The unknown can be terrifying, mystifying and exhilarating. Or sometimes all three. That’s the case, at least, for members of the College’s Paranormal Activities Club.
Sure, the student-run group investigates ghostly phenomena, but as club founder Cam Cummings explains, the paranormal goes far beyond a creepy apparition or disembodied moan.
“The paranormal is so much wider than that,” says Cummings, a junior majoring in English on a pre-law track. “It also encompasses cryptids like the Loch Ness Monster, Chupacabra, Bigfoot, to even more on the alien side – like, are aliens out there? – or even some of the bigger mysteries of the universe – anything that’s deemed paranormal.”
The club, which launched in spring of 2018, has grown exponentially from an initial membership of around 15. More than 50 students showed up for the club’s first meeting of the fall semester. As many as 25 to 30 students regularly attend the club’s weekly Friday night meetings at 7 p.m. in Maybank Hall Room 100.
“Most people are really interested because they want to see something,” says Cummings. “Their curiosity is what is triggering them to come.”
Weekly meetings explore themes ranging from aliens to cryptids and often include games, videos or group discussions. In keeping with the Halloween theme of October, the club has spent the month discussing the darker side of the paranormal, including demons, dark energies, exorcisms and ouija boards.
But it isn’t all ghosts and ghouls. The group also explores how different energies can shed light on a person’s past, present or future. Student Christian Bruegger, who is skilled in aura, taro and chakra readings, periodically conducts readings at club meetings and explores the psychic energy aspect of the paranormal.
“Because we have such a wide variety of people coming in, whenever I share my experience, whenever I do my big reads and talk about themes of psychics and mediums, others will say ‘I’ve had this experience before, can you tell me about what you’ve experienced?’,” says Bruegger, a sophomore majoring in public health on a pre-med track, who serves as the club’s treasurer.
And yes, club members do get together and conduct paranormal investigations from time to time. To date, the Old City Jail in downtown Charleston is the most haunted place club members have investigated. In August, a digital recorder captured an EVP (electronic voice phenomena) of a deep, unexplainable growl. They also heard disembodied whistling, and Bruegger says he can’t explain why a door on the jail’s third floor kept opening and closing on its own.
Even so, Cummings says club members are never quick to label a place as haunted.
“We can’t jump in right away and say ‘Yes, for sure that is a ghost, that is an entity,’” he says. “No one really has that complete 100 percent evidence. We definitely do work as paranormal investigators, collecting that evidence and seeing how much of it we can’t account for, that could actually be something. It’s only through debunking everything else, every other possibility that you get some form of an answer.”
But, the Paranormal Activities Club isn’t about proving ghosts are real or finding Bigfoot. It’s about providing a place for people to come and explore that which they can’t explain.
“It really allows people to relate to other people who have had an experience,” says Cummings. “When previously it was like who do they talk to, they’re not sure who they can find, and all of a sudden they’re finding each other in this club.”
Featured image: Members of the paranormal club’s leadership board from left to right Cam Cummings, Christian Heckmann, Hailee Selby, Nick Dicamillo, and Christian Bruegger. (Photo by Heather Moran)