CUMBERLAND — Paul Burch doesn’t believe in ghosts.
At least, he didn’t before he took a job at Puccini Restaurant, an almost 200-year-old house that served as a temporary hospital for Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War.
That’s when he first started to wonder.
“The first night I had to close by myself, I was in the office and I kept hearing stuff,” said Burch, co-manager of the restaurant, who over the years has heard chairs scraping across the floor and footsteps when no one else is around.
“I mean, I was getting up out of my chair and coming out to see what was going on, and it would be quiet.”
Burch is hardly alone in his suspicion that the place is haunted. Server Lauren Kirby once thought she heard footsteps behind her when she was going up the stairs.
No one was there.
“Do you ever just like get a feeling where you’re being watched?” asked Kirby, who often accompanies curious customers up to the restaurant’s attic to see etchings on the wall, done, apparently, by hospitalized Civil War soldiers.
“I feel pretty creeped out up here,” Kirby said.
So when paranormal enthusiast Joe Iannetta called last month and said he wanted to do an investigation of the place, the restaurant’s owners agreed.
Founder of City Lights Paranormal Society in Easton, Pa., Iannetta has used his free time for the past three years to visit spooky places in eight states to determine whether there is paranormal activity taking place. With Burch and another Puccini employee, he stayed overnight at the restaurant on Sept. 21, setting up specialized video and audio equipment to conduct an investigation.
On Thursday, Iannetta stopped by the restaurant to give employees his opinion, after reviewing 80 hours of evidence.
Puccini Restaurant, Iannetta said, is haunted.
But there is nothing to be afraid of.
“We didn’t get any bad impressions from the place,” said Iannetta, who sells cars for a living. “Actually, even with things bumping around, I felt very comfortable all night long. I don’t think anything here was trying to hurt anything. The place has a lot of history. A lot of things happened here, so it’s very possible they’re still going on, one way or another.”
It took Iannetta about 45 minutes to review the most compelling evidence with Burch and other employees on Thursday, mostly sounds collected on tape — a child whimpering, a whispered “yes,” a strong male voice saying something like, “Raise your cup,” after Iannetta asked any spirits present to join the party.
“Are you guys hearing that?” Burch asked, after Iannetta replayed one of the sound bites.
“Yeah,” Kirby said. “You’re not crazy.”
Iannetta, who first became interested in the paranormal when he saw an apparition at the age of 15, said he believes the restaurant has a mixture of “residual” and “intelligent” haunting. Two other types of haunting — demonic and poltergeist — aren’t present, Iannetta said.
City Lights Paranormal Society has investigated numerous Pennsylvania sites, including the Inn at Edgewater Acres, Cemetery Church and Braveheart Pub. Closer to home, the Western Maryland Paranormal Society (WMPS), founded in 2007, has completed more than 70 investigations, founders Sid Evans and Scott Shreve say.
Neither group charges a fee to conduct an investigation.
Halloween season is always a busy time for paranormal investigators, Iannetta said. On Halloween night, he’s hosting a family-oriented event at Newburg Inn in Nazareth, Pa., followed by an overnight investigation.
At Puccini Restaurant, meanwhile, Burch is a little spooked.
“I keep half-expecting someone to come around that corner,” said the co-manager, who plans to review a CD of Iannetta’s presentation, wearing headphones to better hear the audio evidence.
“I’ve met a lot of people over the years who’ve said they’ve seen things and heard things. I’m a non-believer, but ever since (Iannetta) came, I’m changing, gradually.”
Contact Kristin Harty Barkley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CUMBERLAND — Paul Burch doesn’t believe in ghosts.
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