Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Haunted Church Part 2

This past January 10th Erie County Paranormal once again did an investigation at our church, St. Paul's United Church of Christ here in Erie. While the findings were not as numerous as their previous visit they were still as striking. From 7pm until 2am they recorded video, audio and had personal experiences of the unexplained.

Frank, the team leader and Jerry the lead Tech both heard unexplained voices and sounds from our third floor which houses a shelter for the homeless during daytime hours.

While downstairs in the fellowship hall/kitchen area both Frank and I saw tiny specks of white light dancing across the ceiling. It was not electric or hallucinatory, but tiny balls of quick moving light about the size of a pea.

While they did get many EVPs the most startling is this one: EVP1 which was recorded on the third floor near a poolstick holder.

But for me the most startling incident is once again the appearance of shadow entities. Here is the original video from-once again- the chapel.

The activity is in the upper right camera. Here is an enhanced version:

Here is one of the enhanced stills from the video:

What is this thing? Originally from the direct video feed we thought it was the head of a small child, perhaps Katie from the previous investigation detailed here. But with this enhancement you can see the head, ears, snout and eyes of....?

There was an investigator sitting on that very same pew just a few feet away, and did not see anything. There were no 'natural' animals in the church.

Until Next Time,

Pastor Swope

This church sits in downtown Erie, where the Eriez Indian tribe one had their main settlement until they were wiped out and assimilated by the Seneca in the early 1600's. The records on the Eriez are very scant having only once been encountered by French settlers before their extinction as a tribe. One of the few details we have about the tribe is that they were called 'The Cat People' and wore destinctive dress made up of wild panthers from the area.


I wonder what the area where the church now resides was used for during the time of the Eriez.
Vote for me to be a take part in the new paranormal show from the Discovery Network, click the link below and vote! You can vote every day!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Shameless Plug

I was contacted by a casting assistant from "Got Cast" inviting me to apply to be considered for a cast member/guest expert on a new Discovery Channel paranormal show "The Gray Area". Part of the process is a 'voting' for potential cast. So, if you would like to vote for me (or anyone else in the running) just hit the banner below and vote! You can vote every day until March 23rd!

Pastor Swope

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lake Erie's 'Flying Dutchman'

December 7th has been etched into the American consciousness as one of the deadliest days in its maritime history. On December 7th 1941 the Japanese struck the American Naval fleet in Pearl Harbor, an attack that sent both nations headlong into a bloody and culturally changing conflict.

However there was another maritime tragedy that took place on the same date some 32 years earlier.

On December 7th 1909 the at 11 a.m., the Marquette & Bessemer No. 2, a 350-foot-long steel-hulled car ferry, left the port of Conneaut, Ohio with a cargo of rail cars filled to the brim with coal. The heavy laden ship headed north, bound for Port Stanley, Ontario. A notable passanger onboard the Marquette & Bessemer No. 2 was Albert Weis of Erie, the treasurer of the Keystone Fish Company. Weis carried $32,000 in a leather briefcase in order to purchase a Port Stanley fishery for his employers at the Fish Company.

Lake Erie has a long history of being one of the most trecherous of the Great Lake, with powerful storms seemingly to appear out of nowhere.

And as the Marquette & Bessemer No.2 made it way north away from the shores of Ohio, there was a great storm brewing on the horizon.

The blistery winter storm suddenly blew out of the west and slammed mightily onto the Great Lakes with winds that were estimated to have reached at least 90 miles per hour. The storm’s might was so furious that it actually dropped the temperature 45 degrees within a 24 hour time period.

Battered to and fro the Marquette & Bessemer No 2 tried in vain to criss cross the Lake in a doomed attempt to ride out the storm. The frigid assault of the storm and an unfortunate streak of bad luck sealed the fate of the ship and its 31 passangers and crew. The ship, its cargo and crew went to their watery grave in the deep depths of Lake Erie on the evening of December 9th 1909.

Last reported accounts tell that they saw the ship struggle in the waves off Port Stanley, and it seemed to have turned west. It was never seen again. Legend has it that about the time the ship went down the Captain’s wife who was on the Southern Coast of lake Erie at Conneaut that night heard the mournful pathetic blow of the ship’s whistle as it sank beneath the waves.

Three days later on December 12th a lone lifeboat was found washed ashore 15 miles from the city of Erie, Pennyslvania. It contained the frozen bodies of 9 of the crew and one ice encrusted set of clothing from a 10th in a position that that seemed to show whoever had donned the clothing had simply disappeared. The belt was tied, the shirt was in the pants, a coat covered it all in perfect order. To complete the hallow façade of frozen terror, the shoes still had their socks stuck to the inside as if the wearer had filled them when they froze.

Despite the great length of the ship and the shallow depths where it was supposed to have sank, the wreck of the Marquette & Bessemer No 2 has never been found. At more than a hundred meters the ship was as long as a Football field. Few such large ships have eluded devout hunters of sunken ships along the Great Lakes. Despite thousands of dollars by private entrepreneurs and scientists, and hour upon hours of diving expeditions, the site of the ship’s resting place has never been found.

