How do you get Bigfoot, Grassman, Mars, a list of authors and paranormal investigators (and an archeologist) into one room? You book a room at the Hara Arena in Dayton.
August 14th kicked off the Ohio Paranormal Convention with a pair of bands (The Goody Two Shoes and Lonesome Tumblers) that rocked the house (and made things a bit hard to hear in the vendor area), lesson learned. It would have been hard to realize, unless they told you, that this was Southern Ohio Paranormal Research's first attempt at a convention. The show was balanced with cryptozoology, UFO discussion and not to mention a whole lot of ghost stuff as well. It had prize drawings, psychic readings, psychic healing, famous faces, and a great audience.
Where was I on this night? Um, driving toward it. I got into town on Friday night to find out that the Hotel I booked back in September of last year had changed ownership (pays to confirm reservations folks). It would have paid if I had booked at the official hotel as well (although Keith Age and some of the other rowdy folks would certainly have kept us awake) but I saved a tiny amount of dough and picked one a bit closer to the venue. Why am I telling you all of this? On to the show...
I had seen Hara Arena in pictures and amazingly, it looked the same in person. I was aware there was a gun and knife show going on at the same time and this proved to be good research. It looked as though there was a report that a Bigfoot was seen in the woods nearby with as many *place-your-southern-person-nickname-here* toting guns filing in to the main area of the arena. It was actually a bit unsettling, but as long as you don't make eye contact or attempt to read their belt buckles you are sure to be fine. One side note to this; When we walked into the conference area there was a sticker on the window "No Firearms Permitted Inside".
My wife and I made our way around the various vendors who were still setting up their goods and began to meet some of the other speakers at the event. I made my way to Joedy Cook's table (Ohio Center for Bigfoot Studies, out of Cincinnati), who was a late addition to the convention and would be speaking on his personal experiences and investigations of Bigfoot. I had thought I was the only Cryptozoology speaker on the bill until late July, but I saw his name pop up on the convention website and began to sweat. I E-mailed him and introduced myself. I was a bit apprehensive when he mailed me back and said to give him a call, I mean, this guy was on Monsterquest for crying out loud. He was laid back and was glad I was going to be there. It turned out to be a good thing there was two of us covering the cryptid angle and it was definitely great to have Joedy there, especially to meet and talk with him and I can definitely say he's a class act who knows his stuff. (Joedy, his decoy and that's me on the right)
I also made my way across the way to say hello to John Kachuba, author of "Ghosthunting Ohio" and many other various books dealing with his personal ghost investigations. I had met him a year ago during one of his library tours and wanted to thank him personally for including my group's name (Ohio Paranormal Investigation Network) in his book, "Ghosthunting Ohio". I was amazed to find that he has uncovered some startling evidence about ghosts, he's actually captured some real ghost poo. You have to see it to believe it. He's another class act and he brings a great blend of healthy skepticism and journalism to his unique approach to covering this field. Never read his books? Shame on you, I recommend his books since he provides a ghost story with some back history while telling the tale through his eyes as he investigates.
We had a late start on Saturday morning as guests were a bit slow to arrive (hey, it's 9 in the morning on Saturday!), but John Kachuba starting things off before 11 with his breakdown of various Ohio haunts that he has investigated over the years. If you like his books you'll love hearing him talk about his experiences, a true professional public speaker.
Next up was Bill Scott who shared some of his knowledge as well as some clips from his upcoming documentary, "Haunted Kentucky: Spirits of the Bluegrass". Keith Age followed with some very interesting pictures of various investigations including many from Waverly Hills. I've seen hundreds of pictures this year sent to me, on the web or ones of my own that were odd, but some of his were downright mingboggling. He announced that there was a sequel coming to "Children of the Grave" coming soon. He's another great personality and down to earth guy who loves to dish out crap to everyone while taking his own beating in return (he fell asleep during Bob Hunnicutt's presentation and was awaken by laughter as his expense).
Sean Feeney , of the Anomaly Response Network, discussed the code of ethics (or lack of) in the paranormal investigation field. He's a well-rounded investigator having knowledge with UFOs, cryptids and ghosts and worked with the legendary Kenny Young. He talked a lot about the missing approach of true science in our field, I looked forward to his speech since I saw it on the convention website and I was not disappointed.
