a year later, the tides turned.

During a historic turning point in the civil rights movement, Anderson was denied the opportunity to perform on Washington, DC’s prestigious Constitution Hall stage. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) who owned the hall and oversaw its performances were unwilling to offer non-segregated seating.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who served on the board, was unnerved by the blatant racism of her fellow Daughters and chose to resign out of respect for Marian. She went a step further and organized a special Easter Sunday performance for Marian at the Lincoln Memorial.

To a crowd of 75,000, Marian, raised a devout Baptist, performed a series of traditional hymns in her operatic style said to be full of “intrinsic beauty.”  Later, she expressed gratitude to her audience, stating, “I am just so overwhelmed today that I cannot express myself properly. You don’t know what you have done for me.”

While stories like Ms. Anderson’s may sound antiquated, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

If perhaps she, like us, was disturbed by the racial divisions in modern-day America, and hoped to offer some positivity to the brokenhearted and the downcast. This was no small feat. I understood the gravity of what I was attempting.

With nothing but respect for the Anderson family, I decided to invite a small group of members to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where Marian performed over a dozen times in the late 1930s. 

If she was, in fact, still lingering around Brooklyn, this seemed the most likely place to investigate.

Female psychics, and detectives set out to explore BAM for Marian Anderson’s spirit.

It was this knowledge that inspired my latest venture into the paranormal side of Brooklyn. I wondered if perhaps Marian Anderson’s spirit was still within reach.

The coven consisted of psychic-empath Cindy and psychic-medium Elaine, investigator Tina, and student-journalist Comice.

"Microphone" response during paranormal investigation aligns with Comice's desire to be heard.
“Microphone” EVP response to Comice’s presence. (Photo credit: Anthony Long)

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Immigrants Welcome Church Front (© Anthony Long 2018)

The Refugee Spirits of Fort Greene

A Lead Points to Fort Greene

When BKPS received a tip from a member that a church right here in our own backyard of Fort Greene was exhibiting signs of paranormal activity, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church Fort Greene. Photo (© Anthony Long 2018)
Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, Fort Greene. Photo (© Anthony Long 2018)

Passing twice daily when commuting, I often note a large “refugees welcome” sign. It’s always stood out to me, particularly in comparison to the other churches on the same stroll, which are authoritative and more traditional in appearance.

Acting on a tip, I set out from Bed Stuy on a brisk night; the temperature ebbing around the freezing mark. Each step against the wind pained me, as my thoughts slowed to a crawl inline with my pace.

Inching toward the church, I pondered my chances of finding evidence: Not high. Considering never before had I any inkling of this holy site hosting paranormal peeps, tonight probably wouldn’t be the night.

My source duteously informed me of unusual activity that could be paranormal. The report included extreme temperature fluctuations in the general vicinity of the “church sign”, and a sorrowful presence that affected the self-professed empathic reporter greatly.

Being midway through December, this tip that the sidewalk near the church was “physically a bit warmer” than other areas seemed especially curious. When investigating other instances* similar in nature, I found reasonable sources for abnormal events.

* Some ghost hunters say a cold spot is an area of localized coldness, or a sudden drop in ambient temperature. On investigations, they’ll use digital thermometers or heat sensing devices to measure temperature changes to record data.

Finding a cold spot seemed unlikely in the frigid temperatures, with my face unable to register temperatures below 40. After researching, I found a source which indicated “hot hot-spots” were significantly rarer than their cooler counterparts.

Numb to the cold, I stood firm documenting the temperatures of the concrete and church signage, hoping to hit the jackpot; an unexplainable warm-to-the-touch spot.

Temperate gun shows temperature of floor near paranormal hotspot, in Brooklyn NY.
Digital Thermometer Laser Infrared Temperature Gun; or Temp Gun displays reading of 27.5F at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene. (© Anthony Long 2018)

Turns out, Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church (located in Fort Greene) has a rich and fascinating history. Founded in the 1850s by abolitionists, today the church’s pastor, Rev. David F. Telfort, continues to dedicate much of his time to issues relating to social justice. The church is known to be a safe and welcoming space for immigrants, refugees, and minorities.

As I investigated the church and its surroundings, I maintained a reasonable level of skepticism. I will say with confidence that I personally didn’t encounter any unusual patches of warmth on the sidewalk or anywhere near the church. However, the morbid sense of longing and sadness did make itself known to me.

I don’t consider myself an overly intuitive person and have never claimed to possess any particular psychic abilities, but my work with Brooklyn Paranormal Society has enabled me to make use of some exciting and innovative new technologies that lift the veil to the other side, in a sense, and expose some of the mysterious happenings we might otherwise fail to notice.

As I gazed upon the architecture, my attention was diverted to my iPhone. The ghost hunting app M2 Ghost Hunter, revealed in rather uncharacteristic rapid succession – three words; supposed communications from the spirits. At first glance, this appeared to be a bleak and somewhat disturbing message.

Reflecting on Fort Greene

Recall the significance of the location. Do your best to visualize Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian in the mid-1800s, its congregation joining together in worship, its abolitionist theology wildly subversive. It’s plausible that tremendous despair and sorrow followed many of the members of this congregation from their former homes.

Such a place could certainly be a conduit for mournful spirits, perhaps those left in a liminal state, unable to safely cross over after an unjust or violent death. Then again, this church was also a place of freedom. It served as a safe haven for human beings deemed by the law to be unworthy of basic rights. It opened its doors to the oppressed, offered them a second chance, allowed them to join in the spirit of redemption.

People of all races broke bread together right here in Fort Greene. Doesn’t it seem just as likely that immense peace and healing also took place on this very spot? Perhaps the spirits left lingering were not trying to communicate their anger or sorrow through the M2, but their joyful liberation.

As I contemplated the strange words revealed to me on my phone screen I suddenly recalled an ancient term well known amongst the paranormal community. The concept of “egregore” originated in the occult, but was repurposed by Gaetan Delaforge in Gnosis Magazine in 1987. He defines it as “a kind of group mind that is created when people come together for a common purpose.’”

The contemporary meaning is less sinister than the original, which refers specifically to a collective psychic entity with the power to influence thoughts. Mind control conspiracies aside, I believe that both definitions could apply in this case.

Possibly, the souls of these parishioners are still crying out for change, attempting to reach the hearts of people still living in Fort Greene. The simple three words conveyed to me through the M2 could be viewed in either a negative or positive light. It all depends on how one chooses to interpret the message.

Gnosis magazine covers.
Gnosis Magazine, circa 1980s.

Anthony Long is the Chief Ectoplasm Officer for the Brooklyn Paranormal Society.

Paranormal Activity Discovered At Fort Greene Park In Brooklyn

Last week, the Brooklyn Paranormal Society had the honor of hosting the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival’s after party at Cherry Tree, with free tarot and psychic readings, a Stranger Things trivia challenge and prizes. At midnight, we hiked over to Fort Greene Park on a “Paranormal Safari” where we roasted marshmallows over a camp fire, listened to ghost stories and conducted a paranormal investigation.

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