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Giving up the ghost

Paul Eno is dead serious about investigating the paranormal

WOONSOCKET, R.I. -- Paul Eno looks more like a professor than a ghost buster: beard , spectacles, navy blazer, blue shirt, overstuffed bookshelves in his office. His philosophy of life is to "love God, love my children and love my wife."

But over 35 years as a paranormal investigator, Eno, 53, says he has chased away hundreds of pesky poltergeists and grumpy ghosts. He claims to have witnessed levitations and apparitions, and says he was once injured when a self-hurling television set nicked him in the leg.

Here's how he described the scene at that house in Bridgeport, Conn.: "A mirror in Marcy's room fell and the kitchen table turned over twice. . . . The drapes in the living room kept falling to the floor and the portable television there turned around every few minutes. At one point, Marcy was sitting in the kitchen and her chair began to rise" off the floor.

Another time, Eno got a call from a Connecticut woman who he later determined was simultaneously a ghost haunting a house in York, Maine. Many times, he has brushed up against the "psychic cold" of an otherworldly presence. He has photographed faces and figures that he believes have no earthly explanation.

Many of these stories, and photos, appear in the five books he has written on the subject, including his new memoir: "Turning Home: God, Ghosts and Human Destiny." He writes: "I was to be injured by poltergeists, insulted and taunted by nonhuman voices, stalked by 'spirit orbs' and touched by presences that I can only describe as angelic or even divine."

Eno's offbeat calling had its roots in 1971, when he was studying at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Conn. He and five other teenagers began to investigate an alleged haunting at the infamous "Village of Voices" in Bara Hack, an abandoned hamlet in northeast Connecticut. During four visits over two years, he says, they witnessed apparitions, teleportation -- objects moving by themselves -- and photographic and auditory "anomalies."

Eno earned a philosophy degree from Wadhams Hall Seminary College in Ogdensburg, N.Y., and studied philosophy and psychology at Trinity College in Hartford, where he became fascinated with quantum physics.

In his latest book published by his own company, New River Press, he writes that the paranormal is in fact normal: ghosts, poltergeists and other spirits, extrasensory perception, UFOs and "close encounters," "unknown or unexplained animals," clairvoyance, displacements or slips in time and space and "appearing or disappearing people, places or things for which there's no explanation."

In other words, what you might encounter in a Stephen King novel or a Steven Spielberg film.

Instead of the universe, Eno believes in the "multiverse": parallel worlds existing simultaneously (hence the Connecticut woman who was also, he says, a ghost). In his multiverse, people who are dead in our world are alive in other worlds, and there are worlds in which we ourselves are currently dead. Those worlds, he believes, overlap like bubbles in a diagram, and in that overlap, the inhabitants of each world can interact if the circumstances are right.

Needless to say, there are doubters. Michael Shermer, publisher of the California-based Skeptic Magazine and director of the Skeptic Society, has studied many paranormal claims. "They're telling ghost stories and urban legends, which we've always liked," he says. "All they have are anecdotes and stories that are unconfirmed."

But what of Eno's reliance on quantum physics, the power of electromagnetic fields that he says attracts alien entities? What of his gaussmeter that he says spikes in the presence of the otherworldly?

Shermer isn't impressed. "When they go into a haunted house, they bring their electronic equipment and say ' ooh, look, we've got this spike here. ' But what's the baseline on the building? All kinds of things can give anomalous electrical readings. You can't just turn around and say there's a ghost here."

But Eno says he takes a scientific approach, at times using parapsychologists, a psychiatric social worker, clergymen, a soil engineer, electrical engineer, medical doctor, an expert in death and dying and photography analyst. (Is that a ghost or just a double exposure?)

Some cases can get complicated, like the family in Burrillville, R.I. In 1998, after a friend of theirs heard Eno lecture, they called him. Their house, they said, was haunted by apparitions who would also talk, mimicking the mother's voice. Kitchen cabinets would open and close on their own. There were unexplained footsteps and pounding sounds.

With his gaussmeter, Eno picked up a powerful electromagnetic field in the back yard, then saw the ghost. "It was tall, glowing and shimmery. . . . There was only a thin, whitish blankness where a face ought to have been," he writes in "Footsteps in the Attic." Other times, a spirit resembling a little girl haunted the family. Using religious icons and holy water, Eno blessed each room in the house, and things quieted down.

"His work is outstanding," says Steven Hanley, 53, who lives in the house. "For a while there, the presence was running rampant, but things have calmed down now. Paul said to think of the house as an electromagnetic force field, with God surrounding it, and that should help out, and it did. My wife feels it every now and then, but I don't." He adds: "I never would have believed in ghosts before."

Eno believes that negative energy attracts such "parasites." So why aren't more people plagued by poltergeists? "You can have a lot of stress at home, but if the electromagnetic field isn't right, they can't get in there," he says. Conversely, positive vibes -- love, faith, humor -- seem to "cut off the food supply to these things."

Eno doesn't place much faith in mediums: "If it's pretending to be Grandpa Pete, half the time it's a parasite looking for something to eat," he says, referring to negative energy. (But sometimes, he says, it really is Grandpa saying hello from the beyond . )

People should beware of Ouija boards , which Eno says attract dangerous spirits. "You're ringing the dinner bell, for goodness sakes!" he says. The one time he used a board, in the seventh grade, it told his friend he was going to die in 1985. He did, in a scuba diving accident, Eno says. ("According to the stupid board, I still have a long way to go.")

A fellow of the American Society for Psychical Research, Eno speaks on the paranormal several times a month, most recently in Ireland. On his website, he refers to himself as "one of the world's most experienced paranormal investigators." Still, he knows the field is full of "frauds, hoaxers, and quick-buck artists."

A former journalist, Eno worked at small newspapers in Rhode Island and as a news editor at the Providence Journal before starting a small publishing business in 1990. Today his 23-year-old son, Jonathan, works for the company while his 14-year-old, Benjamin, has started to help in the ghost-busting business. His wife, Jackie, whom he met at church, is a paralegal. "I knew Paul was a writer when I married him, and I expected some eccentricities," she says.

Benjamin says he loves his apprenticeship with apparitions. "It's better than just sitting there watching TV all day," he says. And his friends think it's pretty cool.

In his first case last year, Ben accompanied his father to northern Vermont, where a couple reported ghostly happenings in their home. When the Enos walked the property, they "felt something going on in the corner of the yard," says Paul. In the house, they felt a presence following them, and Ben took a photograph in which he believes "an entity" is present.

Eno doesn't charge for his services, but he asks clients to let him take photographs and reports of the case, which he uses in his books and lectures. Every day, he says, he receives hundreds of e-mails asking advice, some articulate, others weird. "As you can imagine, there are all kinds of nutballs out there," he says.

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