Rie Sadler came all the way from Maryland to share with us some of the haunts of the tiny state known for little other than being the home of the Baltimore Orioles, Ravens and some guy named Edgar (Allan Poe, that is). Some interesting stories were shared about various places formerly owned by famous people (including the home of Poe as well as the bar he is said to haunt).
Bob Hunnicutt reviewed plenty of impressive photographs from his investigations of various locations (Gaither Plantation and Waverly Hills). He also demonstrated ways to evaluate supposed paranormal photos. Again, another great guy who definitely knows his craft. (Below: Bob talks to the crowd during our panel session while I look on)
Then came James A. Willis. Nothing can really prepare you for James. He's weird, and proud of it. He is typically full of energy, but today he came armed with a can of liquid dynamite (one of those ginormous cans of energy drink). During his presentation he was running around so much he had to stop himself and stated if he continued he'd be out in the hallway talking to himself. Probably the best speaker of the weekend with his high energy, comedic presentation and mixed content with paranormal and zany all rolled into one (like the giant marble ball on a headstone that moves by itself or like the world's largest ball of paint, great stories, ask him). James is the co-author of "Weird Ohio" and the founder of the Ghosts of Ohio (click his name, visit his group!). (There was an incident -see photo at right- that happened in the back of booth city near where Willis was set up, he claims no responsibility but the rumors were flying)
Sunday morning came and we got to sleep in an extra hour! 10 A.M. was the start time and it wasn't long until the crowd rolled in. Joedy Cook opened the day with his in-depth look at the Bigfoot phenomena with many photos of purported nests, a look at the Gigantopithecus theory (which he disagrees with and I agree with him), possible pictures of Bigfoot himself, as well as some personal encounters including his first one in Michigan where he was only a few feet away from this legendary creature (and he could have let others shoot it, but chose to protect it, great story and one I'm sure he doesn't regret). He ended by reinforcing that despite reports that the eastern Bigfoot is more aggressive than the western one, they still seem to show compassion toward children and the elderly.
Beth Brown, a battlefield ghost hunter, shared with us a great story as well as a video of a ghost investigation into a battlefield at night as well as shared some EVPs she has collected. Next up was actor/archaeologist/cultural anthropologist John Sabol. John's an intense guy and came across like a professor (well, that's because he was one). He provided his interesting way of "unearthing" ghosts instead of the typical way of waiting (and hoping) one decides to visit. He states that he "participates" in general activity that potential ghosts of that time period and location would have while others observe and record. When progress is made he "performs" for the ghost using specific information and cultural specifics that would make the ghost associate with him (he might act like he's someone the ghost might have known). He claims his encounter rate is much higher than with typical ghost hunting approach (which makes sense since it's part of how Parapsychologists approach spontaneous case investigations). Interesting theory that deserves a closer look by groups. (Above: John Sabol speaks to a guest from his table)
Earl Benezet, former Kentucky Director for MUFON (now the Director for Kentucky UFO Reporting Center) shared some very interesting photographs of the moon as well as Mars. He also shared some interesting theories about what is up there and what some of us know about it.
The last speaker on the list was Brian D. Parsons. A ghost guy for 13 years he came to the show to talk about basic cryptozoology. OK, I can't talk about myself in the 3rd person. Originally I received an invite to come to the event, but I replied asking if I could speak. They were looking for a cryptid guy and I instantly said yes. I discussed the basic definition of cryptozoology and why it is considered "paranormal" when it really isn't. I went over basic history of the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot and former cryptids. I also briefly touched upon some of the recent stories in the cryptid world as well as investigation basics.
The last part of the event (other than giving out the grand prize of the 4 channel DVR to none other than....Keith age! Who only put in 1 ticket!) was a panel discussion focusing on the crowd's prior experiences with ghosts or to answer questions. The panel consisted of myself, John kachuba, James Willis, Bob Hunnicutt, and Brian Klein (the host and another guy who definitely knows his stuff). We each shared one of our personal stories from our investigations and then fielded a couple of questions from the crowd.(Above: Brian Klein leads the panel discussion, missing from the photo is Bob Hunnicutt who is at the far left out of frame)
All in all, I would say that everyone had a good time there from the speakers to those in the audience. I am definitely looking forward to next year...