Bellefonte, Pennsylvania 16823
Lisa and Bill Benzie don't need much introduction to most Centre County folks with supernatural interests. After all, as co-founders of Bellefonte's very own Spring Hill Paranormal Investigators, they've been around the spooky block a time or two. Or ten.
Hardcore veteran ghost hunters is what they are, even if that isn't the correct terminology at all. See, the Benzies have been researching and learning about the paranormal for quite a few years now. This is NOT just poking around in an 'abandoned house over by the railroad tracks' stuff either. This is the real deal. Where precautions must be taken at every turn because… well… uh… THEY"RE DEALING WITH THE PARANORMAL!!!
This isn't most hobbies. This is not training dancing poodles or fly fishing for trout, people.
This is first rate, fully-equipped, heart-pounding flirting with specters on their home turf. This is not a place for amateurs or amateur hour mistakes. I mean consider the alternative. Things must go right; otherwise they 'go wrong'. And trust me, I have literally zero experience with the otherworldly, but I've been around long enough to appreciate the cute little nugget of probable truth that is you and me never never ever wanting anything to 'go wrong' when we're in the middle of something called a 'Paranormal Investigation', right?!
That's why Spring Hill's Fall session is going to be such a boom for the local preternatural community. PARANORMAL INVESTIGATING 101, a 9-week -long class that kicks off on September 20th, is set to be a very deep dive into anything and everything potential ghost whisperers need to know and understand before they go stumbling around in dark attics with a cell phone light and a plate of milk and cookies, trying to connect with someone… or something from the other side.
In other words, if you've ever had a real hankering to take your burning interest in the supernatural some where beyond all that sitting on your butt in the Barcalounger and watching people getting spooked by "ghosts" on bad reality TV, now is your time. Not many towns or cities offer this kind of thing. Bill and Lisa Benzie are tried and true in the art of investigating. They stress safety and knowledge. And they stress those things because they know, from so much experience in the field, that most people don't have the faintest idea what they're doing when it comes to all this.
In so many ways, Bellefonte- with all of her Victorian homes and buildings, and with her long and unique history, is the perfect place to graduate from Paranormal U.
Now here's your chance.
I reached out to Lisa and Bill recently with some questions about their Paranormal Investigation 101, their ninth class.
Bellefonte.com: Signing up for 9 weeks of ANYTHING is not for the lightweight or merely curious, is it? This Fall 2018 Paranormal Investigation class appears to be for folks are seriously interested in learning the ins and outs of seeking things that most people are horrified to ever possibly encounter. And you guys are the ones to teach it. Remind us again why that is.
Bill: There are a lot of television shows about "ghost hunting" but none of the shows really touch on the safety side, or the LEGAL side. They also don't show the PREP it takes to do an investigation (i.e. setting up cameras and running wires). They rarely show what happens when the "lights come back on" at the end of the night, and the next day when the evidence review starts.
Our class covers the entire process from start to finish. All 5 of us share in the teaching of class. We each have our own subject that we "specialize" in. Collectively our team has over 100 yrs experience in the paranormal. I have been involved in the paranormal for about 25 yrs. I can't say how many investigations I have been on personally in those 25 yrs, but, I am sure its in the triple digits. For our team its not about getting in as many investigations as possible, we don't keep "score", so to speak. For us its about doing good quality investigations, and gathering as much evidence that we can, to help those folks that come to us, for answers, and to educate those wanting to learn.
BFT: Bellefonte, with all her history and Victorian mystique, is definitely a stomping grounds for ghosts and who knows what else, if you ask me. It would make sense then that towns with a powerful paranormal presence usually give birth to the best paranormal investigators. That true of Bellefonte, you think? Is this a place where really good ghost hunters come from?
Bill: Bellefonte is definitely steeped in history! We love this town!!!! I couldn't say if this is where good ghost hunters come from, without sounding egotistical. But since 3 of our 5 members were born here, I do know there are several really good teams in this and the surrounding counties. So maybe.
BFT: I noticed on your website that you highlight that these 9 weeks of classes are designed to teach up-and-coming investigators everything from "...equipment used during an investigation" to "...procedures for conducting an investigation". Heck, you even get to go on an actual investigation!" Which brings us to the part where you mention instruction in the fine art of... (GULP)..."personal and spiritual safety and protection." That is no joke. What the heck is spiritual protection?!?!
Lisa: Spiritual safety/protection relates to the mental and emotional side of the investigation. During the investigation, you must be completely aware of your surroundings and totally focused on the task at hand. We teach the students the techniques needed to achieve that level of focus.