But it seems that since it sank below the icy waves of Lake Erie on that dark December night almost 100 years ago the Marquette & Bessemer No 2 has been seen and heard on multiple occasions.

Many times since its untimely demise sailors have heard the ghostly moaning whistle of the ship when they are the only vessel for miles around. An old fashioned whistle that seems to struggle in a mournful wail that bemoans its fate. Much as the same sound the Captains wife had reportedly heard that December night as the ship gave into the struggle with the pounding waves.

It also seems to be a common occurrence all across the beachfront of Lake Erie in both Pennsylvania and Ohio for a phantom ship to appear on the horizon just for a few minutes before it fades away into a haze. Now ore carriers are still a common site on most of Lake Erie, and it is not unusual to see them slowly crawl across the horizon as you relax on a Lake Erie beach during a hot summer day. But no ore carrier of today has that old configuration and belches dark smoke from two forward smoke stacks. And none of them just fade away into the horizon. The usual beachgoer may be too caught up to take much notice, but I have heard on more than one occasion where someone was taking in the panorama of Lake Erie to simply see a distant ship in the shape of the Marquette & Bessemer No 2 just blink out of existence.

Now these of course could just be visual tricks or hallucinations, but James Donahue in his article “Ghost Ship Marquette & Bessemer No. 2”, relates that “Adding to the mystery is that the wreck has reportedly been seen from the air on clear days. It has been sighted about eight miles northeast of Conneaut, in about 10 fathoms of water. Yet no one has located it by boat.” (

To this day divers of the Great Lakes covet to find the mystery wreck of the Marquette & Bessemer No 2. It has often been hailed as “The Mount Everest of Great Lake shipwrecks”.

But perhaps all these divers and researchers have to do to find the old ship is to sail out in a lonely dark night and wait to hear the mournful wail of the whistle to echo across the Lake’s surface. And if they hear it, perhaps they can track it down to its source. To find the old No2? Or their own chilling fate?

Until Next Time,

Pastor Swope

Friday, February 13, 2009

Angels of Africa

By 1996, the war and genocide in neighboring Rwanda had spilled over to the Country of Zaire. It was the beginning of one of the bloodiest and brutal wars in history, and the deadliest multinational conflict since World War 2.

Zahirah lived in a small village near Bumba on the Congo River when in early 1997 the rebel forces of Laurent-Désiré Kabila started the deadly march westward down the river, leaving a wash of destroyed villages and dead corpses in their wake.

Luckily the news of the deadly march reached her small village before the rebel leaders did, and Zahirah along with her family deserted their home and escaped to the south.

But it was not long before the crimson tide of the ethnic violence soon caught up with them.

Less than a hundred Kilometers from their village they came upon a violent band of rebels attacking a small cluster of dwellings that could hardly have housed more than a hundred. Zahirah’s mother shielded her eyes from the brutality of the violence that the rest of the family beheld, but the screams and unanswered please for mercy painted a lasting image in her minds eye.

The people were being slaughtered like animals.

Quickly they retreated backward, but it seems there retreat was less than stealthy. A few of the rebels caught their movement and were soon on their tail.

Quickly the family of five ran through the woods as fast as they could, but in the hurried confusion they became separated. Zahirah and her baby brother darted right while her parents and older brother went straight along the path. Soon both stopped momentarily to see where the others had gone. Zahirah hid behind a fallen tree with ample foliage to cover her from the rebels that were quickly gaining on them. From her vantage point she could see her parents coming back along the trail to look for her and the baby.

She also could see the rebels were rounding a bend and soon would come face to face with her parents and brother on the path. All seemed lost. She dare not shout out a warning for then the rebels would find her as well. So she did all she could do.

She prayed.

Her family had been a family of faith for almost a hundred years, her great grandfather was converted by Missionaries and had become on of the first indigenous ministers in her village. She knew from experience that God did answer prayers, not always as she wished, but in this extreme circumstance she surrendered the situation to the only One who could rescue her and her family. In her heart, she cried out for help.

The rebels drew close to her family, and almost too late they saw their predicament. Quickly they dashed into the brush and hid. But even Zahirah could see them from her great distance and it was sure that the rebels would as well.

Then the miracle happened. Zahirah saw two large beings suddenly appear and stand in front of the foliage where her family haphazardly hid. They were human forms but made out of light. They had large swords in their hands and as the rebels turned the corner they crossed swords in front of the helpless family.

The heavily armed troops ran past them without notice and disappeared into the jungle.

The two beings of light then vanished and Zahirah ran from behind the log to guide her parents away from the path, lest the rebels should come back when they found nothing ahead.

For now the family was united and safe. It took them over a month to reach relative safety, a month of hiding, scavenging and starvation. But finally they made it to a refugee shelter in Burundi. The guardian angels never appeared again, and in fact only Zahirah had seen them. Her family told her they just saw the soldiers run past them without notice. But Zahirah knew the truth; God had heard her desperate plea and had sent supernatural protection.

After I heard this story a few years ago in a Missionary meeting at church my mind raced back to a similar story that I had heard from Missionaries returning from their four year tour in Burkina Faso way back in 1988.

