Towards the end of last semester, Dr. George Richards hosted an organizational meeting for the then recently introduced Edinboro University Paranormal Society (EUPS). An organizational meeting may not seem exciting, but it also garnered a response from nearly 100 students on campus.
“This has been something I’ve wanted to do ever since I’ve been at Edinboro,” Richards said. “I got to Edinboro in the fall semester of 2004. Finally got around to doing it last spring and I’m pleasantly pleased with the turn-out and interest.”
“I’ve always had more than a passing interest in the paranormal ever since I was a little kid,” Richards stated.
“But I’ve talked to a lot of students over the years. The fall semester before it started (fall of 2014) I asked my classes very informally, ‘how many of you would be interested in participating in a club like that if there was one?’”
“It was overwhelming.”
Richards continued, “I was getting at least 78 percent positive response. Plus, one of the things I’ve seen is that a consistent student complaint is that they don’t have enough things on campus that interest them.”
Richards remarked on the turnout for the organizational meeting, saying “the organizational meeting had 93 students, which I thought was remarkable.”
“You might get five people to show up to an organizational meeting for a club that’s already established,” the society’s Vice President Kelly Cavanaugh said.
According to Cavanaugh, EUPS is currently in its first full semester as a club at Edinboro. EUPS has been described as, “dedicated to the collection and dissemination of information pertaining to the paranormal and supernatural.”
The club is also not limited to students; the club is open to faculty, staff, alumni and members of the surrounding community. Cavanaugh mentioned the club also has several events planned for this semester.
“We’re thinking about doing local investigations, like buildings on campus and [the] Erie Cemetery at first,” Cavanaugh said. “Just to get a little more experience for our club members.”
“This semester we’re working with Haunted Edinboro. We have bake sales every so often. Around Halloween, we’re thinking of doing a workshop about the history behind the Day of the Dead and a workshop about makeup.”
“One of the things we’ve got down the pike, maybe for next year, would be to go to Waverly Hills Sanitarium,” Richards said. “It’s supposed to be the most haunted place in the country. It is the only ‘haunted house’ that I’ve ever seen anything active in.”
Despite this being the club’s first full semester, the officers and members seem to be doing what they can to get EUPS some recognition in the community. The club not only participated in the homecoming parade this year (and won an award for their float), but Cavanaugh also mentioned the club had a presence at the Eerie Horror Fest as well.
This is the first club of its kind on Edinboro’s main campus. However, there are other similar groups in the area, such as W.A.S.P (Warren Area Society of Paranormal) and Meadville Paranormal Investigation Team. EUPS seems to be trying to set itself apart from these groups.
Richards said they “are not in a rush to believe anything.” Richards went on to say that, “with this just being our second semester of existence, one thing that will set our club apart is the attitude of the skeptic.”
Richards spoke fondly of his involvement with the field, saying, “There are some really good people in this field the more I’m involved in it. There are some dedicated folks seeking what they perceive as the truth.”
In a word of caution, Richards also mentioned, “there are also a lot of charlatans and people worse than charlatans who would take advantage of people and their fear.”
“Those are people I would personally like to root out and expose given time and the opportunity. But that would be my own venture and not the society’s.”
It would appear that EUPS has the potential to grow on campus, based on the number of students involved, which stands at about 35, according to Cavanaugh. However, why is a club concerned with the paranormal so popular in the first place?
According to Cavanaugh, EUPS actually tries to come up with logical explanations for any seemingly unexplainable phenomenon. “We don’t think everything is a ghost; we try to debunk,” Cavanaugh stated. “We’re very scientific in our approach to how we go through the paranormal.”
This is an important distinction to make because when movies are released concerning the paranormal the line between fact and fiction could become somewhat blurry.
“For so many of these kids in this campus society it is media driven.” Richards said. “There’s got to be at least 20 paranormal shows right now on cable and that’s not counting all the stuff you can get on Netflix.”
Richards went on to say, “I think a lot of the shows that focus on the paranormal are an absolute joke and a travesty. So much of what we see now is media driven.”
As mentioned previously, EUPS is attempting to make itself stand out among the area’s other paranormal investigation clubs.
“We’re not going to take ourselves too seriously but we will be taking our business seriously,” Richards stated. “I hope when they (the students) leave Edinboro, this will be one of their fonder memories. I hope that they become more informed about the topic and can discuss it rationally.”
EUPS holds meetings every Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Pogue Student Center.
William Stevens is a Senior Staff Writer for The Spectator.