Paranormal activity in our own backyard: The scariest RSO


Photo courtesy of PIRO

A room PIRO investigated for paranormal activity.

Ghosts, spirits and investigations–oh my! While spooky season is just a season for some, for the Paranormal Investigation Research Organization (PIRO), it is year-round. Often mistaken for a “you do not talk about fight club” mentality, Sierra Soletsky, forensic science senior and PIRO president, gave a glimpse into the inner workings of the club.

PIRO is an organization that has accumulated many conspiracies surrounding it, undoubtedly because of curiosity and the club’s confidentiality.

Rumors that haunt the research organization’s reputation include anything from the state of Connecticut asking PIRO to stop conducting experiments, to confirming the ghosts within Maxcy hall’s basement–which was the New Haven Temporary Home for children for 46 years before being acquired by the university.

Soletsky assured me that none of those rumors hold true.

PIRO, being a research organization, operates in two different components for its members: the educational side, and the investigation side.

In the past, PIRO would travel off-campus and visit sites claimed to be haunted. Once there, the group’s investigators–which undergo a PIRO-specific training course before being approved for fieldwork–run various experiments and collect data and research on the scene.

They have traveled to places including Gettysburg, PA; Bobby Mackey’s club, KY; Shanley Hotel, NY; and the Sterling Opera House.

“We want to make sure they are actually in it for the research and the seriousness,” said Soletsky on why investigators have to complete training first.

“We have the equipment you would see in Ghost Adventures, and stuff like that,” said Soletsky. “The K-2 meters, the mel meters, the spirit boxes, and we use this equipment to basically investigate and research.”

The equipment reads electromagnetic frequencies that any electronics give off. This is used to record baseline readings, so they know what the normal and abnormal levels are. By using the recording device, they know when there could potentially be a ghost.

“All of these tools have scientific applications to them, we are just applying them to the paranormal,” she said.

Although the investigations are confidential, it is not a matter of wanting to keep secrets in the organization.

“One of the reasons we are confidential, the places we go we sign privacy contracts with so we can’t necessarily go around showing everyone all of this stuff,” said Soletsky. “Otherwise we would want to share all of these things.”

In fact, PIRO is always looking to engage with the campus community. Soletsky said that just last month, two of the resident assistants in Bethel hall contacted the organization, and asked them to run a program with the residents on the second floor, as some were afraid it was haunted.

Typically investigations run for a few hours at night, and the team–which is filled with students identifying as scientists, spirituals and even skeptics–tries to catch something on the equipment.

“We are very scientific about everything since we are researching the paranormal, so we try to debunk anything,” Soletsky said, “so we are not always automatically assuming that it is a ghost [when we see feedback].”

Uniquely in Gettysburg, there is a large program that runs tours of the facilities and provides more expensive equipment, so they were not under a privacy contract. Soletsky was able to freely tell a story from the site.

She said that while this trip did not have many scares, she shared a story where the club is said to have communicated with spirits. The location they were at was previously a pig farm, so the members asked the spirits if they remembered the pigs, and the reading came back with one word: “pork.”

Soletsky said that they hope to travel again in the near future and are training investigators for the following semester. She mentioned staying within the northeast to stay safe with COVID-19 risks, naming places such as the Lizzie Borden house in Massachusetts.

Nowadays, PIRO holds weekly meetings where Soletsky researches a topic that the members vote on, and the executive board presents it in order to educate and hold discussions. Some previous topics include conspiracy theories, serial killers, mummification and local hauntings. Before each presentation, the club plays a Kahoot about the topic to gauge previous knowledge.

Guests are also invited to speak at club meetings. In 2019, the son-in-law of Ed and Lorraine Warren–the paranormal investigators based out of Connecticut and the duo that the “Conjuring” movie franchise follows true cases of–visited campus. This year, professional paranormal investigator, Brian J. Cano, visited on Oct. 22.

PIRO also holds events for the larger campus community, including their Paranormal Awareness Week which is typically held a week before Halloween. This includes a divination fair, where students can have their tarot cards read, a pumpkin painting night, a showing of the movie “Scream” and a costume bash held on Oct. 31.

As for PIRO’s opinion on the paranormal activity within the campus community, Soletsky personally believes buildings on campus, including Maxcy, are haunted given their history and the tendency for students to “go looking” for activity, with things such as ouija boards.

“They definitely are haunted, and I just caution that the other students on campus just be respectful. That is our big thing, we just want to respect anything that may be there just because we are not there to infuriate spirits, we just want to talk to them.”