A crowd erupted in laughter at this weekend's UNIV-CON national paranormal conference as psychic Chip Coffey pronounced the title of Father James Lebar's book, "Cults, Sex and the New Age."
"That's sects. S-E-C-T-S," he said. "Get your mind out of the gutter."
However, to Ryan Buell, the conference's purpose is no object of jest.
"There are very real people experiencing something very real. Paranormal or not, they are very scared," said Buell, founder and director of Penn State's Paranormal Research Society (PRS). "We aren't here to prove that the paranormal exists."
More than 1,000 registered attendees and students attended the sixth annual paranormal conference.
Buell said his intention is promoting good despite Friday's presentation about confronting evil.
"The devil is a big trickster. Sometimes when we believe in the devil, he is everywhere," said Lebar, a Catholic exorcist.
Joining him was Lorraine Warren, a demonologist involved with the Amityville haunting case that followed the execution-style murder of the DeFeo family.
"I don't know how anyone could find peace in a house like that," Warren said. "And what was there followed us right to our homes."
The duo screened a video of a Lebar exorcism that showed a possessed man muttering phrases backward in Latin, his face distorted as he spewed blood on his white shirt.
"Father Lebar said you don't have to have faith in Jesus -- just faith, which is something most priests don't say," Mike Green (senior-archaeology) said.
Doubtfulness radiated as "skeptical methodologist" John Sabol, a cultural anthropologist and "ghost excavator," supervised hunts in Schwab Auditorium Saturday night.
Denying hauntings like Gettysburg, Sabol said only hundreds of matching accounts in one locale will convince him of a ghostly manifestation.
Mum on Schwab's "hauntitorium" status, Sabol said attendees identified three female spirits and one male spirit, believed to be a Revolutionary War soldier pre-dating the building.
Though many left empty-handed, Michael Weiss (freshman-engineering) said he believes he was silenced by something inhuman while surveying a dressing room for electronic voice phenomena (EVP) Friday night with an investigator from Kentucky.
Weiss brought PRS members his recording of a scratchy, deep voice saying, "Stop the talking."
"I never saw a full-body apparition, and I don't want to. That would really freak me out," Weiss said, adding that he avoids the Old Botany building, citing the "lady in white" that appears to some in the attic window overlooking George Atherton's grave.
Keith and Sandra Johnson, of New England Anomalies Research, held EVP sessions in Old Botany, emphasizing an "active" room near the attic as a tour-goer collapsed in tears, refusing to reenter the space.
Keith Johnson ended the hunt in prayer, saying that he didn't want anyone to "take anything home" with them.
Saturday night, thrill-seekers took home the first saga of PRS' new A&E television series, Paranormal State, originally named Paranormal U.
In one episode, the name of a demon had Buell on edge while examining a home in Elizabethtown, Pa. -- an 1894 murder site of a family where demonologist Warren said "you could almost cut the animosity with a knife."
To this day, Buell refuses to verbalize the demon's name. The group restored peace to the home, echoing Buell's opening credit claim: "Anytime I help someone, I feel I'm one step closer to finding the truth."