By Elsie Walker
Having an interest in the paranormal, L’Aura Hladik Hoffman and her then husband attended the International Ghost Hunters Society’s Ghost Conference in Gettysburg, Pa., in March 1998.
It was there they decided to start a New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society (NJGHS), following all the protocols set forth by the international society. Sometime later, Hoffman sent out press releases and scheduled the first meeting as open house at their home. That first meeting was packed and so the New Jersey Ghost Hunters Society, celebrating its 20 th anniversary this month, was born.
The N.J. Ghost Hunters Society has 845 lifetime members within two divisions. the North Jersey Division that meets from 7 p.m.- 8:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of every month at the Community Center in Hackettstown and the Central Division, which is on a break until
August, and meets at the library in Hazlet.
While some people’s image of ghosthunters may be based on what they’ve seen in a Bill Murray movie, the reality is much different. Hoffman shared that the mission of her group is “To search out definitive proof of life beyond the grave. To provide paranormal investigations to those who request them, free of charge. To train those individuals, who so desire and become members of the NJGHS, in the protocols of professional, ethical and scientific paranormal investigating.”
What has drawn people to the society and kept it going for two decades?
Marci Keck of Dover, Mike Petrock of Whiting, Dina Chirico of Belvidere and Michelle Vargas of Paterson are members of the NJGHS and shared what it means to them to be part of it. Keck,
who has been with the group for five years and describes herself as a “military transplant”, said, “[I] was happy to find a local group that supports my hobby and doesn’t think it’s weird.”
Petrock noted that when drew him to the society was his interest in the paranormal; the same could be said for Vagas, an eight year member of the group who has had “experiences with spirits, friends and family who have passed over.”
Chirco, who has been with the group all 20 years and is the team leader for the North Jersey Division in Hackettstown, said “I joined because I wanted to get answers in a more scientific way, and from like-minded people, [about] all the paranormal experiences that I had had in the past, and I’ve been here ever since.”
However, not everyone has come to the society as a believer. Eighteen year member, Sheldon Wyman from Middletown, started out as a skeptic, but that changed once he went on a couple of investigations. He described one: “There was a lot of activity, such as a thumping noise coming from the basement onto the kitchen floor. It was like someone was hitting the floor from the basement. When we went down there, no one was there. Also, a softball was put on the window
edge in an upstairs bedroom. Everyone left the room and came downstairs. Later, we heard a noise and went upstairs. The ball rolled off the edge, out of the room, and was found in the bathroom. There was a lot of other paranormal activity besides that.”
To mark its 20 th year, the society will be holding an anniversary celebration dinner on September 22. It has reserved Bucky’s Lodge at Picatinny Arsenal from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. The cost is $40 per person for members and non-members. Special guests will include Rosemary Ellen Guiley, author of over 30 books on the paranormal and metaphysical; Jane Doherty, author and psychic medium from the television show, “Dead Tenants,” and author and psychic medium Karl Petry, who has a television show in production at this time.
For more information on the N.J. Ghost Hunters Society or its anniversary celebration, see its website
By Elsie Walker