Bill: You are absolutely right, its not a joke! Personal and Spiritual protection is a must if you are going to be "hunting" or investigating, yes there is a difference. Personal safety includes everything from dressing properly, to making sure you have a valid I.D. We teach Spiritual safety because, like most anything else, if you aren't properly educated and informed, things can happen. We would never put our students in harms way physically or intentionally take them to a place that is "dangerous" as far as activity.
My Mother took our class and has gone on several investigations with us. I certainly wouldn't bring my mom, if i thought it wasn't safe. During the course, we give our students the tools and means to protect themselves. Ask anyone on our team, my favorite saying is " BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS". We also do investigations where just the team is present. Those, are the ones that are a little bit more intense. Experience is key. Knowing what to do and what not to do are equally important!
BFT: What is the worst thing you have heard of happening to someone when they were investigating the paranormal?
Lisa: We have all heard of stories about individuals being hit, scratched, pushed, being possessed, arrested for not only trespassing but arson, and even a story of a young lady that fell to her death while she was hunting ghosts. As far as first hand knowledge goes, Bill has stories of being sworn at and being pushed. We were on a team investigation and one of our investigators had a curtain rod thrown at her. Luckily, it didn't hit her but it did get our attention!
Bill: I can only speak for myself. I once had a BAT fly between me and my hand held camcorder!! It swooped down in front of me, and flew up right between my face and the viewfinder. I had just opened the door to go in the room, my wife was right behind me. It did freak me out! I kinda JUMPED back and almost over my wife, who was giggling, because she saw what it was and had the pleasure of watching my reaction. It's her favorite story to tell, in detail, to EVERY CLASS. So… for me, embarrassment is the worst.
BFT: Are there lots of amateurs out there who could get themselves in trouble if they don't know the things you're teaching with these classes?
Lisa: Oh, there's lots of amateurs out there. And yes, they could get themselves into trouble. They could get themselves arrested for being in a cemetery after dark; we discovered through the students who took our class that most of them were not aware of the fact that it's illegal to be in a cemetery after dark. We do teach personal and spiritual safety. Even though the likelihood of something attaching itself to you is minimal, if you don't know how to protect yourself against such an attack, it could happen.
BFT: The class is limited to only six students. That means everyone who enrolls is going to benefit from the close-knit atmosphere. Is it important to kind of like, or at least tolerate, your fellow investigators when you're heading into an honest-to-gosh paranormal basement or attic or something? You want to to have faith that your partners are dependable, no?
Bill: I trust the team implicitly. When we started the course, it was just Lisa and I. As far as the students, we evaluate each one as the class progresses. If we see where a particular student, isn't taking it seriously, or is being disrespectful to us or the other students, we will decide whether or not to allow that student to continue with the class. We will not jeopardize the integrity of our class, nor will we allow anyone to disrespect the spirits we are "hunting" or the place in which we do it. Two of our members are former students. They showed the drive, the passion, and integrity that we were looking for in team mates. We asked them after they graduated if they would like to join us, and thankfully they said yes. Everyone on our team shares in the teaching of class.
We limit the size of the class, so we can move as a single unit during the investigation from one floor to the next. Everyone is on the same floor of the building at the same time. Six is a good number; we use the buddy system; we never let anyone go anywhere by themselves. We are not looking to add members to our team right now, but sometimes we do need extra hands when we get an investigation in a place that is exceptionally large. We have called some former students to help us out in those situations. My Mom included.
Lisa: Yes, the attitudes of everyone that is involved in an investigation is very important. If there's tension among the investigators, chances are you will not have a very productive investigation. This would also hold true if you go into an investigation and not be serious about it. If there's a lot of joking and/or carrying on happening, chances are you will not have a very productive investigation. Not saying you can't have fun but there is a time and place for everything. Also, the smaller class size helps control the amount of contamination of evidence during the investigation.
BFT: Class members will be going on an actual paranormal investigation on Saturday, November 3rd. Where will you go? Do most students do well at these investigations or do they scream and run for their lives?
Bill: Actually, the students will be running their own investigation and we will just be guiding them through. They will be asking the questions and using the equipment, taking pictures (we provide cameras for the evening). We won't disclose where the investigation is now, but...it is a great building with LOTS of history! I can also say it is a local business, just a few miles outside of Bellefonte. A VERY POPULAR local business! The food there is AWESOME!!! We can't say enough about the staff! SO accommodating!!! (hint)
Lisa: The students do a wonderful job in capturing the energy of the building. And we never had anyone scream and run for their lives.
Register now for the Fall session of Paranormal Investigating 101
Registration Deadline: September 14, 2018
To register, please email SpringHillPI@hotmail.com no later than September 14th (Seating is limited so registration will be on a "first come, first served" basis.)
Due to the nature of the subject and for liability purposes, you must be at least 18 years old to attend the classes.
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