Legend of Emma to be investigated in Miller

Legend of Emma to be investigated in Miller
By Amber Wilhelm
The Online Rocket

On Saturday, Feb. 28, SRU's Miller Auditorium will be the sight of a ghost investigation when Baelfire Paranormal Investigations will try to prove the existence of Emma, the alleged ghost of the woman for whom the auditorium is named.

Emma Guffey Miller, who was a trustee at SRU, died in 1970 and her spirit has been rumored to be behind some of the strange happenings at Miller Auditorium. Dr. Robert Watson, a retired SRU professor and local historian, said that Emma stood in North Hall and looked out at the land that would eventually become the theater bearing her name, and said how much she loved this place.

Rebecca Morrice, assistant professor of theatre, who heard Watson tell that story, has heard many tales from students and faculty about unexplained phenomenon in the theater.

"There's so many stories that I can't say it's nothing, but there's also nothing concrete," Morrice said.

That is where BPI hopes to be of service. The group's owner and lead investigator, John Lewis, contacted SRU when he heard about the possible haunting.

"I'd love to have a face-to-face contact with Emma," Lewis said.

BPI includes six adult members and two teenaged junior members. One of the members, Michael Peters, is a medium, which Lewis said means Peters can get feelings about the nature of a spirit, like gender or age, and he can channel spirits.

Lewis has had paranormal experiences his whole life, he said. During his six years of ghost hunting, Lewis and his group have most notably documented paranormal activity at the Knickerbocker Hotel in Linesville, Pa.

"We got pictures of primordial mist in motion on the third floor, and in one room downstairs, we had 87 EVPs," Lewis said.

EVP is ghost investigator language for "Electronic Voice Phenomenon." BPI has analog voice recorders that they carry with them at a supposedly haunted location, and they ask questions directed at the ghosts.

"Once we clear out the background and white noise, and us making sounds, we'll hear answers to our questions or words and sentences that we can't explain any other way," Lewis said.

BPI has tools for trying to see what human eyes can't, such as infrared camera lights to see in the dark on film, Lewis said.

There are people who claim to have witnessed paranormal events at Miller Auditorium, but what the Baelfire team is looking for is solid proof.

Morrice said that she and other people at Miller Auditorium have heard conversations going on in other rooms, with intonations and clear voices, but there is really no one there.

"When you hear voices, it's creepy, but not enough to make you want to run away screaming," Morrice said.

Morrice said that once she saw someone walking into a dead-end hallway on the office floor of Miller Auditorium, and when she went to see who it was, there was no one there, and nowhere they could have gone. She said that was the one time she was so freaked out that she left the area.

Many stories have been floating around the SRU campus for years, like the one about the baby doll that students placed near the stage so the performance wouldn't flop. But Morrice said that she thinks a group of students did that years ago, and now it is just part of the creepy mythology of the old theater.

This and other rumors of strange goings-on, like noises from inside a locked office, are what prompted the SRU Psychic Awareness Club to investigate Miller Auditorium last November.

Samantha Stumf, 20, a junior secondary environmental geosciences education major and president of the Psychic Awareness Club, said that it was a learning experience for the group. She said that the biggest results of the investigation were simply the more inexperienced club members learning how to do an investigation.

"Either we didn't have the greatest equipment, or the ghosts didn't show themselves or there's nothing there," Stumf said.

Morrice said she thinks that most of the theatre students are open-minded to the possibility of Emma haunting the theater, and when a missing prop or costume turns up just in the knick of time, the students say, "Thanks, Emma."

Morrice said some of the theater students were worried that Baelfire was coming to exercise, or get rid of, the ghost of Miller Auditorium, perhaps because of some of the wording in the article about the investigation in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. The article said that Balefire might tell Emma to "go home."

"The only way we would try to make Emma move on is if she wants to, or if the university wanted us to do that, which I don't think they do," Lewis said in response.

Since the article appeared in the Tribune, there has been somewhat of a buzz created on the Internet sites of newspapers and radio stations across the country. An internet search for BPI will turn up not only the group's own site, but at least 30 links to short articles on "Emma, the ghost of a university theater" from Detroit to Florida.

"I am overwhelmed at the media attention this investigation is getting," Lewis said.

Lewis said he was also interviewed on KDKA radio, and they asked if Baelfire would investigate their station. Lewis said that the New Castle newspaper would also be at the auditorium to interview him on the night of the investigation.

Emma, SRU and BPI are getting a small spotlight on the national media stage now, and depending on how the investigation on Saturday goes, maybe Emma can take the stage again.
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