In the summer of 1986 I had toured as a student Missionary to Burkina. The country was at that time undergoing drastic change under the leadership of President Thomas Sankara. Although he was a progressive, who championed health reforms and women’s rights the countryside under Sankara’s rule was extremely militant. I remember passing checkpoints throughout the country where the guards were children armed with assault rifles who were not yet into their teenage years.

The year following my tour of the country, on October 15th 1987 there was a coup and President Thomas Sankara was assassinated. It was told that he was dragged out of his presidential office in Ougadougou and shot in the head in a ditch behind the compound. The coup was quick and brutal.

I was told by the furloughing Missionaries in 1988 that President Sankara’s wife had avoided a similar fate at the time by angelic intervention.

The President’s wife, Mariam Sankara was a woman of faith and when the coup entered the capitol she was ushered away by some unusual strangers who warned her of the fate of her husband and her need to quickly flee the capitol with her children.

Over the years I heard two different versions of this angelic rescue.

In one she was at the office building just moments before the coup’s leaders entered in. It was there that these unknown strangers, who had a powerful and commanding presence, told the first lady that she needed to flee because her husbands assassins were on their way and it was his fate to die and her fate to carry on his legacy. So quickly they led her through the halls and miraculously they were not seen by and of the opposing factions. Then when she was safely in the hands of some sympathizers who could whisk her and her out of the country the strangers just vanished in front of them.

Another story has her in a residence on the outskirts of the city when the coup occurred. The strangers just appeared out of nowhere in the locked house and told her of the unfolding events. Again they escort her through perilous areas without her even being noticed and put her safely in the hands of others who could help. Again as in the previous version they vanished in front of all present.

I was the story of Mariam Sankara’s miraculous escape at the hand of Angels quickly spread throughout the Christian community at the time. But I could never verify it from sources outside the church.

Is it true?

I have no idea, I was not there. But the prophetic statement that the alleged Angels gave to Mrs.Sankara is certainly coming true. Her fate is indeed to carry on her butchered husband’s legacy. In 2006 she brought the plight of her family to the United Nations. Along with the Group for Research and Initiative for the Liberation of Africa (GRILA)brought the case before United Nations Human Rights Committee. That year, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled in favor of the International Justice for Sankara Campaign, and demanded that the government of Burkina Faso take action to shed light on the circumstances of Sankara's death.

Even today Thomas Sankara is viewed as a political martyr for justice and progress in many African countries, much in part because of the relentless campaigning Mrs. Sankara on her deceased husband’s behalf. She is resolute that her husband’s legacy is never forgotten.

God does not always intercede in such dramatic ways, and sometimes when we hear such stories we are full of doubt because of the untold suffering of others that have not been rescued in such a direct and miraculous way.

But it does not mean that it still does happen. Why not to all? That is in God’s hands, He certainly knows better than we do.

One thing is sure though, for people of faith such stories give us hope and courage in the rough times. Perhaps, if He wills, God will send a little intervention our way.

Until Next Time,

Pastor Swope

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Unknown Avian Cryptid

Last year on this blog I related my Thunderbird experience I had while working at Erie County Memorial Gardens in 2001.

You can find the entry here. I am still not sure what I did observe that hot summer day, but the bird was huge.

After relating my experience I hinted at other high strangeness that I experienced there, and shared some of those with in the form of some of the ghost stories which were related to me by fellow employees. They are bizarre and unnerving stories and thank goodness I never experienced them for myself.

One of the oddest things I did experience there was the appearance of a small little animal near the edge of the wood for which no one has a clue as to what exactly it is.

It was mid summer in 2003, and I was on my way to the graveyard dump with a load of dirt that was just taken from a freshly opened grave. The funeral was to take place early the next day and we opened the grave a day early to get a jump start on the next morning, so the time was around 2:00 in the afternoon. Like most summer days near lake Erie it was a hot and humid one, and the skies were clear.

I turned onto the dirt road that led to the dump when I noticed a small bird to the right side of the road edge. I slowed down to let the bird get out of the way, but instead it just stood there and looked at me. So I eased the dump truck to the left side of the road and passed the bird very slowly. It never got out of the way, and as I passed it, it started to follow me down the dirt trail.

It was brown and the feathers had the same sheen as a pigeons. It was about double the size of a pigeon though, and had a bright orange beak. I also noticed that it had no tail feathers whatsoever.

After quickly depositing the dirt I went back up the road, and the bird was still there, this time it was on the grass to the east of the road. It walked slowly into the neighboring woods, and as it walked I noticed that it did not have the same bobbing action that pigeons have when they walk.

Here is a composite picture of what I saw.

No one that I talked to at the graveyard had ever seen a bid like this, so curiously I called the Pennsylvania Game Commission and described the fowl to them. They had no idea what it could have been, no indigenous creature of the area matched the description.

So what was it?

Last year I submitted the composite picture to Loren Coleman who also had no idea of what exactly I had seen that summer day 6 years ago.

So, anyone have a clue?

If so write me and let me know.

Until Next Time,

Pastor Swope