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The Haunting of Main Street
CAPE COD TIMES
by Aaron Goveia
CAPE COD TIMES / OCTOBER 31, 2009 / BY ARRON
GOUVEIA Ghost hunters hunt spirits at library
Top Photo Photos by Steve Heaslip
Hyannis--10/09/09- Faces from the past peer out from an old set of photos at Dave Sircom as he investigates the attic on a Friday night in the Hyannis Public Library with members of the Mass. Paranormal Institute.Cape Cod Times/Steve Heaslip
By Aaron Gouveia
October 31, 2009
HYANNIS — Four paranormal researchers sit in darkness inside the 260-year-old Hyannis Public Library, preparing to communicate with the dead. They're huddled in the oldest part of the building: the Ora Hinckley Wing, named after the facility's first full-time librarian, who served from 1909 until her death in 1943. But even though Hinckley died more than 60 years ago, David Sircom, founder of the Massachusetts Paranormal Institute, believes her spirit still resides among the library stacks.
A glossary of paranormal terminology:
GHOST: A person who has died but chosen not to move on into the afterlife.
SPIRIT: A person who has died and moved on but occasionally revisits the living.
POLTERGEIST: A mischievous, and sometimes dangerous, entity that has been known to interact with the material world by throwing objects, moving items and even making physical contact with people.
EVPs, or Electronic Voice Phenomenon, are the sounds of disembodied spirits caught on tape. The voices often respond to questions asked by investigators and can be heard with merely human ears or after the recording is edited to eliminate background noise. The three types of EVPs are:
CLASS A: Everyone agrees on what the voice is saying, and it can be heard plainly without editing.
CLASS B: Everyone hears a voice, but editing is necessary, and there is disagreement about what the voice is saying.
CLASS C: Everyone agrees something was said, but the voice is unintelligible even after it is edited.
Sircom and his team spent two nights investigating the library and collected several examples of electronic voice phenomena, which are the disembodied voices of spirits caught on tape. He was scheduled to reveal his findings last night at a fundraiser for the library. The paranormal institute conducted the investigation free of charge. In the Hinckley Wing, Sircom instructs his investigator to ask the former librarian a series of yes or no questions using an electromagnetic field detector. Spirits — which most investigators believe are made up of energy — use any available energy to manifest themselves. The EMF meter detects fluctuations in electromagnetic fields, which often indicate paranormal activity.
There are five lights on the EMF detector, and the stronger the field, the more lights that appear. One lit bulb represents a normal baseline, so Sircom tells Hinckley to light up as many bulbs as possible for all affirmative answers.
"Are you alone?"
The question barely leaves the investigator's mouth when, suddenly, the meter steadily displays three lights. The investigators look at each other with equal parts nervousness and anticipation.
"I wouldn't be surprised if there was more than one spirit in this place," Sircom says.
On Sept. 19 and again on Oct. 9, Sircom used a host of video cameras, digital voice recorders and EMF detectors to cast an electronic net over the library in an attempt to determine whether paranormal activity takes place there.
The team's methods are similar to those of popular television shows such as "Ghost Hunters," "Paranormal State" and "Ghost Lab."Sircom, an author and insurance claims adjuster by day, has been conducting paranormal investigations for nearly a decade. He was a member of several other paranormal groups before founding the Massachusetts Paranormal Institute in June.
His lead investigator is Liz, who asked that her last name not be used. Christine Balch, a newcomer to the group, assists in the investigations while her husband, Michael, handles the bulk of audio and video editing afterward.
Is the Hyannis Public Library haunted? members are equal parts skeptic and believer, who initially try to explain alleged paranormal activity using scientific methods, Sircom says. They consider the paranormal after all logical explanations have been explored. By the time the group makes its second trip into the library, Sircom says he has already caught what he believes to be Hinckley's voice on tape. On the audio from the initial investigation, Liz asks if
Hinckley got along with a former colleague. A soft voice — not belonging to anyone else in the room — softly whispers the word "no."
With evidence already in their possession, the Oct. 9 investigation is an attempt to determine whether additional spirits are roaming in the library.
Sherry Evans, library acquisitions assistant, says she has experienced a few spine-tingling incidents at work. Evans, along with other longtime library workers, claims to occasionally smell pipe tobacco in the library. She believes the smell is a result of the ghost of former library employee George Kelly, who used to smoke pipes in the building before he died.
Another incident occurred when Evans was checking in books one night by herself. She turned away from the computer briefly, and when she faced the screen again it was displaying a book about ghosts that Evans did not scan into the computer.
"It really scared me, and I left the room," Evans says.
When Sircom and his team finish asking questions in the Hinckley Wing, they split up into pairs and began exploring various parts of the library, focusing mostly on the oldest areas of the building, which date back to 1750.
The ancient, creaky stairs lead up to an attic many library patrons have never seen. The original chimney is in the center, and the rest of the room looks like the set of a classic spooky movie.
Team members walk on creaky, wide-plank floorboards past books more than 100 years old. The layers of dust in some areas completely block out the book covers. Tattered American flags with indecipherable names written on them are in one corner, faded letters and maps strewn about elsewhere.
Investigators ask any present spirits to identify themselves or to move something in the room as a sign of their existence. But even though it seems at any moment a ghost might appear dressed in Colonial garb, the team finds no paranormal manifestations and returns to the Hinckley Wing.
As Christine and Liz begin to investigate the portion of the building nearest Main Street, the K2 meter jumps to three lights. At that precise moment, more than a half-dozen books fall off the nearby staircase. The investigators are at least four feet away.
After reviewing audio from that night, Michael Balch believes he collected an EVP from that exact moment. On the tape, in answer to a question about how many books just fell, Balch says a spirit answers, "all of them."
But was this an irritated ghost or just a coincidence? It's a question investigators ask themselves all the time.
"Your mind is a big part of the formula," Sircom says. "People think they have one experience and then everything is one."Sircom himself has never actually seen a ghost, but he says his computerized archive of EVPs is proof that paranormal occurrences are legitimate. And the library investigation ultimately added close to a dozen more EVPs to his collection.
But, after two investigations, multiple EVPs and one book avalanche, is the library a paranormal hot spot?
"Yes, I believe the library is haunted," Sircom says.