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Snug Harbor Cultural Center Investigation

THis is an article that was published in the Staten Island Advance in October of 2007 mentioning another investigation we did at Snug Harbor accompanied by a reporter and a photographer.

Staten Island's ghost busters
Prepared with the newest technology, members of the Staten Island Paranormal Society search for answers Sunday, October 28, 2007
STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Six friends and two strangers enter a 19th-century building that's rumored to be haunted. They look at each other a bit nervously, flashlights in hand, and walk carefully down the creaky stairs into the basement.

When they reach the bottom, the friends warn one of the newcomers not to scream or run if something tugs or touches her. She's too scared to move anyway.

Cobwebs cling to the brick walls in the unlit basement of the Matron's House at Snug Harbor Cultural Center. Wood beams are scattered on the floor, rusted pipes hang overhead and an old dusty mirror lies against one wall.

But members of the Staten Island Paranormal Society are not frightened. They've done this before. They want answers -- abnormal activity like a face, a whisper, a ball of energy -- that can prove there is life after death. They've taken an Advance reporter and photographer with them on several recent investigations to see what they can find.

Through the years, Snug Harbor, a former maritime home and hospital for retired seamen, has sparked much ghost talk. Some people claim to have seen old sailors or a lady in white roaming the Livingston grounds.

The Matron's House story is unconfirmed, but none-the-less haunting. According to legend, the Matron kept her disabled son chained to a wall in the basement. One day, he escaped, found a pair of scissors and went up to his mother's room and killed her. He hid, but was found and hung from a tree in the back.

In the basement, the investigators start taking pictures. The digital cameras, they explain, can capture orbs -- balls of energy resembling bursts of light that may indicate paranormal activity. The cameras can also capture a face or shadow that the eye doesn't see.

The group uses voice recorders to pick up electronic voice phenomena (EVP), which are inaudible to the ear.

"Can you tell me your name," they question the darkness. "Can you tell me what year this is?" The recorders may be able to pick up a different frequency with paranormal activity -- resulting in whispers or speech from beyond.

Against one wall is three bolts. The society believes they held the chains of the matron's son. They stop for a few minutes, snapping photos and asking questions.

Upstairs, the rooms are illuminated by moonlight through corner windows. The investigators go to a room where group co-founder Amy Raiola once took a picture that looks like there's a face in the window. They enter each room with careful, quiet steps. Member Lori Trapani stands in a corner taking pictures -- resembling a scene out of the "Blair Witch Project."

After nearly an hour, it's finally time to leave. Nothing "abnormal" has happened, but that doesn't mean the tapes or photos didn't catch anything. The next day, the investigators listen to their recordings for EVPs. On one, they think they hear the whispering of one of their names.

Members of the paranormal society view their findings with skepticism. Although they may see an orb in a photo, it could be a piece of dust or a bug. The EVPs they capture could also be from background noise or their own whispering. They make sure to cross-reference their findings with other members before submitting it into evidence.

The investigators have been interested in the paranormal since childhood. When Amy Raiola was growing up, she would hear footsteps on the stairs of her former Bulls Head home. The television would go on for no reason and she would see shadows that had no origin.

Another member, Jonathan Caban, got his interest from his grandmother, who talked about the paranormal. Selene (who asked that her last name be withheld from this story) saw her dead neighbor visiting her bedroom when she was a child. After Lori Trapani's childhood cat died, it visited her for weeks. When Lisa Raiola, Amy's sister-in-law, was a teen-ager she saw an apparition in a friend's house.

Two years ago, Amy and Lisa Raiola, along with Amy's sister Kristi Nelson, created the Staten Island Paranormal Society. Since then, the group has investigated Snug Harbor, cemeteries, the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum in Rosebank, the grounds of the Conference House in Tottenville and private homes.

They come prepared with voice recorders, digital cameras, video camera, motion detector, temperature gage -- if the temperature significantly increases or decreases it could denote paranormal activity -- and EMF detectors, which trace changes in the electromagnetic field.

"I want to find the proof, the answers," says Lisa Raiola as to why she does this. "If they're stuck here it's for a reason."

Another place the paranormal society recently investigated was Fountain/Staten Island Cemetery in West Brighton. The abandoned cemetery, cared for by the Friends of Abandoned Cemeteries, is home to graves dating back to the 1800s.

The investigators don't believe the cemetery is haunted, but has visitors like Capt. John Barker, who died in 1863 from typhoid fever. Neighbors, they note, have reported seeing Native Americans, who are buried in the cemetery, walking around at night as well as a woman in a long white dress.

The last stop on the society's string of investigations is a Port Richmond home built in 1937. According to its owners, it's haunted by a little girl around age 7.

The family explains to the investigators that in the past 11 years one member has seen the girl six times. Each time, it's out of the corner of his eye when he's on the stairs. The little girl is usually standing between two doors on the second floor.

Other strange incidents: earring backs have been removed for no reason, a picture flew off the television and footsteps have been heard on the attic stairs.

One night, the family decided to use a Ouija board to see if their house was haunted. The board told them the spirit's name is Cate. She used to live in their house and died after falling down the stairs. She remains there looking for a pair of gold earrings her father gave her.

The investigators place a voice recorder in the middle of the floor in the upstairs hallway. Amy Raiola places a stuffed dog in the corner where Cate has been seen, in the hopes she'll come out to play with it. They ask her questions "Cate, can you tell us what you're looking for" -- and continue snapping away on their cameras.

Does Cate ever respond? That's one question that may never be answered.

"We can never prove it to someone who doesn't believe in it [the paranormal]," Amy says. "But it's fun to try."

TAG: For more information, visit The society will be conducting ghost tours at Snug Harbor on Wednesday at 8 p.m. Reservations are required. For tickets, which are $6, call 718-815-SNUG.

Andrea Boyarsky is a features reporter for the Advance. She may be reached at
2007 Staten Island Advance 2007 All Rights Reserved.


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