Enthusiasts of the paranormal, abnormal and supernatural gathered Saturday at Crump Theatre in Columbus, Ind., to share their experiences with the occult at Paranormal Fest.
Visitors felt their way through the dimly lit house to meet groups of paranormal investigators, paranormal-themed radio talk show hosts, local haunted house promoters dressed as horror film characters and producers of occult fiction.
Festival organizer Randy Hubbard said he was anxious to share his interest in the paranormal with visitors and happy to oblige skeptics and believers alike.
“My goal today was to let these celebrities and others lay their evidence out and let you decide,” Hubbard said.
Brett Pittman, editor of www.hauntedindiana.com, said both believers and skeptics had a place at Paranormal Fest.
“I think there is a marriage between entertainment and the paranormal,” Pittman said. “It brings awareness to the people who wouldn’t normally visit.”
Headlining the list of guests was Indiana horror legend Bob Carter, known for his TV portrayal of Sammy Terry, a red-hooded ghoul who introduced horror films. Carter’s show went off the air in the 1980s, but he still gathers admirers at his events.
Carter said self-gratification is his reward from a show.
“I have the opportunity still to entertain so many and get a groan or a laugh – anything but a boo,” he said. “If you aren’t an entertainer, you could never understand the fulfillment.”
Pittman said reminiscence of the show is magnified through its local charm.
“It’s almost like Sammy had a larger impression on these small communities because we didn’t have anything else,” Pittman said.
Michael Monahan, associate producer of horror documentary “American Scary,” lives in San Francisco but said he anticipated his trip to Paranormal Fest.
“The Midwest makes me think back to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ – you’re carrying a lantern through the woods with shadows dancing in the trees, and you hear weird noises,” he said.
Monahan said the Midwest tradition of story-telling is well-suited to living on because many places look the same as they did 200 years ago.
“I think the Midwest has held onto those stories because there’s still a lot of that same feeling,” Monahan said. “There’s still a lot of space between one town and the next, that sense of openness, nothingness in between.”
Monahan said ghost stories track an area’s history through folklore and apply a certain mood to local tradition.
“Here, it’s integrated into the fabric of the town. There are houses next to the cemeteries,” he said. “That feeling means something. It has an effect on the stories.”
In the end, for Monahan, it’s not about who is haunting but how well they haunt.
“At the heart of it, whether it’s fact or fiction,” he said, “it’s a ghost story, and people like to be frightened.”
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